Our History

Historical Roots of Parish Nursing

The parish nurse role reclaims the historic roots of health and healing found in many religious traditions.   Parish nurses live out the early work of monks, nuns, deacons and deaconesses, church nurses, traditional healers and the nursing profession itself.  The Reverend Granger Westberg conceptualized the contemporary practice of parish nursing as a result of his work with Wholistic Health Centers in the 1970’s.

In 1984, Pastor Westberg approached Lutheran General Health System, Park Ridge, Illinois, with the idea of partnering with local congregations in a parish nurse project.  This pilot started in 1985 as six nurses were hired to work in six churches with an ecumenical representation of congregations.

In 1986, the National Parish Nurse Resource Center, which later became the International Parish Nurse Resource Center (IPNRC), was developed through the Mission Church Relations Office of Lutheran General Hospital, one of the predecessor organizations of Advocate Health Care (formed in 1995).  The first Annual Westberg Symposium was held on September 25, 1987.  Under the able leadership of Ann Solari-Twadell, RN, MSN, MPA, the organization grew to assume a strong leadership role in parish nurse education, research, and support.

On January 1, 2002, the International Parish Nursing Resource Center (IPNRC), now knows as the Westberg Instittue, transferred its programs to Deaconess Parish Nurse Ministries in St. Louis, Missouri, another faith-based organization that had supported parish nursing since the 1980’s.  In 2011, the IPNRC moved to the Church Health Center in Memphis, Tn.  Dr. Scott Morris, with inspiration from Granger Westberg, founded the Church Health Center in 1987.  A relationship established between the staff of the Church Heath Reader, launched in 2007, and IPNRC laid the foundation for the eventual transition.

Today, the IPNRC serves parish nurses throughout the world by offering the annual Westberg Symposium, as well as through other educational and programmatic resources.   Parish Nursing, now known as Faith Community Nursing,  has been recognized since 1997 by the American Nurses’ Association as a specialty practice. IPNRC has been working with faith community nurse educators across the country since 1997 to develop and periodically update the standardized parish nurse curriculum.  The most recent upgrade occurred in 2014.  There is also a standardized curriculum for Parish Nurse Coordinators.


Early Years:  Pre-organizational Period

At the request of Emanuel Hospital’s Spiritual Affairs Committee, Chaplain William F. Adix researched parish nurse programs. He reported his findings to the Committee in its May 1987 meeting. The Committee postponed further action until the formation of the Oregon Synod, ELCA, which increased the Hospital’s Lutheran constituency.

The Committee renewed consideration of parish nursing in February 1989, joining with the Oregon Synod, ELCA, to sponsor a parish nurse conference later that year.  Members of the planning committee included among others:  the Rev. Adix; the Rev. Marty Dasler; Shirley Hanson, RN; Judith Andersen, RN; the Rev. Darrel Lundby (then assistant to ELCA Bishop Paul Swanson), Gary Andeen, President of the Oregon Association of Independent Colleges, who had known Granger Westberg, when he was a student at Hamma School of Divinity where Granger taught and who as a member of the Emanuel Hospital Mission Affairs Committee promoted parish nursing and helped secure funding.

The Rev. Granger Westberg, founder of parish nursing; Ann Solari-Twadell, R.N., Director of Parish Nurse Ministries, Lutheran General Hospital, Park Ridge, Illinois, and the Rev. James Wylie, Vice-President of Mission at the same hospital, presented at a Parish Nurse Conference held at Emanuel Hospital, October 20-21, 1989.

The seventy-two persons attending the program indicated that they were interested in exploring the possibility of a parish nurse program in the Metro Portland area.   The enthusiasm of the group encouraged the Emanuel Hospital Mission Affairs, Parish Nurse Developmental Task Force.

This Task Force comprised of hospital, synod, congregation and community members, was asked to develop a feasibility study for taking the next steps.  Task Force members included: Judith Anderson, RN, Chair; Jane Hagen, RN, Secretary, Chaplain William Adix; the Rev. Marty Dasler; Marianne Gallagher, RN and the Rev. Darrel Lundby, (formerly Spiritual Affairs) Committee to form, four days later a Parish Nurse Development Task Force. The Task Force held monthly meetings, beginning in November of 1989.  In October of 1990, the Emanuel Mission Affairs Committee authorized $15,000 to initiate the Parish Nurse Feasibility Study.  A reception was held at the hospital on January 27, 1991, to launch the study.

With a very slim budget, a national search was launched for a feasibility coordinator.  Barbara Connors, RN, a parish nurse from Massachussetts, who had graduated from the nursing program at Emanuel Hospital 25 years previously, agreed to accept the 1 year position.  Her task was to introduce parish nursing to congregations and to the community at large.

