Taking the Parish Pulse
By Julia Kayser*
April 5, 2012—Lola Lehman has been volunteering as a Faith Community Nurse for her small congregation in Anna, Illinois, for more than a decade.
Her daily life is a whirlwind of activity: she writes health articles for the church newsletter, does monthly blood pressure checks, teaches three exercise classes, and practices healing touch (an energy medicine) and aromatherapy for community members. Right now, she’s also providing spiritual and emotional care for local disaster response teams.
“I don’t care if I get paid or not,” she says. “I’m not doing it for a salary; I’m doing it because this is my mission.” Her professional credentials as Assistant Professor of Nursing and retired Psychiatric Mental Health Home Health Nurse, have currently taken a back seat to congregational health care, which she considers a calling.
Faith Community Nurses, also called Parish Nurses, are the unsung heroes of many congregations in the United States. Through UMCOR’s Community Health
program, they work behind the scenes to promote holistic health. April 7 is World Health Day
, and UMCOR wants to take the opportunity to say a big thank you to our network of Faith Community Nurses.
This year, World Health Day materials focus on the issues surrounding aging, and the theme is, “good health adds life to years.” As birth rates decrease and life expectancy increases, countries around the world are experiencing an increase in the average age of their populations.
World Health Day 2012 calls for healthcare that improves the quality of life after retirement. Special emphasis is put on reducing the rate of non-communicable disease. United Methodist Faith Community Nurses
are ahead of the game: most are already engaged in special care for aging church members.
For example, Lehman reports that the basic yoga, tai chi, and tae bo classes that she leads at her church have had twofold benefit. Since she started them, she says, she’s seen “more interest in health activities in terms of exercise” among aging church members. But the classes also give participants a chance to spend time with their friends.
“I think socialization is so important for seasoned members,” she says. It makes exercise less of a chore and more of a fellowship. “We all look at each other and say, why didn’t we start this twenty years ago?”
Community health programs in The United Methodist Church are individualized according to the needs of specific congregations. “There are so many Parish Nurses doing wonderful things,” Lehman says, “from taking a senior group on a trip, to providing walks for health, to offering groups on specific issues, to helping a person transition from the hospital back to home.”
You can learn more about how your church can start a Faith Community Nurse program by downloading resources from UMCOR’s Community Health
page. To support Faith Community Nurses like Lehman in the work that they do, donate to Congregational Health Ministry, UMCOR Advance #3021045
*Julia Kayser is a writer and a regular contributor to UMCOR.org.