From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
[PCUSANEWS] 'All of life is holy'
PCUSA NEWS <PCUSA.NEWS@ecunet.org>
Fri, 19 Mar 2004 07:16:40 -0600
Note #8170 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:
March 19, 2004
'All of life is holy'
Congregational health ministries bring physical, spiritual healing
by Evan Silverstein
LOUISVILLE - At First Presbyterian Church in Billings, MT, two parish nurses
show up twice a week to conduct blood-pressure screenings and offer health
counseling and friendship.
Meanwhile, deacons make hospital visits and serve communion to the homebound,
and the church's "care board" delivers flowers and audiotapes of worship
services to members too ill to attend.
It's all part of the congregation's expanding health-ministry program.
"All of these are healing ministries," said the Rev. Jay Wallace, associate
pastor. "Jesus's ministry was a healing ministry, and that's what we're
really about - bringing healing into people's lives."
The Montana pastor and about 35 other clergy, parish nurses and church health
program leaders from around the nation gathered here for the Presbyterian
Church USA's "2004 Encircling Care Conference: Nurturing Congregations
Through Health Ministry."
The purpose of the five-day meeting, which ended on March 18, was to provide
guidance to Presbyterians interested in starting or expanding congregational
health ministry programs.
These ministries promote the health, healing and wholeness of individuals,
families, congregations and communities, through a wide variety of programs.
"Much of the effort of health ministers and parish nurses is directed toward
one-to-one intervention," said keynote speaker Mary Chase-Ziolek, director of
the Center for Faith and Health and associate professor of Health Ministries
at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. "This is certainly a logical
place for many churches to begin. I would suggest that a mature health
ministry needs to also look outward towards the community. We need to look
beyond our doors to get outside into our neighborhoods and adopt the
public-health model in which, rather than the individual client, the
community is the client."
Health ministries can be started by formal committees or by a few interested
people. They can emphasize health education or promote spiritual
centeredness. They can be found in large and small churches in rural and
urban areas all across the country.
Some include parish nursing, in which a registered nurse works with
congregations and faith-based organizations to provide health education and
counseling, advocacy, referrals and community support.
One approach mentioned often during the conference is the creation of
congregation-based care teams or groups of volunteers working together to
offer practical, emotional and spiritual support to people who need it.
"Health ministry involves collaboration between congregations and health-care
organizations," said Chase-Ziolek, whose background is in community health
nursing. "It involves collaboration between health professionals and clergy.
It requires a wide variety of health professionals, clergy and lay people to
be involved in dialogue."
During the recent conference, small groups explored such topics as thinking
"spiritually and strategically" in planning health ministries, and issues
that congregational health ministries can address.
There also was an intensive two-day program designed to equip registered
nurses for the parish nurse ministry, and to help congregations decide
whether parish nursing is part of what they are called to do. Participants
also learned how to set up congregational care teams.
The event - sponsored by the denomination's Office of Health Ministries USA,
part of the PC(USA)'s National Ministries Division - also featured networking
opportunities and workshops.
Mary Tucker, an elder and parish nurse at 300-member First Presbyterian
Church in Somerset, KY, said she found the conference enlightening.
"The networking has been wonderful," she said. "It will help bolster what I
do, and also give me some more resources and people to talk to who are going
through similar concerns and similar successes."
Tucker and others agreed that churches should be involved in health
ministries in light of the importance of healing in the early church and
numerous gospel accounts of Jesus healing the sick.
"This conference has highlighted several reasons why spirituality and health
are an integral part of what a congregation should be about," she said.
"Jesus's role as a minister and a healer is our prime example."
With the median age of congregants in mainline churches at 67, health
ministries for older adults is essential in church-based health ministry,
said Henry C. Simmons, a professor of religion and aging who also directs the
Center on Aging at Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of
Christian Education in Richmond, VA.
"All of life is holy is that which is modeled in reaching out for those who
are urgently in need of care," said Simmons, who has written books on
ministries to the aging. "We model in our care those staples of faith that
God is not finished with us yet, that God will not abandon us ever, as the
Almighty is holy."
Jan McGilliard of Blacksburg, VA, who has worked in older-adult ministries
for about 20 years, said her work is strongly related to health ministries.
"I believe that we should be offering programs for the whole of the church,"
said McGilliard, an elder at Blacksburg Presbyterian Church who works as the
Synod of the Mid-Atlantic's associate for older-adult ministries. "I don't
think that anyone wants to be singled out in a particular age group, but ...
we know that a high percentage of the people who will benefit from a health
ministry are in those (older) age categories."
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