Ruth was elderly, a widow, very hungry and giving $1,000 checks to anyone who came to her door if they would just bring her something to eat. Most took the money, but didn’t bring back any food. She gave her car away to someone who promised to bring her food. She was about to sign her house away when Adult Protective Services got involved. The court appointed a guardian for her who ensured she was never hungry again.
[Episode 128] Today's episode of the Social Work Podcast is a conversation with Dr. Holly Oxhandler.
Dr. Jonathan Singer speaks with Holly about the definitions of religion and spirituality, similarities and differences in religious and spiritual affiliation between social work professionals and their clients, how to address religion and spirituality in practice, and her experience as the co-host of the CXMH podcast.
In November 2017, Kristen Tekell Boyd stands in the pulpit of Truett Seminary’s chapel in Waco, Texas, and preaches, taking Ezekiel chapter 37 as her text. As she describes the valley with the prophet Ezekiel coming upon the dry bones, she reads a key question from the Scripture: “Can these bones live?”
This question might have been asked 20 years before when Carver School of Church Social Work closed in 1997, an event that seemed like a death to many of its alumni.
As individuals and institutions across the country consider necessary changes to effectively fight racism, two terms are gaining familiarity: cultural humility and antiracism.
Kerri Fisher, LCSW, an expert in cultural humility training and lecturer in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, defines those terms and shares five tips to help people cultivate cultural humility and antiracism in their personal and corporate lives.
“We are all impacted by the supremacist cultures that socialize us,” Fisher said, “so while we are not responsible for our first thought, we are responsible for our second thought and our first action. This means we must be brave enough to admit when our brain, body and behaviors are exhibiting racist reactions.”
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory (Psalm 63:2 NIV).
Nature calms me and reminds me in times of doubt and feeling disconnected from God that the Creator truly is. I find assurance in the creativity of each leaf, tumbling stream, dipping valley, rolling wave, bird song and even the blade of grass surviving against all odds in the crack of the sidewalk.
The minute details of nature act like a balm to my weary soul. They remind me with a fierceness something has been here creating and is still here creating.
Remembering this brings me to God’s sanctuary. Sanctuary is a word too often equated with a building. It actually means “refuge” or safety.” It means God’s very presence.
The uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 public health crisis has placed added focus on mental health. Dr. Holly Oxhandler, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development and Assistant Professor in Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, is a recognized expert on the intersection of faith and mental health. In this Baylor Connections, she shares how individuals can prioritize their own mental wellbeing through both immediate and long-term practices, and discusses the role of an individual’s faith in their mental health.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Kevin Pranoto.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Kevin. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there. I grew up in Houston, Texas, in the most diverse county in America. Growing up, I was most fascinated by my Social Studies classes, especially when we discussed the sections on human and civil rights movements. For college, I attended Baylor University, where I received my Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences and was pre-med. The sciences was not a fulfilling track for me, and I quickly found out that I was meant to do something different. Shortly after working at MD Anderson Cancer Center as a nutritionist, I switched tracks and went back to Baylor to attend graduate school, where I received a Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Social Work (MSW). My first MSW internship was working with homeless and unaccompanied youth in the Waco Independent School District. I primarily worked with high school students, many of whom had been kicked out of the house and were living in foster care or in group homes.
Recently, I had the privilege of hearing from our Black social work students in a Listening Session hosted by our departmental administration. The students were vulnerable and raw and brave. They expressed exhaustion and hope and disappointment. They pointed out ways in which the Garland School of Social Work could be better, Baylor could be better, and our curriculum could be more inclusive and supportive. Many of our Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color have likely felt this for many years, but they finally had the collective voice and platform to express this hurt. I am thankful for them and to them.
I will be honest, some of it was hard to hear. My thoughts raced, and I found myself internally defending a program I have worked hard to help develop, a program that I attended as a student. I was uncomfortable. I was sad, and I was even more saddened when I realized I was making it all about me. You see, my discomfort is one small insight into the discomfort I imagine that BIPOC feel in so many spaces. And, I also realized it is time for me (as a White person) to also be uncomfortable.
Racial justice work takes deep inner work. As Ronda V. Magee writes in her recent book, The Inner Work of Racial Justice, “Racial literacy requires emotional awareness. If you are like most people, you will feel strong emotions in reaction to what others share about race and – you will also feel emotional when you reflect deeply on your own experiences.”
