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Health Care Advocacy: Create a Culture of Invitation

From Rev. Merrilee Wineinger–

Rev. Merrilee Wineinger speaking on the healthcare panel at Blakemore UMC.

Amy Cooper, a parent of two children with autoimmune diseases, moved to Nashville, Tenn. for access to better healthcare. Amy talked about when her son got a runny nose, which led to a trip to the emergency room. He stayed in the hospital for nine days. Amy has insurance, but still left the hospital with a $78,000 bill.

On Thursday, March 7, Blakemore United Methodist Church hosted a panel discussion on the Affordable Care Act.  Four moms decided ten days prior to invite their friends to come Listen, Learn and Act. I was invited to share about what The United Methodists are doing in Tennessee.

Tennessee United Methodist churches, congregations and members have written letters and postcards to their representatives, attended prayer vigils and rallies, signed petitions and shared our faith-stories. Enlivened by the Spirit, we have and will continue our work until everyone has access to the affordable, high-quality and sustainable health care.

An audience member asked, “How do we guide and organize our churches, small groups, family members and individuals to take action?”

“We create a culture of invitation through storytelling,” I replied.

People love to hear stories. Legislators want to hear our stories. Evann Freeman, Senator Alexander’s Field Representative in Nashville, told the crowd of 40+ that our Congress members want to hear our stories. He extended an invitation “We don’t know your story until you tell us your story.”

Everyone has a story – people on Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, employee insurance and those who are underinsured or uninsured. Perhaps that person next to you in the pew doesn’t have insurance or enough money to buy their prescriptions. Maybe you have relatives with chronic diseases who may lose their insurance. Even more, maybe you’re a woman whose rates may go up just because you’re a woman. Everyone has a story.

Blackmore UMC used their gift of hospitality to invite the attendees into their church. The four moms who organized the discussion used their gift of administration to invite the panelists. The doctors on the panel used their gift of healing to invite people into the lives of their patients. Amy used her gift of courage to invite other parents to stand up for their families’ and other families’ health care needs.

Jesus came so we could live life abundantly. We can do that by living in a culture of invitation. Now is the time to call your friends and invite them to attend an ACA event or call, write, and visit your legislators. Let them know that you are a United Methodist and that the United Methodist Church believes that “health care is a basic human right” (SP 162V). Denying health care to anyone in our country is counter to God’s vision for humanity to thrive and be well.

About Rev. Merrilee Wineinger

Merrilee Wineinger is a Deacon in the Tennessee Conference. She serves as the Tennessee Grassroots Organizer with the General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist Church. She has been an educator and advocate in the ministry of health, wholeness and justice for over 25 years. Rev. Wineinger engages, equips and organizes clergy and laity to advocate and support programs, policies and laws that remove barriers to abundant living.