United Church of Christ ministers will take time out for all kinds of creative renewal, and their congregations will have special spiritual opportunities while they're away, thanks to grants announced by the Lilly Endowment and Christian Theological Seminary. Eighteen UCC churches are among 150 congregations of various denominations that received 2019 National Clergy Renewal Program Grants.Read more
Resolution: Reaffirming Universal Health Care Y2K
Submitted by the former Board for Homeland Ministries, American Missionary Association, Health and Welfare Program
At its Eighteenth General Synod in 1991, the United Church of Christ voted a pronouncement and a priority with the goal to "enlist all members of the UCC and its constituent parts, in study and action so that they may be knowledgeable and empowered to work for the establishment of an affordable, accessible health care system for all persons residing in the United States." The UCC Health Care Task Force was formed in response to this pronouncement and priority. The Task Force was instrumental in publishing a working document titled Educating and Organizing Health Ministries, Volume 1: Toward An Accessible Universal Health Care. However, since 1991 and after the defeat of a national health care reform in 1994, the priority and empahsis of UCC health programming efforts has been on the development of Health Ministries within local UCC congregations. Nonetheless, health care continues to rank as a leading health issue for our country. And, there is growing public concern that the crisis in health care is deepening in our nation. This assault on affordable and accessible health care has reached beyond crisis proportions and is now a major epidemic in the United States.
The U.S. spends the most per capita on health care of any industrialized nation, and has the second highest infant mortality rate of these nations. Further, our citizens have the shortest life expectancy and are the least satisfied with their health care system.
Health care costs exceeded $1 trillion in a single year for the first time in 1996. It now accounts for 13.6% of the nation's economy.
In 1997 more than 2.5 million families spent 30% or more of their earnings on health care.
Currently over 43 million Americans are uninsured.
Over 31 million Americans have health insurance, but are under-insured. They are unable to afford premiums (even when employers offer coverage).
In 1996 over 11 million children were uninsured.
About 14% of people age 55-65 were uninsured in 1994.
The capping of total reimbursements to medicare providers makes it possible to withhold care from medicare beneficiaries with the greatest needs who are less profitable to serve.
States now have greater flexibility to force medicaid recipients into low-cost medicaid-only managed care plans with minimal federal oversight.
While the Portability Bill does prohibit private health insurers from imposing pre-existing condition exclusions beyond 12 months, it does not guarantee access to the same benefit or limiting the premiums that can be charged.
The Patients Bill of Rights was passed but is generally weak in that it still allows HMO's to make major medical decisions.
Managed Care (HMO's or MCO's) have all but replaced traditional fee-for-service plans and are now proving not to be any more cost-effective.
The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not have national health care.
We need a system that provides universal coverage. And, we need to actively advocate for such a system by insisting that Congress put universal health care back on the agenda in 2000.
The UCC Health Care Task Force was revised and met in Cleveland in November to prioritize health issues and to develop a health agenda. One of the top five priorities that emerged from this meeting was Universal Health Care Access. The goal is to organize, educate, equip and mobilize local congregations and the community for advocating for universal health care! This resolution calls upon the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, the Office for Church In Society, the Office for Communication, the Office of Church Life and Leadership, the United Church Board for World Ministries, The Council for Human Service Ministries, agencies of the United Church of Christ, individual churches, conferences and associations to REAFFIRM their commitment to health and universal health care as per the recommendation from General Synod Eighteen.
WHEREAS, we believe that health care is a basic right and not a privilege; and
WHEREAS, the gospels convey a message from God—a very powerful message that is the Church's marching order to meet the issue of affordable, accessible health care for all; and
WHEREAS, medical and health research have proven beyond question that poverty is the single strongest predictor of disease, disability and premature death, and that poverty is also the strongest predictor of blocked access to medical care; and
WHEREAS, an estimated 90 million people have little or no health insurance; and
WHEREAS, rationed care, loss of doctor choice, reduced quality of care and higher costs have now become the norm rather than the exception;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries calls upon conferences, associations, and local churches to awake and rise to this epidemic of health care injustice and abuse of the health care system; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries encourages local churches, conferences, associations, instrumentalities, organizations, health and welfare institutions associated with the UCC to once again join with the National Council of Churches and other denominations in the movement to raise the visibility of "Universal Health Care in the 2000 electoral season."
