WHO WE ARE: THE HISTORY OF INTERCHURCH HEALTH MINISTRIES (ICHM) CANADA

The inception of our ministries occurred in 1994 with the development of a focus group under the leadership of Maureen MacLeod, the Reverend Audrey Fisher and the Reverend Henry Fischer. They shared the concept of “Parish Nursing” within the context of the Church’s call and challenge in health and healing ministries. They invited members of the community, who had a common commitment with the issues of health and wellness, as well as a personal commitment to their faith expressed by their participation and involvement in their congregation, to come together.

The focus group struggled for almost a year with the concept of Parish Nursing and the Church’s role in health.

They dealt with questions like:

  • Given the history of parish nursing in the United States, how would it work in Canada?
  • Did it duplicate existing services?
  • Was there a need?
  • What about funding?

In response to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the focus group became the Interim Board of what has become InterChurch Health Ministries (ICHM) Canada, now incorporated as a not-for-profit charitable organization.

The Interim Board identified the following mission that has shaped the organization and its ministry:

InterChurch Health Ministries Canada is a group of Christian congregations who share the belief that in the healing ministry of Jesus Christ we have a unique responsibility and contribution to make in the health of the community.

During 1995, the emphasis for the activities of the fledgling ministry was the initiation and development of a pilot project in five congregations with volunteer nurses for a one-year period. The basis for selection of the congregations was diversity:  downtown and suburban, rural and urban locations, large and small memberships. The denominational backgrounds included Anglican, Lutheran and United. The support of the clergy and the availability of a volunteer nurse were prerequisites.

Written materials and a basic manual were developed to assist congregations in establishing Health Committees, choosing a Parish Nurse and preparing congregations for the concept of a Health and Healing Ministry supported by a Parish Nurse Ministry. Intensive training and educational sessions were provided to Parish Nurses, Clergy and Health Committee members of the five congregations. The goals of the program were to integrate faith and health in the context of congregational life and pastoral care.

Throughout the pilot phase, intensive research and evaluation were done with the Nurses, Clergy, Health Committees and congregations. With a grant from Emmanuel College of Victoria University in Toronto, we published our findings in the document Pioneers in Parish Nursing in Canada.

Our research resulted in the development of our current model that is:

  • Congregationally driven
  • Theologically based
  • Mission and Ministry focused
  • Within the framework of interchurch parterships

Since 1995, our ministry has expanded in Ontario from the five pilot congregations and Parish Nurses to over sixty congregations and parishes representing sixteen different denominations. Since 2003, ICHM Canada has worked collaboratively with an affiliate in Saskatchewan under the leadership of the Rev. Harold Hesje and Elaine Hesje. In 2003, ICHM Canada also supported the development of the first parish nursing education program in New Brunswick under the leadership of Sister Ernestine LaPlante.

ICHM CANADA’S SHARED MANDATE (2010)

MISSION

Grounded in Christian faith, InterChurch Health Ministries Canada fosters wholistic health in individuals and communities. We promote, educate and support Parish Nursing Ministry in partnership with congregations.

CORE VALUES

  1. Healing ministries following Christ’s example
  2. Wholistic health for all, encompassing the physical, psychosocial and spiritual
  3. Continued learning through education and support
  4. Health and healing ministries that are congregationally driven, theologically based and mission focused
  5. The inclusion of a parish nurse within a congregation’s ministry
  6. Collaborative partnerships to promote healthy communities

VISION

A Health and Healing Ministry in every congregation.

We believe that we are not so much leading the development of a Health and Healing Ministry as we ourselves are being led. We believe that a Health and Healing Ministry in which the Parish Nurse is a key component is a unique ministry whose time has come. We believe this is a remarkable opportunity for ministry as we creatively search for paths to take us faithfully into the future.