This means that I have to sit with the discomfort I feel and examine the places I have been the perpetrator of racism and privileged by racist structures. All of this introspection requires a willingness to dig into the discomfort, to be wrong, to apologize, to make reparations and to try again.
Laine Scales at Baylor University believes the history of a school that ceased to exist 23 years ago is worth telling because of what it reveals about changing Southern Baptist attitudes toward gender roles and social ministries.
Laine Scales Scales, a professor in Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, and co-author Melody Maxwell, associate professor of church history at Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia, Canada, wrote Doing the Word: Southern Baptists’ Carver School of Social Work and Its Predecessors, 1907-1997.
Scales and Maxwell trace the history of the school through its various iterations—the Woman’s Missionary Union Training School for Christian Workers, the Carver School of Missions and Social Work and finally the Carver School of Church Social Work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In spite of “twists and turns” along the way, Scales sees one constant: “It’s never a predictable or boring story.”
The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship has awarded Baylor University’s Dr. Stephanie Boddie a grant of nearly $18,000 to support ethnographic study of ways to create worship practices that integrate traditional theology, Negro Spirituals, storytelling and social history.
Amid increasing racial tensions and a decline in church attendance by millennials, Boddie’s research project focuses on establishing worship practices that help African American churches reconnect spirituality with the social justice legacy of the African American Church. The research will also examine how corporate worship practices, coupled with individual spirituality, creates transformative church experiences and communities.
When someone like me—a community practice social worker—begins work with a new group, organization or community, I ask questions like: “What is the lived experience for this group or community? What systems are impacting them? What systems are they impacting? What are the strengths of this group or community? Who do we need to listen to? What resources already are available to serve this group or community best?”
As states re-open and congregations create their plans in response to COVID-19 for returning to corporate gatherings, the questions at hand may look very similar for church leaders: “How do we move forward? What do we need to consider or listen to? Who needs our care? How will our worship, fellowship and service look different going forward? What resources already exist in our community?”
According to study after study, college students suffer food insecurity at alarming rates. Many face the reality of having no idea where their next meal will come from. Houston MSW student Joyelle Gaines hopes, however, to make this a thing of the past with a new venture called the Joy Store.
The Joy Store is a student food pantry that opened this semester on our Houston Campus thanks to Joyelle’s advocacy, and she hopes it will help students just like her.
WACO, Texas (May 5, 2020) – Twelve Baylor University professors have been honored with Outstanding Faculty Awards for teaching, scholarship and contributions to the academic community for the 2019-2020 academic year.
The Outstanding Faculty Awards recognize the best all-around professors – including non-tenure track, tenured and tenure-track faculty – based on teaching capabilities, research achievement, time spent with students and church and community service.
The past two weeks have been a whirlwind to say the least, shaking us to the very core, evoking mixed emotions from deep within namely: sorrow, grief, anger, frustration, fear, worry, depression, anxiety, confusion, tranquility, calmness, empathy, love, and gratitude. Everyday activities have come to a standstill as we are forced to stay at home; in a flash, life has turned upside down with death and destruction of people’s livelihood across a large number of nations. Suddenly, we are faced with a stressor called uncertainty, the fear of the unknown not just to us as individuals, but to us as citizens of this world. This monumental problem of COVID-19 has forced us into a crisis-mode, with great devastation caused by something only visible under the microscope; coming to us like a thief in the night confronting our very existence.
With continued social distancing and shelter-in-place mandates in the wake of COVID-19, mental health is at the forefront of the national discussion.
Dr. Helen Harris, a professor in the School of Social Work at Baylor, urges students to remember that although we may be physically distant from one another, we do not have to be emotionally distant – a common misconception surrounding the term ‘social distancing.’
“It’s really important to connect with other people who matter to us and to whom we matter,” Harris said.
Grief can present itself in a number of different ways. It can manifest as anxiety or depression, or even depression and anxiety at the same time. We may notice changes in our own behavior we can’t explain, or maybe changes we don’t notice, but others do. That’s all the more reason to be patient with our loved ones, friends, strangers, and perhaps most importantly, ourselves.
The first step to approach and manage the condition of grief is to recognize and claim our feelings about what we’re experiencing. A lot of people aren’t accustomed to this, or it may make them uncomfortable, but almost the whole world is experiencing a collective grief right now, and if we can name and claim these feelings we’re having and talk about them with each other, we can begin to cope.
