BY CAROL DESCHEPPER, RN - FIRST LUTHERAN CHURCH OF MILFORD VOLUNTEER
"Theologian Krister Stendahl has written, 'God's agenda is the mending of creation.' Mending is an expression for God's total love toward suffering humanity, of which healing is one aspect … the rhythm of preaching, teaching, and healing runs all through Christ's ministry … All of life is interrelated and tied to health. The individual human being in an integrated totality of body, mind, and spirit."
— Granger Westberg, Lutheran pastor and founder of faith community nursing (Westberg Verbatim).
Some area pastors and congregants have been blessed to experience the ministry of a faith community nurse (also known as a parish nurse). For those who have not, allow me so share some brief thoughts about the ministry. A faith community nurse (FCN) is a registered nurse who takes a 40 hour course, learning the unique role of serving as a healthcare provider in the church setting and using volunteers in ministry.
The roots of the ministry are entrenched in scripture where we find dozens of passages about healing the sick and caring for one another. In Luke 9 the disciples are sent out to teach, preach, and heal. These words and stories served as a foundation for the development of faith community nursing in Chicago in the mid 1980s. Since then, faith community nursing has spread all across the nation and is now found in 30 other countries around the world.
The FCN partners with the pastor and other ministry team members, collaborating to support the health of congregants and the ministry team. This might occur through offering health education, health advocacy, walking with someone who has a new diagnosis or is just discharged from the hospital, health screenings, being present to those who are nearing death and those who are in grief, teaching preventive health measures, and more. Faith community nursing touches young and old alike, serving persons throughout the lifespan.
At this particular time, the FCN can serve as a resource on matters related to COVID-19, helping develop guidelines for church building reopening and in-person worship. The FCN can also help support those with fears, anxiety, losses, and grief. We all mourn what we used to know as "normal" and miss coming together for important life events and milestones and being with our church families.
One common myth is that only large congregations can effectively use a FCN. Some priests and pastors serve more than one congregation, while other clergy serve part time. Whatever the situation in your congregation, with the addition of an FCN the ministry can be multiplied.
Faith community nursing is a ministry of sharing abundance, the gift of abundant life promised to us through Christ in John 10:10: "I have come that you may have life and have it to the full."
The pastor/FCN partnership makes visible this abundance as they together serve as the hands, feet and face of Christ.
For more information contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.