By Valerie Hurwitz
Kurt Ritchie, a Bethany Seminary alum, came to Peace Forum on March 22 to speak about acupuncture. After pastoring for a decade, he went to an acupuncture school and spent four years learning that craft before opening up an independent practice. Kurt told us that he does more ministry as an acupuncturist than he did as a pastor.
“Why is everyone so sick?” Kurt asked us. The answers were innumerable and came quickly: diet, industrialization, stress, preservatives in food, etc. Kurt summarized them into three main issues: the automobile, electricity, and the refrigerator. He explained that if we’re always driving we don’t walk, get less exercise, and spend more time sitting. Electricity allows us to stay up late and not get enough sleep. Finally, fridges allow us to eat food that is prepared and preserved and that is not fresh. Kurt is often the last resort of patients who are suffering from cancer, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or other illnesses. While western doctors specialize, Kurt focuses on treating the whole person, including diet and mental/spiritual state. Oriental medicine believes that everything is medicine.
Much of Kurt’s talk was technical, and I’m not sure I can reproduce it here (even with having taken notes). Kurt explained that eastern thinking is cyclical and that acupuncture works with channels (meridians) of qi (spirit?) flowing through the body and uses needles to adjust that flow. Kurt also explained that Chinese medicine works on the premise of a cycle from wood to fire to earth to metal to water back to wood. The different elements are associated with specific colors and organs, and they control other elements.
“Does it hurt?” was one of the first questions asked. People seemed interested in and open to alternative/holistic medicine and acupuncture specifically, but Oh! The needles! Kurt explained that modern acupuncture needles are rounded at the end and designed to part rather than tear tissue. That seemed only partly comforting to some folks.
I get migraines sometimes, and certainly have been through most of the easy holistic treatments (feverfew, mint essence on the temples, etc., etc.) I am not for or opposed to holistic medicine but believe that everything should be approached with an open mind . . . maybe I’ll be making an appointment to see if there’s something awry with the qi in my head . . .
Thoughts? How does this relate to Peace? How are physical health and ministry related in your mind?
Valerie Hurwitz is Director of Recruitment and Admissions at Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Richmond, Indiana and serves as choir director at West Richmond Friends Meeting.