Interfaith Health and Hope Coalition Acting in Faith

What are the signs that a child is being sexually abused? If you’re a member of the clergy, a lay leader, a religious school teacher, what do you do if you suspect that a child may be suffering abuse? When do you report it? Who do you report it to? What do we do to make sure it’s not happening in our congregation? These are crucial questions that congregations need to address to participate in the vital task of caring for the children in our community.

On Saturday, March 7, the Interfaith Health and Hope Coalition in partnership with The Guidance Center (TGC) Kids Talk Program, will present Acting in Faith, Raising Awareness on Childhood Sexual Abuse. Acting in Faith, which is in its fourth year, is a program developed by the IHHC in cooperation with TGC, an agency dedicated to helping children and adults with mental health issues in Southeast Michigan. It is an all-day program which uses Power Point presentations, work books, case studies and open dialogue to help congregations identify whether a child may be in trouble and how best to respond.

Across faith traditions, congregations and faith-based organizations are a source of relief and support for the needy, most often providing food, shelter and clothing to congregants and community members. Individuals who are in need often turn to Houses of Worship for comfort and counsel. So congregations and faith based organizations are often the first point of contact with people who may also have physical and mental health issues.

Helping in these cases requires training, specialized knowledge, and familiarity with community resources. Since 2004, the Interfaith Health and Hope Coalition has been working to create a network of congregations, faith-based organizations, and health and human service organizations to share knowledge and resources, and to work together on programming to help increase that store of knowledge and know-how. Some of the needs the IHHC addresses are hospice and end of life issues, palliative care, chronic disease awareness such as diabetes, asthma, and cancer.

IHHC works partly through organizing Circles of Care (C of C). C of C’s are geographically specific groups representing faith-based congregations, health systems, clinics, social service agencies and others. They have been and are being created to help develop and expand small networks that engage all aspects of health ministry – parish nurses, congregational health ministers, health professionals working with faith-based initiatives and others with a shared common interest.

Within a Circle of Care, organizations serve as trusted and effective forums and network opportunities for educating, counseling and encouraging the community regarding health issues. By working together, these faith-based communities in collaboration with others, can share best practices in health ministry, while at the same time promoting a more effective linkage with existing social, human and health services in faith centers, schools, clinics and primary care providers. Some of the activities presented by the Circles of Care have been a health ministry survey to assess current health and social needs; presentations on chronic disease awareness and workshops on topics such as Mental Health, Medicaid/MIChild, Medicare Part D Prescription Coverage, health literacy, Veterans Services and Hearing Services.

Last year, with the Medicaid expansion, the IHHC chose to devote much of its energy in finding ways to raise health care literacy. The focus was on programs dedicated toward expanding knowledge of basic health care terminology, such as co-pay, deductible, premiums, subsidies, essential health benefits, referrals, etc, as well as terminology and numbers around conditions such as diabetes. And it targeted the crucial area of medical self-management, working with nurses and lay health ministers to help people make the best use of the services they now have available and learn skills to better manage their own care.

This year, IHHC emphasis is on mental health. IHHC has already partnered with the Ecumenical Theological Seminary (ETS) on a program called “Faith Leaders as Mental Health First Responders.” The program is aimed at helping clergy and other faith leaders recognize symptoms of mental illness, respond appropriately, and know when and where to refer individuals for care.

Space is still available for Acting in Faith. Click here for more information 15.03.07 Acting in Faith with registration form.

Hosts are still needed for 2015 Acting in Faith. Contact Ron Beford at for more information on hosting or on Circles of Care.