She and Judith Andersen met with Dr. Ann Widmer, Dean of Health Care Administration at Concordia University in Portland to discuss the potential for developing a program of parish nurse education.  Ann’s interest grew out of her work as President of the National Hospice Organization in DC.  She also believed that parish nursing was a good fit with the Block Nurse Program founded by Dr. Ida Martinson, who authored a chapter in Ann’s first textbook  Judith developed the curriculum based on the Park Ridge model and, together with Barbara and Ann, worked on a plan to offer it at Concordia.

Pastor Mitch Jones, of Augustana Lutheran Church, provided office space and staff support at the church as an in-kind donation.  The Rev. Marty Dasler’s contacts with his fellow pastors were a key element in gaining their attention.

The ten-month feasibility study provided sufficient evidence that parish nursing was an idea whose time had come in the Northwest.  Over 100 churches expressed an interest.  In June, 1991, the Mission Affairs Committee authorized another $8000 to continue the feasibility study until October of 1991.  The Oregon Synod ELCA added $2500 to that amount.  The group sponsored a second Parish Nursing Conference:  “Parish Nursing: the Vision and the Reality”, which was held on October 25 and 26, 1991 at Emanuel.  Ann Solari-Twadell; Judith Ryan, PhD, Vice President of Nursing at Lutheran General Hospital and former Executive Director of the American Nurses’ Association; and Dorothy Kleingartner, practicing parish nurse from California; were invited to speak.


Development of Northwest Parish Nurse Ministries (NPNM)

The Task Force celebrated the completion of the study on November 11, 1991, and commended Barbara Connors for her accomplishments.  The Task Force also proposed that the newly designed Parish Nurse curriculum begin in January of 1992 at Concordia.  Barbara returned to the East Coast, and a search was begun for a coordinator.

In November, 1991, the NPNM Board appointed Annette Stixrud, RN, as a part-time interim coordinator for the period of November, 1991 until March of 1992.  Annette and her husband had recently returned from the mission field, where they had served for 9 years in Southern India, 5 years in Tanzania, and 4 years in Egypt.  She served as Interim Coordinator, then Director of Education and Finally Executive Director over the course of 14 years.  Thanks to her efforts, including a great deal of volunteer time on her part, NPNM offered the curriculum, Education for Parish Nursing:  Assuring Congregational Health and Wholeness for the Twenty First Century, at twenty colleges and universities in the Northwest. This course is now titled Foundations in Faith  Community Nursing.  Since its beginning, NPNM has offered over 173 classes, training 2800+ nurses, as well as 35 coordinators, many of whom work in hospitals throughout the Northwest.

During Stixrud’s almost 15 years of service, NPNM expanded statewide in Oregon and branched out into Washington, Alaska, Idaho and California.  She also continued the annual conferences and added coordinator retreats.  In 2000, Michele Anderson was hired as the Portland Metro Coordinator.  Shortly after Yves Vimegnon was hired for special projects, including the Brown Bag Pharmacy

With the decision to go forward came the need to seek funding.  The Task Force drafted a set of articles of incorporation and bylaws, which would qualify the group for non-profit status and facilitate fund-raising.  The approval of this governmental tax status in January, 1992, gave birth to “Northwest Parish Nurse Ministries” (NPNM).  Soon afterward, NPNM received a $27,000 2-year grant from the Wheat Ridge Foundation to implement its program of education and ministry.

Board members consisted of: Judith Andersen, president; Rev. Darrel Lundby, vice-president; Marianne Gallagher, secretary; Rev. Gary Heide, treasurer; and members-at-large:  Rev. William Adix, Rev. Susan Kintner, Rev. James Leovy, Dorothy Sullivan, Beulah Stevens, Ruth Hayes-Barba, Helen Blumenthal.  This group represented Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Seventh-Day Adventist, Methodist, and Jewish communities.

Coinciding with the retirement of Annette Stixrud, the board separated her responsibilities into two positions in 2005.  They hired Rev. Bruce Strade to serve as the Executive Director with responsibilities for administration and fiscal development, and Debbie Waring  as the Director of Education to head up training and program expansion.  In addition, NPNM sent three parish nurses to St. Louis for certification in parish nurse education.  These adjunct faculty members were Rachael Hagfeldt, Albany, OR,  Carol Bagley, Anchorage, AK,  and Nancy Haughee, Puyallup, WA.

Stixrud’s retirement party also served as the prototype for an annual fundraising dinner titled Humor and Health Fest.  The purpose was to provide a forum for fun, while  also financially supporting the  mission of NPNM.  This event  expanded to Seattle in 2011 and in 2013 became known as  Celebration of Health, which continues to this day.  Some of the speakers included:  Philip Gully, humorist, author and Quaker pastor, Wayne Mueller, best-selling author and speaker and Terry Hershey, a well known presenter and writer in the Northwest.

In 2009, Puget Sound Health Ministry merged with NPNM adding almost 500 Parish Nurses/Health Ministers to the roster most of whom are located in Seattle and the surrounding areas.

