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December 2019 Newsletter

Director's Note, Upcoming Events, Interview with Celeste Hilde, FCN, Community Events, Did You Know?, and Devotional from Pastor Bobbi Virta

Health Ministries Network (HMN) is a non-profit that initiates, develops and supports faith based health ministry in northwest Washington.

Dear folks,

As the holiday (holy days) season begins, we hear sad news from our sister organization in Portland, Faith Community Nursing | Health Ministries Northwest. After nearly 30 years in operation, they are closing their doors later this month. A number of factors contributed to their closing and they will be sending information about the closure later this month. This leaves Health Ministries Network as the sole nonprofit working on congregational health in Washington.

How do we ensure that our doors stay open? While having a fundraising plan is important, the most effective thing we can do to sustain Health Ministries Network is to sustain health ministries. That is, to be effective in the work we are charged to do, to steward the gifts of others to do the work and recruit a new generations of faith community nurses, and to respond to the changing needs of our community. That’s why in the coming months I will ask you to partner with us to spread the word about our 2020 Foundations Course and to help us welcome a new cohort of faith community nurses representing a variety of faiths and backgrounds.

2020 will be a year of change for us, including new curriculum and instructors for our Foundations Course. In this month of short days and little light, please pray for Health Ministries Network and contemplate how you can invite others into congregational health efforts.

Thank you for being one of our many blessings this holiday season.

Amelia Vader Executive Director

Upcoming Events

Faith Community Leader Breakfast

Wednesday, Jan 22, 2020, 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM

First Congregational Church, 2401 Cornwall Ave, Bellingham

Join us to learn how faith community nursing can support you and your congregation. Whether you have an established health ministry or are interested in learning more, we hope you'll join us! Open to clergy, pastors, rabbi, and anyone interested in health ministry.

December Meeting

Friday, Dec 20, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

First Congregational Church, 2401 Cornwall Ave, Bellingham

Come share your health ministry plans for the new year and learn how House Bill 1775 affects Advance Care Planning. This meeting is free and all are welcome, especially those interested in health ministry! A light festive lunch will be provided.


Celeste Hilde, FCN

United Church of Ferndale (UCF)

Why does health ministry matter?

Everyone, especially people who are sick, alone and getting older, needs emotional, physical and spiritual support from our church family.

Since I have gone through my own health scare, I feel like I know some of the feelings some of these people are going through. I see some of our elderly people struggling to stay healthy and wanting to get better. They want and need someone to talk to even if all I can do is listen.

Do you have a story of health ministry being impactful?

I had a woman thank me for being there for her children, so they could ask questions that they needed to ask while their father was going through the dying process.

It is a good feeling to see a person who has always been a support to everyone else feel comfortable enough to come and talk to me about their health issues. As professionals, it is sometimes hard to admit we need to accept medical and spiritual support too.

You recently graduated from the Foundations in Faith Community Nursing Course, was it helpful?

Yes, it has helped me to combine spirituality, faith and health all together. Before I retired, I spent most of my nursing career geared towards medicine, faith not being a part of the care I provided. Though, there were times when I was working that I would get emotionally and spiritually involved with patients.

Who would you recommend the Foundations course to?

I never visualized myself doing faith community nursing. I didn't ever think of myself as being a minister to anyone, so for people that are interested in ministering to others and nursing, it can be very rewarding.

I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in combining nursing, spirituality and faith.

How did you decide to be a faith community nurse (FCN)?

I was diagnosed with lymphoma and had 2 1/2 years of chemo and immunotherapy. I was managing a lot of it on my own at first and then finally I called Pastor Bobbi and told her. She was wonderful, and took time to talk me about what I was experiencing with the lymphoma. I am in remission now and who knows if it will come back.

During one of those conversations I mentioned to Pastor Bobbi I might be interested in becoming a FCN. I kind of gave up on the idea until Rev. Cindy Bauleke came up to me after church one Sunday and asked me if I would be interested in becoming a FCN for the United Church. After talking to Pastor Bobbi and Cindy Bauleke I started the Foundations in Faith Community Nursing course.

How important was it that your pastors encouraged you to do faith community nursing?

Very important, I wouldn’t have gotten involved if it wasn’t for Rev. Cindy Bauleke and Pastor Bobbi asking me if I would be interested in becoming a FCN. I knew about Faith Community Nursing, but I had no idea where to get started and I had no idea of what to expect until Cindy told me about the Foundations course and how to apply.

Tell me about how you and your pastor work together.

Pastor Bobbi and I try and get together every week and discuss health issues in the congregation. Depending on the health needs of our members, Pastor Bobbi and I evaluate who we might need to visit, besides the visitations that are done by our volunteer visitation group.

