"Bread of Life" Indeed
For many Wake Divinity students the summer is an ideal time to delve into internships that provide significant and meaningful opportunities for their vocational discernment and formation as future religious leaders. From working in hospice and palliative care, ministries supporting the imprisoned, homeless and burdened, assisting with art and restoration efforts of a living museum, to being immersed into the fullness of congregational life in a diverse array of churches, Wake Divinity students are dispersing across the country. This summer, the Unfolding blog will feature weekly posts from several students who are participating in an internship. Each story will speak to their expectations and experiences.
After completing an entire year of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), I thought I had just about seen it all when it came to the deteriorating health conditions of people. My clinical visits with patient after patient convinced me of one certainty – social and economic determinants powerfully impact positive health outcomes, not just to an individual but also to entire communities of people. Although I had engaged with persons from diverse socioeconomic communities during my clinical assignments, those that were released from healthcare to find themselves housed on the street corners of despair sparked my interest most. How these patients would survive outside of the hospital doors as they scrambled for basic life-sustaining essentials i.e., food, shelter, and clothing, was unfathomable to me.
Yet the answer has become apparent through the exposure I gained during a Summer Ministry Internship Award I was fortunate to receive from Wake Forest School of Divinity. I chose to serve in the FaithHealthNC division at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. For me, this placement was Godsent. I could now practically see how my training in pastoral care and chaplaincy would best align with healthcare efforts to promote holistic health and well being to communities. FaithHealthNC provided an avenue to shape my ministry formation as a chaplain in community-engaged ministry environments. In essence, FaithHealthNC offers a means whereby faith communities, healthcare networks, and organizations form meaningful relationships that seek to create workable and sustainable solutions to building healthy communities. For me, this was an opportunity to activate the theological principle the inspires me most – Matthew 25: 31-46 – whereby Jesus Christ orders his disciples to “feed the least of these.”
Through the FaithHealthNC network, I was introduced to the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity (MCWSV), a coalition of approximately 80 pastors and faith-leaders throughout the area. They work to address food insecurity, social justice, education, and health disparities. President Bishop Todd L. Fulton of Mt. Moriah Outreach Center (MMOC), and member of the Professional Advisory Group (PAG), an extension of FaithHealthNC Education, currently leads the MCWSV. His church is an invaluable resource by providing the “Bread for Life” food pantry to residents who suffer economic, systemic or medical hardships. In their most recent food drive, the church provided food items to 83 families, which totaled 350 human souls; they serve 400-450 persons or 95-120 families per month. Each person was greeted at the entrance with a genuine spirit of love and encouragement, and then ushered through a well-organized food distribution system. This was regardless of their socioeconomic, age, racial, or gender status. While many may never grace the inside of a church again, I am confident that each recipient felt God’s tender love that day! In addition to the food pantry at Mt. Moriah, the Ministers Conference spearheads a community garden initiative, providing plots at various locations throughout the Winston-Salem community. They focus on providing fresh and high-nutrient quality foods that contain tremendous health benefits for communities in need.
In other acts of kindness, Bishop Fulton’s MMOC congregation partners with the FaithHealthNC Community Health Supporters to provide relief of “immediate” food items when other local food pantry resources cannot meet the needs of clients who have transitioned out of hospital care services. While the MCWSV has stepped up to offer many more enriching services to the community and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center staff, their primary relationship with FaithHealthNC helps to bridge the gaps between hope, healing, and holistic health and wellness. For that, the “least of these” have found one source for relief.
Angela is an Associate Minister and long-standing member at the Cathedral of HIS Glory in Greensboro, N.C. She has been engaged in community outreach ministry for several years and seeks to build upon those experiences by bringing diverse community constituents to the table with an eye toward justice, peace, and reconciliation. Angela intends to pursue a career in chaplaincy and to further her educational pursuits in a PhD program upon successful completion from Wake Divinity.
Video above aired on WXII-12 (local news in Winston-Salem) on June 27, 2015 as a second installment of a report, “Childhood Hunger: The Silent Crisis.” Featured is Bishop Todd L. Fulton, Senior Pastor of Mt. Moriah Outreach Center and President of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, along with Chief Farmer Vernon Switzer from the food pantry and community garden mentioned above.