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A former deli in the tiny town of Clifton houses the ministry’s food pantry, which provides free staples for the needy and prepares mobile meals for 37 homebound people, including a 100- year-old woman. In an innovative bid to make the food pantry self-supporting, volunteers are renovating the deli into a restaurant that will offer home-style meals.

The ministry’s impact on the community is clear, says director Theresa Russell: “I’ve seen a woman who is no longer losing her hair because she has good food to eat now. I’ve seen children who have enough to eat only because of our pantry. I’ve seen love from people of various churches shown to the entire community.” What sets the program apart, she adds, is that “We’re a ministry. We’re doing what God wants us to be doing.”

The Art of Listening

At Chatham Hospital, the Rev. Sue Flippin makes regular rounds as a volunteer chaplain through Caring for Our Neighbors: Cuidando a Nuestros Vecinos . This spinoff of the Immigrant Health Initiative received a $90,000 grant to help expand services to the elderly and those who are chronically ill.

As pastor of Siler City Presbyterian Church, Flippin visits patients and their families of all faiths—or no faith. There are two simple rules for congregations entering health ministries, she says: “First, we have to care for each other. Second, remember to care for the whole community. We’re all God’s people, and He put us here to do that.”

Though Chatham County is largely rural and has limited resources, Caring for Our Neighbors is succeeding. Several area churches encompassing diverse ethnicities and denominations worked together to raise funds for a young girl’s kidney transplant. “Our size is small,” says Flippin, “but our love is gigantic.”

Caring, adds Flippin, “begins with listening to people; only then do we begin to know them.”

Caring Communities At a Glance

Theology and Medicine at Duke Divinity School includes a number of programs and initiatives, including the Caring Communities Program and the Health and Nursing Ministries Program.

Services include:

  • The Health Ministries Resource Center at 3600 University Drive in Durham, filled with books, videos, and other materials regarding health ministries;

  • A Web site at www.caringcommunities.divinity.duke.edu, providing tutorials, resources, links, and news on Caring Communities activities;

  • Consultation services by Health Ministries Educator Anne A. Packett, BSN, MA;

  • Educational opportunities for clergy, laity and health professionals, such as the Pastoral Care in Community training series;

  • Health and Nursing Ministries, a joint program with the Duke University School of Nursing, coordinated by Alyson J. Breisch, RN, MSN, which prepares individuals both clinically and theologically for careers in health ministries;

  • Coordination of a grants initiative for health ministries in the Carolinas, supported by The Duke Endowment; Theological education for religion and health research fellows, along with medical, nursing and social work students;

  • Interdisciplinary courses on theology and health for divinity school students along with the varied health disciplines; and

  • Systematic assessment and evaluation of health ministries.

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DIVINITY Online Edition :: Fall 2004 Volume 4 Number 1 Duke Divinity School