2013 Seeds of Hope Honoree – Rev. Dr. Granger Westberg (posthumously)

Granger Westberg was a pioneer who, over the course of a long and rich career, broke new ground in the areas of religion, medicine and whole person health. Granger was a Lutheran clergyman who had been a parish pastor, hospital chaplain, professor of practical theology and teacher of medical students. His work was based on his belief that medicine transcends the physical because true healing involves the body, the soul and the mind.

Granger graduated from Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, in 1935 and Augustana Theological Seminary, Rock Island, in 1939. The seminary awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1956. Upon his graduation from the seminary in 1939, he served as pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Bloomington, Illinois, his first and only parish.

Granger discovered his love of chaplaincy work a little later when he sat on the board of Augustana Hospital in Chicago. He volunteered to serve as the hospital’s chaplain for a week and was taken with the work that needed to be done.

Two years later, after completing his work at St. John’s, Granger went back to Augustana Hospital as chaplain, where he worked for eight years.

The faculty at the University of Chicago took note of his unique approach to chaplaincy work. In 1952, Granger became the first clergyman to hold a joint appointment at the University of Chicago in the Divinity and Medical Schools. Later, he was dean and professor of medicine and religion for the Institute of Religion at Texas Medical Center, Houston, and a consultant in continuing education for Wittenberg University’s Hamma School of Theology, Springfield, Ohio. Granger also established the Wholistic HealthCare Center at Union Church in Hinsdale, Illinois, the first of 13 that he founded.

One of Granger’s most significant contributions to the church and the community-at-large is the founding of the Parish Nurse Movement. He originally envisioned parish nursing as a partnership between health care systems and congregations – to link resources of the health care system to the faith community. Originally developed in 1984 as a partnership between Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois and six area congregations, the ecumenical movement has now become international in scope with over 15,000 parish nurses and faith community nurses from many denominations throughout the United States and in numerous countries.

Granger authored several books describing the relationship between faith and health. His most well-known book, Good Grief: A Constructive Approach to the Problem of Loss, has sold over two million copies, and continues as a best-seller, a tribute to the lasting nature of his insights for our wounded world.

Granger, who was living in Willowbrook, Illinois, in his retirement, died February 16, 1999. He is survived by his wife, Helen, their four adult children, Jane, John, Joan and Jill, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.