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THOUGHTS ON FAITH AND ITS ROLE IN HEALTH AND WELL-BEING By Sarah Rollins

I N PA RT N E R S H I P W I T H

CITY OF DURHAM | COUNTY OF DURHAM | DUKE UNIVERSITY | DUKE UNIVERSITY HEALTH SYSTEM | DURHAM CAN | DURHAM PUBLIC SCHOOLS DURHAM CONGREGATIONS IN ACTION | GREATER DURHAM CHAMBER OF COMMERCE | INTERDENOMINATIONAL MINISTERIAL ALLIANCE LINCOLN COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER | PROJECT ACCESS OF DURHAM COUNTY | PARTNERSHIP FOR A HEALTHY DURHAM TRIANGLE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION | THE INSTITUTE

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he Rev. Mel Williams, pastor emeritus at Watts Street Baptist Church, served as the church’s pastor for 24 years before taking on his current role. A community minister, Mel also assists as the coordinator of End Poverty Durham, “a catalyst for community health, advocating for the dismantling of racism and poverty, two leading causes of health disparity,” Mel says. Most of Mel’s interactions, like many of us, now take place over Zoom, text and phone. “In-person meetings are High Holy days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) are the most well-attended services of the year severely limited, and that’s at Beth El. Since families couldn’t come celebrate this year, volunteers like Sally Brown distributed a big loss,” Mel says. “It’s gift bags at the synagogue to nearly 50 drivers, who then hand delivered them to congregants to part of the grief that swirls enable them to observe the holidays and facilitate a holy prayer space at home. around all of us.” To stay “It’s reminded us how deeply important those times of healthy in these times of sorrow, fear and chaos, Mel communal meeting are for everything we try to do as a leans on the Bible as a guide to health and well-being. He religious community,” he says. Daniel and other Beth El focuses on how the Bible speaks of Shalom, which Mel members were also challenged with how to constitute describes as “the great Hebrew word that encompasses health, healing, wholeness and peace within the individual certain traditions, prayers and moments in the Jewish faith that typically require a number of people present. They and the wider community. To me, congregations and began looking at Jewish history for answers and valued religious institutions are ‘health centers’ focused on precedent, which told them that seeing one another’s faces increased health for those who show up.” could equivocate to being all together. “By gathering over Similar to Mel’s experience, one of Beth El Synagogue Zoom and leaning on that precedent, we’ve enabled people Rabbi Daniel Greyber’s biggest challenges during COVID-19 has been the lack of face-to-face communication. to be able to say a prayer quorum,” Daniel says. F I N D A C O M P L E T E L I S T O F H E A LT H Y D U R H A M P A R T N E R S AT

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