Church plans holistic health seminar
Gaston Gazette - 6/23/2018
June 23--Karen Creech, head of the health and wellness ministry at Gastonia'sTabernacle Baptist Church, tells a simple story to illustrate a deeper truth.
"If one of our members comes in who is diabetic and says, 'my blood sugar is up over 400.' We would respond, 'We're going to pray for you, but we're also going to take you to the hospital right now.'"
Continuing that analogy, illustrating how the church must respond to people suffering not only from physical illness but also from mental illness, Creech said, "If you have a problem with your pancreas, you may suffer from diabetes. If you have a problem with your heart, you may suffer from high blood pressure. If you have a problem with your brain, you may suffer from mental illness."
With an eye toward helping the community adapt to changing times and changing pressures and erasing the stigma of mental illness, Tabernacle will host a day-long Healthy Living Seminar on Saturday, June 30, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The symposium's theme will be "Enjoying Life Mentally, Physically, and Emotionally," and will be co-sponsored by the church and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
Creech, Tabernacle's senior pastor, the Rev. Benjamin Hinton, and Dr. Calvin Harris, a local OB/GYN and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, sat down recently with a Gazette reporter to discuss the genesis of the symposium and its goals.
"A church member came to us and said, 'We have got to do something to reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues,'" said Creech, who holds a master's degree in public health. "People won't acknowledge problems. People won't get help. And the church needs to speak to that."
"No one in our community is immune. No family is untouched," said Harris. "Whether it's depression, whether it's dementia, or whether it's post-traumatic stress syndrome, mental health issues are everywhere."
The church member's suggestion led to the idea of a symposium focusing on holistic health, Creech said, and Kappa Alpha Psi saw such an effort as the perfect way for the fraternity to help the community, according to Harris.
"The church cannot focus solely on spiritual health," said Hinton. "Even pastors can need counseling. Even pastors can need therapists. The church is the perfect place to build trusting relationships and then connect people with the resources that can help them."
This reality requires pastors to be able to discern when a problem is beyond them, Hinton said, and to then direct a church member to other forms of professional help.
All three organizers are hopeful the symposium will attract not only Tabernacle members but people from across the Gaston County community.
"We're not just aiming for our community," Hinton emphasized. "We want everyone, regardless of age, gender, race or socio-economic status to come and get screenings, to listen to our speakers and to learn what resources are available to them."
Today's society, Creech concluded, often leads to social isolation and away from the face-to-face interactions that humans need to be healthy. The church, she said, must help people overcome that isolation.
"We've got to be willing to reach out," Creech said. "We've got to be willing to put ourselves out there to help others. And we've got to remove this stigma from mental health issues."
Bill Poteat may be reached at 704-869-1855.
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