Tuesday, June 6, 2006
The Ministry of Healing
In light of a post below, some have asked about the ministry of healing. I would encourage anyone interested to start by looking at this excellent introductory resource from the Society of Archbishop Justus. Also, the AMiA gives the following answer to the question, "Why do Anglican churches provide healing services?"
Anglicans hold healing services because of the many who need healing, because God heals through the laying on of hands and prayer and anointing in the name of Christ when and where He chooses, and because Christ commended the Church to do so. Healing services are not in opposition to the healing God works through the medical profession, but are complementary to it.Theologically, the basic idea is God heals, but He normally chooses to so through human means or channels. These means/channels include traditional & natural medicine, professional & pastoral counselling, prayer, the laying on of hands, and anointing with oil, also known as unction. Of course some are more gifted/trained/called/fit as channels than others. Just as some are gifted/trained/called/fit to be medical professionals, some are gifted/trained/called/fit to be ministers of healing. In this way, both medicine and Christian healing can be seen as spiritual gifts or charismata (from the Greek for "gifts").
Practically, the ministry of healing typically includes a liturgy of prayer, the laying on of hands, and unction. It is not uncommon for Anglican churches to offer a weekday Eucharist with a liturgy for healing. The way this is done for instance here at St Thomas is that the liturgy for healing is held immediately following a regular Eucharist, although some churches observe the liturgy for healing in tandem with the eucharistic liturgy. Here at St Thomas, after communion, those who want to participate in the liturgy for healing go forward (again) and kneel or stand around the altar. The priest asks the first person how he or she needs healing of body or soul - or, if the person is seeking healing on someone else's behalf, how that person needs healing. The priest then lays his hands on the individual and prays for him or her (aloud, but in an appropriately low voice), while the people beside and behind the person also lay their hands on him or her. When the priest finishes praying, he dips his thumb in consecrated oil and anoints the person's forehead in the sign of the cross while pronouncing a benediction, and then moves to the next person. The first person joins in laying hands on the next person, and so on.
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