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Posted: December 31, 2004

Spiritual Caregiving

In a Hospital or at Church, Healing Happens


A Hospital Where Relationships Are Sacred

St. Charles Medical Center in beautiful Bend, Oregon, may own all the highest in high-tech hospital machinery. Then again, it may not. We didn?t ask. What we do know is that St. Charles not long ago won the Norman Cousins Award for creating the nation?s most healing relationships ? and we have an inside scoop on why.

The award was created in 1993 after the Fetzer Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trust released a study showing that it takes more to create healing relationships than a good bedside manner. The study found that the best healing comes when healthcare practitioners first heal themselves and create healthy relationships within their practices and their communities. In other words, whether we live or die in the hospital is often determined by the human relationships we enter into.

Acting on this insight, Fetzer funded both the award and a national group, the Relationship Centered Care Network (RCC), to figure out how to create better healing relationships within our healthcare system. The group of about 500 healthcare professionals is committed to ?self-awareness; acknowledging the patient as a whole person...and being knowledgeable of the diverse resources that can contribute to healing.?

Nancy Moore, Ph.D., a registered nurse and vice president for Healing Health Care Services at St. Charles, graciously accepted the 2001 Norman Cousins award for being ?the best hospital in the country with regard to the sacredness of care.? Dr. Moore said the award affirmed ?the work of all our care providers over the last decade in creating a relationship-centered culture based on the Healing Health Care ethic: healing ourselves, our relationships, our community. This approach has enhanced our mission to improve the health of those we serve in a spirit of love and compassion, as well as our economic sustainability.?

But it was only later that we began to appreciate why the hospital won. Nurse Rosemary Johnson, the Healing Health Care coordinator, mentioned how she had become tired of ?just coordinating stuff? and needed to get back to hands-on work with patients. St. Charles rented her a small room across the street to practice life coaching and healing touch. A small thing among many, but it demonstrates how a winning hospital creates space for caring relationships.

From the Editors
Of Spirituality & Health Magazine


The Cutting Edge of Healing Ministries

Healing services have long been held at traditional, mainline churches, but the 3,000-member Cathedral of the Advent in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, has developed an upstairs/downstairs ministry that is remarkably cutting edge even in our new world of complementary medicine.

Called Advent House, the setting is a two-story 95-year-old house in Birmingham?s thriving modern medical district. Downstairs at Advent House, people in need of healing ? mostly patients at the local hospitals who are members of the parish ? meet with Peter Newton, a retired Anglican minister from Great Britain, and his wife, Janice. For an hour they pray, study Scripture, and listen for God's word. Upstairs, meanwhile, other members of the parish add their own prayers to make a double dose of healing.

Says Robin Anderson, a former senior warden at the church who works with the Newtons supervising day-to-day operations at Advent House, "We have seen a lot of miracles."

The Newtons live and work at Advent House six months of the year. At other times, Advent House hosts workshops and conferences on healing, prayer, and faith led by parishioners or others involved in healing ministries. Says Newton, ?The emphasis is prayer through listening to God, as Jesus did, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Having prayed for our own spiritual cleansing, we await God?s starting point. This may come as a picture, a word, or phrase, which will mean nothing to us, but we offer it to the person. It usually proves to be the key that unlocks the issue.?

Although parishioners may meet more than once with the Newtons, the intent is for people to return to the church and let God work with that faith community ? especially in its small groups. To ensure the privacy of patients, Advent House was deliberately set up ?off campus? from the church, and those praying upstairs don't know for whom they are praying. Says Anderson, the Newtons ?share needs, not confidences.?

This healing ministry was inspired by a similar effort in Sydney, Australia, and its development was encouraged by the dean of the Cathedral. To the Rev. Canon Joseph Warren, director of pastoral care at the Cathedral Church, it seemed like a natural extension of what the church was already doing. "We want to get people who are involved in healing ministries to come to Advent House and help us grow. One of our members is a teaching physician at UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) Hospital. He would like to see his medical students take classes at Advent House to learn about the spiritual aspect of healing."

Anderson acknowledges that some are skeptical, but she says, ?We?re spirit-led. We?re open to God telling us what the next step is. But because of the gradual nature at which we?ve progressed, people don?t disparage what?s happening at Advent House. They either take it seriously or with a grain of salt.?

-- Brent Davis

This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at Contact staff directly via email at

© 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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