Monday, 18 January 2010

The Churches' Ministry of Healing

by Revd Stephen Skinner, Golden Cap Team Rector

Our Team Council and Whitchurch P.C.C. have decided to introduce a monthly Healing Service starting after Easter. Before commencing this Service we feel that it would be helpful to write about this area of Christian worship and ministry. I have had involvement in prayers for healing since my days as a Curate in Chatham and found it to be a very inspirational experience – both for myself and for those for whom I have prayed. At the same time, I am well aware that it can be controversial – not least because of what I regard as some of the abuses of certain practitioners. I was Diocesan Healing Adviser for 10 years in the Carlisle Diocese, so can offer some advice arising from much experience!

The basic starting point for Christian Healing lies in the ministry of Jesus. We read in Luke Chapter 4 that “the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them”. The Gospels have many stories of Jesus healing people, from lameness, blindness, dumbness, fevers, psychological disorders and even death itself! Sometimes we are given the story in considerable depth – such as in John Chapter 9: “The Man born Blind”. In such fuller stories we often discover that Jesus not only healed people physically but also perhaps emotionally, relationally and spiritually.

This observation leads me to one of my key beliefs about Healing – that it is in the ideal of God’s purposes designed to be ‘holistic’. In other words, it is to bring about a restoration of the person to health in its fuller sense. One of the reasons that many are unhappy about healing as practised by Christian Ministers is because of sensationalist stories of someone’s physical healing, which later appears to be only temporary, under the pressure of the moment. Actually when I pray for someone at, for example, a Healing Service, I prefer to invite them to say what they want us to pray for – and stress that it could be for healing in a relationship, from a bad memory or healing forgiveness in relationship to God. This broader emphasis is much more healthy; consonant with Jesus’ practice.

Another point to make about Jesus healing style is that it was rarely sensationalist. He often prayed in a low key way, in relative privacy, in people’s homes or quiet places. Afterwards Jesus often urged them not to tell anyone else about what has happened! Clearly he didn’t encourage the crowds to adulate him as a great Faith Healer. So I conduct healing prayers in a gentle, relaxed and unpressured manner. God is the healer, not me, so the outcome of our prayers lies within His underlying purposes. The Healing Services that we will commence in April at Whitchurch will inspire a spiritual atmosphere in which God’s Spirit will be invited to operate. So if you attend it should feel peaceful; despite, we hope, a powerful sense of Christ being present with us.

Revd Sue Langdon will be conducting these Healing Services, along with Win Maynard. Sue will write further on this topic in March’s issue.

(Editor: Originally written for the February 2010 Golden Cap Team Magazine.)