by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/plenty-of-time-when-we-get-home">Plenty of Time When We Get Home</a></h1>

The NPR program 'Fresh Air with Terry Gross' had (another) terrific program today. The story of a military couple dealing with PTSD was gut-wrenching, inspiring and important to hear. We have devoted significant time at our conferences and in finding resources to help those minister to returning veterans. The Fresh Air program illustrated just some of the issues that a faith community supporting returning veterans might encounter, although not in that specific context.  

I went from kind of a very, very high functioning individual to a high functioning individual. A lot of people see me and [would] be like, "Oh I could never tell you had a brain injury." But I know. I know what I used to be like. I know how I used to be able to pick things up, learn something new and stick with it and be able to master it quickly. I don't have that ability now. -Brian McGough

[From Fresh Air: Kayla Williams and Brian McGough met in Iraq, in 2003, when they were serving in the 101st Airborne Division. She was an Arabic linguist, he was a staff sergeant who had earned a bronze star. In October of that year, at a time when they were becoming close but not yet seeing each other, he was on a bus in a military convoy, when an IED went off, blowing out the front door and window.]

It was interesting to hear the interplay between them as Brian and Kayla as they worked together, sharing the bits of information each had, giving us the information they had pieced together over time. They also didn't shy away from stating difficult truths to the audience: 

“I decided rather than go on I would rather be dead and I asked him to kill me. And he put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger. It was not loaded, and he threw the gun away and called me crazy and I left." - Kayla Williams

We talked about how to minister to those in the throes of PTSD during our four-part webinar series in November. If you missed it, you can still watch the presentations. The time to do so is now, before you really need it. Take the time to learn about the unique needs of our returning veterans and know where else you can turn for help. 

by Sue Hacker Nelson   |   comments

It's hard to miss that there will be a big football game played in New Jersey this Sunday.  The players, commentators, commercials and other hype are all over the airways.

But, away from the field and the bright lights, the big game brings along another, far less positive activity - human trafficking.  More than 10,000 women and girls were trafficked to Miami for the 2010 championship game, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Often called 'modern-day slavery', individuals involved in human trafficking are often in the sex trade but can also be domestic or farm workers held against their will.   Each of these uses force, fraud, or coercion to control people.  The UN estimates an estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labour (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking

The Dioceses or New Jersey and Newark have been working on this issue in the lead up to the game and their efforts are highlighted in a recent Episcopal News Network story.

One way you can help is to know the signs of human trafficking and speak up if you sense something is wrong. To report a tip, request information on services in your area or to get more information, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.

Closer to home, you may also have heard that more women are victims of domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year. While this is a powerful statistic - I'm pleased to say it's actually a myth.  This 'statistic' stems from an anecdotal comment made at a 1993 press conference which has evolved into fact through repeated telling.  There is actually no statistical increase in reports of Domestic Violence on Super Bowl Sunday.

Even though this urban legend has been debunked, domestic violence is very real.  The NOMORE Campaign is a national effort aimed at reducing domestic violence and sexual assault through education and awareness.  This Campaign has the support of all the major advocacy agencies for the cause as well as several major corporations such as Allstate, Avon and Verizon.

As always, if a person is in immediate danger, they should call 9-1-1 (in the US and Canada).  However, if a victim is in a safe place, 1-800-799-SAFE is the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, where there is information and referrals to local organizations throughout the country.  It is helpful to post this number (or the crisis line for your local domestic violence organization) in the women's restrooms at your facility - restrooms are some of the few places where a woman can safely be away from their abuser.

So, while the spotlight this weekend will be on football, let us also think of those who live or have lived in abusive relationships and those who have been sexually exploited.

The Episcopal Church has pages devoted both to trafficking and gender violence.

A Prayer for Human Trafficking

Almighty God and heavenly Father, You have created us, Your people, to do Your work in Your world. Be with, protect, and comfort all those who are in situations of fraud, force, and coercion, especially those ensnared in human trafficking and those who minister to or care for them. Through Your Holy Spirit, open the hearts of this country and the world, and enliven all our minds as we remember those who are sold in our midst, and inspire us to proclaim the freedom You offer to all through Your well-beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns. Amen.

by Matthew Ellis   |   comments

I am pleased to announce that I have been selected as a member of the 2014 Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute. The Leadership Institute - a program of the CAP Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative - trains and provides resources to a diverse group of faith-based leaders and advocates around the country to be champions of reproductive justice.

Read the press release here.

I want you to know that Episcopal Health Ministries did not make the decision to be considered for this Training Institute lightly. Reproductive justice issues are often highly contentious and controversial. I spent significant time in discernment on my own before discussing it at length with our board of directors.

