• Health Ministries Network

July 2019 Newsletter

Director's Note, Interview with Barb Cheyney, FCN, of St. Paul's Episcopal Mt. Vernon, Did you know?, Upcoming Events, Devotional, and NEW: Prayer list.

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

Dear HMN community,

Happy Summer! Although we don’t meet over the summer, HMN continues to work on expanding health ministry in our four-county region. We’re updating our contact lists to ensure we reach all faith community nurses and health ministers (thank you to the HMN board for making calls), and planning fall events including a clergy breakfast.

This summer Health Ministries Network is partnering with the University of Washington Health Promotion Research Center to study factors that support successful health ministry and faith community nursing. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) initiated this research project and the results could encourage DOH to provide training and other funding to support faith community nursing. They are interested in meeting with faith community nurses and health ministry teams for 1hr, in-person interviews. They will provide one $50 gift card per interview/group. Learn more on our website or contact Erica Bourget at bourget@uw.edu, 206-616-1962. I highly encourage you to participate to inform the state Department of Health and encourage health ministry across our state!

In other news, the Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement (WAHA) closed its doors on June 30. They have been an collaborative partner and neighbor (their offices are below ours), sharing not just space, but resources for health care access, and partnership in support of our advance care planning efforts. Thank you to Dean, Tessa, Australia and the other WAHA staff for the time and heart you gave to serve our community. May the future be a source of many enriching and transforming moments.

Thanks for all that you do,


Executive Director



Barb Cheyney, FCN St. Paul's Episcopal, Mount Vernon, health ministries network

Barb Cheyney, FCN

St. Paul's Episcopal, Mount Vernon

How long has St. Paul's had a health ministry program?

They started a program when Dennis Taylor was here, I think it was somewhere prior to 2010. Then the Episcopal Bishop reassigned Dennis as a deacon to the church on Whidbey Island.

When I first came here, which was eight years ago, we did not have a faith community nurse program at all, though, as many nurses discover, when someone finds out you’re a nurse you almost always end up starting at least an informal program. People just start asking you questions about this and that, you name it.

And often they're very good questions, sometimes indicating that the health care provider didn't do a very good job of explaining something. Or perhaps, the person was so anxious in the office that they just didn't hear. That can happen as well. I get all kinds of everything like, “would you look at the sore on my foot?”

Barb Cheyney, FCN St. Paul's Episcopal, Mount Vernon, health ministries network

I started officially having the ministry here after I took the foundations in faith community nursing course. Our pastor at the time, The Reverend Helen McPeak, totally supported the whole effort. I got up in church one Sunday and announced that I was going to start doing a number of things, including those that people had indicated on a survey I gave the congregation during my coursework. The priority response was blood pressure checks.

After church that day, a gal who was new to the congregation came up to me and said, “Well, what are the requirements?” It was Barb Axberg who had just arrived with her husband, a retired Episcopal priest. Now Barb has taken the course and we work together.

What kinds of programs do you two do?

We had done one major project last summer, an end of life workshop series of five workshops on subsequent weeks. We worked with Hospice of the Northwest and they publicized the program on their website, so, we had people coming from all over. We had about 40 altogether.

We talked about what legal things one needs to do at the end of life. We have an attorney in our membership here and he talked about what you need to complete and how to do that. We had a session on what hospice is and what it involves. We had a session with a panel with nurses including me, the other Barb, Dennis Taylor, Barbara Jensen, who is the director of the cancer center at the hospital, and the coroner.

St. Paul's Episcopal, Mount Vernon, health ministries network

What other kinds of programs or activities do you do?

We have an informal program responding to people who collapse in the middle of church. We've had two instances of this, one of whom needed a pacemaker. The second one had lost a whole bunch of weight and the doc had not adjusted his medications, so his blood pressure was down in the cellar.

Blood pressures are after church on the second Sunday of the month. We have anywhere from two to twelve people get their blood pressures taken. Quite a few of them are repeats.

We counsel people. Do you need to go back to your doctor? Do you need to take your pills like you were supposed to do? Take that exam then come back and tell me what's going on. And that doesn't necessarily wait for the next second Sunday; we're talking with people every week about that kind of thing or calling them on the phone.

What programs are upcoming?

I have had some requests for additional programs on end of life issues. There's a new book called, “Finish Strong: Putting YOUR Priorities First at Life’s End” written by a nurse who is involved with a group called Compassion and Choices. This is the group that helped to get medical aid in dying in Washington. I am anticipating that we will have a session or two on that particular subject. I think Compassion and Choices has come along at a very opportune time; it's the next step in the process. I might want to involve someone from that organization, or I may do it myself because I feel very strongly about it.

I recently went on a vacation and visited with a lot of old friends and family members and everyone that I mentioned the book to said, “What's the title? Where can I get it?” Well, here's the thing: Amazon is going to have a big order! People recognize the importance of this.

Barb Cheyney, FCN St. Paul's Episcopal, Mount Vernon, health ministries network

Why do you do all this and why is it important?

I do it because I think it's important, and because I think God wants me to. At this point

in my career I am much less interested in working for money and much more interested in doing things that I can just contribute. This is an important one.

The church needs to reconnect spiritual and physical health issues. They used to be very closely connected and we have moved away from that connection. I think we need to get back to it, and the faith community nursing movement has been an important part of bringing us back to that connection.

Do you have a story of health ministry being impactful for someone?

We have a member who is in her 60s who has some chronic health problems that she keeps under pretty good control, but one of those is high blood pressure. She came to see us a couple of months ago. Her blood pressure was up in the stratosphere and she said, “Oh well that might be why I haven't been feeling so well," and "yes, I will go see my doctor.” Her doctor increased her medication and her blood pressure came down. She is feeling much better.

Barb Cheyney, FCN St. Paul's Episcopal, Mount Vernon, health ministries network

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I know that there was at least one nurse from Skagit County who was hoping to take the Foundations course soon and I’m very pleased with that. That makes four or five of us. I'm eager to get together with that group.

There are some unique things that go on in Skagit County, the Hispanic population being one. We have a Hispanic congregation that meets here and there are several