The Gift of Healing

August 3, 2013 § 2 Comments

Several years ago I studied the passages in Paul’s letters on gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12–14, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4) and developed a workshop in which Friends mapped Paul’s extensive list to their own Quaker experience, expanded it to include things he had not considered, and most important, helped each other identify each other’s gifts.

Paul seems to think that the gift of prophecy is the most important, but I came away from my research and the experience of doing the workshop feeling that the gift of healing was the most important. It is the most concrete of them all, it does the most to relieve real suffering in the world.

At the time, I lamented to myself that the gift of healing was also the most rare these days. But I was wrong. The gift of healing is alive and well among Friends; at least it is in New York Yearly Meeting and certainly at the annual Gathering of Friends General Conference, I have attended the Gathering only once and only for one day, but I am well-acquainted with New York Yearly Meeting.

New York Yearly Meeting’s annual Summer Sessions are held at a historic YMCA resort on Lake George. The campus is large and beautiful and it has several pavilions, single-story buildings about twenty feet on a side, with glass windows all around and a sizable porch. For several years, NYYM Friends have used one of these pavilions as a healing center, modeled, I believe, on the healing center at the FGC Gatherings, and the place is well-used.

Healers practicing a wide range of healing modalities sign up for time slots that fit their schedule and clients either sign up or just show up. Every time I passed the healing center, the place was abuzz. I have never gone myself, either as a healer or a client. One day . . .

Moreover, conferences held at the Yearly Meeting’s conference center, Powell House, very often have someone who offers healing work during the breaks and rest times. Powell House has also offered conferences for healing, regularly bringing in John Calvi, and occasionally hosting weekends intended for the deepening and sharing of this wonderful gift among our members.

As a community, New York Yearly Meeting welcomes and nurtures the gift of healing.

I have not heard of any miraculous cures. But Friends are serving because they believe they are doing some good and Friends are going because they believe they are being done some good. And all of this is being done in the spirit of Quaker ministry. I think it’s a great blessing.

It is a blessing not just because people are being healed. One of the greatest blessings in my own religious life as a Friend has been to live and worship in a community that recognizes spiritual gifts and that provides opportunities to people who have a call to ministry to use their gifts and pursue their call. In its gatherings, New York Yearly Meeting does a pretty good job of this.

I am not so sure about our local meetings, though. I am afraid that many of our local meetings do not even think about spiritual gifts, let alone actively work to identify them in their members and attenders and then help to deepen them and support the ministries that arise from them. For this, meetings would need elders, people equipped to do this work of service to ministers, and a vital culture of eldership that supports the naming and nurture of spiritual gifts and ministries.

How many meetings have healers amongst them? Most meetings, I would guess, at least in the Liberal branch that I know fairly well, since we have so many members in medicine and the social services. Do we encourage our nurses and doctors, our therapists and social workers, to see their work in the world as a ministry, as service to G*d (whatever that means to them)? Do we make ourselves available to them for support? Do we help to make their services available to our own membership?

I know that my meeting’s pastoral care committee works with the therapists and social workers in our meeting—they serve on the committee and they serve as consultants when the committee needs advice. I’m not sure whether they think it’s professionally advisable to offer services to the membership, because we all know one another so well. But Philadelphia Yearly Meeting maintains a roster of such Friends on whom my meeting or a member could call at need. (I’m a member of Yardley Meeting in Philadelphia YM; I don’t think New York Yearly Meeting has such a list or provides this service.)

What about your local meeting? or your regional or yearly meeting? How fares the gift of healing among you?

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§ 2 Responses to The Gift of Healing

  • I was thrilled to see this posting appear, heralding (I hope) the start of a long-needed public conversation among North American Friends about the reality of gifts of healing, ministries of healing, calls to ministries of healing, and needs for ministries of healing among Friends and among the other persons and creatures Friends are called to serve. Long needed if only because the planet Earth is now so sick, and its global civilization so sick, how long can individuals remain healthy?

