I am on my way to Heathrow and a flight to Aberdeen. The Denis Duncan Lecture is being held tomorrow in King’s College Chapel, the medieval heart of the University of Aberdeen, an event twelve months in the planning. From all over the country people are heading there as I type - my trustees, Guild staff, the speaker, ticket holders, guests and panellists. And tomorrow, we will be live broadcasting a lecture and discussion on the internet focussing on health, healing and church.
The healing ministry is one which stirs deep emotions. It has caused so much harm in the past when people have be subject to poor theologies: ‘You will get better if you pray harder’; ‘What sin is causing this illness?’, ‘What have you done to deserve this - repent and you will be healed’. And you are quite wrong if you think that these are medieval sentiments; I run a national Christian healing charity, and, sadly, I could run a healing charity to heal bad healing ministries and wouldn’t be short of work.
So, running healing events require good theology and a historical sensitivity. Luckily, we are looking forward to hearing The Revd. Dr. Doug Gay, one of Scotland’s leading theological voices who not only has an impressive academic record but has worked extensively in the parish.
Jesus commanded his disciples to heal and to make disciples, and we are far more comfortable with the latter which fit more easily into Mission Action Plans and quantitative analysis. Healing is far more difficult to speak about, at least in a responsible way. It is also a much more personal subject; we tread on holy ground when we gather to talk about healing - even quite managerial or organisational meetings rarely stay theoretical.
For we are each in need of healing, and this is something that transcends all faith boundaries. Agnostics, those of other faiths, those of none - our health, our existence and the meaning of it all unites every human being. What also unites is not only our need, but how we have been shaped by illness, injury, hurt, pain and disappointment. It is these that make us who we are today, even more than our biology. It is experience that makes us, and so often it is the negative more than the positive that does it. And so it is the healing of these hurts, injuries and pain that define us also.
I was listening to ‘Oremus’, a prayer by Padraig O Tuama of the Corrymeela community recently. He writes that prayer is the building of altars out of the stones that have made us stumble. In his image, prayer is deep connection with the pain and loss, it is communion with the failures and the injury, and that through that relationship of picking up the stones and fashioning a place of worship we not only find healing, but find God. For me this is deep, and true healing, that is so far from measuring a miracle or seeking doctrinal confirmation. It is this vision of healing and health that I wish the church would identify and facilitate in communities.
The Denis Duncan Lecture will gather leaders, community members, the interested in health and healing and those who want to know more. But like all events when we touch on healing, they are holy gatherings because people come with their stories, their desire for healing, and a bag full of stones that they have fallen over along the way. My prayer is that it is a time of weaving together, building up and an openness to deep healing, and to the God who is with us always.
For more information on the event, and to register to watch the live webinar click here