Pastor Bev addresses Marin HHS Faith and Health Forum

Pastor Bev addresses Marin HHS Faith and Health Forum May 26, 2021 on the Role of Faith in Health.

Wed. May 26, 2021 at 6 p.m. by Zoom Health & Faith Forum – Marin Health & Human Services & Marin Interfaith Council The Role of Faith in Health – Rev. Bev Brewster, Pastor, SHPC

Thank you so much to the conveners of tonight’s gathering, our dedicated public servants at Marin County H&HS, and to my dear colleague Rev. Scott Quinn/MIC.

Good evening, my name is Bev Brewster, and I’m the Pastor of the Sleepy Hollow Presbyterian Church, a community church way out at the end of Sleepy Hollow in San Anselmo.

The church has been there 61 years, and I’ve been there 10, and we’ve never had a year like this last one. And I wish I could say that we are in the clear, but of course, the pandemic is not over yet, PLUS we are facing another extreme fire year in an extreme drought. Thank you so much to our Public Health Officer Dr. Willis and his extraordinary team for leading us to this point in addressing COVID. Our County is doing well, but we do have more solution to build on the path ahead.

I have great respect and affection for my clergy and lay colleagues here tonight. We are trusted leaders within our own communities and the wider community, and we work very hard to earn and maintain that trust. Many of us are weary from this year. At SHPC, our core mission is hunger relief, mostly to the wider community. COVID has brought greatly increased hunger, and we have worked very hard to respond to that with compassion. AND COVID has brought increased anxiety and depression, grief, physical and mental illness, substance abuse and addiction, death, financial problems, relationship problems, loneliness and isolation, so many challenges across all ages. We lost so much sustaining energy and joy, not meeting in person. As my dear colleague Rev. Paul Mowry says, we might feel like we’ve been preaching to the refrigerator! All this new tech stuff – zoom and the like – has been very stressful for some of us. I appreciate so much the dedicated service that all of you have put in to keep your communities together.

Tonight I was asked to address the role of faith in health. I am a teacher and practitioner of Christianity, following Jesus. I have the greatest respect for the teachers and practitioners represented here tonight, and the communities of faith and compassion which you lead. Much of what we teach and do reflects our core commitment to upholding the human dignity of each person, and to the wellbeing of our own communities and the wider community, especially the vulnerable.

We share a teaching which Christians call the Golden Rule, which has its counterparts among most, if not all, of the world’s faith traditions as a foundation for moral living: In everything do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is the law and the prophets. Mt. 7:12

Jesus was Jewish, and taught from the Hebrew scriptures: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Mt. 22:37-40; see also Lev. 19:18.

Jesus showed his love of people, of all neighbors, in his healings. He was and is a healer. In the Christian sacred text, the Gospels attest to 41 healings of Jesus, some of individuals, some of many. The gospel writers make clear that Jesus was surrounded by crowds seeking healing wherever he went. He spent a great deal of his day caring for the physical and mental ills of people, healing them, affirming their faith, restoring them to community life, and he expected his followers to do the same, to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). We just celebrated Pentecost, with its universal language of the Sacred Spirit! This is how Christians show forth their love of neighbors and their love of God.

Many Christians have a favorite healing account, one that touches them most deeply. For me, it might be Mark 5:24-34, about a woman cut off from community and isolated due to her physical condition in a way that is quite relatable this COVID year. For 12 years she had been in her home, unable to go out, not able to touch or be touched. She had heard about Jesus, and sneaks out to make her way through the crowd around Jesus, propelled by the faith that if she can just touch his garment, she will be healed. She does, and she is. And Jesus says: Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:34. (See also, Mt. 9.)

Jesus affirms this faith and healing connection multiple times (Luke 17:19 Ten lepers, Mark 10:52 Blind Bartimaeus), and also makes clear that healing is not complete without restoration to community, which is essential for wholeness. (John 9.)

Across faith traditions, we practice our faith in community. As faith leaders, we are called to work for the health and wellness of our communities. As the Apostle Paul preached, the faith community is like a body with many members, and If one member suffers, all suffer together with it… (1 Cors 12:12-26 ff).

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. After this year, I am aware that the need is overwhelming. I have been so grateful for the terrific mental health and wellness resources supplied for this month by HHS Behavioral Health, education, workshops, and life-saving suicide prevention resources.

We share a goal with Marin HHS: insuring the health and wellbeing of Marin residents, especially the vulnerable. I welcome hearing about ways we can co-create a collaborative partnership with HHS for the wellbeing of our respective communities and the wider community in which we live and serve. Thank you, and bless you all