By: Christa Meland
Daphne Soleil wanted to figure out a way to minister to health care workers—who she describes as the “heroes of the pandemic.” As someone with decades of nursing experience, she knows firsthand the demands in the field of medicine, which have increased substantially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the church she attends, Christ UMC in Rochester, is situated literally across the street from the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, so health care workers are a key part of the church’s community and mission field.
Soleil partnered with some physicians, nurses, and chaplains in the congregation and started a new “Community Healers” ministry.
“I imagined us being the roaring crowd that health care providers never had,” she said. “They deserve it more than athletes do.”
The Community Healers team, which came together in late January, is 14 people strong and has a multi-faceted plan underway. Its members developed a “how to love a health care worker” document that they’ve been circulating throughout the congregation. They are also sending a letter of support and encouragement to health care workers in the congregation and community, along with two-inch crocheted “pocket prayer circles”—to serve as a reminder that they are not alone, they have community support, and they can hand their worries over to God.
Soleil hopes to do mailings to health care workers every few months; perhaps future ones will include origami cranes or a poem, she said.
The team is also creating a website that’s meant to serve as a sort of virtual healing garden. It will include links to sacred music, recordings of soothing garden sounds, art and prayer cues, yoga lessons—and other things that are nourishing to the soul, said Soleil.
The church will have a physical healing garden too. Its courtyard—which includes flowers, various native plants, and a labyrinth—will get new signage inviting staff and patients from the Mayo Clinic and nearby Olmstead Medical Center to enjoy the quiet, reflective space.
“We want to be a bigger resource for all of the medical tourism that flows through Rochester,” said Soleil. “People are in need of healing places and resources.”
The Community Healers ministry will extend to worship, too: Christ UMC has planned an interfaith healers service in its parking lot on April 11 that’s for everyone in Rochester. Representatives from the Jewish, Hindi, Muslim and Native American communities have been invited to participate with a three- to five-minute reading and/or discussion on healing as honored by their traditions.
“We are thanking and celebrating everyone from the ICU physician to the child who stayed home from school, grocery store outings, and trips to grandma’s house,” said Soleil.
Attendees will receive cards to write down the people they want to thank, and as they are read at the end of the worship, brightly colored crepe paper representing the various groups named will be unspooled and crisscross the parking lot in a beautiful visual display. The entire service will later be posted to the Mayo Clinic intranet to spiritually buoy employees as an ongoing resource.
Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay, lead pastor at Christ UMC, describes the Community Healers ministry as holy work.
“The trauma of this pandemic time is lodged deep in all of our bones,” she said. “It has been a privilege to hear how providers—nurses, chaplains, physicians, and the myriad of folk who have provided healing graces—have carried the pain of battling this unseen and powerful virus. Our question in forming has centered around how we as a congregation can reach out, support, pray for, and bless those who are blessing to so many. This aligns with our sense of being Grace in the City…We lean into the power of Jesus as healer of body, soul, and mind and seek to offer grace through tangible and intangible touches. We breathe each other's pain and hope.”
Soleil articulates her goal for the Community Healers ministry and the health care providers it aims to support as this: “I want people to have a sense of strength and well-being and, if that’s too much to aspire to, just not giving up—hanging in there and knowing that not only are there people willing to walk beside them, but that God’s there for them too.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church