THE MINISTRY OF HEALING AT
THE CHURCH OF
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Vincent Eareckson, Ph.D.
Shepherd has always had a ministry of healing. As an
Anglo-Catholic parish our priests have anointed the sick in their homes
or hospital rooms with prayer for healing, as James 5 tells us to
do. By the provision of regular announced times for the
Sacrament of Reconciliation, as we now call Penance or Confession, this
great sacrament of not only spiritual but also physical healing has been
available. And for a number of years there was public
administration of unction, the anointing of the sick, in connection with
the regular Wednesday evening Mass.
in the most recent times, there has been a much more intense focus on
this basic ministry of the Church. Jesus commanded his followers to
"Preach [the Gospel of] the Kingdom of God and heal the sick"
[Luke 9:2]. Four new components of the healing ministry have been
added to the evangelical ministry of this parish.
Over a year ago, we began to offer Holy Unction in the Lady Chapel after
the High Mass on Sundays. The priest has been assisted in the
laying on of hands by Dr. Stevens Heckscher, Lay Spiritual Director
whose ministry of spiritual direction has always had a major healing
component, and Dr. Vincent Eareckson, Educational and Ecumenical
Missioner who has been involved in healing ministries including hospital
chaplaincy for over 40 years and who also is involved in spiritual
direction. The Liturgy has been developing over the year
and, even more exciting, those gathered for prayer have joined in the
laying on of hands, making it a true expression of Christian community
in prayer and ministry. As many as 30 people have gathered for
this regular ministry, although our usual number is closer to 15.
Please join us in the Lady Chapel each Sunday to pray and receive
anointing for yourself and for others.
As this regular Sunday ministry developed, it became clear that we
needed a parish-wide Healing Mission. The parish had such a
Mission with Canon Mark Pearson several years ago but it was time for
another. We contacted Fr. Michael Fulljames, the recently retired
senior Chaplain at Burrswood, a Christian Centre for Healthcare and
Ministry in Kent in England. Dr. Heckscher had visited
Burrswood several times in the '60's and '70's and has a particular
interest in Dorothy Kerin, the English woman and saint who, under God,
had such an important place in the restoration of the public healing
ministry in the Church of England. He spoke on Dorothy several
times in our series on the Communion of the Saints in the Adult Forum,
describing her own miraculous healing and consequent ministry, and also
has shared her witness and words with his directees. Michael+
agreed to come to Good Shepherd with his wife Kitty, who is fully
involved with him in healing ministry, for a parish Healing Mission.
Mission was held March 4-10, 2002 and, in the good providence of God,
on the very day of the Rector's inhibition. By sharing their own
testimonies, teaching on healing, conducting two Healing Services and
generally being with us as a true healing presence for that week, the
Fulljames' visit marked a new breadth of healing ministry at Good
As a continuation of the Mission, several of us began in April to meet
regularly on the first and third Wednesday evenings in the Lady Chapel
at 7:30 for continuing intercession, teaching, fellowship and the laying
on of hands. We now have a "core group" of more than a dozen
people in this prayer ministry. We have gone and shared our experience
with the people of St. Mary's Church, Wayne, where another healing group
is beginning. Dr. Charles Zeiders, a Christian clinical
psychologist from St. Mary's, has become a regular part of the core
group on Wednesdays. All, whether members of Good Shepherd or not,
are invited on the first and third Wednesdays to come for prayer
yourself, for those for whom you are interceding, and for the fellowship
in this ministry.
Most recently, seven of us--our Curate Fr. Garrin Dickinson, who is the
regular member of the clergy for the Wednesday prayer time, Dr.
Heckscher, Dr. Zeiders, Maria Demopoulos, Joanna Falini, Margaret
Termini and myself--have gone as a Healing Team for a week at Burrswood.
We left on Tuesday, August 20 and returned Tuesday, August 27. We
spent an intense week sharing the life of this Christian Centre for
Healthcare and Ministry that is Burrswood today. We had times of
conference with almost all of the senior staff, we joined in the common
worship including the regular four different Healing Services held each
week, we spent time in prayer, meditation and building our fellowship
with each other in this work and had a full exposure to a major center
for the healing ministry of the Church.
Team will be giving the parish a full report very early in the fall. We
are actively seeking the will of God and the guidance of the Holy
Spirit, testing whether it might be the will of God that there should be
an American affiliate of Burrswood here in the Delaware Valley with Good
Shepherd providing the major impetus for it. Please join with us in
prayer about this very important decision.
commission of Christ is clear---Preach, Teach and Heal. In these
difficult days in the life of the parish we are not released from this
commission. Quite the opposite. We must show by our active engagement
with ministry to the whole person on the basis of the Gospel what we are
contending for in our public witness. Consider joining us as God calls
you---to seek your own healing in every area, to intercede for the
healing of people and nations, to receive the healing Sacraments with
intention for the needs of all, to pray regularly with us for the
advance of this work.