The word “wellness” is used frequently and in different ways, so it's important to understand what we mean by “wellness ministries” at St. Stephen’s Church. First of all, we might say what we do not mean.
St. Stephen’s Church is not a “spiritual spa” where individuals come for self-indulgent pampering. Rather, our wellness ministries are intended to promote the kind of spiritual focus and prayerful attentiveness that can lead to a more compassionate life, a life that is grounded in the Way of Jesus. And, of course, all that we do is set in the ancient, life-giving rhythm of prayer – weekly communion with God and one another; some sort of daily devotion, such as the recitation of psalms and scripture readings from Daily Morning and Evening Prayer; and, following the example of Jesus, regular times of private, contemplative prayer, times for “resting in God.”
Wellness, recollection, and salvation
The importance of wellness ministries at St. Stephen’s has its roots in the ancient Christian understanding of “recollection” and “salvation.” Some of the earliest Christians recognized the importance of stepping back from what Jesus called “the cares of the world and the lure of wealth,” in order to recall or “recollect” the self by remembering who we are and our deeper purpose. In our over-busy and high tech culture, in which many feel spiritually numb and emotionally scattered, nothing could be more important than this discipline of collecting oneself and recalling the deepest truth about who we are as children of God.
Similarly, to be saved is not simply a matter of believing or doing the right things in order to go to heaven when you die. Instead, to be saved can be understood, quite simply, as being made whole and well. The second century theologian, Irenaeus of Lyons, famously said that "the glory of God is a human being who is fully alive." Our wellness ministries seek to promote habits and disciplines that re-center us in God, “the Lord and giver of life.”
The New Testament word for “salvation” is the same word for “healing” and “making whole.” Our English word, “salve,” helps us to recover this ancient understanding of salvation. A salve, of course, is an ointment or other agent of healing. But again, this is far from a narcissistic endeavor. The litmus test for spiritual healing is not a buff body, a peaceful mind, and a life that is removed from the sufferings of the world. Rather, the fruit of healing and wellness, as we understand these things, is a life that is growing in compassion for others.
Wellness ministries at St. Stephen's Church
St. Stephen's offers groups, classes, retreats and other opportunities to help people make healthy and informed choices about the things that affect physical, spiritual and mental health. In addition to the classes listed below, and the retreats we offer here at church and at the Society of St. John the Evangelist, we see our Farmers Market as part of this ministry. So is a food ministry that provides nourishing foods to those who cannot afford them, and Sunday Community Suppers which emphasize fresh, local ingredients, as well as fellowship. Suppers are donation-based to allow the broadest possible participation.
Our wellness ministries are interrelated, and when we participate in one, we often strengthen the others. For example, we support local farmers by providing a weekly farmers market...and by purchasing ingredients from market vendors for our community suppers. The vendors, in turn, donate unsold produce, meat and eggs to the pantry, allowing us to provide fresh, local, nutritious food along with canned and boxed staples to our food pantry clients. All of God's people, regardless of their financial circumstances, have a share in the fruits of the earth.
11 a.m. | Chair Yoga led by Celine Burn | year-round | suggested donation $10 per class
Chair yoga is a safe and supportive style of gentle yoga that allows individuals to engage in flexibility exercises as well as balance and coordination moves. Celine Burn is a group exercise instructor certified by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America who specializes in teaching seniors chair yoga through the Silver Sneakers certification program. This class is open to all ages and is ideal for those who would like to improve and maintain their wellness as they age.
6-7:15 p.m. | Into Stillness (beginning) led by JoAnn Bibb DeForge | five weeks beginning September 15 | suggested donation $45 for the course | register here or at Information Central
Mindfullness meditation is valuable for those who are looking for new ways of dealing with stress, using the same principles used in Mindfulness-Based-Stress Reduction (MBSR), a proven method for reducing stress. Learning to be still and present is a key component in the spiritual life. This 6 p.m. class is for beginners
7:15 p.m. | Into Stillness (continuing students) led by JoAnn Bibb DeForge | five weeks beginning September 15 | suggested donation $45 for the course | register here or at Information Central
This section of the class is for those with previous experience.
6-7:30 p.m. | Chi Kung led by Ryan Duffy | year-round | suggested donation $10 per class
This class consists of Tai Chi excercises and will integrate Chi Kung practices. Tai Chi is often referred to as moving meditation; it is a movement-oriented body-mind-practice. Participants will learn a set of gentle movements and basic meditations to improve flexibility and balance, core and leg strength, cardiovascular health, body awareness, and the ability to relax and de-stress. This class is for anyone, regardless of experience level.
9:30 a.m. | Mindful Yoga led by JoAnn Bibb DeForge | year-round | suggested donation $10 per class
6- 7 p.m. | Mindfulness Yoga led by Lynn Brooke | year-round | suggested donation $10 per class
6 p.m. | Awakening the Body Temple led by Millie Cain | year-round | suggested donation $10 per class
Group Spiritual Direction led by Lynn Brooke | six sessions | suggested donation $60 for the course; participants commit to attend every session
This is an opportunity to discover the Divine within you and beyond you. Learn how to pause long enough in the busyness of your life to sense God's presence, and the steady ways Divinity works through each of us. We spend time in silence, and sacred sharing to awaken to who we really are.
Beginning Meditation led by Lynn Brooke | six sessions | suggested donation $60 for the course; participants commit to attending all six sessions
Meditation is a simple but life-transforming skill. By strengthening your attention, meditation cal help you develop a deep understanding of your inner self. In this step-by-step beginning class, you will become familiar with basic techniques to help facilitate your practice of mindfulness mediation so you might begin or extend your practice on surer footing. Each class will also include deep relaxation to foster stress reduction.
The food ministry at St. Stephen’s is inspired by the Eucharist, the central act of worship in the Christian faith. Through the Eucharist, Christians believe that they are fed by God so that they can feed others. Our food ministry includes a Sunday Community Supper open to all (since it is donation-based, any who cannot pay for a meal are welcome); a weekly food pantry distribution for those who suffer from food insecurity; a weekly distribution of fresh fruit to residents of Gilpin Court; and our Farmers Market. Learn about how St. Stephen's Food Ministry is making a difference in the community here.
VCU Pharmacy Students
Twice a year, pharmacy students from VCU/MCV visit St. Stephen's, host the coffee hour following the 11:15 a.m. Sunday service and provide healthful, delicious foods for that reception. They also provide information, advice, recipes, and offer such services as blood pressure checks and flu shots.