So why did we decide to move forward? 

  1. The Episcopal Church (TEC) has a clear position on abortion, the issue most closely identified with reproductive justice. Episcopal Health Ministries serves the Church and works on behalf of its stated positions. I encourage you to read the link above and review the resolution in full. 

  2. Reproductive health issues directly affect the physical, mental and spiritual health of the members of our church and our communities.

  3. The ability to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy is but one aspect of reproductive justice. At this moment, there are many other issues involving reproductive justice that require faith communities to have a voice. Access to contraception (TEC's position) and essential health care (TEC positions: 2012 here and previous here) are just two of these issues. 

  4. Too often, the view of 'people of faith' is portrayed as a single position, as if all Christians and people of faith have the same view on these issues. Silence from the Episcopal Church and its members often implies support of these positions contrary to official church statements. 

  5. The members of our churches and communities need to know our position on these issues. Knowing she will be received with love and caring may be the difference in whether or not a woman considering terminating a pregnancy seeks guidance from the church. Her experience (good or bad) and the treatment of her decision will have a profound effect on her spiritual life and on those around her. 

  6. As health ministers, we may be the first point of contact for people needing the church's help but unsure of how they will be received.

Far too often, these issues are portrayed as black and white by the voices highlighted in the media, when most of us live in a world that is not always so clear. Recent polling supports this.

It is my hope that by adding our respectful and prayerful voice to this discussion, we will serve the Church well. It is for these reasons that we decided to accept our invitation to join the 2014 Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute. Over the course of this year, you can expect us to revisit these issues with resources, news, and support for Episcopal Church statements. I hope you will join us as we discuss these critical issues in a loving, Christ-centered way. 

Matthew Ellis
CEO, Episcopal Health Ministries

by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/gun-violence-prevention-sabbath-weekend-march">Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend March 13-16</a></h1>

We are just days away from the National Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend (March 13-16). More than a thousand congregations have signed up to participate over three days of worship, reflection, education and action. If you haven’t yet pledged to participate, please consider doing so. It’s not too late!

Here are three fairly simple ideas on how you can participate and keep your current program in place:

  1. Incorporate a compelling prayer, hymn or reading into your already planned service. Tell your congregants that your place of worship is joining with thousands of other congregations to recommit ourselves to preventing gun violence. Speak about the importance of laws that protect Second Amendment rights while keeping guns out of the hands of those who should not have them.

  2. Set up an information table or hand out information at the end of service. Ask congregants to read about (and share with others) how gun violence prevention laws are saving laws in states where they exist. Mention that activities like this are taking place in places of worship from various faith traditions all across the nation. (A great handout for this can be found here.)

  3. Include gun violence prevention success stories in your church bulletin. Encourage congregants to discuss the positive results of gun violence prevention laws with their friends, family and peers.

Together, we must carry the message forward that many lives are being saved in states where the most comprehensive gun violence prevention laws exist. We need to recommit ourselves to educating our friends and peers that this is not about taking guns away, but keeping guns out of the hands of those who should not have them.

Please join us!

tags Guns
by Sue Hacker Nelson   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/friday-roundup-117">Friday Roundup</a></h1>

Each week, we highlight stories from our newsfeed on Prismatic. No account is required to see what we think is worth reading, so visit our profile often! We update it daily so there is usually something new to check out. Here is a sample of what we liked this week:

10 Things Happy Families Do Differently from Marc and Angel Hack Life
When I sat down to write this morning, my friend’s remarks immediately came to mind.  Which got me thinking…  What does nurturing a happy family really mean?  What are some things happy families do differently?

Sleep is more important than you might think from The Boston Globe
America is chronically sleep deprived and Dr. Charles Czeisler wants to do something about it.  According to Czeisler, head of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, sleep is the third pillar of health, along with exercise and eating well.

5 Mistakes People Make at the Grocery Store from HuffPost
As a health coach, I've noticed my distain for this household chore is not uncommon. Many of my clients feel overwhelmed and anxious when faced with a warehouse full of food. Part of the reason this necessary evil is difficult is that many of us make a few big mistakes when it comes to shopping for our food.

20 Creative Ways To Say Thank You from LifeHack
Saying, “Thank you,” can be difficult to do. Some things just demand a little something extra because of the magnitude of the favor or the depth of appreciation involved. But what can you do to say thank you in a meaningful way? Sometimes you have to get a little more creative than just firing off an email. Here are 20 creative ways to say thank you that your friends and family will remember and cherish!

Let us know which articles you liked (or didn't) in the comments!