Throughout scripture, God calls people of faith to healing. As an integral part of a healing ministry, faith community nursing is one of the best ways a community of faith can promote health and wholeness.
Granger E. Westberg (1911-1999) was a pioneer who, over the course of a long and rich career, broke new ground in the areas of theology, clinical pastoral education, and whole person healthcare. Westberg was a Lutheran clergyman who had been a parish pastor, hospital chaplain, professor of practical theology and teacher of medical students. His work was based on his belief that healthcare transcends physical care, because true healing involves the whole person in the context of their community. In addition to pioneering the professional practice of chaplaincy, one of Westberg’s most significant contributions was the founding of the parish nurse movement. Originally developed in 1984 as a partnership between Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois and six area congregations, this new ecumenical movement soon grew to encompass nurses and churches around the country.
Equipping Parish Nurses
As the parish nurse movement grew, information was spread by advocates of whole-person health. In 1986, Advocate Health Care in Chicago decided to establish the National Parish Nurse Resource Center (NPNRC) to provide a nationwide clearinghouse for information about this growing movement. In 1991, the first foundational course in parish nursing was taught in Wisconsin. As parish nursing grew to include sites in other countries, the center adapted its work and changed the name to the International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPNRC).
In 2002, the Center moved to the Deaconess Foundation in St. Louis. The work of the IPNRC focused on the provision and promotion of education, research and support through curriculum, resources and continuing education opportunities.
In 2011, the IPNRC moved again to Church Health in Memphis, TN. Yet the integrated history of the IPNRC and Church Health began in 1978 when Dr. Scott Morris was in the chaplain’s office of Yale Medical School. He saw a pamphlet on the chaplain’s desk entitled, “How to Start a Church-Based Health Clinic,” written by Granger Westberg. It was then, Morris says, that he knew what he wanted to do with this life. The next summer, he spent several weeks with Westberg and, with Westberg’s inspiration, founded Church Health in Memphis in 1987.
At the Westberg Symposium 2016, the IPNRC formally changed its name to the Westberg Institute, a ministry of Church Health.
In 2020 the Westberg Institute moved to the Spiritual Care Association of New York, NY. This move will provide opportunities to grow internationally to develop Interprofessional relationships with chaplains and to further develop Spiritual Care in nursing practice