An atheist walks into a Baptist church…

There’s no punchline here.

When my patient care coordinator Kenna invited me to attend the 100th anniversary of her church, I didn’t know what to say. Should I tell her that I was raised as an atheist? Maybe explain the whole Irish-grandpa-rebelling thing? I decided to spare her the details and accepted the invitation with a smile and an assuring, “I’ll be there!”

Sunday morning rolled around, and my schedule quickly began to fill up with family obligations and the usual business of a new week. This, combined with the fear of being in an unfamiliar social situation, brought me close to canceling. Nonetheless, I drove 40 minutes to Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Detroit’s east side.

I pulled around the corner of the church, desperately trying to find parking and decided upon a spot next to a small, ivy-covered home. I nervously walked to the side door to be greeted with a hug and an envelope. Music blasted through the speakers as I shyly navigated the aisles searching for Kenna.

I picked a conservative seat in the back by myself before I got the nerve to ask where Kenna would be. They ushered me to the first row, stating that was where she usually sat. Little did I know that Kenna was the pastor’s wife.

It is fascinating who we are when we are uncomfortable. I spent much of the service with my eyes fixed on the musicians, nodding my head to the beat. My legs were crossed — even while standing — and I kept my arms pulled tight to my body. Kenna walked in and didn’t notice me at first, but she moved to the bench in front of me about halfway through. This meant that I had to spend an hour by myself.  Pastor Anthony Hill walked out, and there was not a quiet soul in the room. I quickly realized why Kenna liked me.

Pastor Hill was vibrant, loud, energized and everything that I usually am but couldn’t find the comfort to be at that moment. Words would roll off his tongue and he would command, “Write that down!” I nodded in my usual “yassss” attitude until I glanced around and noticed that everyone around me was actually jotting down his notes. I took out the envelope I was given at the beginning and decorated it with all of his Tony-isms.

I didn’t go to church often as a kid. It was unusual in my family so if I wanted to attend, I had to find friends to go with. Thus, being by myself, in a Baptist church nonetheless, was a completely unfamiliar situation.

Church folks will talk about you and your guilt.
But a godly person will tell you: “Just like He delivered me, He can deliver you.”

I love listening to Ted Talks and motivational speeches that follow the same idea as a religious monologue. You’ll notice that everyone in the room is looking for the same thing, but every person gets something completely different out of it. We went looking for community and the word of the Lord; some people walked away with that, but others such as myself walked away with inspirational lessons for life and one’s profession.

There is a lot that can be learned about dentistry when we step outside of the clinic. When I listened to Pastor Hill’s sermon again, I noticed how he would call people out during his talk, as if he was speaking with them one-on-one. At one point, he even gave a shout out to the dental school and students in the room. Knowing something special about your patients is something that is often overlooked at school. Even if all you can remember is your patient’s child’s name, that’s still something special they may not have experienced before. People like to feel included and understood.

Additionally, we talked about finances and people achieving their dreams and goals. I complain a lot about dental school. I’m so busy making custom trays and reviewing medical histories and procedures that I forget there were days in undergrad where I cried at the thought of not getting in.

Sometimes, wellness is about self-reflection and knowing what you need. It’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone. I’m not saying you have to go to every social event. I’m not even saying go to church every Sunday. But the next time you’re having a bad day, ask yourself what you really need. Do you need a day off? Do you need to drink more water? Maybe you just need some motivation or a community or change of scenery.

In the wellness community, we tend to think of trying new things in terms of rock climbing and meal prepping. Think outside the box and take care of yourself. Give your body what it needs, and nourish your mind and soul.

A peaceful heart gives life to the body.
Proverbs 14:30

~Casey Rhines, Detroit Mercy ’20, Chapter Wellness Chair

ASDA’s Wellness Month 2018 is generously supported by ADA student members insurance plans, underwritten by Great-West Financial.

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About Casey Rhines

Casey is a third-year dental student at the University of Detroit Mercy and serves as the Wellness Chair of their ASDA chapter. She loves coffee and Cabernets, yoga and traveling, and anything that gets her outdoors.

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