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?