The parish nurses in Montana also were invited to come under the NPNM umbrella..  Jeanne Brotherton of Bellingham, WA, became an adjunct faculty member after attending educator training in St. Louis.

When Deborah Waring resigned in 2010 to pursue an advanced degree in Energetic Medicine the position was reduced to part time with Sandy Madsen BSN, RN,  hired as the Education Coordinator.  In addition, Barbara McGuffey and Nan Trump received certification in faith community nurse education and became part of the adjunct faculty team.  Sue Neal joined the team in 2012.  With the help of a Providence Community Council  Grant, Cheryl Bailey-Horner became the Living Well

Coordinator in Clark County, WA and Washington County, OR, a  position she held for the life of the grant, which ended in 2012

Strade retired in 2011 and the board hired Deborah Patterson,  former Executive Director of IPNRC to take his place.  She brought to the position administrative experience and national connections within faith community nursing, as well as a unique gift for writing, having authored a number of books on parish nursing, healing and spirituality.  During her tenure, the decision was made to give up the space at Legacy Emanuel Hospital and instead operate from home and off site offices.  NPNM contracted with the Oregon Center for Nursing for administrative services.  Financial setbacks forced the elimination of the Education Coordinator position in 2013.  Several months later Patterson resigned because of illness in her family.  For the first time since it was incorporated, NPNM had no paid staff.



To fill the gap, NPNM hired Mary Cornils Baich, retired president of the Vesper Society, San Francisco, CA, as a half time interim executive.  She came on board in October of 2013 and debuted at the Celebrations of Health in Seattle and Portland.  She helped return the office to Emanuel Hospital, brought Sandy Madsen back as Education Coordinator for six hours a week and completed her contract with NPNM  by issuing a nine month report, which resulted in a Re-Creation Task Force.

2014 became the year of the ex’s. At the beginning of the year Bruce Strade agreed to become president of the NPNM board and in August Annette Stixrud signed on as Transitional Executive Director.  With the two veterans back in the saddle, NPNM took on new momentum.  The board supported the Re-Creation Task Force and fundraising efforts, while Stixrud reconnected with parish nurse coordinators, continued to teach classes and networked with faith community nurses.

A major focus in the Fall of 2014 was the Re-Creation Task Force facilitated by Janyce Lundstedt, board member, FCN and consultant.  Other members of the TF were:  Annette Stixrud, Transitional Executive Director; board members Barbara Braband,-Portland, OR, Donna Oiland – Lake Forest Park,WA, and Sue Neal, – Richfield, WA, also a FCN coordinator; FCN coordinators, Jeanne Brotherton – Bellingham, WA, Marilyn Johnson -Vancouver, WA, Karen Wright – Newport, OR, and Debbi Saint – Tacoma, WA; FCN Judy Hubbard, – Portland, OR; and longtime advocate and supporter, Pastor Bruce Rumsch, – Hillsboro, OR.

The TF had three assignments:

  1. Develop a new vision
  2. Propose a new name
  3. Suggest a new model of operation

They met for four 4-hour sessions and submitted a final report to the Board of Directors at the November, 2014 meeting.  The board adopted the recommendations resulting in the following:

Faith Communities intentionally integrating body/mind/spirit to improve health outcomes for all

Faith Community Nursing/Health Ministries Northwest

In December, 2014, the board accepted an implementation plan which covered staffing, board responsibilities, finances and new organization name roll out, including a new logo,  approved at the February, 2015 meeting.  Also in February FCN/HMN hired a part time administrative assistant and put in place plans to submit grant requests, incorporate mentor and preceptors into the faith community nursing classes, increase memberships, aggressively promote FCN documentation and partner with health care organizations and faith groups.  A part time Lead Faculty position was added to provide continuity of educational services.  FCN hired Carol Reitz to fill this positon.



Northwest Parish Nurse Ministries has been blessed with helpful secretaries and administrative assistants.  Karen Andersen was our first secretary/receptionist beginning in 1996.  In 1998, Shirley Mosley began working with NPNM, followed by Kim Brandt. Joy Hernes, Kevin Moore, Sandra Douglas,

Connie McFall and Christy Lee. For budget reasons, this position was eliminated at the end of 2012.  After a period without office assistance, coinciding with moving out of the space provided by Legacy Emanual Hospital, in 2015 Jade Lilienthal was hired to serve as a part time administrative assistant.    Later in the year, he was replaced by Margie Antico followed by Liya Taziyeva.

Betty McCallum, a trained parish nurse, also served NPNM as an office volunteer, giving over 2,200 hours of service. Other office volunteers included: Vickie Nied , Gert Welsh , Barbara Fritz,  and Alice McCarthy.


 The major sponsors of FCN/HMN are: Legacy Health, Providence Health & Services and Tuality Healthcare.   Other sources of funding are: donations from very generous private citizens, classes, individual and congregational memberships, our annual fundraising event Celebration of Health, and foundation grants.