When one of our members is having surgery, I let Bobbi go to the hospital or surgery center ahead of me and let them have time to talk and pray together. Then I come in later, before the surgery is over with, to hear what the doctor has to say about the surgery. I have done this with patients that do not have any family members around after surgery or to be there to hear what the doctor has to say to the family and ask any questions that the family might not think to ask. If the family doesn’t understand everything, I can help them out at that time or after they go home.

What challenges are facing your health ministry?

Since I am the first active FCN in our church in many years, I am having to work on getting people to know who I am and what I do.

Another obstacle happens when people are sick or have other issues, sometimes they don’t call Pastor Bobbi or I, so we can help. We feel bad when we find out after the fact that we were not there to help or visit with them.

What's going on in your health ministry?

I had some big goals when I finished the Foundations course because Pastor Bobbi was going to be gone on Sabbatical during my first 3 months.

I have almost completed all of my big goals in the first 6 months by working with the interim minister, displaying Before I Die Boards (pictured below), hosting "Realities of Advance Medical Interventions," organizing a new group to do home visitations with quarterly meetings, a CPR class, going and visiting people who were in need of my help, and hospital and hospice visits. I have started a medical information bulletin board with classes, medication disposal sites, types of dementia and how to hire home health care givers.

Now, I will need to continue what I have been doing, then start blood pressure clinics and organize follow-up presentation to "Realities" on filling out Advance Directives. Lastly, the day we had the CPR class we had a few people mention they would like a First Aid Class next. So, I have checked into it and we may see if we have enough interest to put it on. After all this is completed, I will start thinking about what to do next.

Interviewed September 18th by Sampson Alvarado

Community Events

In an effort to connect our volunteers with relevant resources, we publish community events in our monthly newsletter and on our website. Email to add your own.

Realities of Advance Medical Interventions

Wednesday, Dec 04, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM St. Luke's Community Health Education Center, 3333 Squalicum Pkwy, Bellingham

Learn what their outcomes could mean for patients in the short and long term.

Advance Directive Workshop

Wednesday, Dec 11, 5:30 PM Northwest Regional Council, 600 Lakeway Dr, Bellingham

Come learn how to complete an AD consistent with your healthcare goals, values, and beliefs.

Did You Know?

In an effort to connect our volunteers with relevant resources, we publish news and announcements in our monthly newsletter and on our website. Email to add your own.

Take Advantage of the HMN Library

We've got upwards of 150 Books, Movies, and CDs for FCNs and HMs that you can check out. If you're interested in loaning, stop by and check it out, just send an email to setup a time.

Whatcom County Food and Meal Resources

The Whatcom Anti-Hunger Coalition publishes a list of food banks, free meals, and more available in both English and Spanish. Click here for a printable copy.


Courtesy of Pastor Bobbi Virta, United Church of Ferndale

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
~ Emily Dickinson

In the Christian tradition we have finished our liturgical year and as of December 1st this year, we have begun a new year by entering the Season of Advent. This four-week season is a time for reflection, anticipation, and spending time paying attention to those places that God’s light and love show unexpectedly.

In my church setting, on the first week of Advent we light a candle of Hope. The second week the hope candle is relit, and a new candle is lit for Peace. The third week hope and peace are relit, and a new candle is lit for Joy. The fourth week hope, peace, and joy are relit, and the forth candle is lit for Love. Christmas Eve all four candles are lit and the Christ candle in the middle is lit to celebrate the hope, peace, joy and love that embodied Jesus at his birth and throughout his life. It is a beautiful ritual of reminding ourselves that we too have these gifts to share in this season of longer nights and shorter days.

I am so grateful to Celeste Hilde who has revitalized our Faith Community Health Ministry at United Church of Ferndale. I am also grateful to each of you for helping to support the people in your setting, because you are each a shining candle of light for those people in your faith community setting experiencing the darkness in times of illness for themselves or for someone they love deeply. I have personally witnessed the gifts offered by members of the health ministry community in a variety of settings including Northwest Life Passages public meetings, in the hospital setting, in your training sessions, and at bedsides of the ailing, as well as in your own hearts.

You are each truly a blessing to Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan, and Island County because you give your gifts of knowledge, strength and support to the those seeking wholeness. By sharing your gifts, you are a gift of hope. Thank you for showing up in unexpected places where fear often outweighs hope and shining the light of love.

Our Gifts Are Gifts of Hope

Our yearning after God, our hope for a better way creates infinite possibilities,
To touch the lives of the untouched, to reach the hearts of the untouched, to heal the wounds of the unhealed, to feed the bodies of the unfed, to accept the personhood of the unaccepted, to love the being of the unloved
Our gifts are gifts of hope; O God, touch, reach, heal, feed, accept, and love us, that we might love one another.
~Ann Weems


Help us support the invaluable work of faith community nurses and health ministers in northwest Washington by donating today!

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