A Short History of Health Care and Healing
Jesus’ ministry always involved the healing of the whole person in body, mind and spirit. When he commissioned his disciples to share the gospel, the healing of the sick was central to his words of instruction. “Whenever you enter a town …heal the sick in it and say, “The Kingdom God is come near to you.” (Luke 10:8-9).
In the early church we read that Christians shared a common collection for those in need, they nursed people’s infections and sores, saw to it that the hungry were fed and reached out to bring both spiritual and physical health and healing to those who were sick, suffering and in need.
During the Middle Ages, religious orders often supplied the only medical care available. The practice of monastic medicine revolved around the belief that medical treatment was inextricably tied to the care of both soul and body and was offered in Christian charity to both the monks and the laity of the surrounding community
Hildegard, a 12th century abbess at a convent in Bingen, Germany, is well-known for her holistic approach to healing. She opened the infirmary in her convent to the care of sick in her community, wrote holistic medical books and was one of the few writers who wrote about women’s health at that time (from “Harmonious Living with Hildegard of Bingen”, by June Boyce-Tillman).
After the Reformation, the church continued its rich tradition of active involvement in health care. Seeing a void in health care, many denominations, both Catholic and Protestant, created health care institutions in the name of Christ, for the common good. Their vision stretched from founding hospitals and nursing homes to hospices, sanitariums and neighborhood clinics. The founding of a majority of American hospitals was associated with the Church. Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids was originally connected to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Grand Rapids, MI. It first began as St. Mark’s Home and then was renamed St. Mark’s Home and Hospital. Eventually more land was donated for a hospital by Richard Edward Butterworth, a member of St. Mark’s, and would it would become Butterworth Hospital.
History of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Butterworth Hospital (from archives of Butterworth Hospital):
1873 Eight years after the Civil War ended, the women of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Grand Rapids, established St. Mark's Church Home to care for elderly, homeless and ill parishioners. Mr. and Mrs. Edward P. Fuller loaned a small, furnished house where the women could carry out their work. The Home had accommodations for six people and was soon full.
1876 St. Mark's Church Home was renamed St. Mark's Home and Hospital. Thanks to a donation by the Fuller family, it was relocated to a larger building on 144 Island (Weston) St. Alonzo Platt, MD, was the first house physician and reported that in the first year, there were 148 people seen, 30 admissions and seven births.
1887 Richard Edward. E. Butterworth, a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, donated the site at the corner of Michigan Street and Bostwick Avenue for a new hospital. Two months after this initial gift, Richard Butterworth died, bequeathing an additional endowment of $15,000.The value of his contributions to the hospital totaled $41,500.
National Episcopal Health Ministries Vision
VERA’S HOUSE, or The Vera Henderson Wellness and Education Center, is an outreach ministry of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Newaygo, Michigan. Our vision is to reach out into our neighborhood and community through the advocacy, health education, holistic care and support of our Health, Psychological and Spiritual Care Providers (Parish Nurse, Psychologist, Health Coach, Social Worker, Pastor) as well as to provide support groups, health education, spiritual care and wellness groups and programs. The vision of VERA’S HOUSE is in keeping with the vision of the National Episcopal Health Ministries whose vision is :
That every Episcopal congregation becomes a vibrant, caring place of health and wholeness reclaiming the Gospel imperative of healing and wholeness.
National Episcopal Health Ministries is committed to:
"Whenever you enter a town…heal the sick in it and say to them, The kingdom of God is come near to you.”
Luke 10: 8-9