    That conversation has long gone public in Britain, where the Friends Fellowship of Healing has existed since 1935 and there are certified “Quaker Healers” one can call on (see http://www.quaker-healing.org.uk/index.php). May there soon be Quaker Healers everywhere!

    I’m following a felt leading to encourage wider participation in that conversation. Jesus healed many during his earthly ministry, which He declared (Luke 4:16-21) to be a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah (Is. 61:1-3); He gave power to His disciples to heal “all manner of sickness” (Matthew 10:1, Mark 3:15, Luke 9:1-6), a miraculous gift they retained and exercised after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension (see Acts, passim), and their followers also, well into the Second and Third Centuries, though with the rise of corruption and division in the ancient church, the church’s healing gifts seem to have declined. George Fox manifested gifts of healing, but the Quaker movement suppressed reports of miracles wrought through his hands after his death, and it was not until 1948 that Henry J. Cadbury was able to publish a reconstructed text of Fox’s Book of Miracles (see http://www.quaker.org/quip/oldmtgs/miracles.htm). Meanwhile, over the intervening centuries since Fox, Christ’s healing powers have continued to manifest themselves through persons of faith worldwide, sometimes giving rise to sects and separations such as the Christian Science Movement, sometimes knocking insistently at the door of mainstream denominations, demanding recognition of the healing ministry as part of the founding commission of the Church: “They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover,” said the resurrected Christ in Mark 16:18; two Apostolic passages (1 Corinthians 12:9b, 28-31; James 5:14 ff.) underline this expectation.

    And so today, in North America, we find ecumenical organizations such as the International Order of Saint Luke the Physician (http://orderofstluke.org/), which I myself am currently preparing to enter, Christian Healing Ministries (http://www.christianhealingmin.org/), and others. Within Christian Quakerism in the last generation, books such as Richard J. Foster’s Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (1992) have helped to raise awareness that miracles of divine healing go on all around us, while Liberal Quakerism has been generously enriched by the growth of significant numbers of dedicated practitioners of Reiki, Healing Touch, and other modalities of spiritual healing. Though these modalities may not be avowedly or exclusively Christian, this need not mean that it’s not Christ working through them; by their fruits should we know them.

    But to the question beginning your second paragraph, Steve, which is the more important gift, prophecy or healing? I’d like to suggest that the distressed state of the world, and of our souls, calls for both together, and that any healing that is a mere cure of physical symptoms is probably less than the healing we really need: for which reason we may need a prophet first to name our sickness, and then to declare us free of it, as Jesus did when he told the man sick of the palsy first “Thy sins be forgiven thee” and only second “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (Mark 2:1-12). (But lest anyone think that Jesus supposed that all sickness was to be regarded as the “bad karma” of past sins, note that He explicitly repudiated that explanation in healing the man born blind, John 9:1-3.)

    For so long as we think of “healing” as merely the restoration of physical health, or a successful behavioral modification like smoking cessation or anger management, so that our thanks are due not to God but to the pharmaceutical company that made the drug or the best-selling author that gave us the self-help book, we miss the point: that until we’re restored to the untarnished condition we were in when we left the Creator’s hand, we still carry the disease of self-centeredness in our hearts, limiting the forgiveness we can feel, the gratitude we can let pour out of our hearts, the unity with God we might experience, the love we might soar on as a bird rides the wind. We are cured of a symptom, but not yet healed; able to walk again, but still in bondage! Lord, show us what we are, and what we might be! Send us prophets, or be Thou our prophet, to give us the bad news so that we might be ready, at last, to receive the good! And then we shall rejoice in a healing that goes all the way.

  • treegestalt says:

    I’ve seen many who were willing to try… but how many have the actual gift, beyond good intentions?

    In Biblical accounts of what was meant by this gift, in action, it seems to have required faith on both sides. & that word “faith” is a tricky one, yes? More than ‘credulity’ but certainly including the willingness to risk credulity in one’s hunger for truth…

    What it is that can make ‘love’ mean more than sentimental, but futile, good wishes?

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