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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, 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 other churches that also have Hispanic congregations and there are huge unmet needs in that group. It's a population that requires a different approach, much more of a public health approach than just a strict clinical approach. My background is in public health. I'm very interested in pursuing that option.

Interviewed by Sampson Alvarado on May 10, 2019.


Did You Know?

The Health Ministries Network website is full of health ministry resources.

Health Ministries Network's Foundations in Faith Community Nursing Course.

Interested in becoming a faith community nurse or health minister? Learn more about the preparatory course on our Foundations Course page.

New podcast! There's a new podcast about faith community nursing and heath ministry.

NEW FCN Podcast: The Heart and Soul of Health Ministries.

The first episode of the Heart and Soul of Health Ministries podcast includes an interview with Aly Breisch, who recently chaired the Faith Community Nursing Scope and Standards Workgroup. Learn more about what's new in the Scope and Standards here.


Upcoming Events

Jeanne Brotherton's Memorial and Reception

Saturday July 6, 11am

First Congregational Church, 2401 Cornwall Ave, Bellingham, WA 98225

Jeanne Brotherton’s family invites all to attend a memorial service with a reception to follow. Jeanne's daughter, Caitlin Ross asks, "In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to Faith Community Nursing ( or to a charity of your choice. Please pass this information on to others that may be interested."

Diabetes Prevention Program at the Whatcom Family YMCA

Tuesdays, 5:30-6:30pm, starting June 4

Unity Care NW, 220 Unity St, Bellingham, WA 98225

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program helps adults at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles by eating healthier, increasing physical activity and losing a modest amount of weight in order to reduce their chances of developing the disease. If you would like information on next session of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, please click here for our contact form or email your contact information to Tara Marshall, or call 360-354-5000.

LiveStrong at the Whatcom Family YMCA

Mondays & Wednesdays, May 6 - July 29 (no class May 27), 1 - 2:30pm

Bellingham YMCA, 1256 N State St, Bellingham, WA 98225

Offered for FREE, this 12-week program (two 90-minute sessions each week) helps cancer survivors build muscle mass and strength; increases flexibility and endurance; improves confidence and self-esteem; and fosters a community of support. Participants work with Y staff trained in supportive cancer care to safely achieve goals, and they will develop their own fitness plan, so they can continue to practice a healthy lifestyle, not only as part of their recovery, but as a way of life. Contact Tammy Bennett for more information: 360-255-0490 or

Rock Steady Boxing for Parkinson's

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 9 -10:30am

Bellingham YMCA Racquetball Courts 2&3, 1256 N State St, Bellingham, WA 98225

Boxing works by moving your body in all planes of motion while continuously changing the routine as you progress through the workout. These classes have proven that anyone, at any level of Parkinson’s, can actually lessen their symptoms and lead a healthier/happier life. $100/month (includes YMCA Membership). Financial Assistance is available. For more information, contact Tracy Diehl, or 360-255-0445.

Upcoming Events allows anyone to share relevant events with the network. Add an event to the HMN calendar at



Courtesy of Rev. Marsha Vollkommer, Associate Priest for pastoral care, St. Paul's Episcopal, Bellingham

As a priest in the Episcopal Church, with a focus in Pastoral Care, I am always aware that in life, and especially in our life in the church, we are called…and implored…and chided…and reminded…to be present to others. We are called to caring for, and listening to, and (when appropriate) helping those who are in pain or grief or want. What we too often do not understand -- or just choose to forget -- is the care we need to give ourselves, you and me.

Health Ministries Network Devotion, Courtesy of Rev. Marsha Vollkommer, Associate Priest for pastoral care, St. Paul's Episcopal, Bellingham

There is a world of difference between self-care and selfishness. So many of us were reared in a culture that constantly reminded us not to be selfish. The natural child-like impulse of “me first” was constantly quashed by a larger human being admonishing us to share, to stand back so someone else could stand forward, to give up or give away something we really, really wanted to keep as our own. Learning to live together -- even as a four-year-old –- is a lesson that ultimately enriches the life of every individual in community, as it enriches the life of the community as a whole.

Where the message goes wrong is that, over time, we begin to internalize the idea that we are not ever supposed to think of ourselves first. Guilt creeps in and takes hold and we find ourselves denying that we have wants and needs, and convince ourselves that we are just fine…we can do it…no problem.

I am here to tell you that I have every confidence that the God of my faith did not intend us to ignore ourselves; did not create us to overlook our own needs; did not call us to pour ourselves out in the love and service of others without taking the time and the space to intentionally fill ourselves up again. It is my belief that we are created as worthy.

This is a wonderful time of year here in Bellingham, Washington, our hometown, to cultivate self-care. It is a time when we can walk and eat and breathe in and breathe out the glorious nurture of the creation around us. Set aside time –- even five minutes! -– to go outside. Self-care can be doing something –- anything –- not because you have to or because you think you should, but because you know it will bring you joy. Interrupt yourself. Stop what you are doing because you believe it needs to be done, and call a friend. Give yourself an intentional ten minutes open a new book. Stir up some bread dough, and delight in the beautiful mass of flour and yeast and salt and water that come together to make something that nourishes us.

I am not here to challenge anyone on how they spend their time but to invite you, sincerely and with encouragement, to spare some of that time for yourself. Give yourself the gift of some time to let the world around you feed you…let the stars fill you with awe at the vast expanse of the universe…feel the ground beneath your feet as you walk with intention, filled with the sense of connection to the planet. When you are present to yourself, you are filled…and refreshed…and then you are set in motion again renewed, reenergized, and full of grace, to pour out God’s love in the world.

Rev. Marsha Volkommer, Associate Priest for pastoral care, St. Paul's Episcopal, Bellingham

Rev. Marsha Vollkommer Associate Priest for pastoral care

St. Paul's Episcopal, Bellingham


NEW: Prayer List

Health Ministries Network Prayer List

Maureen Terich, FCN of Sacred Heart Catholic, La Conner has cancer and asks for your prayers.

The prayer list allows anyone to share needs with the network. Interested in adding your own? Contact



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