The healing ministries of the church amongst individuals and communities

WordsworthPresented by Revd Dr. Helen Wordsworth, National Coordinator, Parish Nursing Ministries UK

Download the presentation: Helen Wordsworth keynote

What are local congregations doing to enhance whole person health? What more can they do?

Health ministries have a biblical foundation clearly stated in the Old & New Testaments. Some of the historic health initiatives of the church include:

  • Bruges hospital founded by monks.
  • Stratford clergy involved in growing medicinal herb gardens for sickness
  • John Wesley’s ideas on health
  • Florence Nightingale – theologian and founder of the subject of public health

Churches were collecting money for hospital funds at the beginning of the 20th Century

Bible nurses existed – carried bibles to distribute as they cared for the sick.

At the foundation of the NHS churches became less involved as the state took over healthcare. A TV series, ‘Call the Midwife’, shows the involvement of the church in the 1950’s.

Churches continue to send missionaries abroad for medical programmes. Hospital chaplaincy also continues.

In 1979 Prof Gordon Scorer stated that churches ought not to be involved in healthcare. Was this right?

The World Council of Churches states that health is a dynamic state of well-being, taking into account economic, environmental & political well-being.

A Church of England report, ‘Time to Heal’ shows how churches should be involved. P. 108 recounts a story of a priest with a referral from a GP to help resolve a patient’s problem with guilt. Each member of a congregation has a unique gift to motivate and mobilise communities and to identify holistic understanding of well-being.

What do churches do now? 77 churches were surveyed in control group of mixed demography – urban, rural, suburban churches. Questionnaire had 64 questions including space to make own response about the churches contribution to mental, physical and community health. Activities included:

Mental health – emotional support, counselling & bereavement care, active listening,

Community health – networking, food and clothing provision, benefits & financial advice, end of life care, employment counselling, risk assessment, referral to other bodies, health education, 51% care giver support

Spiritual Care interventions – prayer ministry and support, pastoral care

Parish Nursing (PN)

PNs have to be registered with NMC. They must have practicing faith, can be voluntary or paid capacity, serve all faiths and those of none. When their impact was evaluated, the total number of interventions in churches with PNs is above 60%. Without a PN it is around 40%. The range of interventions is also higher, including those relating to mental health, community health and spiritual health.

What can churches do?

–        pray for those involved

–        gather working group on health

–        develop health-related interventions eg. Physios, counselllors

–        engage with potential funders & 3rd sector providers

–        employ PN

What is needed?

–        More emphasis on health and healing in theological training

–        Time to discuss health & healing in denominational conferences

–        Funding stream – often operates on a shoe-string budget.


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