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Our amazing health team.

I have been a Parish Nurse for five years at Forest Grove Community Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. When I began this ministry I was working 8 hours per week seeing the occasional parishioner and creating awareness of Parish Nursing as best I could. As we all know, one of the very first things we do when starting a parish nurse ministry, is to form a working group of parishioners with an interest in health and healing. So, I set out to do this by putting information in the bulletin, talking with people one on one on Sunday mornings and I held two information meetings. Most of all I prayed!!! I prayed that God would send the people He wanted in this ministry. In our church of 1000, I had six people express an interest and actually attend the first information meeting. I have to admit I was slightly discouraged but I knew that this was a very new idea in the church and this only confirmed the work ahead of me. To my joy, four of these six quickly became the very first Health Team at FGCC.

Several of this team have taken courses offered by ICHM--SK and have truly had a vision to see this ministry take hold in our church. Over the past five years this team has completed a church body survey to help assess the health needs of the parishioners, and offered Sunday health classes covering topics such as Alzheimers, Depression, Schizophrenia, Advanced Care Directives, Caregiving and Diabetes. They have also facilitated a thirteen week Beta Course in partnership with our Alpha Course, as well as created an opportunity for the men of our church to share their hobbies and interests over breakfast, which they prepared and served themselves.

This team meets once a month to discuss health concerns relating to the needs that I see in my practice as a parish nurse. Together we brainstorm to see how we can best meet the needs that are unmet either in the church or the community. Then they put in the time that is needed to see the need met, be it in the form of one day seminars, support groups or health fairs. This team has been my best support. Through prayer and encouragement, they have been a supportive voice to our church council and been instrumental in moving my position from an 8 hours per week as a volunteer to a 20-hour per week paid position.

They love to laugh and they love to care. They sometimes feel ill equipped to know how to move forward or in what direction they should speak louder. But they are willing to serve and they love God dearly. The next projects they are tackling at FGCC include helping our church become a fragrance free building to help those who are suffering silently with allergies or asthma. It is important for these parishioners to be able to enjoy worshiping together comfortably with their body of believers.

I think they would agree that the biggest project they have tackled so far is the one that has just been launched and will take several phases to complete. They have begun developing a crisis preparedness plan for our church. It was launched last month in an area of our foyer where they have placed a city map of Saskatoon. This map has a pin marking the location of each of the members and associates of FGCC. It is colorful and bright and has a banner over the top that reads 'Who are the people in your neighborhood?' Already this has been a conversation starter and attraction that gathers all ages. The challenge comes in trying to communicate effectively what a crisis plan means at FGCC and the team felt this was the easiest way to start that conversation. They are looking ahead to the next phase which includes a fan out phone list and the appointment of church team leaders in each subdivision. The task seemed daunting to them initially (and I know it still does) but they are taking baby steps. I see this team coming together like never before, united in the vision to see their church members caring for each other, not only in times of crisis, but in more concrete ways in the future. They have become a catalyst for linking health and spirituality in very tangible ways.

I know the trepidation, and the feeling of fear that comes with the seemingly formidable task of starting a Parish Nursing ministry. But--it is not about the nurse, it is not about the health team, it is about the strength that comes from team. God and His power can and does work through team work, and the willingness of God's people to step out of their comfortable pews and pursue that which God has placed as a passion in each one's heart. We need each other and I am so thankful for the commitment of my health team.

On behalf of Parish Nursing ministry I want to say THANK YOU to health teams everywhere for their commitment to linking Spirituality and Health and their willingness to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Judy Johnson is the parish nurse at Forest Grove Community Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, and recently presented this story about her work at the CAPNM Conference and AGM, held May 21-24, 2009 in Saskatoon. Judy can be reached by e-mail at tajohn@shaw. ca.
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Author:Johnson, Judy
Publication:Parish Nurse Perspectives
Geographic Code:1CSAS
Date:Jun 22, 2009
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