For many theological reasons, faith communities from many traditions often get involved in promoting good health practices and in providing ministry to those who are ill.
Kansas City, for example, is not unique in being able to say that many of its hospitals have faith community roots and even current support from those communities. (If you live here, can you name the hospitals associated with Episcopalians, Catholics, Jews and Seventh Day Adventists?)
And various Christian denominations have specific ministries that focus on health issues. For instance, in the Presbyterian Church (USA), to which my congregation belongs, you will find the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association as well as the Presbyterian Health Network.
So it should be no surprise that when the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City wanted to assess the current health needs of the metropolitan area it turned not just to health care workers and community leaders but also to members of various faith communities.
The result was what was called the Community Dialogue Project, and the just-issued report that grew out of months and months of conversations across Greater Kansas City should provide guidance for ways in which people of faith can become more engaged in ensuring that the health care system here is fair, just, moral and effective, reflecting the belief of people of faith that every individuals is of inestimable value.
In the 10-month dialogue project, the Rev. Robert Lee Hill, pastor emeritus of Community Christian Church, created discussion opportunities for more than 400 individuals representing some 300 organizations. At Bob's invitation, I attended an early presentation and discussion in which we were asked to describe what we saw as the strengths and weaknesses of health care in the metro area.
I have given you a link above to the Community Dialogue Project report. I hope that you'll not only read it but share it with leaders in your faith community, if any, to talk about whether your congregation can become more engaged in this area.
I'll highlight here just a few of the "key findings":
-- "The impacts of federal and local policy changes on vulnerable populations repeatedly surfaced. Uncertainties and troublesome decisions in the political realm compound this base level of anxiety felt across the region."
-- "Whether urban, suburban, or rural, all areas cited transportation as a common barrier to accessing services. 'Medical Uber' was referenced numerous times. There were also suggestions of mobile health vehicles for health care delivery. Telemedicine and the use of traveling doctors and dentists were also suggested."
-- "Abuse of opioids and other substances were passionately discussed as devastating to our communities. Some of the most fervent discussion about confronting the crisis occurred in rural counties."
-- "The forums highlighted the never-ending need for frequent communications. At points throughout the meetings, participants revealed they were not aware of services or programs available in their communities."
On the latter point, it strikes me that faith communities could be doing a much better job of informing their congregants about health care services and programs. Does yours do that?
As I say, faith communities have theological reasons to promote good health care. For Christians, part of that concern has to do with following the one who spent a lot of time in his ministry healing people.
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NEVER TO LATE TO SAY 'SORRY'
Another thing I like about Pope Francis is that when he errs he's big enough to admit it and seek to repair the damage. That's what's happening now in the aftermath of his surprising denunciation of abused people in Chile. Now he acknowledges he got things wrong and that the church has work to do to be credible again.