Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Time to Heal

If you happen to suffer a severe burn in one part of Switzerland the medics will recommend you ring someone from a specialist range of healers. A simple phone conversation will suffice. Medical staff will of course treat you first, but to aid the healing process they have learnt over many years that people respond to this cadre of healers and recover more quickly. Perhaps they think the local trust placed in these healers creates a positive placebo effect?

In my parish ministry in Switzerland I noticed that church members seemed to visit healers and alternative therapists with regularity. They would come back with tales of recovery and increased hope for cure. I would offer the ministry of anointing myself once a month at a regular Eucharist. This was quite a public display of healing prayer open to all as they approached the altar to receive bread and wine. Sometimes there would be tears. A few would come every time this was offered. Some would come to that service especially to benefit from this blessing. I never felt as if I had a particular gift. I was just faithfully offering a traditional ministration of the Church and trusting in the power of the Spirit to work within people as they received God's blessing. I cannot offer you any tales of remarkable recovery. But I sensed that this was a positive benefit to many as they grappled with God in the midst of distressing illnesses and circumstances.

The more prominent practice of healing is full of strange tales and mesmerizing personalities. Stadiums are sometimes filled by people keen to receive a touch from internationally renowned American preachers who advertise their presence with posters of discarded walking sticks. At the other end of the scale, local clergy or lay people can gain widespread reputations on a one to one level. Their healing touch seems to have profound impact.

The Church of England has been reflecting on this ministry for some years now. It produced a widely respected report, 'A Time to Heal'. It contains a number of wise and creative proposals to help support and encourage the healing ministry. Healing experiences are many and varied. They come from those healers under the authority of the Church and from those whose beliefs are diametrically different to our Trinitarian faith. To weave our way through this mysterious and uncertain territory we need to combine enthusiasm to offer people the grace of God with humility not to assume we know all the answers as faith impacts the health of the body and mind. Christ the healer works in many and varied ways, not least through the evidence-based searchings of science. AHN is committed to bring a holistic approach that melds health and healing in a single concept supported by people of science and the ministry of faith.

I recommend 'A Time to Heal' as a well-rounded resource to help promote a common purpose and framework of thinking in our pursuit of a holistic health mission in the Anglican Communion.


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