July 31 – Florence Nightingale

Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor

This summer, we are seeking to be inspired by counter-cultural prophets, who have sailed against the prevailing winds and charted a new course for the communities in which they serve.

Theme Background

Florence Nightingale was born in May of 1820 to an upper class, well-connected British family in Florence, Italy (the city she was named after). Florence was tutored in five different languages and philosophy.  Against her parent’s orders, she also pursued much education in math. Inspired by what she interpreted as God’s call in 1837, Florence decided she wanted to become a nurse.  She announced this decision in 1844 even though this did not please her wealthy family.

She decided that she would start her career in hospitals even though that upset her family even more.  At this time, hospitals were not only scary but terrifying in the way of contracting diseases.  Hospitals were actually fairly dangerous and not usually a woman’s professional choice.  But Florence knew that God had a plan for her calling in this field.  In fact, in 1851, Florence travelled to Germany and watched a Lutheran community minister to the “sick and deprived.” At this point, she starts writing about her experiences and would be trained for four months out of this particular community of Lutheran servants.

Nightingale is most noted for her work when the Crimean War broke out.  She received word about the terrible conditions for wounded soldiers.  Florence trained 38 nurses and set out for Turkey. From 1854-1856, she headed nursing efforts in English military hospitals in Turkey. She
established more sanitary conditions and ordered supplies. Through her efforts the death rates were reduced from between 50-60 percent to two percent in military hospitals in Turkey.  She became known as “The Lady with the Lamp” due to her dedicated rounds by lamplight each night.

When Nightingale returned to England, she was already quite the hero and put her mind to changing public health for the better. She worked on conditions all over and brought a voice to ignored health care.  She started establishing training schools and continued her work until the very end in 1910.

For Nightingale, God was a real voice in her ear for healing and wholeness. She took on what it meant to be a healer and believed that healthcare should be offered to all.  Nightingale believed that women were of utter importance and could make a difference in people’s lives.  For her, the stories of Jesus healing even the bent over women were true and empowering stories for the life set before us.  Because of the example of Jesus, Florence was moved into action from a deep calling within.  Much like Nightingale, we have a call from Jesus to look to heal all people, no
matter their race, gender, area in which they reside, class, who they love, etc.  We are called to speak up for those on the margins that seek wellness and wholeness.

Quotes for the Week

“How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.” – Florence Nightingale

“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.” – Mark Twain

My own prescription for health is less paperwork and more running barefoot through the grass.” -Terri Guillemets

“Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God’s spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts: I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts.” -Florence Nightingale

Psalm 103:1-8 (Message)

O my soul, bless God. From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!

O my soul, bless God,

don’t forget a single blessing!

God forgives your sins—every one.

He heals your diseases—every one.

She redeems you from hell—saves your life!

He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.

She wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.

God renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.

God makes everything come out right;

he puts victims back on their feet.

He showed Moses how he went about his work,

opened up Gods plans to all Israel.

God is sheer mercy and grace;

not easily angered, he’s rich in love.

Mark 5: 21-34 (NRSV)

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders
of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feetand begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”

So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years.She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?”And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd
pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’”He looked all around to see who had done it.But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Questions for the Week

What is your theology of healing?

What moves your soul to speak out?

How can you connect to Nightingale’s call to heal?





About pastorcourt

Courtney McHill is the pastor at Rose City Park United Methodist Church in Northeast Portland where they love compassionately and inclusively!
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