• Perspective

  • Faith and Health Defined and Historical Roots

  • The language of faith and health come from many experts who have integrated body and soul through their professional as well as personal lives. The concepts are not new, but a reminder of the privilege and responsibility of living within commands of faith in a human state.

    "To have faith is to enter in a practical way into the invisible world, to realize the presence of God, to wait for his visit, to deliver oneself over to Him, to abandon oneself into His hands."

    - Cardinal John Newman

    "Faith is a way of trying to understand profound mysteries that science can't resolve-such as the meaning of life."            

    - Dr. Francis S. Collins PhD, MD

     "Health is a dynamic tension towards physical, mental, social, and spiritual harmony and not only the absence of illness, which gives [persons] the ability to fulfill the mission which has been entrusted to them according to the state of life in which [one finds self]."    

    - Pope John Paul ll

    "Health is wholeness, health means all the parts are working together to maintain balance. Health means all parts are interacting to function as a whole. Health is a continuous process, the ongoing interplay of multiple forces and conditions."

    - Peter L. Steinke: Healthy Congregations: A Systems Approach

    Faith and Health Connected:
    "Health is built around community and grounded in the spiritual life that embraces the physical bodies God gives us. Instead of the absence of disease, I see health as the presence of those elements that lead us to joy and love, and that drive us closer to God. Living longer is not the goal for a healthy life. Loving more fully, with all our capacity will define a well-lived life."

    - Dr. Scott Morris MD: Director Church Health Center

    " Number Five in my Top Ten list of what it means to be a spiritual person today is to realize that mind, body, and soul are all gifts of God. To live up to the highest image in which we were created means to cultivate these gifts to the best of our ability. Exercise. Diet. Seeing the body as sacred. In Judaism, the body and the mind and the soul are all inter-connected."

    - Rabbi Micah D. Greenstein 

    Historical Roots

    Hospitals as healing centers have been part of society since before-almost as far back as civilized history take us! Some of the earliest hospitals existed in ancient Rome in 100BC as important centers for emergency care of the sick and wounded soldiers and advances in medicine were often parallel with what was learned during times of war in treatment of soldiers. With the spread of Christianity, hospitals grew as part of the church's mission and became a part of the community they served.  There has been similar interest in health and healing running through nearly all the major world religious traditions, including Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Chinese religions as well as the native traditions of North America.

    "Many early physicians, especially those in Europe during the Middle Ages and in the New England colonies of the United States during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were also members of the clergy. In Europe, licenses to practice medicine were in fact controlled by the church and church-sponsored universities. Beginning in the fifteenth century, the profession of medicine began to split away from the church, and the state took over the role of administering licenses to practice medicine. For the last two hundred years, religion and medicine have been divided into separate healing disciplines."  - Medicine, Encyclopedia of Science and Religion

    2600 BC: The Egyptian Imhotep describes the diagnosis and treatment of 200 diseases. An Imhotep was a doctor, architect, high priest and scribe.
    1500 BC: Leviticus is believed to be the first written health code in world. The book dealt with personal and community responsibilities and included guidance regarding the cleanliness of body, sexual health behaviors, protection against contagious diseases and the Isolation of lepers.
    460 BC: Birth of Hippocrates. Hippocrates is widely considered to be the Father of Medicine
    300-400 AD: The first hospital for civilians was founded in Rome by the Christian benefactress Fabiola.  Basil, the Bishop of Caesarea established one of the earliest hospitals based upon the Good Samaritan story in the Bible.
    1524: Cortes built the first hospital in North America in Mexico City called Hospital de Jesus Nazareno (still standing today).
    1663: First hospital in US to treat injured soldiers in NY
    1872:  The American Public Health Association was founded. APHA is now the oldest and largest organization of public health professionals in the world.
    1980: Interfaith Health Program partnered Faith Communities and Public Health Leaders in Partnership for Healthier Communities:  The Carter Center in Atlanta, GA.

