First Mount Zion Baptist Church (Dumfries, VA)
A “Good Steward” Award winner in the area of Innovative Outreach, in 2009, First Mount Zion Baptist Church — under the leadership of Pastor Dr. Luke E. Torian — began working closely with Rev. Dr. Michael Barry, director of Pastoral Care at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Philadelphia. Their goal: to develop a Spiritual Cancer Support Ministry at the church.
Today, seven more congregations in the community have joined the effort, expanding the ministry’s reach to parts of Northern Virginia. Additionally, First Mount Zion provides cancer awareness to Latinos in the community by way of an interpreter and Spanish-language publications and materials.
The ministry team includes a medical oncologist/advisor and nurse oncologist. Meetings are held on the fourth Saturday of each month at the church, with an average attendance of 35 to 50 cancer patients, survivors, family members and caregivers. Education is provided, and Pastor Torian delivers words of encouragement.
Ministry members also participate in community outreach projects. “It’s very encouraging to see that individuals and their families — who’re undergoing challenges themselves — are willing to help others in need,” says ministry spokesperson and church member Sheila Coverson.
Here, Coverson tells us more about this much-needed outreach.
In 2009, what spurred the formation of this cancer support ministry?
Pastor Torian wanted to provide a safe and encouraging environment for members who have been diagnosed with cancer, as well as family members or loved ones who have been touched by cancer.
Over time, the ministry has expanded to meet the needs of the greater community. Seven additional congregations have joined the ministry: Christ Chapel of Woodbridge (Pastor: Bill Roberts); Sacred Heart Catholic Church (Pastor: Rev. Michael Bazan); Bethlehem Baptist Church (Pastor: Rev. Dr. Darrell White); Jericho City of Praise (Senior Elder: Linda Pyles); United Methodist Church (Pastor: Joseph Shoop); Montclair Tabernacle Church (Pastor: Rev. Gary Caruthers); and Greater Little Zion Baptist Church (Pastor: Rev. Dr. James Murphy).
Our church’s theme is “Ministry Beyond the Walls.” We embrace this theme and love serving God and His people.
What do these meetings look like, in practice? What kinds of discussions/presentations take place?
The meeting opens with scripture reading, followed by an opening prayer, announcements, the featured speaker, closing comments and, finally, a closing prayer. We’re known for getting in a few laughs during the meetings, as well.
The Spiritual Cancer Support Ministry also participates in community outreach projects, such as providing blankets and DVDs to pediatric wards. We provide resources to help out in Africa with school supplies and building wells.
Since 2009, Pastor Torian has been working closely with Rev. Dr. Michael Barry, Director of Pastoral Care at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Philadelphia. Rev. Dr. Barry has helped the ministry to gain a better understanding of forgiveness and its relationship to healing.
Last year, the ministry was invited to attend the Release Now Seminar hosted by Rev. Dr. Barry. Pastor Torian was asked to be on the panel. The seminar was very informative, and all the guest speakers received a private tour of CTCA’s Eastern Regional Medical Center. Our ministry also works closely with Rev. Dr. Barry’s assistant, Rev. Aking.
On Sept. 21, 2013 — in partnership with CTCA and Rev. Dr. Barry — our church hosted the Forgive and Live Concert, which included singer/songwriter Kevin Levar. The event was open to the community, and more than
How did the church go about getting a medical oncologist/advisor and nurse oncologist onboard?
Pastor Torian stated he wanted the ministry to be informative and educational. In 2010, we were blessed to have Dr. Geoffrey D. Moorer, a board-certified medical oncologist and hematologist, give a presentation to our ministry. Our church is very blessed that God brought Dr. Moorer to be a part of the ministry, and we’re blessed that he’s part of our family.
For the past few years, Dr. Moorer has been the medical adviser for the ministry. He’s a partner with Virginia Cancer Specialists, a medical group which serves cancer patients in the Northern Virginia and Washington, DC metro area. He has been instrumental in helping facilitate the group.
Pastor Torian and Dr. Moorer host a wide variety of speakers, including doctors, nurses, cancer navigator specialists and nutritionists. They cover a range of topics, such as stress management, pain management, fatigue, nutrition and more. The subject and materials are reviewed by Pastor Torian and Dr. Moorer prior to meetings. Pastor Torian has stated he wants to ensure ministry members receive accurate information.
Pastor Torian also assigned Michele Stanco, an RN who specializes in oncology. She works with Virginia
Cancer Specialists and provides presentations to the group, plus helpful tips on skin care and other questions families might have while undergoing cancer treatment.
What’s the next step for the church’s cancer care ministry?
We’re expanding outside the Northern Virginia region. We hope to continue to expand and provide information on cancer prevention, early detection, nutrition information and faith-based cancer support to individuals and families touched by cancer. We’re now assisting external agencies within Prince William County with cancer awareness programs.
Also, the ministry hopes to continue helping with outreach programs such as Kid Flicks, an organization that collects new and used DVDs for hospitals throughout the world. We provide new and used DVDs to children in local hospital pediatric wards that might be undergoing cancer treatment or treatment for other chronic illnesses. Within the last two years, our ministry has collected hundreds of DVDs to provide to two local hospitals.
We want everyone to be aware of ways to reduce the chances of getting cancer through cancer prevention, education and action.
Additionally, we want everyone to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer, because early detection and treatment saves lives.
Finally, we want everyone to know that they’re not alone — that the Community-Based Spiritual Cancer Support Ministry is here to support individuals and loved ones dealing with cancer in any way we can.
— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh