If compassion is ebbing away from the NHS then churches are stepping in to redress the balance. Contrary to popular assumptions, Churches and Christian agencies provide health services up and down the country. These are shaped by attention to the whole person, bringing spiritual inspiration and compassionate care in communities throughout the United Kingdom.
A conference in April will make visible the wide range of services offered. It will confront policy makers and church leaders with this growing trend. Revd Paul Holley, Conference Director and Coordinator of the Anglican Health Network, said ‘After a modest absence of 65 years, the churches are returning to their 2000 year old role in health services’.
Burrswood Hospital in Kent (http://www.burrswood.org.uk) offers an integrated team of nurses, chaplains, doctors, physiotherapists and counsellors to bring greater depth to the healing process. With its Christian foundation and atmosphere, it nevertheless provides a compassionate healing environment for all its patients, half of whom make no claims to faith.
At primary care level, there is a quiet revolution going on. Christian GPs are growing in confidence and providing spiritual care to their patients. Karis Medical Centre in Birmingham (http://www.karismedicalcentre.co.uk) has provided chaplains to its patients for the past 20 years. It established the Karis Neighbourhood Scheme to promote health and wellbeing through community activity, and Sport4Life to promote fitness and motivation amongst young people.
Congregations too are playing their part: A healthy living centre in Dartford (http://www.stedmundsdartford.org.uk). A community mental health programme in Peckham (http://www.coplestoncentre.org.uk). A social care enterprise in East Sussex (http://www.rotherfieldstmartin.org.uk). A post natal depression service in Birmingham (http://www.acacia.org.uk).
Increasingly, churches are responding to health issues in their communities by setting up new services, often in partnership with the NHS or local government. With them they bring compassion, a sense of dignity for the individual and a capacity to generate community-based action.
Revd Holley added, ‘NHS reforms have opened new space for community-based health enterprise. Churches and Christian entrepreneurs have established projects that respond directly to local needs. The values generated by the Christian faith ensure that compassionate care is at the heart of this work. The conference marks a tipping point where policy makers now increasingly recognise and support the integration of church with health services.’
To supplement the 40 speakers from UK initiatives, the conference will draw presentations of church-based health services from other parts of Europe and the United States. A church-owned hospital in Norway will outline its comprehensive values-based training process for all staff. A German medical agency will present its work with congregation-based mental health services. A major Anglican health system in Houston, Texas will share its learning following the development of its public health initiatives in poor neighbourhoods.
The conference will be shaped around three themes:
– Health, dying and human flourishing
– The healing ministries of the church amongst individuals and communities
– The church in the governance and delivery of health services
To prepare for the conference, the planning group today published a report to outline learning so far. This provides further detail on the nature and extent of church health services, and offers insight into the opportunities ahead.
The report can be downloaded on the following link: http://www.anglicanhealth.org/Resources/PDF/FaithinHealthHealing-Final-v.02.pdf
The conference will take place at the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham International Airport on 24th and 25th April 2013.
For further information, visit the conference website: http://www.anglicanhealth.org/ConferenceHome.aspx
Or contact Revd Paul Holley on: firstname.lastname@example.org