Parish Nursing

Last Sat, May 19, 2012, I attended a Seminar on Parish Nursing led by Helen Wordworth, RN from England. This is based on her power point.
What is health? In 1948, the World Health Organization states that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It does not address the spiritual aspect of man. What then is health from a Biblical view? Abigail Rian-Evans includes a spiritual dimension in “Redeeming Marketplace Medicine” (1999): Health is based on humankind as a unity; integrated wholeness, not separated physical and spiritual elements. It orients towards health as wholeness and sickness as brokenness. Its primary goal is the health of others, not only our own. It broadens healing to include any activity that moves us towards wholeness.

What about the church? How can we be involved in community health? Wholeness includes physical, mental, social, and spiritual well being, which is “Shalom.” It extends God’s Kingdom and the message of Christ’s salvation for those who do not yet know it. It offers people choices (the choice to believe in God). It integrates words with works, proclamation with social action. In the past, monks formed hospitals. Florence Nightingale was a theologian as well as a nurse. In the UK, deaconesses and church workers were involved in healthcare until the state system took over.

70% of the British population call themselves Christian but only 6% attend church regularly.  Churches no longer get involved with health except for hospital chaplaincies. Nurses working for the health service are not allowed to pray or to talk about faith. How can people access spiritual care when they need it most? Our health service is struggling to cope with all the demands made on it by an aging population.

Parish Nursing Principles

1. The spiritual dimension is central to the practice. It also encompasses the physical, psychological, and social dimensions of nursing practice. This was developed by the Philosophy work group, then refined and endorsed by the first Educational Colloquium, Mundelein, Illinois, June 1994.

2. The parish nurse balances knowledge with skill, the sciences with theology and humanities, service with worship, and nursing care functions with pastoral care functions. The historic roots of the role are intertwined with those of monks, nuns, deacons, deaconesses, church nurses, traditional healers, and the nursing profession itself.

3. The focus of practice is the faith community and its ministry.  The parish nurse, in collaboration with the pastoral staff and congregational members, participates in the ongoing transformation of the faith community into a source of health and healing. Through partnership with other community health resources, parish nursing fosters new and creative responses to health concerns.

4. Parish nursing services are designed to build on and strengthen the capacities of individuals, families, and congregations to understand and care for one another in the light of their relationship to God, faith traditions, themselves, and the broader society. The practice holds that all persons are sacred and must be treated with respect and dignity. In response to this belief, the parish nurse assists and empowers individuals to become more active partners in the management of their personal health resources.

Parish Nursing:

  • Whole person health care through the local church
  • Led by a registered nurse
  • Includes spiritual care
  • Offered to people of all faiths and none
  • Founded on Biblical principles, with particular reference to  the health and healing ministry of Jesus Christ
Parish Nursing aims to encourage nurses to reclaim the spiritual dimension of health care. The health care systems treat the patient as a whole; churches restore the health and healing mission of the gospel. Whole person health care occurs through the local church.
My involvement. I heard many testimonies of how people were helped spiritually during their illness. Just the simple visit and prayer with patients helps them heal better and come to a better relationship with God. Helen said in her presentation that we are God’s hands and feet with Christians uniting together in caring for the poor and needy. We have one Parish Nurse in all of Ukraine. She is an American. The organization became official by the government 3 weeks ago. I will be helping her. She will inform me of needs and our church will volunteer our services. We will be helping with hospice care, elderly homes, orphanages and soup houses. The need is so great. Christians everywhere have a great opportunity to help our fellow men just as our Lord Jesus did.


  1. Thanks, Maria. For sure a weakness of our ministry is a lack of involvement in what is known as mercy ministry. Perhaps, this is “justified” since UBF started out as a para-church ministry, focusing on campus ministry, though for most practical purposes we are really functioning as a church.
    Personally, I am trying to work together with some local pastors around West Loop to somehow get involved in the community where we live. This is a major weakness since I have never done anything like this before.
    Wholeness or shalom is surely a core biblical value, which all Christians should be participating in personally, as well as corporately.

  2. As we study Jesus’ life he did so much to care for the sick and needy. Indeed when we are sick it is the best time to come to God. I remember when I was a hospice nurse, visiting dying patients at home were very rewarding to the patient as well as for me. We were able to talk about God and heaven and I had many opportunities to pray with them. When they were close to death, I would whispher in their ears, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Then I would tell them, “I will see you later in heaven.” What struck me most about the Seminar was when the speaker said that we are God’s hands and feet. When we care for the needy we are doing it in Jesus’ name. Mercy ministry is putting to practice what we learn in Bible study.

  3. Maria, I know first-hand the value of hospice care. Hospice was a huge blessing to my family as my father slowly died of ALS. I have a deep respect and awe for hospice workers. This is indeed the work of Christ.

