Yesterday I wanted to make clearer what I mean by a healing ministry. Suddenly, an experience from long ago just popped in my head. I hope this clarifies it.
Around 1987, I was a high school chaplain and the Diocesan Youth Minister. The school day started early and ended in mid-afternoon. Other priestly duties kicked in then. Many week ends were taken up with retreats. I loved my work but there were times when the long days just wore me down.
At this time my mom, who was never truly well, was hospitalized. Unfortunately, her illness coincided with an especially busy week. I went to see her at the hospital at the end of a draining day. It was very late. I was tired. She was sick. I was sad. I remember standing there, wanting to pray, but literally having no words.
Suddenly, in walks a nurses' aid. I am not sure the role she had even exists any more in hospitals. She was an older black woman. I only recall snip its, but she clearly saw through me. I remember her "reading my soul." It wasn't anything supernatural though. She simply said things like, "You are tired. Sometimes life is too much. You can't pray? Sometimes God provides someone else to help." (That is not verbatim, but something to this effect.) At one point she reached out and touched my arm. She prayed and then she left.
I recall a sense of relief. I was aware that I cannot do it all on my own. I was aware that God works in subtle ways. I "felt" Him near. My spirit was touched.
That was a healing experience and that is something anyone who cares can do. When I counsel folks I am struck by the depth of their hurt and pain. Most of us (in my middle class world) have learned to cover over it. We appear pretty self secure and look pretty effective. But many of us are worn out and worn down. We need a healing of our heart and soul but just can not admit it. And who really offers God's grace to us in our current environment?
Simple acts of compassionate listening and sincere praying are a huge component of the healing ministry. What would the church look like if we regulalry interacted with one another like that woman did with me? A moment of support. A word of prayer. No one expected to "do it all alone."
Church is a place to praise God, learn and serve the needy. It is also a place to cry and take down our defenses and let God have His way with us. I dream of a congregation where we tend to each other through compassionate listening and prayers of faith. I think there would be less struggle with doubt if we were more active with healing. So I am not advocating some sort of "fireworks and marching bands" approach to healing. I am just saying we all need His touch. We all carry His touch. I have shared with you a brief encounter between two strangers from over twenty years ago. There is great power in the simple, quiet and ordinary acts of healing ministry! Anyone who cares can do it. Especially, YOU!