For Linda Manns, RN, MSN, and Loudon Avenue Christian Church in Roanoke, VA, health care is a vital aspect of ministry.
In 1989, Manns, a community health nurse, started offering blood pressure screenings after Sunday worship service, and so began the congregation’s volunteer Church Nurse position.
Today, Manns is known as the Community Health Faith Nurse “to emphasize the focus on the intentional care of the spirit as part of the process of promoting holistic health and preventing or minimizing illness in a faith community.”
For the past 30 plus years, under Manns’ and Loudon Avenue’s leadership, this ministry has grown exponentially.
Loudon Avenue has also benefited, in addition to community grants, from support of the wider Church. They have received a grant from the National Benevolent Association and other funding from Week of Compassion.
Today, the faith health ministry at Loudon Avenue is visible in a variety of ways, like transportation to doctor appointments; weekly meals for seniors; annual community awareness events for men’s health, breast cancer awareness, and heart disease; a quarterly newsletter, The Faith Health Link; and a table full of resources in the congregation’s overflow area of the building.
The first Sunday in March, Manns shared a presentation about the COVID-19 coronavirus before worship, walking the congregation through myths and truths about the virus, as well as steps individuals and the congregation should take to stay safe. She also shared this resource and a call for prayer in the first statement from general ministries about the outbreak.
Woven throughout these programs at Loudon Avenue is a holistic focus on health. “We come to church to have our spiritual soul fed,” Manns explains, “but you won’t hear that message if you’re hungry, dizzy, or can’t afford to go to the doctor. Health affects all of us – old, young, insured, not insured.”
While vital to the physical health of its members, this ministry is also vital to the spiritual health of the community, Manns suggests. “Your body is your temple. Take care of it because it is the vessel where the spirit of God resides. If your body’s arteries are clogged, is this where we want God to reside?”
Manns, now retired from full-time nursing, serves the congregation by coordinating programs, visiting members in the hospital, and answering families’ questions. Her goal, she clarifies, isn’t to pry or diagnose anyone, but to point people in the right direction to take responsibility for their own health.
Community partnerships, therefore, are a cornerstone of Loudon Avenue’s health ministry. They have collaborated with hospitals, schools, community centers, other congregations, government agencies, nonprofits, and more.
For other congregations interested in offering health services, Manns suggests reaching out to a local hospital system navigator, nonprofit agencies, or the city’s department of health and doing an assessment of the community to understand the most pressing needs. In addition, Manns suggests establishing a health cabinet to work in partnership with leadership to assess needs, plan, and implement activities that meet the needs of the people.
While all congregations may not have a certified Community Health Nurse amongst their members, there are health care professionals in every community with services and resources to provide. “I see this ministry as my gift,” Manns celebrates. “I was blessed to pursue education and become a nurse, and in my view, a gift is not a gift unless you give it away.”