Over the weeks of Lent, Leslie Spatt and I preached a series of sermons on the ministry of Healing and Wholeness. We covered a lot of ground.
We began by setting the idea of healing in its proper context of God’s purpose that we have abundant life. Living healthily – in the richness of life – is part of what that means. Leslie then talked about the way God’s people are called to heal and I followed that up with a sermon about asking for help. When we pray sometimes we are too proud to ask for God’s help and the way in which Jesus meets us in his vulnerability. When we don’t know how to pray for someone – who may be very sick – Scripture assures us that the Spirit of Jesus prays within even when we cannot find the words. We approached the end of our series with a sermon about what happens when we pray and we cannot see any sign of healing. I reflected on the way God uses people who seem sick from our perspective in surprising ways and of the importance of learning to lament and cry out to God in anger and pain when we watch a loved one suffer or face such challenges ourselves. Finally, Christina Beardsley, a retired Hospital Chaplain, shared her perspective on healing and encouraged us to take the ministry of healing – in all its forms – seriously.
Having talked about the ministry of healing and wholeness for five weeks it seemed natural to want to offer the chance for people to receive that ministry. And so, on that last Sunday, we invited people, if they wished, to make their way quietly to the side altar or to the back of the church, where Leslie and I were on hand to pray simply for people, with the gentle laying on of hands. We were deeply touched by the experience and moved by the numbers of people who came forward, well over twenty. We didn’t enquire about their needs or the reason for their request. We simply prayed that God’s presence would enter their lives through Jesus, to bring healing and make them whole.
Understandably, some people had questions at the outset of the series, with a few fears that we might take the church in an unwelcome, over-emotional direction. But by the end, the response felt both healthy itself and very natural, with a noticeable absence of ‘hype’. Gentle, quiet prayer for healing and wholeness can be a normal part of traditional church life.
And so it will be from June onwards. The Church Council were deeply encouraged by what they had experienced and have asked us to introduce the opportunity to receive prayer for healing and wholeness on a monthly basis on the last Sunday of each month, beginning on June 25th. As we did in April, there will simply be the opportunity to come to the side or the back of the church after receiving communion and quiet, confidential prayer will be offered. The opportunity to be anointed by a priest will also be included for those who wish.
We hope this will be something many of you will welcome and make use of as each one of us faces the challenges of living in a world where suffering and struggle remains real