  4. Maria, thanks for sharing. I think you’re doing something very right. You seem to understand that something important is missing in the “classic” UBF.
    Though you say that it’s only an “extra” to the default UBF program, it’s only possible because you reduced the default UBF program, and made it non-mandatory. You really can’t do anything “ontop” of the “classic” UBF program because it does not leave you time to do anything additional, it rather makes you feel you didn’t do enough.
    I hope you understand that if you really want to do something for the people in need, you need to do it whole-heartedly and need to spend a lot of time for this. This is definitely not compatible with the standard UBF program where all your time goes into fishing, Bible studies, UBF meetings, conferences etc. I hope you also understand that there needs to be division of work: Some people need to focus on parish nursing, some on Bible study, teaching and preaching etc. (Acts 6:1-4). Everybody has to find his or her own gifts and devlop them. In the “classic” UBF, there was only one gift, namely that of being a shepherd/missionary.
    In the “classic” UBF it was also not tolerated to cowork with non-UBF ministries. The expulsion of the Moscow UBF director Augustine Hope Song because he became more open to the outside world was one of the 15 issues mentioned by the reformers in their open letter of 2000. Instead of apologizing, Samuel Lee also expelled those who raised that issue. Even Peter Kim got into trouble when he tried to cowork with another church. You can ask him about that, I hope he will be honest enough to tell you the truth about it. Developing UBF in ways you’re experimenting with is exactly what the reformers suggested and why they have been expelled for.

  5. Chris I know the value of time. I’m almost 50 and life is so short. You are right that we should focus in our gifts. Parish Nursing is a fulltime job and service. Like I said earlier I lost my Nursing license since I became a missionary so I can not be a Parish Nurse. I will be helping our one and only Parish nurse in Kyiv. We want to offer our chapter as volunteers and helpers. I don’t know about what happened in the past in UBF about the reformers but what I know is that there is alot of work now that needs to be done while I am still alive and while Jesus hasn’t come yet. I am sorry for the bad that happened in UBF but I need to focus and move on to what needs to be done now. No UBF leader has talked to us to stop what we are doing. So we are going to go for it. We are going to go for the gold because we believe it is the leading of the Holy Spirit. Our gift as a church is one to one Bible study. I love studying the Bible with students. We are planning to do group Bible study soon. But we have time to do other things too. Jesus came to give life and life to the full!!!!

    • I agree with much of what you say, but in my opinion lack of time does not excuse ignoring what your mother organization under whose name you operate did in the past and is still doing in other places.
      Also, you say “our gift as a church is 1:1 Bible study”. I don’t want to appear as nitpicky, but I really have issues with statements like these.
      First, nowhere does the Bible speak about a gift of a church, it’s only about gifts of individual people. In UBF, people are told to concentrate on 1:1 Bible study because it’s said to be the gift of UBF or Samuel Lee (they rather use the word spirit or heritage instead of gift) even if they have different gifts. You’re just accidentally in a location and position and age and are mature and strong-willed enough that allows you to do things your own way, but the majority of UBF members was and is not.
      Second, I don’t think UBF’s 1:1 Bible study is a gift, I rather think it is unbiblical in the way it is employed in UBF. That’s because UBF 1:1 Bible study is based on the idea of personal shepherding. Yes, it’s probably possible to employ 1:1 Bible study in a healthy way, where one person is mentoring a Christian friend for a limited time, but that would be very different from how UBF 1:1 Bible study operates. Also, UBF 1:1 Bible study is embedded in a set of other methods and practices like sogam sharing which amplify each other in unhealthy ways.

  6. Thanks, Chris, for your insightful comments and very helpful links. What you say is quite true about the error of thinking of “1:1 Bible study being a gift of the church,” and the danger and damage caused by “personal shepherding.” I have personally experienced it and witnessed it. So have you and Maria and many others who are in or have gone through UBF in one form or another.
    To put it in another way, I think that some or many leaders in UBF are like “senior” older brothers who think that they need to absolutely police younger brothers and “juniors” in detail as their responsibility before God. I know because I did so for a quarter of a century! But as I have stated before, this is a blind spot for decades, not only in UBF, but also in countless missionary movements over the last 2,000 years of church history. Only God can open one’s spiritually blind eyes to “see.”
    Again, I am not defending anyone in UBF. I am just attempting to explain to myself why UBF leaders that I know and love have hurt quite a few people, even though I truly believe that our UBF people are good godly Christian people. Just to repeat a quote I shared previously:
    “There is no deeper pathos in the spiritual life of man than the cruelty of righteous people.” Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics


    Like everyone else, our UBF leaders needs God’s endless “kindness, tolerance and patience” (Rom 2:4), just as much as anyone else, regardless of whether they realize it or not.

  7. James Kim

    Thank you Maria for your new endeavor for hospice work. I am glad that we also have healing ministry in Uganda.

    Matt. 25:40 says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
    Mother Theresa once asked an intriguing question to one of sisters who takes care of the sick and dying., “Do you see Christ in them yet?” This is a profound spiritual insight into what happens when we follow Christ. Our life will be drastically changed and blessed if we actually think of each person we come into contact with as Christ. By loving “the least of these” we are loving God himself. Even though we are mainly praying for young people we need to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and see this world, this community with the eyes of Jesus. Practically I should see my sick patient and the needy as if they are Christ. This is great challenge.