  • Faith Community Nursing

  • Definitions and History

    Faith Community/Parish Nursing  

    A Faith Community Nursing ( FCN) is a Registered Nurse in a specialized practice of nursing that focuses on the intentional care of the spirit as well as on the promotion of holistic health and prevention or minimization of illness within the context of a faith community.

    The goals of an FCN are the protection, promotion and optimization of health and abilities; the prevention of illness and injury; and the alleviation of suffering in the context of values, beliefs and practices of a faith community as well as the broader community it serves.

    The FCN uses the nursing process to address spiritual, physical, mental and social health using the interventions of education, counseling, prayer, presence, active listening, advocacy and referral within the context of the standards of Registered Nursing practice. (2012 FCN Scope and Standards of Practice)

    Nursing like medicine has its historical foundation deeply rooted in faith and health, as well as in the ancient and recent traditions of many religions. Faith traditions established rules for care of the sick and infirm as well as public health with pioneers such as Florence Nightingale.

    Parish Nursing, the precursor to Faith Community Nursing, was created by Granger Westberg (1913-1999), a Lutheran minister, who over his career broke new ground by linking religion, medicine, preventive and wholistic health.  Westberg was a parish pastor, hospital Chaplin, professor of theology as well as a teacher of medical students.  While he was at the University of Illinois College of Medicine he worked on a W.K. Kellogg Foundation sponsored project that established medical clinics in churches.

    Over a period of 10 years, Westberg reported that care offered when physicians, nurses and clergy worked together was measurably more whole-person oriented. He stated that it was clear that the nurses were the "glue" that held the group together.  Evaluators came to the conclusion that the nurses in those settings could speak the language of science and the language of religion and thus became translators (Westberg, 1990).

    When funding became impossible to maintain the holistic health clinics, Westberg suggested placing a nurse on the staff of a congregation.  This program had its beginnings and is tied to the understanding that churches and synagogues, when they are functioning best, are dedicated to keeping people well (Westberg, 1999).

    Health Ministry Association(HMA)
    Founded in 1989 the mission of HMA is to encourage, support and empower leaders in the integration of faith and health in their local communities as the professional membership organization for parish/faith community nurses. HMA is the Professional membership connection with the ANA that determines the  Scope and Standards of Practice.

    International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPNRC)
    The International Parish Nurse Resource Center equips faith community/parish nurses to serve as health catalysts in faith communities, calling them to ministries of wholeness and healing. This mission is accomplished through: Resources, Education, Consultation, Spiritual care, and Research. The IPNRC is the education and research arm of FCN that determines and develops curriculum and resources.

    Historical Time Line

    • The Parish Nurse Resource Center began in 1985 and is sponsored by Lutheran Hospital/Advocate Healthcare under the direction of Ann Solari-Twadell. 
    • The first Westberg Symposium was held in 1987, and continues on an annual basis. The symposium yearly equips PN/FCN's with strategies and tools to enhance holistic ministries.  
    • The Health Ministries Association (HMA) was created in 1989 as a professional membership organization.
    • Parish Nursing was designated as a specialty practice by the American Nurses Association (ANA) in 1997.
    • The Parish Nurse Resource Center became the International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPRNC) and was sold to the Deaconess Foundation of St. Louis in 2002. 
    • The IPRNC developed the education program and trains educators to provide the Fundamentals of Faith Community Nursing Curriculum as the standard of education for all Faith Community Nurses.
    • The Scope and Standards of Parish Nursing Practice was published in 1998 by the ANA in partnership with the HMA.  Scope and Standards updates to reflect all faith traditions were incorporated in the 2005 standards and updated again in 2012.
    • December 2007, formed a task force to work with the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to prepare documents and tools for an innovative portfolio process for formal recognition of faith community nurses. 
    • In 2011 the IPNRC was incorporated into the Church Health Center, Memphis Tenn. as a ministry of the Church Health Center to advance the role of health within faith traditions. 

    Click here to read an article on the Emerging Roles of Faith Community Nursing.

  • Creating a Game Plan (for Health Ministry)

  • For further information specific to starting a Health and Wellness Ministry in your church please contact:

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