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries encourages local churches, conferences, associations, instrumentalities, organizations, and health and welfare institutions associated with the UCC to join in education and advocacy activities to advance legislation that support universal health care;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries RE-APPOINT The UCC Health Care Task Force to work in concert with the office of Church in Society (OCIS), the Office for Communication, the Office of Church Life and Leadership, UCC Health and Welfare Coordinating Council, the UCC Parish Nurse and Physician's Network and the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM) to revisit this issue and to develop new action plans and strategies for empowering our local churches to work for the establishment of Health Care For All.
NOTICE: We are sorry but this resource is currently unavailable. It is in the process of a revision so, please stay tuned for announcements about when the new version will be released.
Health and Peace,
Alyson Breisch, MSN, RN
Faith Community Nurse
Chair, UCC Wellness Ministries
Commissioned Minister of Congregational Health
Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, MDiv
Minister and Team Leader, Health and Wholeness Advocacy
Executive Director, United Church of Christ AIDS Network (aka. UCAN)
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The UCC Faith Community Nurse Network (formerly the Parish Nurse Network)
aims to promote health ministry through parish nursing in congregations and communities,
as the visible presence and voice of parish nurses in the United Church of Christ.
Full implementation of the resolution "Reclaiming the Church's Ministry of Health and Healing" adopted by the 21st General Synod of the UCC (1997-Columbus).
To inform and engage UCC congregations in ministries of health and healing for the benefit of each congregation and the community it serves.
Goals of the UCC Faith Community Nurse Network
- Serve as a spiritual care resource to the leadership of the UCC by promoting and supporting activities of health, healing, and wholeness within our congregations and the communities served.
- Make available to all UCC FCNs information and opportunities for programming so that congregants learn how to become active health care consumers.
- Inform and engage congregations, associations, and conferences in facilitating individualized and distinct responses to the Resolution.
- Collaborate with the other health-focused groups of the UCC National Office to create a synergic effort of information sharing for the benefit of all.
Open and Affirming Covenant
UCC Wellness Ministry teams and Faith Community Nurses, taking scripture as our guide, understand that all individuals are created in God’s image and are blessed and loved equally by God.
Our mission is to inform and encourage the graceful engagement of ministries that enhance the physical, mental, and spiritual health of all God’s children. We recognize that every individual is blessed with gifts to share as well as desires that may be met within a mutually caring community.
Our activities within our ministries vary from setting to setting yet all provide for individuals of every race, ethnicity, creed, class, age, educational background, economic circumstance, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, marital status; physical and mental ability to journey together in a mutually supportive manner towards wholistic spiritual, physical, and mental health.
Full members: Professional registered nurses, actively licensed, that serve (or are interested in serving) as a Faith Community Nurse (paid or non-paid) who are members of UCC congregations and/or who serve congregations of the UCC.
Associate members of the Network may include other health care professionals, clergy, Christian educators, and others interested in congregational health ministry and supporting the practice of faith community nursing.
- Updating the UCC Faith Community Nurse Network’s Manual on Faith Community Nursing
- Developing posts on the UCC Faith Community Nurse Network’s webpage
- Supporting Faith Community Nurses seeking Commissioning as Authorized Ministers in the UCC
- Supporting Faith Community Nurses seeking Board Certification as Faith Community Nurses from the American Nurse Credentialing Center
- Serving on the working groups that developed the current and previous editions of Faith Community Nursing: Scope and Standard of Practice for the American Nurses Association and Health Ministries Association
I weep for the hurt of my people; I stand amazed silent, dumb with grief. Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why doesn't God do something? Why doesn't He help? —Jeremiah 8:21-22 (Living Bible Translation)
Today many Americans die and are disabled from health conditions that are greatly impacted by lifestyle behaviors. In fact, 54% of our health status is a result of lifestyle choices. These conditions might be prevented or better managed if we 1) knew the risks associated with many health problems, 2) believed that healthy activities could be beneficial, and 3) could receive appropriate health care services and resources. Lifestyle changes that can improve the quality of life have been identified as engaging in consistent moderate exercise; cessation from smoking and other addictions; consuming a diet high in fiber, and low in fat and cholesterol; increasing social support; and actively managing stress.
