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March 2019 Newsletter

March 1, 2019. Director's Note, Interview with FCCB Called to Care team, Did you know?, Upcoming Events, and Devotional.

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

Dear HMN community,

The sunshine this week has been welcome as I returned from a sunny vacation in Mexico last week to rain and melting snow. Yes, I missed the snowmagedon (#sorrynotsorry). But my spirit is brightened for many reasons -- thanks to the dedication and talent of Course Coordinator Carol Nicolay and support from Communications Coordinator Sampson Alvarado, there are 11 nurses enrolled in our Foundations Course, which begins March 1! This is a testament to the continued interest in and need for faith community nursing in our region. Thanks to each of you who shared the course info and helped us recruit an exceptionally qualified group of nurses.

I hope you will join us at our monthly event on Friday, March 15 at 11am as we share strategies and ideas for advance care planning and health ministry as a group as well as show our appreciation for Chris Phillips of PeaceHealth as he prepares to retire this month. Chris was crucial to the formation of Health Ministries Network as we are today and has provided steadfast support and advice during our journey. We’ll celebrate his service with a light lunch and cupcakes. See you there!

And finally, if you haven’t already, please check out the Lenten Series page of our website. We hope it sparks some ideas and provides support to those considering congregational activities around Advance Care Planning and end of life planning in general.

I hope you enjoy this month’s newsletter and thanks for all that you do for faith communities in NW Washington.

Walk in love,


Executive Director



First Congregational Church of Bellingham (FCCB) Called to Care Team, faith community nurses and health ministers

First Congregational Church of Bellingham (FCCB) Called to Care Team

Deanna Murray, Pastoral Care Associate (left)

Brenda Nicholson, FCN (middle left)

Jeanne Brotherton, FCN (not pictured)

Carol Nicolay, HM (middle right)

Kathleen McGuinness, RN, Stephen Minister referral coordinator (right)

How long has FCCB had a health ministry program?

Brenda: 20 years. I went through the training in October of 1998, and we started it then. One other nurse and myself.

Deanna: And then we were joined by Maridel Johnson, who's retired now, and then Carol Nicolay, and now we have Jeanne Brotherton as a faith community nurse.

How does FCCB organize its health ministry team?

Deanna: We, as Called to Care, were organized by the interim minister here five years ago. He noticed the Stephen ministers, faith community nurses (FCNs), health ministers (HMs), and Parish visitors were all giving care at FCCB and thought, “what if we bring all these people together because they're all giving care in different ways and wouldn't it be good to communicate about what we're doing?” So brilliant! So, we coordinate our care ministries and it's a great thing. Other churches say, “we should do that” and we say, “yes, you should.”

Brenda: Because sometimes they overlap too, like a FCN might be seeing the same person as a Stephen Minister or not, so the communication has just made a huge difference in the continuity of care we are giving.

What kinds of things do you all do in your health ministry?

Carol: We make visits to the hospital.

Brenda: We do home visits.

Kathleen: Well, spiritual health and crisis is part of all that, so if somebody is needing to meet on a more regular basis at home or for a walk or whatever, Stephen Ministry is a listening ministry. We do a lot of reflective listening, we're not allowed to fix, but if something arises, we ask permission to inform the FCNs if it’s a health issue and so forth.

First Congregational Church of Bellingham (FCCB) Called to Care Team, faith community nurses and health ministers

Deanna: And people come up to us on Sundays, like I had a woman come up to me after worship recently with another person who she’s been visiting with in worship regularly, saying this person wants to meet you because she's going to have surgery and she wants prayers for that. The health ministry table was set up, which we do two Sundays a month after worship. I brought her over to introduce her to Carol and we talked about what her upcoming surgery was. Then I asked Brenda to get in touch with her and in today’s meeting I think we're going to hear if we got in touch with her or not and if she had her surgery. Not everybody reaches out like that, sometimes people will go in the hospital for surgery and we don't even know about it until a week later. Sometimes we don't know about it at all, but some people are forthcoming with needs. I think the more present we are, especially on Sundays, the health ministry table where people come to get their blood pressure checked or get information being a good example, the more people will feel comfortable asking for support.

Are the Transitional Care Documents used in your health ministry? How so? Are they helpful?

Carol: Well, that's a good question, because I don't think we've had a transition to do since we adopted the new documents. So, we're just kind of waiting to see. The documents are available, and we've all agreed that we will use those. Interestingly enough, people often turn us down for transitional care. We ask if they would like us to come to the hospital and help, you know, when they go home and I often get answers like, “oh, we don't want to bother you,” “we're doing fine” or, “my daughter's a nurse.” After all, this is transitional care for people who request it. We have to kind of wait for the opportunities.

Deanna: Yeah, and I think this woman I mentioned earlier who came and was asking for prayers, that would be an example where we could have offered transitional care. Part of it that I'm naming is getting used to that I can offer this to people. I've done that but I have to keep remembering, “Oh, yeah, here's a person having surgery. Maybe transitional care would work for this person.”

Carol: And we've done transitional care on our own before we had documents. Brenda's been doing it for 20 years.

First Congregational Church of Bellingham (FCCB) Called to Care Team, faith community nurses and health ministers

Why do you do health ministry?

Deanna: Our belief is that health is all encompassing of the spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional beings we all are. We want to minister to the whole person, and this is why our health ministry program began more than 20 years ago. Pastors were running into situations where people had not only a spiritual question or emotional issue, but also physical. Maybe they're in grief or they're having trouble with something spiritual like their prayer life and realizing, “oh, there's a physical component here.” Pastors don't often have that medical background to help with the physical in a way that's really helpful and authentic.

