Using Church for the Public’s Health

By Ally Petrilla

I read the Jackson Sun’s (Tennessee) headline “Churches ‘go green’ as they as they aim to protect God’s creation from more harm” and said to myself, “Finally!”  I am not that excited that my home state is catching the Go Green bug (although that’s a great thing, too!); I was more excited to see that people are having enough sense to use churches as an outlet for health messages for people in the South. 

For states like Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and the Carolinas, church is as much a part of life as fried chicken.  We are people of the Word.  If God or our preacher tells us we better do something, were gonna do our best to do it. So when I read this article about First United Methodist Church in Jackson, TN, which has decided to clean up its practices, I was impressed.

The church has made a huge effort to begin recycling paper (all those bulletins eat up tons of paper), collecting other recyclable items (such as cell phones and ink cartridges), and supplying reusable canvas grocery bags to its parish, among many other things. Their argument is:

“if we don’t take care of God’s creation, who will?”

And even though convincing people to recycle and take up earth-friendly habits is difficult, what better place to guide behavior change than at church?

In a region where religion is so central to the lifestyle of many people, I think it would be foolish to not use the church as an outlet for health messages.  Even if you are not a deeply religious person, you must recognize the value of the church as a tool for disseminating messages to large groups of people.

The South ranks low on key health indicators such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and sexually transmitted diseases.  People speculate that the discrepancies have to do with education and socioeconomics.  Even if this is the case, most everybody in the Bible belt– poor and uneducated alike– have some connection to the church. Getting health messages to people in the southern U.S. is a task that can be helped by church groups, priests, and other religious leaders. I was glad to see people are starting to use the church to help our environment. 

Ally Petrilla is a senior at The George Washington University.  She is majoring in Public Health and minoring in Exercise Science.  After she graduates next year, she plans to do conduct health education abroad, and then return home to Tennessee to work and live, most likely as a nurse practitioner.

 

Comments

  1. #1 Fred
    May 27, 2008

    Ally,
    This idea is not new in my church. There is nothing new in the theology that mankind is responsible for good stewardship of God’s creation.
    Let’s not paint a picture that environmental awareness has finally penetrated the house of God.
    Sounds to me like the environmentally focused have finally noticed the scriptural guidelines that we should have been keeping all along.
    The challenge is following them,
    …and not just the environmentally related ones;-)