Today, several of the leading causes of death—Heart Disease, Cancers, Strokes, Injuries, Chronic Lung Disease, Pneumonia/Influenza, Diabetes, Suicide, HIV/AIDS, Homicide, Liver Disease—are considered "lifestyle" diseases because they could be reduced through common sense changes in lifestyle. Oftentimes we speculate on or presume to know the causes of these "lifestyle" diseases and disabilities from specific behaviors exhibited by the individual at risk. For example, the person who suffers a heart attack might consume a diet high in saturated fat, engage in little or no exercise and might smoke. The person involved in a motor vehicle accident might have been speeding or consuming alcohol. Perhaps the person was not wearing a seatbelt. These are examples of things that we observe and speculate on and, when a family member, loved one or friend whose death, disease, disability is caused by a specific behavioral action, we discuss and share with one another our own need to "do better" or admit that we "need to make some changes." Sadly, the time for making needed changes in our own lives gets pushed on the back burner until a crisis hits.
And then there are those diseases that often go undetected until it is too late—sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, helplessness, lovelessness, insecurities, personal guilt and persecution, abandonment, discouragement, low self-esteem and image, stress, depression, and a broken heart (to name a few). These are symptoms of pending disability and serious health change if they continue to go undetected. These are the diseases that we often cannot readily observe. They are masked. People are masking these emotions because they fear rejection if anyone really knew what they were going through—if anyone knew the "real deal". People are masking these emotions because society teaches us to be strong and to "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps". We are taught to laugh on the outside and not to let anyone see us cry. There is so much pain. Pain so deep that we cannot pull ourselves up or call out for help to anyone. We cry out in anguish "Oh God, help me"!
It is in the context of these often "undetected" diseases that the emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of health must further emerge. It is in these three dimensions that the church must take the lead role. For many, health is narrowly defined and specifically targeted to one dimension—the physical. Health consists of five dimensions—physical, social, emotional, mental, and spiritual. An individual is considered healthy when all of these dimensions are working together in harmony. Because healing does not necessarily mean curing (as we tend to think), a Health Ministry in a congregation involves emotional, mental and spiritual healing which can occur during illness even when curing of the disease is not present. Galatians 5:15 reminds us to "Love our neighbors, as ourselves". As Christians we are called to love as Jesus Christ has loved. We are called to service, as Jesus Christ served. We have the responsibility to minister to those in need. In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:37-40) Jesus invites the righteous (the sheep) to receive their inheritance by entering the kingdom which has been prepared for them because of their faithful service and unselfish, compassionate giving. ("I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me"). We should strive to be sheep.
Can the church make a difference in reducing disability and death? The church today still represents a natural point of reference for many communities. It is because it is a natural reference point that focusing health promotion and disease prevention activities should be given careful thought. "We are finding that all the 'expert and expensive health care solutions' still do not guarantee better health outcomes and quality of life. It may be that to mobilize, educate, and coordinate resources through congregations works better". It is not a new idea for churches to develop health programs whose purpose is to have an impact upon the most significant health risks and crippling health conditions in congregations. However, it is an increasingly important one as health care funding and services gradually shrink. Local churches can help address the need for more appropriate and accessible health care services and the inadequacy of our health care system. In addition, the local church can bring a holistic perspective to an understanding of health as being in harmony with self, others, the environment, and God. Health is a continuum of physical, social, psychological, and spiritual well-being.
Today, social service and social action are seen as integral and complementary forms of ministry. Church-related social services and institutions serve many needs. Church-related social action and policy formation cover a wide range of contemporary issues which include: urban life, poverty, housing, health care, family life, women's issues, child care, aging, hospice, racial and ethnic concerns, needs of handicapped persons, peace, and refugees and immigration. As both social services and social action ministries remain faithful to God's vision of shalom, they will respond to the changing needs and new possibilities among people and within society, working always toward liberation from life's bondage and reconciliation of the alienated. The development of health ministries within the congregation helps focus the members' awareness on the essential Christian ministry of health and healing.
When health ministries are an essential part of congregational life, the members:
A. Find opportunities to volunteer their help to those who are in the hospital, or those who are home bound or living in residential care centers;
B. Have the opportunity to learn about wellness and disease prevention. Healthy lifestyle choices are promoted through seminar and workshops, giving information in such arease as exercise, nutrition and handling stress;
C. Through health screening, make early detection and treatment possible; and
D. Provide appropriate resources and advocacy to individuals and community.
A health ministry can promote healing and health as wholeness, as a mission of a faith community to its members and the community it serves. This takes a variety of people, paid and volunteer, laity and clergy, all committed to sharing the compassionate love and grace of Jesus Christ.