Do you have a story of when health ministry made a difference in somebody's life?

Brenda: Well, this was umpteen years ago, and our janitor at the time came by during my office hours and she wasn't feeling well. I did a few things and just kind of checked her out and talked to her and I said, “yeah, I think you need to go to see your doctor asap.” She left and was diagnosed with diabetes right then and there. She wasn't even a parishioner, she was someone who worked here, but I just happened to be there at the right time, and it made me feel pretty darn good I could help her.

Carol: We had someone stop by for a blood pressure check. Maridel said that it was so low she couldn't even get a reading. She told him “you have to go to the emergency room right now.” In the ER, he was found to be so dehydrated that his kidneys were starting to fail; they rehydrated him with IV fluids and saved his life. Now that he's better, he checks his blood pressure regularly.

Interviewed by Sampson Alvarado on February 6, 2019.


Did You Know?

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

The Health Ministries Network calendar is up to date with HMN meetings, events and community events relevant to health ministry. You can even add your own event.

The Calendar is up to date with HMN meetings, events and community events relevant to health ministry. You can even add your own event.


Upcoming Events

Community Event: YOUR VOICE - YOUR CHOICE: PeaceHealth AD Workshop March 5 at 4pm, March 7 at 6pm, April 2 at 4pm, and April 4 at 6pm St. Luke's Health Education Center, 3333 Squalicum Parkway, Bellingham WA PeaceHealth offers free monthly interactive workshops to our community. Participants are guided through the simple, yet thought-provoking process of completing an Advance Directive. REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. Please contact Hilary Walker, Advance Care Planning Coordinator at or 360 752 5267. These Advance Directive workshops are fun, valuable, and productive!

Community Event: Realities of Advanced Medical Interventions Wednesday, March 6, 6pm – 7:30pm St. Luke's Health Education Center, 3333 Squalicum Pkwy, Bellingham, WA Rebecca Rech Cutler, BSN, RN, CRRN, CHPN, will present in frank terms the meanings of advanced medical interventions, and what their outcomes could mean for patients in the short and long term. Advanced care planning, advance directives, and the importance of palliative care are discussed. Interactive, Q&A. Rebecca has experience as a Whatcom Hospice & Home Health nurse.

HMN Monthly Meeting: Chris Phillips Retirement (Cupcakes!) & Advance Directive Sharing Friday, March 15, 11am - 1pm First Congregational Church of Bellingham, 2401 Cornwall Ave Chris Phillips, Director of Community Health at PeaceHealth will join us for some cupcakes (in addition to lunch) and reflections as we say thank you for his support of HMN over the years. Chris is retiring in March 2019. Additionally, we will have a group discussion where FCNs and HMs can share their strategies for incorporating Advance Directives and end of life planning into congregational life including using a Lenten Series approach. Materials from the previous trainings will be available. Open to all. Come learn what others are doing in their congregations! Light lunch provided. Free and open to the public.

HMN Monthly Meeting: PeaceHealth Spiritual Care Department

Friday, April 19, 11am - 1pm

First Congregational Church of Bellingham, 2401 Cornwall Ave

Rev. Kevin Park from the PeaceHealth Spiritual Care Department will share updates about the Chaplains and Spiritual Care Department at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Light lunch provided. Free and open to the public. Light lunch provided.

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



Courtesy of Rev. Dr. Cindy Bauleke, Health Ministries Network Board of Directors Spiritual Adviser

What is your favorite story? Do you treasure the stories of your childhood, perhaps the ones you learned in Sunday School or from your family? Do you get caught up in the stories of Hollywood or political stories or those from literature? If you were asked to tell an impromptu story, out of all the stories you know, which one would you choose?

Faith community nurses and health ministers serve clients in congregations and in the community at no cost to clients

I love stories, all kinds of stories. One of my joys in ministry is the privilege of hearing others share their stories. It can completely change how we perceive someone by knowing the stories which have shaped their life. I believe listening to each other’s stories is a way of honoring one another and making these stories sacred. Yes, it can be frustrating when our “to do” list is long and time is short. Perhaps we have heard this particular story too many times. Or we are just too tired to listen, really listen to one more story. Yet, when we can set aside everything else to be present in the moment and hear another’s story we can know the presence of Spirit blessing this ritual.

As faith community nurses and health ministers you have specific skills you bring to a relationship. You are focused on wellness for the patient with whom you are working. This is your calling, this is what you are trained to do. Often, some of our patients are longing to be heard. They may have their own stories they are reflecting on and trying to make sense from. We are not called to be therapists yet taking the time to listen to the stories of our patients’ lives can be healing for them.

Many of our congregations will begin their annual Lenten journey this month, the 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent is a time of remembering our stories of faith. For many it is a time of realigning our relationship with God. There are all sorts of Lenten practices. It is traditional to give up something for Lent. Many “take on” something for Lent, a new practice for the 40-day journey. Perhaps this season you might want to reflect on your own story. What is it that has shaped your life significantly to bring you to this moment in history? I believe our most important task in life is to grow into the person God created us to be. What is your own creation story? What significant people and events have helped you find this gift of all you are created to be? This can help us see where we still have room for growth.

I don’t know, but I suspect if we honor our own stories, this will help us listen for others’ stories as well. Perhaps our greatest skill and gift as caregiver is to share a non-anxious presence with someone who is in need of our assistance and our listening. If it is within your patient’s range of comfort, bring something of their story into a prayer you share with them. This can bring your relationship to a deeper level. It is a gentle reminder that it is God who always listens and hears our stories.

Blessings on your journey.

Rev. Dr. Cindy Bauleke

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