How many of us feel we are doing our bit pastorally? Are our churches swamped by the needs of the communities we find ourselves in? Here, one parish nurse tells the story of how parish nursing has been the key to connecting with people by meeting their needs. Take a few minutes to be inspired by this story, which takes us to the heart of Activate’s vision – sharing God’s love in natural ways.
HEALING FOR BODIES, MINDS, AND SOULS
By A Parish Nurse @ West Leigh Baptist Church
The current Parish Nurse service at West Leigh has evolved over the past 4 years. After I responded to God’s calling to Parish Nursing, I went forward in trust, not knowing what God’s plan was. I remember reading a quote by Martin Luther King: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step”.
I begun the service by first asking the church congregation what they felt they would like to see the church offer through the Parish Nursing service. We are a mid-sized church of 190 members. My role is part paid; part voluntary. It was clear that it should reach out to the community and surrounding areas, with the love of Christ in a practical way by supporting people with acute and chronic health problems.
We started with walking groups and small fitness classes, attracting those with underlying health issues, recovering from surgery or those with mobility issues due to age. I began a small clinic running alongside the Carers and Tots meeting, offering health advise, baby weighing etc as my nursing background was more recently in Paediatrics. I could never have imagined 4 years ago that the service would have flourished as it has.
I have a band of extremely enthusiastic and loyal volunteers who have supported me along this journey. The service has developed in line with what I felt was Gods vision for Parish Nursing in Leigh and in line with our churches vision. I start on Monday mornings, meeting with our minister and our pastoral team to identify members of the congregation with health needs and arranging visits to them.
I now run a clinic on a Monday morning, an open-door clinic, where I see many families with health concerns, and issues around feeding, sleep and behaviour and lots more. These families are on our premises accessing support from volunteers to help cope with issues that parenting brings, they are offered food and drinks, form friendships and some who are looking to seek a personal faith for the first time. Recently under the Parish Nursing umbrella we as a church have appointed a paid family and support worker to develop this service further. She also offers volunteer time to extend this role to the many coming through the doors. Supporting families and the vulnerable and offering Parenting Alpha courses and courses in Baby Massage. Some of these families are also engaged with volunteers following a course called “Wonderfully Made “.
Monday afternoons are spent visiting people in their homes, following up referrals and liaising with other healthcare professionals. Our newly appointed Parish Nurse Associate runs a puzzling questions course, to support people and the very beginning of their faith journeys.
Tuesdays I mainly work from home making phone calls, personal development and administration. Also visiting people in their homes. On Wednesdays there is a Parish Nurse walk-in clinic running from 9 till 1pm. This is very busy day, people come to seek health advice and some stay for the whole morning to engage with the other services. Offering healthcare support, medical advice, medicines management, screening and following up from hospital admissions and GP visits. We offer to accompany to difficult hospital appointments, making appointments and dealing with social service referrals looking for home care or residential care. A volunteer team catering for lunches, coffees and post-exercise refreshments on Wednesdays. People visit the clinic with acute and chronic health needs, many needing support and explanation. Some requiring signposting to other services and agencies.
We have two fitness classes at 10 am and 11am run by a trained fitness instructor. Hollie also offers one-to-one session to advise people on healthy lifestyle and helps them with exercise and eating plans. This I see fulfilling the aspects of Parish nursing around wellbeing and staying healthy; I felt I alone did not have enough time to give this the time it deserves. The church has recently raised this up to a part paid role too. Hollie is now running the Taste and See course, a bible based course, looking at people’s relationship with food to complement this service.
We were approached by our local social services department to be part of a community hub, so alongside the clinic we have a dementia navigator, a social worker, and an age advocate. This meaning people can see many professionals in one place. This hub runs on Wednesday mornings alongside the clinic and exercise classes.
The volunteers offer coffee and cold drinks and food throughout this time. Two weeks of the month the minister leads a midweek service and we now have a new “Wednesday Congregation” of around 60. As a church, members had had a vision of a church plant from West Leigh and were looking at alternative venues for Sundays, but now believe this has happened on our own premises on Wednesdays. Though all members are encouraged to become part of Sunday Worship and other aspects of church life too. But for some church is on Wednesdays. Following the service, we serve lunches, this has helped to combat loneliness and start to form friendships. I have two volunteers whose spend time listening and answering faith questions over meal times, supporting and encouraging.
The Parish Nursing service at West Leigh has been instrumental in evangelising to the local community in a very practical way, we have recently been blessed by some charitable funding for us to expand our service, extending God’s Kingdom here on earth. I am constantly seeking discernment for direction of where this project goes and have to say the speed things that are happening at the moment and the number of patients I am being referred are somewhat out of my comfort zone, but Jesus never once said commitment to His calling would be easy. I find encouragement and peace in the knowledge that God’s will is being done, that we are reaching many who may not have heard and are seeking. Those who access the service can find wholeness and wellbeing.
I am at all times supported by church members and service users, encouraging me along the way. I have an amazing spiritual mentor who is a minister in another church and I have a Health and Faith team, made up mainly of healthcare professionals who are church members, who spend time listening to my needs, my ideas and praying with me for discernment in all aspects of the service. The minister and leadership are at all times supportive and encouraging.
It is exciting to dream of what God may have planned for us in the future.
Find out more about Parish Nursing here https://parishnursing.org.uk/