ICHM Canada has been served by the following Executive Directors:

Rev. Audrey Fisher, Rev. Henry Fischer, Rev. Tom Doherty, Karen Marks, Joanne Jasper

ICHM Canada has been served by the following National Education Directors:

Valerie Jenkins, Gail Brimbecom, Karen Marks, Joanne Jasper

ICHM Canada has been served by the following Regional Directors:

New Brunswick: Sr. Ernestine LaPlante

Ontario: Rev. Henry Fischer, Rev. Tom Doherty, Karen Marks, Joanne Jasper

Saskatchewan: Rev. Harold Hesje and Elaine Hesje

ICHM Canada has been served by the following Regional Parish Nurse Coordinators:

New Brunswick: Nancy Wiggins

Ontario: Gail Brimbecom, Suzanne Blake and Margaret Grepe, Beth Lettner, Valerie Jenkins, Karen Marks, Joanne Jasper

Saskatchewan: Deb Vezina, Mary Tyler, Judy Johnson

ICHM CANADA’S PARISH NURSING MINISTRY EDUCATION PROGRAM

Since 1998, ICHM Canada has worked in partnership with the International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPNRC) (whose name recently changed to Westberg Institute for Faith Community Nursing) to deliver parish nursing education in Canada using the IPNRC Parish Nurse Basic Preparation Curriculum. With the help of Canadian experts and presenters, the curriculum has addressed the Canadian context. Since 2008, a Canadian Appendix for each module has been provided to education program participants.

Based upon the philosophy of partnership and congregational development, ICHM Canada welcomes parishioners and clergy to attend the education program along with Parish Nurse Candidates. The program is delivered in three levels over 26 months. Parish Nurse Candidates are required to work with a mentor, attend monthly parish nurse support group meetings and demonstrate an understanding of the learning outcomes for each module. Prior to successful completion of the education program, each Parish Nurse Candidate will attend all classes and complete a practicum of 100 hours following each of levels 1 and 2.

ICHM Canada delivers Parish Nursing Ministry Education programs in partnership with the following theological seminaries:  Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario; Lutheran Theological Seminary, University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon; and the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario where, in 2009, the first parish nursing program was established.

As of 2015, 1,322 people have participated in parish nursing education programs across the ICHM Canada network. 124 parish nurses have graduated and 58 parishioners and 4 clergy have successfully completed the requirements of the program.

The highly researched education program for parish nurses is updated by content experts every five (5) years. The 2015 education program was based on the newly released 2014-19 updated curriculum.

ICHM CANADA—LEADERSHIP IN ACTION

Representaives of ICHM Canada were present at an Invitational National Symposium on Parish Nursing held in Toronto in August 1998. This meeting, recognized as the founding meeting of a national organization beginning as the Canadian Parish Nurse Ministry Forum, elected a Coordinating Committee of which Gail Brimbecom, one of the founding parish nurses of ICHM, was a member. Her role during the foundational year was to chair a group on Identity which researched and developed definitions and terminology pertaining to Parish Nursing Ministry in Canada.

These definitions and terminology would become the base upon which Standards of Practice for Parish Nursing Ministry were subsequently developed.

The Canadian Parish Nurse Ministry Forum later became incorporated as the Canadian Association for Parish Nursing Ministry (CAPNM) and Gail served as Chair of the Board of Directors as the organization sought and achieved charitable status. She later chaired the Standards Committee which produced a position paper on the role of the Parish Nurse. ICHM Canada’s leadership at the national level continued as Karen Marks was elected Chair of the CAPNM Board of Directors and served two terms in that role. Representatives of ICHM Canada also took a leadership role in establishing the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) Parish Nursing Ministry Interest Group (PNIG).

ICHM CANADA—GOVERNANCE

The initial group or, Steering Committee became the Charter Board of the newly incorporated entity, ICHM Canada.

As ICHM Canada headed into the next twenty years, the Board Chair was Jean Jackson followed by the 2015-2016 Chair, the Reverend Henry Fischer.

Twenty years later, this working Board is slowly phasing into a policy governance Board. The strategic planning process being undertaken in 2016 will foster an oversight role for succeeding boards. ♥