Pastor, Heal Thyself Wellness Retreat Engages African American Pastors

On Oct. 31, 2019, the Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research hosted its second Pastor, Heal Thyself wellness retreat, led by Floyd B. Willis, M.D. The goal of the retreat is to examine the health and engagement capacity of African American pastors and implement a mind-body resiliency program for pastors who seek to improve their sense of wellness.

"One of the most gratifying aspects of this effort is the consistent message from the pastors that they appreciate and very much need this uniquely presented wellness information. One said it was an 'important gift from Mayo,' " Dr. Willis stated.

The wellness retreat is a one-day event funded by Mayo Clinic. During the retreat, pastors have the opportunity to learn about their emotional, mental and physical capacities while engaging with fellow faith leaders. The most recent retreat focused on trust, transparency, mental health and resiliency.

Speakers included:

  • Mental health counselors
  • Wellness coaches
  • Faith leaders in the mental health profession
  • Doctors in medicine and research

The pastors engaged in small breakout sessions and participated in activities that increased the capacity of the mind, body and spirit. Many pastors found the experience to be beneficial and greatly needed.

Phillip Rawls, senior pastor of the Freedom Church in Jacksonville, Florida, stated, "The pastors' wellness retreat is a tipping point of my year! I have found this retreat to be a barometer for my mental health, while at the same time it gives me tools necessary for wellness. I am grateful that Mayo Clinic has created space for clergy to decompress and for me to receive keys for a better me."

As Dr. Willis and the center continue to engage with the pastors in the community, the goal is to eventually establish a program that leverages faith leaders as conduits to communicate vital information to improve health outcomes in the African American community.

Attendees of the 2019 Pastor, Heal Thyself retreat