Agrippa said to Paul: “You have permission to speak for yourself.” (Acts 26:1)
After the Apostle Paul is arrested in Jerusalem for preaching the message of the resurrection, he is transferred to Caesarea where he is brought before (King) Agrippa. When Paul is given permission to speak in his defense, he does not give a ‘reasoned theological statement’ but rather tells the story of what Jesus has done in his life. Charles H. Williamson, pastor and author of my bible study guide, explains that this should not be seen as unusual because, ‘one of the characteristics of the Christian Faith is that it demands to be expressed in a story.’ This is my story—the story of my journey to living my faith and becoming a Parish Nurse.
I grew up in the Ottawa Valley in a typical 50’s (two-parent, two-children) family. Church attendance was regular and my faith was nourished by both my family and the community. As a teen, I taught Sunday School and was active in the church youth group. When I was seventeen, my youth group undertook a mission trip to Quebec where we assisted in the building of a church camp for French-speaking youth. While at camp, I accepted Christ’s call and now, like the Apostle Paul, I have my own story of what Jesus has done in my life.
I have always believed that nursing was more of a vocation than a career for me. At the age of seven, I dressed up in nurse’s uniform with cap and announced that I wanted to be a nurse—just like my aunt. After graduating from grade thirteen, I moved to London to study nursing at Western University. While there, I joined Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) and participated in their outreach program, visiting local churches and speaking about the importance of Christ in my life. I graduated with my BScN and RN and immediately found a job. I lived in three different cities within five years of graduating and there were always openings in hospitals. I balanced family, career and volunteering—working part time when my three children were young. I am a life-long learner so enjoyed the challenge of the varied work of being a floor nurse, a head nurse and a night charge nurse. I worked in obstetrics, recovery, ICU, surgery and then, when my back ‘needed a rest,’ I transferred into health promotion in a Public Health Unit. I volunteered as camp nurse and first aider; was a Girl Guide leader and Commissioner; served on the provincial and national boards of a leading women’s organization; taught Church School and chaired the Christian Development and Christian Education Committee in my church.
Then, after thirty-five years of nursing, I decided that it was time to consider retirement. I wanted a slower pace but also knew that I still needed purpose and meaning in my life. I asked God for direction as I planned for life after full-time employment.
I look back now and recognize that on four separate occasions the idea of parish nursing was introduced to me—but I wasn’t paying attention. The first was a request, in the early 90’s, from my minister who asked me to look into ‘a new way of doing things’ called parish nursing; then there was a front-page article in the United Church Observer on this new resource for churches; next, a friend was doing her doctorate in health promotion and copied articles on parish nursing for me; and, finally, it was that very friend who introduced me to an ICHM-trained Parish Nurse. I was curious and contacted the Rev Henry Fischer to ask many questions. Henry’s patient responses opened my eyes to the work of nurses ministering to the spirit as well as the body and mind. I wanted to be a Parish Nurse!
I organized my calendar and started the ICHM Canada Education Program along with twelve other nurse candidates and health committee members. (I still keep a framed picture of our class on my desk.) I didn’t miss a week and was energized by the training. We had wonderful instructors—among them the Rev Henry Fischer and Parish Nurse Val Jenkins—both of whom left a lasting impression on me, my faith and my nursing practice. I did my first practicum in my home church and then transferred to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in downtown Toronto where I was fortunate to be mentored by an experienced Health Cabinet [Editor’s note: alternatively called a Health Committee]. Shortly after graduating, I was called to serve at Augsburg Evangelical Lutheran Church replacing my mentor, Val Jenkins, who had unexpectedly died. I had big shoes to fill but was comforted by the knowledge that Val had asked me to consider replacing her as she too was planning for a new career path.
I served God at Augsburg using all the skills that I had learned in my personal, professional and volunteer life. I visited clients in hospitals and homes; organized health promotions via Lunch and Learns (perfecting my sandwich-making skills); led meditation sessions; wrote reflections; preached; and prayed and anointed parishioners. Then, after eight years, I came to believe that God was calling me to a new way and place to serve. I retired from Augsburg in December of last year after forty-five years as a RN.
So what comes next? In truth, I don’t know. I do know that I have been blessed with the time and desire to rest in daily prayer and Bible study. I was invited to write biblical reflections for a daily devotional publication.
I thank God every day for my time spent serving as a Parish Nurse. I am confident that if I ‘listen’ carefully, another big adventure awaits, just around the corner.
Author: Lynn Franklin
Editor: Luba Rascheff