“If you want to follow Jesus,” health ministry leader Scott Morris ’79 M.Div. told his YDS audience, “it’s pretty clear to me in the New Testament you’re expected to do three things: preach, teach, and heal.
“In our churches we have preach and teach down. But whatever happened to that healing ministry stuff? Our churches don’t seem to understand that. We pray for people on Sunday morning. The pastor is expected to visit people in the hospital. A few people visit the shut-ins. And that seems to define our healing ministry.”
Not for Morris. In a public conversation with the YDS community on September 29, the medical doctor and Divinity School graduate unpacked the stirring story of Church Health, a Memphis, Tenn.-based health care ministry founded by Morris in 1987. Supported by faith and medical communities, the ecumenical ministry has grown to the point where it averages 70,000 patient visits a year.
Morris, who came to YDS as part of the School’s program in Transformational Leadership for Church and Society, was a fitting successor to Michael Pfleger, a Chicago-based Catholic priest and anti-violence activist who is busy with healing of a different sort. Pfleger guest-lectured for a transformational leadership course and held court in a public conversation in the YDS Common Room on September 22.
Titling his course and talk “Peace starts here,” Pfleger told the story of the church he pastors, St. Sabina, in the midst of a predominantly African-American community on Chicago’s south side. He also addressed the proliferation of guns and gun violence in his city and the U.S., saying: “America has a love affair with guns. No country on earth has as many guns as us. America has made guns a part of its wardrobe.”
Related story: “Why ‘thoughts & prayers’ starting to sound so profane” – Washington Post column with perspective from YDS Professor Miroslav Volf
“Unless we have the courage to deal with the roots of the violence,” Pfleger responded to his interviewer, Associate Dean Bill Goettler, “we’re never going to stop the violence. Racism, segregation, poverty—it’s all those issues. And underlying it is the system that holds it in place and tells whole masses of people on the west side and south side, ‘You’re disposable.’”