As we weep for the hurt and pain of each as we stand in amazement, silent, and dumb with grief; as we wonder if there is medicine in Gilead; as we wonder if there is a physician there; as we wonder if God is going to do something or if God will help, God will, for God is the ultimate Balm in Gilead. But, God also wants us to be a Balm, a healing salve. Developing a health ministry does not require vast sums of money. It only requres us to become the body of Christ. We must have the compassion of Christ, the heart of Christ, the soul of Christ, and most importantly, the love of Christ.
Resolution: Reclaiming the Church's Ministry of Health and Healing
Health is harmony with self and others, the environment, and with God—a continuum of physical, social, psycological, and spiritual well-being. Health ministry is the promotion of healing and health as wholeness as a mission of a faith community to its members and the community it serves. Health partners are many, both paid and volunteer, laity and clergy, all are committed to sharing the compassionate love and grace of Jesus Christ through the health and healing ministries of the UCC.
The health minister/parish nurse serves as a member of the ministry team of the local church. The health minister (a person having a health care background that may or may not be a parish nurse) facilitates the promotion of health and healing via health educational programs, spiritual care, referrals to appropriate health care providers, as well as through support groups and personal health counseling. The parish nurse, a registered profesional nurse, promotes health and wholeness through the practice of nursing as defined by the nurse practice act in the jurisdiction in which he/she practices. Parish nurses function as health counselors, resource persons, spiritual caregivers, health educators, small group facilitators, and coordinators of health ministry volunteers.
WHEREAS, recognizing many illnesses and premature deaths may be prevented by lifestyle choices and belief systems, (i.e. diet, exercise, substance abuse, violence, and risk-taking behaviors), health ministers/parish nurses integrate current medical and behavioral knowledge with the belief and practices of a faith community to prevent illness and promote wholeness; and
WHEREAS, the UCC Statement of Health and Welfare (1985) states that, "Based on our understanding of Shalom—of God's intent for harmony and wholeness within creation—and on the examples of Jesus Christ's ministry which expressed God's intent through acts of love and justice, we must be committed as a church to a mission of Shalom and to a lifestyle compatible with that mission;" and
WHEREAS, essential elements of a health ministry/parish nursing program include (but are not limited to):
- a philosophy of health and wholeness as a part of the faith community's mission;
- a designated person or team to be concerned about health ministry;
- a commitment to continued learning regarding health and wellness issues;
- a process to develop and evaluate health and wholeness goals and objectives;
- health education and programming according to assessed health needs of the congregation;
- awareness of health and wellness celebrations designated in the UCC calendar; and
WHEREAS, General Synod Eighteen (June, 1985) adopted the "Mission Statement on Health and Welfare" which states that: It is clear that the whole church is involved in this mission (in health and welfare). Whether represented in local churches, associations, conferences, or national level bodies the whole church is itself the creation of God's compassionate mercy in Christ, and as such, the instrument of God's intention for all humankind. (II Corinthians 5:13-21); and
WHEREAS, good health is a part of God's intention for all people, health involves the whole person—body, mind, and spirit and healing and health care are valid ways of proclaiming the Gospel and ministering in the name of Jesus Christ; and
WHEREAS, the Gospel prolcaims that health is a relationship to God set forth in Baptism and Holy Communion in which God makes wholeness as the Divine Gift.
The wholeness ascribed by God as a gift recognizes that illness and disability exist, but the presence of these does not define the individual in the sight of God, or limit the ability of such individuals to be in a whole relationsihp with God; and
WHEREAS, the United Church of Christ recognizes that God calls certain of its members to various forms of ministry in and on behalf of the church for which ecclesiastical authorization is recognized by commissioning, licensing, and ordination; health ministers and parish nurses may feel called to one of these authorized ministries; and
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Twenty-first General Synod encourages local congregations to develop/include in their mission a commitment to health and wholeness, engage health and wholeness issues through an ongoing health cabinet/health ministry team, and consider the implementation of a health ministry/parish nurse program.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Twenty-first General Synod calls upon the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries and Office of Church Life and Leadership, in conjunction with conferences, United Church of Christ seminaries, the Council on Health and Human Services Ministries and local congregations, to begin and/or continue to develop resources that support the development and enrichment of health ministry programs in local churches; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Twenty-first General Synod calls upon conferences and associations to:
1. Establish or designate a body to address health and human service issues confronting members and their communities; and
2. Recognize health ministry and parish nursing as a specialized ministry; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Twenty-first General Synod calls upon the Office of Church Life and Leadership to recognize and consider including health ministry/parish nursing in the listing of specific church-related ministries qualifying for commissioned ministry, and to consider developing guidelines and educational standards to be included in the United Church of Christ Manual on Ministry.
