Parish Nursing or Faith Community Nursing

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Parish nursing is a form of ministry which links professional primary health care with Christian mission. It is undertaken by registered nurses with current registration who work within a faith community integrating spiritual care as an essential aspect of the holistic care of individuals and families. Faith Community Nurses aim to promote individual and community health and well-being through education, counselling, pastoral support, information and referral, and care management services. They seek to integrate body, mind and spirit, and nurture the growth toward wholeness in and through Jesus Christ the source of healing.



July 2014 marked 16 years since the seed of parish nursing was planted in the Diocese of Nelson. Since then three nurses have successively worked at the Cathedral and there have been six others ministering in other parishes. Our current nurses are funded by a Trust fund dedicated to the specific care of older people and so that is their focus. The concept has grown and gained ground within the Anglican Church of Aotearoa. It has spread throughout other Christian churches so there is a well-established national ecumenical organisation known as the New Zealand Faith Community Nurses Association (NZFCNA) to which our nurses belong. You can find out more about this ministry at faithcommunitynursing.

Yearly conferences and regional meetings ensure that our nurses receive on-going training in this nursing speciality so that we maintain our competencies as registered nurses; network with other health professionals, educators and ministers and enjoy the fellowship of other parish nurses from New Zealand and overseas. See details of this year's conference on the blog site.

Raewyn Parkes, Jane Wulff, Phil Preece and Rachael Westenra each bring different gifts to their ministries and link with the hospitals, GP practices, residential care facilities and various health organisations within the region. With our network within the country, referrals can be made so that individuals can linked with churches and agencies even when they have to relocate. So parish nurses respond to needs in many ways often using the resources of their volunteers, pastoral care teams, hospital chaplains and ministers.
Jesus set us an example to preach, teach and heal (Matthew 4:23) and charged his first disciples to heal. The Church still has a healing ministry which is unique. As in mediaeval times, when the church provided physical nurture and spiritual healing by giving hospitality and fellowship in prayer, parish nursing was conceived in the 20th century to provide true holistic care. The health service of today focusses its limited resources on physical and mental issues. Parish nurses are as concerned with spiritual needs as they are with physical and mental ill health. Within the community of the Christian church they seek to support individuals to be healthy in body, mind and spirit.

The History of Parish Nursing in Nelson Diocese and NZ:

Parish nursing is the original name given to this ministry which commenced in Illinois in 1984 – the development of a vision by Granger Westberg - see for more information. It is also known as faith community nursing especially in churches where the term parish is unfamiliar. Faith Community Nurses aim to promote individual and community health and well-being through education, counselling, pastoral support, information and referral, and care management services. They seek to integrate body, mind and spirit, and nurture the growth toward wholeness in and through Jesus Christ the source of healing.

Following a conversation at a barbeque between a newly qualified nurse, Elaine Tyrrell and the Bishop of Nelson, Rt Revd Derek Eaton, the call to develop parish nursing in Nelson was first realised. A year later in 1999, with support from the Diocese, Nelson Cathedral and the Anglican Care Charitable Trust a pilot scheme led to the promotion of the ministry throughout the Diocese.

In 2000, Elaine joined two other New Zealand nurses to train in Adelaide at a course run by the Australian Faith Community Nurses’ Association. This was the start of many international links with parish nurses throughout the world. 2003 saw the acceptance of parish nursing as a new form of lay ministry by the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and the Pacific at General Synod.

Nelson played host to a training conference for interested nurses and ministers and NZFCNA (New Zealand Association of Faith Community Nurses) was birthed with the establishment of an ecumenical Board. Nurses, clergy and lay people caught the vision and enquiries continued to be received throughout New Zealand until today over thirty parish nurses are recognised by Nursing Council working in voluntary and paid positions. One visitor from England seeing a pamphlet took the concept back to the UK and parish nursing subsequently developed there. Enquiries are received from many countries and NZFCNA has hosted leading nurse educators and parish from Canada, USA, Australia, England and Wales.

One of New Zealand’s longest serving parish nurses, Valerie Sirett, attending the Westberg Symposium in 2006 was invited to speak to the hundreds of parish nurses assembled and shared the news that her minister, Dean Charles Tyrrell had been awarded the QSO in the Queens Birthday Honours that year citing the introduction of parish nursing as a key item.

In January 2010, Nelson hosted a group of nursing students and their nursing professors from Linfield University, Portland, Oregon who came to find out about parish nursing in New Zealand. It is exciting to see that a healing ministry founded in the USA by the Revd Granger Westberg has spread throughout the world linking Christians of many denominations and countries.

The Goal of Parish Nursing (Faith Community Nursing) defined by Dr Anne van Loon (1999) The goal of all health ministry is the transformation of individuals and communities regarding conceptualisation of health and healing, empowering people to act in ways that enable them to transition successfully through life’s changing conditions to maintain and improve their well-being. This transformative process is a dynamic life-long journey that enables us to grow closer to Jesus Christ thus locating our wholeness in and through God. Thus all functions of the FCN should nurture spiritual growth and clarify the relationships between faith and health. The cultural and religious group within which the FCN is working will determine the mission of each FCN.

The aim of all education, counselling, advocacy, resource and referral, and care management is to help people to integrate the spiritual aspect of life in their current circumstance so they may find health, healing and well-being of body, mind and spirit. All health care is aimed at facilitating the physical, mental, social and spiritual integrity of people and communities as they experience life’s transitions.

Parish Nurses in Nelson Diocese past and present:

In 2009 in Christchurch, parish nurses from throughout New Zealand and national leaders celebrated 10 years of parish nursing in the Anglican church in New Zealand.

  • Elaine Tyrrell worked at Nelson Cathedral from 1998-2003 and is currently the National Advisor to NZFCNA
  • Marjorie Newcombe joined the ministry team at Holy Trinity, Greymouth and helped to develop the National Standards for Faith Community Nurses
  • Sheryn Carpenter-McClatchy joined Elaine to develop initial policies within the Diocese whilst fulfilling the parish nurse role at St Barnabas, Stoke
  • Jane Wulff was commissioned to the role of Parish Nurse in November 2009 by Bishop Richard at Nelson Cathedral. She has been working as an elected Board member of NZFCNA and as a regional coordinator for several years supporting other Parish nurses
  • Valerie Sirett has worked both within in Parish Nurse team at Nelson Cathedral and led it until 2009 when she received a certificate of recognition of her service from NZFCNA
  • Mary Pook developed the role at Holy Trinity, Picton in the early days of exploring the ministry within the Diocese.


 Resources Available include :  NZFCNA Distance Training Modules, Quarterly Newsletters, Annual Conferences, National & International Networking with other Christian nurses and health professionals.




Parish Location

You can contact individual parish nurses by email:

Jane Wulff


Raewyn Parkes



Spring Creek

Rachael Westenra



Judith Fitchett

Nelson Cathedral

Latest Posts

NZFCNA Conference 2014 (11-13 Sept)

The conference this year has a focus on the sustainability of ministry and is open to parish nurses/faith community nurses and anyone interested in ministry which addresses the physical, psychological and spiritual health of those in our communities.  So why not join Jane, Raewyn, Phil, Rachael,

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