Congregational Care and Cancer

Download Tools

The United Church of Christ’s mission statement on Health and Human Service calls us to demonstrate and convey the compassion of Christ.  Our mission statement reminds us that 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.  Where the Church is there are those engaged in diakonia – the ministry of healing service, care, compassion and hospitality.

Cancer is a significant issue nationally and in the lives of many faith communities.  There are many ways that congregations are supporting people as they deal with a cancer diagnosis and its accompanying life changes.  Cancer diagnosis presents a unique spectrum of needs, feelings, pastoral concerns, and phases, impacting individuals, families and indeed, the whole community of care. 

The purpose of this resource is to orient you to some of the central questions and considerations that may emerge as you journey with those in your faith community affected by cancer.  The PowerPoint slides and Handbook will guide you in leading group discussions.   Depending on the time and circumstances, you may choose to divide it into modules. We recommend three sections: God’s Healing Touch (slides 1 through 13); Care Throughout the Seasons (slides 14 through 25); and Y(our) Congregation: What Can We Do? (slides 25-29).

This resource is geared to facilitators of faith community health ministries(both lay and nurse led), Deacons, Called to Care Ministries, grief ministries, Clergy or any group within your congregation that practices spiritual and/or physical care and healing.

This resource comes as the result of several collaborations. In its initial form, it was the product of an independent study at Yale Divinity School in which the authors (James DeBoer and Laura Fitzpatrick) explored ways in which clergy and congregations are responding to the needs of people affected by cancer, with the guidance of Drs. Elaine Ramshaw and Janet Ruffing, OSM. The project also benefitted greatly from the wisdom and guidance of Rev. Shelly Stackhouse (Church of the Redeemer), Dean of Students Dale Peterson, and Rev. Adele Crawford, interim Dean of Chapel. Barbara Baylor, UCC Minister for Health Care Justice, subsequently provided very helpful feedback and also brought in the UCC Faith Community Nurse Leadership Team to provide additional help with editing.  Rebecca Anton, Wendy Merriman and Peggy Matteson (all members of the UCC Faith Community Nurse Leadership Team) provided valuable assistance and feedback by piloting the project in several congregations and hospital settings.

For more information, contact Barbara Baylor (216) 736-3708.