Once we’ve identified it, how do we process and cope with grief?
Baylor’s focus on offering a distinctly Christian educational environment includes cultivating thought leaders who can help congregations answer the call of societal challenges. Dr. Stephanie Boddie, an assistant professor of church and community ministries at Baylor, is one of those leading the way.
Boddie is known nationally for her research on congregation-based social services and trends in faith-based initiatives. Over the years, much of that research has been through the lens of the black church, with a focus on the social and entrepreneurial approaches these institutions have used to address disparities in wealth, health and food insecurity in their communities.
In the evolving dynamic of COVID-19, we have witnessed our world turn upside-down. The normal routines of life, work and play look completely different than they did a few weeks ago.
As followers of Christ, our way of worship and of gathering together in a sanctuary space has shifted. As businesses close down and events get cancelled left and right, congregations are doing their best to press forward. They are restructuring their way of fellowship, teaching and outreach.
While our congregations may be closing their doors physically, I am deeply moved by how they are opening their hearts, arms and minds to new ways to reach their members and their neighbors.
Can you experience grounded, present, awareness? So much is changing around us. How are you handling it?
Higher education has been in flux for many years with financial and technological upheavals changing so much of what we as faculty and staff understand about ourselves in our institutions of teaching and learning. To this, the crisis of Coronavirus is completely overwhelming. Financial burdens are even more significant. Our dependence on technology is all-encompassing. Students struggle with the anxiety of it all and we are hardly prepared to respond given our own anxieties.
Anxiety, however, is exactly what we are supposed to feel in a situation like this. It is absolutely to be expected that we experience fear, uncertainty, and doubts about all that is happening around us, and to us. We cannot do anything to control it. We cannot make sense of it intellectually. Our feelings seem to overwhelm us. We can all expect to experience anxiety in a situation like this.
Maundy Thursday didn’t come naturally to me. Growing up Southern Baptist, we didn’t celebrate Holy Week, or much of anything from the church calendar, except for Christmas and Easter. In seminary, I remember being asked how you get to Easter if you don’t recognize Good Friday or Maundy Thursday.
More Baptist churches practice these now, more than ever before. In my church, Maundy Thursday is what I refer to as the foot-washing service. It’s my least favorite church meeting of the year! The celebration of Passover and the Last Supper are part of it too, but I can’t get past the dirty feet (you can start praying for me now).
This year, Holy Week services in our churches are particularly complicated, but pastors are being particularly creative. Maundy Thursday included—it’s hard to wash feet while #socialdistancing, don’t you know.
From business closures to high levels of unemployment, the impact of the coronavirus is wide ranging. So how do you talk to friends that have been affected? Dr. Helen Harris with Baylor University's School of Social Work has some tips.
These three characteristics have been used to describe senior Colorado Springs native and 2020 Garland School of Social Work (GSSW) BSW Outstanding Student recipient Megan (Meg) Peck.
Though she didn’t know what social work was at the beginning of her freshman year, this posture of open-mindedness is perhaps what led Peck to listen to the many voices repeatedly telling her it would be a good fit.
These are disorienting times. Due to COVID-19, our professional, relational and recreational routines as American Christians have been disrupted by quarantines and social distancing. In our typically fast-paced world, it feels strange when things suddenly come to a halt. But what if God is using our disorientation for reorientation? What if, amid the coronavirus pandemic that now envelops us, we can rediscover the importance of Sabbath?
WACO, Texas (March 26, 2020) – For the week ending March 21, a record 3.28 million workers applied for unemployment benefits, a result of the sweeping economic consequences of COVID-19, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Labor.
In the proverbial “blink of an eye,” many find their neighbors, friends, family – and even themselves – out of jobs that only a few weeks ago seemed safe and secure.
The jobless are grieving. What’s our role? How do we help? How do we engage?
On Sunday I watched the news – until I couldn’t watch it any longer. I doubt I learned anything new during those three hours. I confess that I’ve never been much of a Sabbath observer, but I can say with confidence that there was nothing about Sunday that felt like a day of rest (except sleeping in and tuning into our church’s online worship service while still in my pajamas).
On Sunday I needed rest. I sat around all day, but it wasn’t rest. A big chunk of the day was spent consuming news that wasn’t new, except for the God-awful, rising number of COVID-19 cases and casualties, which only further prevented any sense of rest. Watching the news only fed fear and anxiety, doubt and disbelief.