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Jun 06, 2012 | The Rev. Russell Levenson, Jr.

Hope and Healing: Ministry to Body, Mind, Heart and Soul

[Diolog Magazine] When James wrote his epistle to the early Christians, one of his concerns was that they had become a bit too focused on the soul, over and above the day-to-day needs of those around them. “What good is it ... if one claims to have faith, but has no deeds? ... Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:14). This verse alone has been the inspiration for many of the outreach initiatives of the Church and certainly many within the diocese.


But it was not just the needs of the body, but the overall health and wholeness of the body to which Jesus extended his ministry of healing and hope. His desire was that our love for God would extend from heart ... soul ... mind and strength, (Mark 12:28-31; Matthew 22:34-40). But it is difficult to love with these facets of human life if one, or all, are in some way in need of healing. No doubt, that is why we see Jesus sometimes focusing his healing ministry upon the soul, other times upon the mind, still others the emotions, and often last comes the bodyas he often showed that physical sickness can have its roots in the unphysical or metaphysical aspects of our human nature. 


The world of science and medicine is increasingly recognizing the connection between overall health and the experience of faith. The Church, however, has been a bit slow to respond with an equal connection or receptivity. One might wonder if James’ message speaks to the Church of the 21st Century. 


Our pews are filled with people not just with hungry souls, but with brokenness as it is experienced in every age of the life cycle affecting every facet of human life. For instance, one in eight people is addicted to drugs or alcohol, and 40 percent of those have a dual diagnosis where their addiction is connected to a mental or nervous disorder.1 The average age today when a youth tries alcohol is between 11 and 13, and the average age when Americans begin drinking is 15. Teens who begin drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin at age 21. Two of the leading causes of death related to persons between the ages of 15 and 24 are automobile accidents and suicideand alcohol is the leading factor in both.2 


Depression continues to be a growing problem in our modern culture. Seven percent of people suffer depression after the age of 18; one out of every 33 children and one out of every eight adolescents. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 and 24.3 


25 percent of all cancer patients experience depression; one-third of all heart attack survivors and half of all Parkinson’s patients experience depression. By 2020, depression will be the second most common health problem in the world.4 


We all know that married couples have a hard time staying together. About half end in divorce in America; 67 percent of all second marriages and 74 percent of all third also fail. One half of American children will see the breakup of their parents’ marriage40 percent of U.S. children today are being raised without a father.5 


Children from broken families are nearly five times more likely to suffer damaging mental troubles than those whose parents stay together. Family studies author Patricia Morgan says, “Broken families … produce homes full of conflict and chaos and they are terrible for children …”6 


The breaking apart of families because of divorceas they have to do sometimes for the better of alldoes not diminish the impact in the overall mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health of family members who need support and care after the divorce.


I have worked in the Church for well over two decades now, and I confess that while we have often led the way in helping people “pick up the pieces,” (recovery and support groups, for instance) we have not been leaders in providing preventative care, education and insight in providing the building blocks for a comprehensive understanding of what it means to live a healthy life. One may be healthy in heart and soul, but sick in mind and body; and vice versa—one sick place, often, if not always, impacts the others. 


This challenge was one of the embryonic wombs that has brought to life St. Martin’s new Hope and Healing Center, (HHC). An outgrowth of a year-long study of the membership of St. Martin’s was the clear desire to increasingly be known as a parish the helps those “broken by life’s circumstances.”  


St. Martin’s appointed Dr. Scott Basinger as the Founding Director of the HHC and its teaching companion, the Hope and Healing Institute (HHI). A nationally recognized leader in issues of recovery and mental health, Basinger believes the HHI “will draw on experts in psychology and counseling to offer seminars, speaking engagements and programs, as well as to author articles for Chrysalis, its quarterly journal.”  The more than 13,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility includes classrooms, offices and recovery meeting rooms, as well as a teaching auditorium that can seat more than 100 people. Finally, an exterior meditation garden is also being designed as an integral part of the Center. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2012, the HHC will immediately house more than a dozen recovery and support groups that already regularly meet at St. Martin’s. In addition, it will begin to spread its ministry across the city of Houston and the greater diocese through a wide variety of seminars and workshops that fulfill its mission of offering hope and healing to those making their way through the river of life. 


- Levenson is rector of St. Martin’s, Houston. For more information on the HHC or HHI, visit