The Church as a Healing Place
Mary Ann Wortmann, BSN, RN, MS
Avera Sacred Heart Parish Nurse Coordinator
Healing was at the heart and center of Jesus’ ministry. About one third of the Gospels are stories and healing references to Jesus physically healing people. Healing means restoration, to be made whole. The wholeness God intends for us encompasses body, mind and spirit. It is fullness of life that is His gift to us, both health and salvation.
There are countless examples of Jesus’ whole-person healing ministry. The story in Mark 2:1-12 (the paralyzed man) is a case in point. Whenever we expect Jesus to heal, He forgives and where He forgives, He also heals.
The ministry of healing led to the basis of what we now call medicine and health care. The hospital is an invention of the Christian church – a place of hospitality, of care, of community. The practice of nursing too has its origins in the church, as another reflection of the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.
The mandate to heal as well as preach the Gospel is the ongoing mission of the local congregation to this day.
Congregations which reclaim their role in healing understand the link between health and faith as part of their mission. Parish Nursing is a health ministry emphasizing the wholeness of body, mind and spirit. With the expense of health care today, it is important that congregations become healthier.
Regardless of faith or religious affiliation, any registered nurse that is a member of a congregation is invited to be a parish nurse. Through training, parish nurses address both the physical and spiritual needs of the population served. As parish nurses, registered nurses act as a vital link between the faith and medical communities.
There are many dimensions to parish nurses. They play a variety of roles including educator, counselor and advocate in their own faith family. And they are a source for preventative and restorative care, ministering holistically to individuals and families.
One role parish nurses do not play is that of direct medical care provider.
The roles of the parish nurse include:
Integrator of Faith and Health, serving as a "translator" between faith and healthcare communities. With a knowledge base in both areas, many times the parish nurse can clarify issues and reinforce the strong tie between faith and health.
Health Educator, providing educational programs to the congregation such as health screenings and illness prevention.
Health Counselor, providing individual health counseling services in the home or long-term care facility.
"Navigator" or "Advocate," assisting congregation members in finding their way through healthcare systems.
Referral Agent, finding resources and making referrals to agencies, organizations and support services to improve the member’s quality of life.
Developer of Support Groups, initiating and organizing groups designed to assist the participants with a specific issue.
Trainer of Volunteers, perhaps most importantly, recruiting and training volunteers to provide assistance.
Parish nursing embraces the spiritual dimension of the nursing practice in addition to the physical, psychological and social dimensions. In essence, parish nurses care for the body, mind and spirit.
Parish nurses collaborate with their faith community leaders to form partnerships with other community health resources.
Parish nursing services are designed to involve individuals, families and congregations as active partners in their personal health. Through this involvement, nurses help empower communities and foster an environment of understanding and support.
In congregations committed to parish nursing, a deeper sense of Christian community than existed before has been a welcome discovery. In a society of transient relationships, the heart hungers for community.
Parish nursing raises the awareness of the congregation to this ministry's effect on the spiritual, relational, emotional and physical health of the whole Christian community.
Parish nursing organizes, trains and provides consistent volunteer service to the congregation.
The congregation becomes aware that a well person is well in mind, body, and spirit.