Theological Reflection Keeps Minds, Spirits Alive

When Beatitudes Campus opened its doors for a theologian to move in this January, it also opened the doors to a new way of addressing individual needs.

Dr. Harvey Cox, an American Baptist minister and acclaimed research professor at Harvard Divinity School, spent a month as the Phoenix continuing care retirement community’s first theologian-in-residence.

In addition to a lecture series at Beatitudes on his latest book, “How to Read the Bible,” Cox spoke as a guest minister throughout Phoenix. His presence helped the community emphasize education and theological reflection in a unique way, says the Rev. Peggy Roberts, Beatitudes’ vice president for spiritual life.

“It’s very important to think about wellness in all of its dimensions, so we look at that in terms of continuing to challenge our minds and spirits,” she says.

CHHSM members around the country share a commitment to whole-person wellness within their own communities, including spiritual needs.

At St. Charles, Missouri-based Emmaus Homes, which serves adults with developmental disabilities, theological reflection is part of the spiritual care services provided to support clients in their faith lives. Some individuals choose to participate in worship and educational programs provided by Emmaus chaplains, while others participate in their own local faith communities.

“In terms of theological reflection, doing such with Emmaus clients involves activities that are creative and appeal to multiple senses,” says the Rev. Cindy Bumb, Emmaus’ vice president of spiritual care.

As an example, Bumb leads a weekly study in which clients read and discuss the Bible, then use movement, song, prayer, puppets and even American Sign Language to better understand it. Students from Eden Theological Seminary also join the studies to strengthen their ministry skills and gain experience.

“It’s always been a part of Emmaus’ heritage to care about the spiritual life of clients,” Bumb says. “It brings me joy to see the enthusiasm of our clients as they engage with the Scripture, story, music, and as they pray.”

In the St. Louis region, Deaconess Faith Community Nurse Ministries uses theological reflection as vital training for its nurses, led by Executive Director Donna Smith-Pupillo, and every team meeting also includes time for reflection. This ensures that each nurse is equipped with the necessary tools to promote holistic wellness.

As CHHSM members explore new opportunities to meet the diverse needs of their team members, residents and clients, Beatitudes’ innovative approach could inspire others.

Having Cox on campus stirred up interest in theology for those who perhaps hadn’t been interested before, says resident Mim Hoover. And the lectures fit in nicely with the resident-led lifelong learner program, which encourages learning across many topics, including interfaith.

“Its nice to have a wide variety of thinkers who can discuss the differences, the similarities and the implications,” Hoover says of the interfaith classes. “Residents are asking some questions of importance both to them and to the campus, and it’s encouraging them to keep stimulated, to keep our minds fresh.”

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