It’s not meant to be a ‘best-kept secret’. But it’s certainly a fact that many people don’t know that the Church does healing. It always has done. It was one of the most important parts of what Jesus himself did: he was known as a teacher, but one of the main reasons so many people followed him from all over the countryside, was that he healed those who were sick. He taught, and commanded, his followers, to do the same. They were to go out and tell the good news that God’s rule had come, and they were to heal the sick and cast out evil spirits. A few years later James was writing in his letter to the churches: Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. (James 5.14)
Those instructions still stand; and yet there are many people who don’t know about them, and who turn to other ‘faith healers’, rather than look to the church. It could be that we have not advertised it enough, because we have not wanted to draw attention to ourselves, rather than to God who is the One who really does the healing. But it’s a part of what all clergy and ministers are trained to do, and what every church offers.
It’s true that, for reasons we don’t fully understand, we don’t so often see the extraordinary kinds of miraculous healing that we read about in the gospels: lame people leaping from their wheelchairs, the blind seeing, chronic illnesses or cancers suddenly disappearing. Occasionally these happen; but much more often the kind of healing that we see will take the form of an increase of faith, courage to face the illness, the ‘natural’ healing process speeded up, an easing of pain or fear. Though I say, “we don’t fully understand”, I’m sure the reason is: that’s what God knows is best for us. It’s a natural part of life that we all die, no one can live for ever. And what God wants is for us to know God, to know that God loves us beyond measure, and to become people who will be prepared to enjoy the eternity of God’s heaven. This is a character and a quality of life that many prefer to call ‘wholeness’ rather than healing.
We have always included prayers for the sick in our regular services, as well as holding occasional special services with a focus on healing. But we also want to raise the whole profile of this healing ministry of the Church, so for the time being we are designating the service on the first Sunday evening of each month as a service with prayer for healing (or wholeness). This will take place within the structure of a simplified Holy Communion, and will allow space for people to offer and receive prayer for any kinds of need, for themselves or others they are concerned about. This could be for physical healing, or for the healing of relationships, psychological and emotional problems, situations at work or within the wider society or world. There is a strand within Celtic spirituality which acknowledges the responsibility of Christians to pray for the healing of the land and of the nations, and that is an aspect of what we are doing in this service.
Everyone is welcome to come and take part in this service, to share with us in praying and to receive prayer if you wish. We invite you to join us at 6 pm on Sunday October 4, and for any of the other services with prayer for healing, in the coming months.