Magazine article The Christian Century

Health and Wholeness

Magazine article The Christian Century

Health and Wholeness

Article excerpt

IN THE EARLY 1960s Granger Westberg gave a sermon on grief at Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago. The response from listeners indicated that it was something more than the usual sermon.

He spoke of the experience of loss and the stages of grief. He provided not a script for moving through the process of grief but an account of the feelings and changes that come with loss. The sermon eventually became a book, Good Grief (1962), which sold millions of copies and was translated into several languages.

A concern for the whole person--physical, psychological and spiritual--connects that well-known book with the program to which he devoted much of his life--the parish nurse program. When Westberg died on February 16, he had seen the parish nurse program expand from six churches to thousands around the world.

Westberg was trained as a Lutheran pastor. Soon after his first parish assignment he became chaplain at Augustana Hospital in Chicago, and in 1952 he became the first clergyman to hold a joint appointment at the University of Chicago in both the divinity and the medical schools. Later he was on the faculty at Baylor Medical School in Houston and at Wittenberg University's Hamma School of Theology.

While at Hamma, Westberg recognized the importance of making theology practical for seminarians. In teaching students engaged in congregational ministry, he realized that many of the issues that parishioners brought to their pastors were related to health. He helped develop health clinics for low-income congregations and then--in response to the challenge of his colleagues--for other sorts of congregations as well.

This led in the 1970s to the establishment of Wholistic Centers Inc. The first site was the Wholistic Health Center at Union Church in Hinsdale, Illinois. From this experience Westberg created the parish nurse program, developed with Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. …

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