Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Healing Services

On the last Sunday of every month, we usually have a healing service. What this means is that the pastor reads a bit of liturgy, and people who want to come forward for a blessing and an anointing with oil. When everyone has come forward, we move on with Holy Communion.

When we first started going to the church, I had spent a bruised summer recovering from some unpleasantness involving the pastor and the council and the preschool at my last church. It was a stormy summer of hurt feelings and no apologies. I didn't expect much from the healing service at the church which would eventually be my new church. I wasn't even sure I deserved to participate. I didn't have a real malady, after all. Some of the people who went forward clearly needed healing more than I did.

The lay minister laid hands on my shoulder, blessed me, and made a cross on my forehead with an oil-dipped finger. I started to cry. I went back to my seat and kept weeping. I still didn't have myself quite pulled together for Communion, but I went forward anyway. Some Sundays, I can feel my soul longing for the sacrament. That was one of those Sundays. I noticed a few other people also continuing to cry. It felt safe.

And after that, my resentment about the way things had ended at my old church had vanished. My sorrow at all the efforts I expended at that church started to wash away. I was able to forgive myself for all those years that I spent hoping that the old church could be transformed and that I would be the one to work that transformation. At least once I left, I had no doubt in my mind that I had done all that I could have done in that setting.

I hesitated to become a healing minister myself. I love being a Communion assistant, but I didn't feel I was spiritual enough to be a healing minister, or special enough, or open enough to the Holy Spirit. In short, I was afraid. But one Sunday last summer, I was needed, so I said a prayer and hoped for the best.

I was so nervous that my hands sweated profusely, so I didn't lay hands on anyone. I worried that my sweaty palms would be too gross. These days, I don't think I'd worry as much. These days, I think that the laying on of hands is an important part.

I've grown to like being a healing minister. Every Sunday that I do it, I pray to be a conduit. And some Sundays, I feel like I am. One Sunday, a woman approached me during coffee hour and quietly asked me, "Did you feel it too?" Oh yes, I did.

I'm not as freaked out by the experience as some people. I've been a writer for many years, and I treasure those times that the writing flows out of me, writing that I later read and think, I did this? Perhaps I'm tapping into something more cosmic.

The other experience I've had of being healed through a service came during a Synod Assembly. We'd had a rough spring at work, and there was talk of lay-offs. My job was safe, but I didn't relish the thought of letting anyone go.

One of the healing ministers asked me what I wanted us to pray for, and I blurted out the truth, the first time I'd said it out loud: "My job bores me and leaves me stressed." And so, we prayed.

The bad times passed at work. We didn't have to let anyone go. I'm getting better at accepting the boring times at work and working through the stress. Is it because of the healing service?

I don't think the healing service had any sort of impact on the workplace itself. But I know that it somehow calmed my mind.

Being a reserved Lutheran, I never thought I'd be part of a church that didn't something so charismatic as having a healing service. I never thought I'd be a healing minister. But I feel fortunate to have found myself here.

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