My name is Butch Odom, and I would like to welcome you to my blog, Panoramic Views of Faith & Health. I was thinking I should write three or four sentences about myself as a way of introduction. As you can see, I got a bit carried away.
My education route has been rather circuitous. I graduated from a small, liberal arts college sponsored by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church known as Bethel College in McKenzie, Tennessee where I earned a BS in Biology. I pursued a Master’s in Zoology from the University of Memphis, but I soon realized this degree and career didn’t suit me. I later pursued a career in Optometry completing two years at Southern College of Optometry before realizing that career didn’t suit me either. It wasn’t until 1991 at the age of 31 that I finally checked “post-graduate degree” off my to-do list when I completed my Masters in Business Administration from the University of Memphis with an emphasis in Marketing.
My career path was also circuitous but much more interesting. I have basically worked for two visionaries my entire career. The first the Dr. William H. West, founder of the West Clinic and co-founder of the private, for-profit cancer research company, Biotherapeutics, later Response Oncology. I was Dr. West’s first lab assistant, and I helped him in his attempts to make monoclonal antibodies against cancers, especially breast and lung cancer. This was during that exciting time in cancer research when Interleukin-2 was showing promise in cancer treatment. Dr. West then asked me to become the first administrator of his oncology practice which was just starting to add partners.
While working in this very rewarding setting, I became active in my church, Buntyn Presbyterian Church. I was elected and ordained as an elder in this church and served as the church treasurer. It was during my training to be an elder I first started feeling the tug of God to do something else of service. While I was very happy at the West Clinic, I was sensing there was something else for me to do.
Never underestimate the power of God and a round of golf.
My wife, Debbie, is a registered nurse and was working for this new not-for-profit in Memphis known as the Church Health Center. She would come home talking about the great work she was doing for God each and every day. Frankly I was jealous. I would go to my job wishing I was riding to work with my wife.
Dr. Scott Morris, founder and Executive Director of Church Health Center, became my golf buddy. We didn’t talk faith and health. We didn’t talk about our spouses. We talked about golf – the shot we had just made or the shot we should have made. But one day on the eighth tee at Audubon Park Golf Course, Dr. Morris asked me, “Butch, I need a business manager to help run the Church Health Center. Do you know anyone who’s looking for a job?” After slicing my ball into the oncoming traffic, I looked at him and replied, “How about me?”
Now, I figured Church Health Center was a five-year job, but God has seen fit to keep me here for much longer. My hair has thinned but my faith has deepened.
If I were granted three wishes, the first one would be world peace…God’s Kingdom realized. I never knew what to do with that yearning, since the world is so big, and while I am blessed with a certain self-confidence, there are limits. But I became moved to action by the bumper sticker that was on Dr. Morris’ car that day he asked that fateful question. You have probably seen it: Think Globally. Act Locally.
I have worked at the Church Health Center in various capacities now since March of 1991. I have become convinced that 1) God’s Kingdom is built through the numerous small things going on in congregations and as such, congregations are powerful venues for positive change, 2) All congregations are places of healing and 3) Most congregations could become even better places of healing if interested and called people just had the resources. I hope this blog, and the community built around it and hopeandhealing.org, will provide a venue where thoughts and practices from around the world can be shared for the ultimate goal of granting my number one wish, world peace.
Today, I serve the Church Health Center as the Director of Faith Community Ministries, one of the four ministries of the Center. With the Center’s mission to reclaim the church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and spirits, Faith Community Ministries works with individual congregations helping them fulfill this mission. We do this through training opportunities for both clergy and laity. We are especially known in Memphis for our Congregational Health Promoter training program offered three times each year. We are also active in the development of curricula and other materials to help congregations explore the connection between faith and health and find where God is leading them. For a more complete explanation please visit http://www.churchhealthcenter.org.
Finally, I have been married to my wife Debbie since 1984. I have two grown stepchildren and two grandsons, whom you will meet from time to time in some of my writings. I am a member of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Memphis where I also serve on staff as the part-time bookkeeper.