Many parishioners, but perhaps not everyone, are aware that the healing rite - the laying on of hands - is offered at St. Matthew’s. The laying on of hands for healing has been a part of the ministry of the church since its earliest days. Healing was an integral part of Jesus’ ministry but there are many earlier references to instances of healing in the Old Testament, for example in the Psalms (Psalm 6) and in I Samuel (1:1-2:10). The healing prayer team members offer the laying on of hands for healing in the side chapel during the Eucharist at 10:30 am (9:30am during the summer) every Sunday.
Currently, the healing prayer team consists of lay ministers who have been trained in the theology and practice of healing prayer and commissioned by St. Matthews clergy. We believe that healing was central to Christ’s ministry during his lifetime and is also central to God’s mission in today’s world. Whether you are a longtime parishioner of St. Matthews or someone who has never set foot in a church, we offer you the opportunity to come in silence or to name that which troubles you and to receive a simple and compassionate prayer for your healing in mind, body and spirit.
Duke Addicks, Lis Christenson, Heather Forrester, Marilyn Grantham, Dan & Judy Johnson, Bernon Lee, Valerie Matthews, and Lisa Wiens Heinsohn are the present members of the team. You may contact Judy Johnson at Niemi.firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to arrange for a session of healing prayer separate from the usual Sunday Eucharistic laying on of hands, or if you wish further information about healing prayer at St. Matthews. In the meantime, below is more information about how the healing prayer ministry came to be at St. Matthews, as well as a more detailed understanding of the theology of healing.
The original founders of the healing prayer ministry at St. Matthews, Marilyn Grantham and Kathryn Grambsch, took a weeklong intensive course titled, “Biblical Healing for Ministry Today,” at Luther Seminary, which was taught by Dr. Frederick Gaiser, Professor of Old Testament. I would like to briefly share with you some highlights of what we learned to help you better understand healing and the laying on of hands in the church today—at St. Matthew’s.
We know from the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (I Cor. 12:4-11) that healing is one of the gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit. After the Holy Spirit had come to the Apostles and other disciples at Pentecost, Peter and John were able to heal in the name of Jesus (Acts 3:1-26). During our seminary course, we read many scriptural passages that deal with sickness and healing and discussed what happened and what was similar and dissimilar about these various instances of healing. In addition to scripture, a number of books were recommended for reading, for example, Healing and Christianity (Morton Kelsey, Augsburg Press, 1995) and Healing in the New Testament (John Pilch, Fortress Press, 2000).
Here are some of Professor Gaiser’s summary theses on healing in the Bible:
Creation, Illness, and Death
- God’s creation is good, and God desires life and health for all human beings (Sirach 34:20). Creation is, however, finite, which means that pain and mortality are given realities of creation from the beginning.
Healing as God’s Work
- Healing is a gift of God … God’s work of healing or blessing and God’s work of saving or redeeming, while always related, are also sometimes properly distinguished. … Healing comes as a part of the renewal of the whole person that occurs through the power and in the presence of God (I Thess. 5:23).
- Biblically, the cure of specific symptoms and the healing of the person are not necessarily identical. Therefore, it is possible to be cured, but not “healed” (in other words, made well or whole—see Luke 17:17-19) … just as it is possible to be “well” in the midst of suffering (see Hab 3:17-19; Rom 5:1-5)
- There is no unique method through which God heals. The fundamental issue is who heals (God), rather than how healing occurs … Divine healing often occurs through the normal created order … through physicians and medications (Sir 38:1-14)—though in the Bible this created order is never autonomous; it, too, is in relationship with God and an avenue of God’s healing activity.
Healing and the Community of Faith
- There is a relationship between faith and healing, although that relationship is not calculable or predictable. In the Bible, healing comes as the result of faith (Mark 5:34), healing produces faith (Mark 1:27; Acts 9:42), and the faith of the family (Mark 9:23-24) or the community (Mark 2:5; James 5:15) is instrumental in the healing of one of its members.
These theses and scriptural references provide the context in which we offer the laying on of hands and anointing at St. Matthew’s. This ministry is communal, therefore generally offered at the time of the Eucharist and open to all who desire healing … of body and/or spirit, for themselves or others, but it also requires that the seeker be open to God in prayer … open to receive God’s gift of healing … which may be of the spirit and/or the body. As is indicated in the Book of Common Prayer (Ministration to the Sick, pp. 453-461), in the anointing, the officiant beseeches “our Lord Jesus Christ to sustain you with his presence, to drive away all sickness of body and spirit, and to give you that victory of life and peace which will enable you to serve him both now and evermore.”