On Saturday 11th January, I and about twenty others gathered at St Anta Church to learn about the ministry of healing from the Rev Tony Stephens and his team from the Callington Cluster. Over the course of the last few years their churches have developed a specific healing ministry, both in their churches and on the streets of Callington itself. I cannot in this article go
through all the theology and repeat all the inspirational stories that we covered over the course of four hours, but I’ll try to give you a flavour!
The workshop explored both the theology and the practical aspects of healing ministry and ended with healing in action – of which later! In his introduction, Tony explained ‘Jesus said that his followers would do even greater things that he had done. One way of understanding this is that when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can expect amazing things of God’s Kingdom to break into the everyday. Often the most powerful example is through prayer for healing, and when we understand how to go about this in a gentle, caring and Spirit-led way the results can be astounding.’
He discussed the call upon the church to serve, to preach ‘good news’, and to witness, and pointed out that healing was integral to this. He divided the theological teaching around healing into several parts (and your homework is to go and look up the references!).
Firstly, Jesus training the disciples (Luke 9:1-6, and 10:1-9): second, God’s promise (John 14:12-14) and His commissioning of the disciples (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:17-18): thirdly, the essential presence of the Holy Spirit within us (Acts 1:4-5). The result: Peter performs a healing (Acts 3:6-7; 5:12-16; James 5:14-15). Unbelief and lack of faith (Matthew 13:58; Mark 5:36-40) led to poor results. Tony emphasised that this was not about us healing people, but God healing through us. There must be no element of self-promotion (Acts 8:18-21; 19:11-15). Finally, we were reminded that our lifestyle before God must be right, with real faith and commitment to prayer (Matthew17:19-20; Mark 9:28-29).
We secondly looked at factors to consider when developing this ministry. Tony explained that we see God answering when we have ’intercessory’ prayer – asking God to do the work, but that in this healing ministry we command, or ‘speak to’ the specific problem to heal, in Jesus Christ’s Name – we are the channel for the Holy Spirit to work. God gives authority to us, and we are the hosts, the channels for His presence. We cannot do this independently of Him. Don’t be afraid if the illness or problem seems too big. God is greater by far than anything else – we should just do our best, and pray our best.
And, thirdly, we looked briefly where in our own parishes and communities this could take place, such as after a service, on home visits, or even as an outcome of chance encounters and conversations; and at the process of what and how to undertake the healing itself.
In the final session the team undertook several healings, which not only showed the reality of this ministry, but also its variety. One individual came forward with distress, lack of inner peace. After the healing prayers, with laying on of hands, there was a real and visible sense of calm, a restoration of inner balance. Two people were prayed for, for back issues and pain, with significant improvement which, I was told by one of them, had persisted. During this session I received a phone call at about 1130 to say my son was going to hospital with a nasty abscess. He was distressed and tearful because he was worried not only about possible surgery but also that being off sick in his new job might lead to being sacked. The team prayed, laying hands on me as proxy (this can be done) at 12.45. By 13.00 he had been seen by the surgeons, booked for surgery in the morning, and when I spoke to him, he was completely calm and positive. I do not believe this timing (especially in an NHS Emergency department), nor his change from distress to calm, was just coincidental. As for me I felt both tearful and deep
peace during the process. I also found that my torn calf muscle which had troubled me for a month, had healed. After his surgery, successful and straightforward, my son had very little pain and remained calm and positive.
We hope to grow and develop this ministry in the coming months in our Benefice as part of our Prayer Ministry. If you are interested in exploring prayer for healing, being more actively involved, or are in need of prayer yourself, then please have a word with Rev Etienne van Blerk, Rev Carlyn Wilton, a churchwarden, or me, Andrew Hicks.