Subject to the availability of funds.
The UCC Faith Community Nurse Network is under the auspices of the Health Care Justice Program, Justice and Witness Ministries
Rev. Amos Acree, RN
Wendy Merriman, MA, RN
Rebecca (Becky) Anton, MSN, RN
Linda Morgan, BSN, RN
Alyson Breisch, MSN, RN-BC
Deborah Ringen, MSN, RN-BC
Courtney Holmes, APRN, ANP-BC, RN-BC
Rev. Donna Smith-Pupillo, RN
Peggy Matteson, PhD, RN-BC
Lisa Thomas, RN,
"UCC Faith Community Nurse Network: Linking and Touching Lives for Healing and Wholeness."
An Informational Manual on Faith Community Nurse Ministry Within the United Church of Christ. Revised 2015.
The development of programs of health ministry and the role of the faith community nurse continues to evolve. To provide only a list of specific resources would be limiting since it can very quickly go out of date. For that reason we have provide a combination of both general resources as well as some specifics. It is by no means meant to be an all inclusive list.
Since each of our UCC churches is an independent entity and is populated by individuals with different gifts and needs, each health ministry program has commonality, but it also is by necessity unique to that congregation. As you investigate and then develop a health ministry you may find the following sources of information and resources helpful.
- Health Ministries Association www.HMAssoc.org 800-723-4291
- American Nurse Association www.nursingworld.org 800-274-4262
The faith community nurse bridges two disciplines and as such must be prepared in and responsible to both. Educational offerings in nursing have expanded along a continuum to now range from continuing education programs with extensive contact hours to baccalaureate and graduate level nursing courses.
Some theological schools and universities offer courses or programs of study for nurses that provide education on spiritual and pastoral care. Some educational programs are offered within facilities and others are offered on-line
UCC and Other Educational Programs
- At the Conference and Area levels of the UCC there are educational opportunities. Call your Conference office to learn what is going on and what support they might have for your efforts.
- Contact a FCN from the FCN Leadership Network or someone in your area on Membership List to learn of opportunities.
- Contact the office for your State's Council of Churches to learn of any opportunities.
Professional Nursing Conferences
The Health Ministries Association Annual Conference, The Westberg Symposium, and increasingly nursing research and specialty practice conferences provide opportunities to learn from colleagues in the field.
Educational Resource Centers
Educational resources centers have developed all over the country. One of the first was the International Parish Nurse Resource Center. This center developed a curriculum that is taught in various sites. To learn where these continuing education offerings are available go to the website www.ipnrc.parishnurses.org.
*Please note that although participating in a program may provide you with a certificate, it does not grant you the status of certification/being certified. The certificate you may receive is only a certificate of attendance. The way to become Certified as a Faith Community Nurse is through the American Nurse Credentialing Center.
PUBLISHERS AND OTHER SUPPLIERS OF MATERIALS
Keeping up to date with the release of new books, videos, and manuals that support our work is an ongoing task. The following list of publishers and their current books gives you a sampling of what kind of supports are available both from diverse groups.
United Church of Christ Resources www.uccresources.com
Pilgrim Press www.thepilgrimpress.com
Abingdon Press www.abingdonpress.com
Augsburg/Fortress Press www.augsburgfortress.org
Elsevier / Mosby www.elsevier.com
Haworth Press www.haworthpressinc.com
Health Ministries Association www.HMAssoc.org
International Parish Nurse Resource Center www.ipnrc.parishnurses.org
Jones and Bartlett www.jbpub.com
Judson Press www.judsonpress.com
Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins www.lww.com
Morehouse Publishing www.morehousegroup.com
Prentice Hall www.prenhall.com/nursing
The Partnership Center – Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services http://www.hhs.gov/about/agencies/staff-divisions/iea/partnerships/newsletter/index.html
Health Finder – Live Well. Learn How. http://healthfinder.gov