A New Jersey Church tends to both minds and bodies through its holistic health and wellness initiative. 

Church cares for physical needs of members, community

Laughing yoga was one way to beat the winter blues at First Reformed Church in Pompton Plains, New Jersey.

“It was just hysterical,” says Sharon Hollick, who leads the congregation’s health and wellness team. “We had a person come in and she led us in this program. You just stood around and did laughing exercises, and how laughing is contagious.

“They just loved that.”

“They” includes members from First Reformed and also people from outside the church; the health and wellness committee plans programs that serve and connect people from both groups.

“The Bible says we need to take care of our bodies as temples of God’s Spirit,” Hollick says. “We need to choose to keep our bodies as strong and vigorous as possible as long as we can. God wanted us to take care of our physical bodies and our minds, as well as our spiritual bodies. This is where we provide that—ways to maintain health.”

Once a month, volunteers from the health and wellness committee do blood pressure checks free of charge, immediately after both Sunday worship services. They’ve also planned a six-week “Daniel Plan” holistic approach to dieting and healthy eating, which ran during Lent. Other programs have focused on breast cancer awareness, the Mediterranean diet, and mindful meditation. Upcoming events will focus on child safety and stroke awareness. Between 12 and 75 people take part in the various offerings.

Hollick says she has seen members reach out and invite people to an event that might bring them to the church, not only for this program but also in the future. It’s a way, she says, for them to “see the friendliness of the church.”

At other times, new attendees have found ways to share their gifts with the congregation through the committee’s events. Recently, someone who had been attending First Reformed led the session on mindful meditation. “She was looking to be able to participate in our church, to give back to the church,” says Hollick. “She was so happy that we asked her to do this program.

“That makes you become part of the community.”

The team began as parish nurses campaigning to get defibrillators in their church. The campaign was successful—a defibrillator was installed in each of the church’s three buildings—and the team has since evolved into a full-fledged wellness ministry. Hollick, a registered nurse, serves on the team with seven other medical professionals with expertise in nursing, nutrition, physiotherapy, and other healthcare areas.

Team members function as educators, advocates, and counselors for health and wellness in the congregation and community. Hollick says, “With the Holy Spirit as our guide [our goal is] to continue a healing ministry in the tradition of the early days of Christianity.

“The health and wellness team provides support and resources in the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of all individuals.”