Church ministry offers health focus

Judith Schmid-Bielenberg, Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church outreach team leader, uses the blood pressure cuff located in the church office.

The Health Initiative Ministry at Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church in Loudon County is a resource for members and the community.

Five years ago, the Rev. Brian Truog, church pastor, connected with the Healthier Tennessee program. One of its missions is to encourage churches and faith-based organizations “to have plans for improved health,” Truog said.

The ministry was born after he brought the idea back to the church and a committee was formed.

“Basically, what we try to do is to keep the congregation informed about health issues and find ways to help them improve their health,” Truog said. “We’ve had several health fairs that we did here, and we’ve done lots of different seminars. We’ve gotten the (automated external defibrillator) machine here and up to date and a stop the bleed, tourniquet kit. We’ve run some fire drills and so forth. So it’s kind of a broad spectrum of health issues, and we see that all kind of tying in the body, mind and spirit, and we are the temple of the Lord, and we’re supposed to take care of the body that he’s given us.”

The committee typically hosts three or four seminars a year with various topics. Some seminars are in conjunction with Fort Loudoun Medical Center or University of Tennessee Medical Center and hosted at the hospitals.

COVID-19 has slowed gatherings this year, but the ministry picked back up Tuesday with emphasis on physical therapy. A seminar is scheduled for October on elderly care, power-of-attorney and will-writing. A date is not set.

Seminars and health fairs are not exclusive to church members. Truog encourages the community to visit and take advantage of resources offered, including the blood pressure cuff in the church office. The ministry also has medical equipment such as walkers and wheelchairs, which can be rented short term by calling the church office at 865-458-9407.

Linda Anderson, committee member, hopes people use information from the seminars.

“I certainly hope they learn something new about whatever malady or issue we’ve presented — that they’re more aware of their own health circumstances in relationship to that information they’ve received and what they might do with that information,” Anderson said. “Can they alter their lifestyle somehow? Can they share it with another person? Can they apply it to a spouse or an aging parent? They’re more in tune with their own health on the basis of what they’ve learned.”

While not a requirement to have a health care background to be a part of the committee, most members do, like retired nurse Cindy Brittingham.

To plan a seminar, the committee chooses a topic, finds speakers and makes sure they will convey relevant information, Brittingham said. Sometimes congregation members will suggest topics, and the committee will conduct research to see if it’s viable. Brittingham hopes for more interaction in the future.

“I would like for our topics to come more from the congregation so that we know that we’re providing them with information that they feel is necessary for them,” she said. “I like the idea that we include community in our programs so that we can share not only the information that we’re providing, but the resources of the church. It’s a ministry, and we’d like to include the community in those resources.”

Anderson hopes the ministry can expand resources to include an on-site church nurse.

“I’ve heard of parish nurses where a congregation … will employ actually a nurse, probably on a part-time basis, who would be available to people to answer a question, maybe take blood pressure regularly,” Anderson said. “I don’t know what all they do, but I know there are congregations that offer that as a service. I realize that telemedicine is probably helping with that immediate need for care … but to have a physical person on site, someone who’s faith based who you have a trust relationship with, seems like ours is the perfect kind of congregation to have that, because we basically serve a retirement community.”