Today we focus on the healing ministries of the church. There are many ways in which we offer this ministry. For centuries, priests have anointed with oil those who require healing from one ailment or another. This is also accompanied by the laying on of hands. The action of laying on of hands is an ancient practice that invokes the Holy Spirit and the power of God. As Christians we believe that Jesus is ‘The Great Physician’ and God is the one who ultimately heals.
Typically when people think of healing they imagine that healing means a cure from disease or injury. This is certainly one of the goals, but not the exclusive goal of healing. Healing can take many forms. In ordained ministry and in many health care practices healing does not always mean cure. Healing can occur by coming to terms and being at peace with a difficult decision. The choice to continue or discontinue life support is a choice about healing and quality of life. In this context, death, while permanent is also a form of healing. Think about it, in death we believe that we return to God, “where death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more” as the author of Revelation attests (Rev. 21: 4). We believe that through death we rise to a new life in Christ.
The other side to the conversation is that laying on of hands involves touching people, which means we form a connection with them at a deeper level. When we first moved to North Vancouver one of the cultural and social phenomenon’s we learned about was that of social isolation. Social isolation is prevalent throughout the Lower Mainland. People walk down the street, sit on the bus and go about their daily business with barley acknowledging people and the world around. People have ear phones in, eyes are down on the ground, in a book or looking out the window or glued to their phones. Anything to avoid eye contact and the possibility of engaging with someone else who they do not know. This is a problem. I am amazed at the kind of looks I get whenever I say, “hello” to someone on the street or look them in the eye.
This stands in stark contrast to where we used to live in rural Canada. There people got involved in other people’s lives guided by the principles of living in community where the door is always open and you are family even if you’ve never met before.
It is this concept of community or ‘Ubuntu’ as we would say in Africa where the Church has something to offer. Ubuntu talks about how it takes a village to raise a child. In our Church context it takes a village or church to care for all who pass through our doors. This concept is strengthened by the development of a new ministry within our church. The Parish Health Ministry also serves to build connections between people, their faith and their health. This is an opportunity for people to have their faith community wrap itself around them through pastoral support and care. People begin to feel that they have an advocate, a friend from their church who can walk with them and support them through an often complex and foreign health care system. I am proud to say that this ministry started right here with us at St. Martin’s and now extends across North Vancouver.
We as a church recognize that people need support and care not just at church but also at home and in the hospital. While this ministry does not replace any health care practices or pastoral care teams in the Church, it serves to walk alongside people, to support and advocate where necessary. With this ministry, our church embodies the philosophy of Ubuntu by strengthening bonds of community and family to all our people. When the Church begins to care for one another that becomes contagious.
I commend to you the more detailed information about this program at the end of each pew or in the Narthex. This is a new ministry for the parish and the region and is in need of all the support we can so that it may continue to grow and become an established ministry of the parish and region. At its best, the healing ministry that we offer as a church walks alongside the healing practices of other disciplines and serves to compliment them. Almost never, is the practice of anointing or laying on of hands counter intuitive or contraindicated with other practices.
Today to help us experience and focus on the healing ministry of the church I will be available immediately following the service to anoint those who wish to receive anointing with oil or the laying on of hands. If you desire this ministry or even if you are just curious to experience it, please do come forward to the altar rail during the organ postlude and before making your way to coffee.