Parish Nursing
Cliff Park Community Church
Cliff Park
Great Yarmouth

Parish Nursing - a discussion with Ruth Pillar

Find out what Parish Nursing is, and the exciting plans to introduce it in the Cliff Park area of Gorleston.

From the coverage given by our news services, you could be forgiven for believing that the only relationship between nursing and faith is one of tension: nurses being disciplined for wearing a cross or praying for their patients. However this is far from the whole picture for the many nurses across the NHS who see their role as being given, sustained and empowered by God. There is also a strong historical link between faith and nursing, for example the establishment of deaconesses in many in the late 19th century who were trained theologically and medically. This spread across Europe and the United States through many Christian denominations.

With this backdrop, the Westberg Institute emerged in America in the 1980s, supporting the establishment of “Faith Community Nurses” who combined their nursing skills with their faith to provide holistic physical, emotional, and spiritual care for individuals in the context of their local community. This approach was brought across to the UK by Helen Wordsworth and Parish Nursing Ministries UK was born, whose vision is to see “churches and Christian organisations in every region of the UK supported to host high quality, sustainable, accredited Parish Nursing services that facilitate wholistic health and wellbeing for local people.” There are now over a hundred Parish Nurses across the UK.

This vision is about to become a local reality, with the launch of Parish Nursing in Gorleston, led by Ruth Pillar from Cliff Park Community Church (CPCC). I met up with Ruth to chat to her about this exciting new project.

Ruth explained that she has been interested in the possibility of Parish Nursing for a while, since chatting to representatives at a New Wine summer gathering. Then, as she approached retirement following 36 years in NHS Mental Health Nursing, the possibility of moving into parish nursing became more of a reality. With the agreement and encouragement of CPCC, Ruth completed the initial 4 days of training needed to prepare her for Parish Nursing.

Ruth will continue as a registered nurse as she steps into the Parish Nurse role. Each Parish Nursing project is shaped by the needs of the area and the calling of the nurse and consequently Ruth’s focus will be on working on preventative work and early intervention for mental health and wellbeing. She will volunteer for 15 hours a week, supporting not only the members of the CPCC congregation but also the wider community.

Ruth talks of the particular need to engage with those who are feeling lonely or isolated, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic. The proposal is to start up a regular drop-in with hot drinks, cake and simple activities, a walking group and one-to-one home visits for those who would benefit from some additional support. She will signpost to other services and where there is a need accompany individuals to appointments or support them with accessing online services. In the future she is open to the possibility of running short courses on wellbeing topics which would be of benefit and interest to local people. Ruth is clear that her role is to “complement not replicate or replace” NHS provision and intends to use her connections from decades working locally as a nurse to work closely with statutory clinicians.

For Ruth the real excitement of this new role is having more time to offer to people who need it, and being able to offer spiritual care alongside clinical care. She will offer prayer when appropriate, or perhaps share inspiration or encouragement from the Bible. Ruth will work closely with the CPCC Pastoral Care team and other volunteers from the church to demonstrate God’s care for every aspect of people’s lives. With her calm nature, vast experience of nursing, strong faith and long history of serving in the local church it is easy to see how Ruth will be able to marry these elements together brilliantly.

Ruth asks for prayer for the following:

  • Thank God for the partnership between CPCC and PNMUK at the start of this new ministry
  • Pray that I will continue to hear from God as we move forward with our planned activities
  • Pray for positive connections with our local statutory and non-statutory agencies.
  • Pray that the service will be a blessing to the congregation and to our wider community as we reach out seeking ’To Live and to Give the Good News’

A commissioning service will be held by CPCC for the Parish Nursing project sometime after Easter. Once the provision is up and running referrals can be made via the CPCC website by individuals themselves who live in the CPCC parish area, or professionals working with them.