Red ties, red dresses and hats. The pastoral processional and proclamation of the gospel—your body/his temple. An old negro spiritual, Oh Freedom, sung by the choir who was directed by a University of Denver music professor. Verses were added to this hymn, highlighting current day struggles given that this was Black History Month. A few more prayers and music praise. A family received the baptism of their lovely little girl, as a row of newcomers looked on, admiring the cultural exchange.
Then the pastor, Reverend Frank Davis, the long- term pastor at Zion Baptist Church (www.zionbaptistchurchdenver.org ), one of the oldest Black churches in Colorado, introduced the guest. She is— (his voice reverberating), a real doctor, he retorted several times. Not real because she had a medical degree or attended institutions of distinction, but real because she cared and she was there with her community. The message she had been asked to share was about heart disease. This was Go Red Sunday, organized by the church’s health ministry under the leadership of Ms. Emma Jackson, RN (Registered Nurse). The minister was in full support. The presentation was intentionally brief and focused on the facts about high blood pressure, heart disease and the gaps that African Americans face. The congregation listened intently, serious about the information they were hearing. The sanctuary was quiet, even the baby that had been baptized was still. The guest said, “I am near the end and since I’m not a minister you can be assured that this is the end.” The church erupted in laughter, knowing just to what she referred. She ended with this refrain, when you get out of church today, go ahead and pray that you will have the strength and courage to F.L.O.W. – Form a Lifetime of Optimal Wellness. F.L.O.W. is a program of the Colorado Black Health Collaborative, www.coloradoblackhealth.org. This organization is invested in partnering with the community to improve the health of our communities. Colorado Black Health Collaborative goes to churches, barbershops, salons, schools, street corners and wherever necessary, to meet people where they are to deliver health messages and offer solutions.
Reverend Davis was feeling the spirit. It was evident that his body had been filled with the Word. His deep voice, strong with intention reiterated the importance of the heart health message that had been delivered. He began, your body—is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The Lord has commanded us to take care of our bodies so we can give him acceptable praise. It matters what we do with our bodies. The body needs maintenance and upkeep! He asked the congregation – how are you keeping your body?
As a people, he preached, Black folks have an eating problem, which is destroying our health. He spoke on the fact that overeating is addressed in the bible. He shared some scriptures that spoke to the issues of eating properly to maintain the body. He encouraged people to not let their appetite rule them. “Everything that tastes good is not necessarily good for you!” Control your appetite. You are in control of your appetite. You are a sacred treasure.
As is characteristic of many pastors, his actual conclusion came about three times after his proclamation that these were his final words. Nevertheless, his conclusion supported that eating healthy is good for the heart and overall health. He encouraged the congregants to utilize the resources provided by the health ministry, as well as other available resources. This American Heart Association link gives some handy tips about healthy cooking for the family – https://www.goredforwomen.org/live-healthy/cooking-heart-healthy-for-the-family/healthy-dinners-under-100/.
During Heart Health/American Heart Month (https://newsroom.heart.org/events/february-is-american-heart-month-6669831) and beyond, everyone is needed, to continue the work to improve the health of the Black community. We know that although the rates of heart disease have declined over the past three decades, heart disease remains the leading cause of death for all men and women in the U.S., but especially Black men and women. Risk factors for coronary heart disease include high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity and others. Blacks are often disproportionately affected by these conditions.
Ministers/Pastors are prefect instruments to deliver these health messages. They have a captive audience every Sunday. They are masterful in intertwining the tenets of Christianity and spirituality to advocate for health behavior changes. They interpret sacred text and advocate for the adherence to God’s Word. Pastors are powerful, trusted, and well respected by congregants and community members. When a minister preaches and teaches through the Word, people listen. A study in the Journal of Religion and Health, https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjVo9aw1cHZAhVPxmMKHc76D9oQFggpMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov%2Fpubmed%2F21965057&usg=AOvVaw3CkwZb3QEO8DM8WGJynl04, reported that pastors believe that discussing health screenings and other health issues more frequently from the pulpit and their own personal experiences would ultimately impact the health behaviors among their congregants. The study suggests that African American pastors see themselves as health promoters in the church and believe this will have impact on the health behaviors among their congregants.
What a powerful resource in the Black community!
Can I get an Amen!