BWC pastor with medical background combines church and health clinic

March 27, 2017

By Meghan Howie*

When David was told he would be king, he was incredibly frightened. He couldn’t see God’s plan for his life. The only thing he could do was run from Saul, so he “escaped” to the cave of Adullum.

This cave became a home for the distressed, debtors, and the bitter. Those who gathered grew strong together. From the cave came the men who would help David to win the kingdom after Saul died (1 Samuel 22).

Strength through community building and healthcare is what the Rev. Dr. Irance Reddix-McCray, pastor at Saint John’s UMC and doctor at a local community healthcare center, hopes for the Adullum Community Healthcare Center.

The Adullum Community Healthcare Center, ACHC, will open its doors April 1 under the leadership of Reddix-McCray to provide healthcare services to the Greater Charles Village/Barkley, Waverly, Old Gaucher and Greenmount communities of Baltimore. They will use a holistic healthcare approach to promote healthy lifestyles focusing on care of the whole being, including mental, psycho-social, and spiritual issues in low-income and underserved neighborhoods.

Reddix-McCray, who studied at Baylor University, said there was an emphasis on practicing medicine without specialists or advanced technology and dealing with people as they are. Reliance on technology was discouraged, she said, because it begins to enable a physician to treat a patient as a disease as opposed to a diagnosis.

Her background in this methodology afforded her a unique perspective. As she started working, Reddix-McCray began to see a difference in the people of faith who would come to see her, not only in their health but also in the way their faith impacted them seeking treatment.

Many did not trust the healthcare system. Reddix-McCray seemed to be the exception because her patients felt she understood them. She wanted to get a better understanding of the relationship between religious beliefs and health. Though she was inspired by the relationship, Reddix-McCray did not see herself leaving medicine.

“I didn’t want to be a preacher,” she said. “I didn't want to stand in front of people. I was quite content with being a doctor for the rest of my life. But, God has a way of making you resonate along with his calling. I was struggling with my unwillingness to see.”

At a revival years later, Reddix-McCray gave a sermon on scars entitled “In the Pink: The Wounded Healer.” The sermon talked about the importance of showing our scars, both physical and metaphorical, because they are signs that God heals us. All of us, she said, no matter our skin color, have scars that start pink as God heals us, and they will all heal even without ointment and Band-Aids. Her sermon left the congregation speechless. Her friend leaned in to say, “Do you now not doubt that God has called you here?”

This process brought Reddix-McCray to part time positions as a pastor and a doctor. Pairing these two positions through ACHC will allow Reddix-McCray to more effectively do both. “If I can bring healthcare to a community with the concept that the community is improved by what they believe,” she said, “then we can improve not just the community but the whole region.”

Saint Johns has a history of radical service to its community. Previously, the congregation established a homeless shelter that ran for 26 years. “They are one of the most accepting, hospitable congregations,” said superintendent of the Baltimore Metropolitan District, the Rev. Ed Delong.

The mission of the healthcare center is to provide care in a small enough setting that those receiving services have a sense of regularity. “Wrap-around care” is the overall goal for the center, so mental and physical health services are provided by a clinical psychologist, a licensed clinical social worker, a behavioral health professional, a nurse practitioner, and other medical practitioners, all of whom are officially on staff.

Delong said the people of the district hope “that not only will people come for the healthcare, but that they will also see this as a place for them to come for their spiritual well-being as well. We’re hoping that people who come for their spiritual care as a part of the congregation will find an open and receptive healthcare clinic who will receive them as they are without judgement.”

Reddix-McCray hopes that ACHC will be a model for other churches in the area to serve their hurting neighbors even more radically. The healthcare center is just the first step in what will hopefully be a wave of impact. “It’s from your community,” she said. “It is your community and somebody will know your name.”

*Meghan Howie is a freelance writer and student at American University.

The Adullum Community Healthcare Center will host its first annual April Funds Day Event on April 1, at 6 p.m. The theme this year is “Better Health More Fun.” Reddix-McCray hopes to grow support in the financial aspect so that it can be completely independent grants for day-to-day costs of running the non-profit. The cost of running ACHC for a full year is $198,500. She is also interested in having more physicians and nurse practitioners as volunteers in the practice provide medical care. However, hospitality is another important piece of the mission, giving room for those without medical training to join the effort as well. Reddix-McCray encourages anyone who is interested to call her at 410-366-7733 or email her at .