Attendees of this year’s Tennessee-Western Kentucky Annual Conference saw a new presence of trained chaplains donned in bright red at First United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn. 

Launched by the Conference’s Mental Health Cohort, this new resource of on-site chaplains sought to offer care to delegates and other attendees. Since last October, more than 25 trained mental health providers from across the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference – called the Mental Health cohort– have met monthly to collaborate on ways to amplify mental health resources in our connection. 

TWK Chaplains, Rev. Tim Holton and Rev. Christy Brown

“Annual Conference is a deeply emotional time as we connect with one another in vulnerable spaces,” says Reverend Timothy Holton, who coordinated the chaplain team. “Offering care in these spaces is acting as the hands and feet of Christ.” 

Throughout the Annual Conference, Chaplains were present and identifiable by red shirts and vests bearing the Conference’s logo and “Chaplain” across the back.

“In designing the program, it was important to remove the obstacles or difficulties in access to chaplaincy care,” said Rev. Holton. “We had a phone number people could call or text, but the connections happened naturally throughout our time gathered.” 

Each morning, the Chaplains led the Annual Conference’s staff and leadership in a time of prayer, and throughout the Conference sessions, the Chaplains spent time with those gathered in ministries of prayer, listening, and sitting with people.  

Members of the chaplain team included Rev. Steph Dodge (Metro Nashville Police chaplain), Rev. Christy Brown (St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital chaplain), Rev. Dr. Jonathan Lewis (Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare), Rev. Stephanie Dunn (clergy coach), Rev. Marie King, (Committee on Health & Wellness Initiatives Chair), Rev. Heather Harriss (Reflective Supervisor), Rev. Keller Hawkins (licensed mental health provider), Rev. Keri Cress (Metro Nashville Police chaplain), and Rev. Wanda Spencer (licensed mental health provider).

“It was a ministry of presence; even folks who didn’t necessarily come to me for chaplain care shared that the chaplains’ presence brought comfort,” said Rev. Christy Brown.  


For more information about available resources, please visit the Mental Health Resources page of the TWK website.