Sometimes, maybe a lot of times, Christian formation means stepping out of where you are comfortable into the zone where things may not be so predictable. Maybe that is why I enjoy working with the 11 and 12 year olds, because I can plan for one thing and they have questions that will take me in completely another direction. And I do so much enjoy being in just that place. People in worship are often surprised to learn that much of the time I don’t have anything planned to say to the children during the Children’s sermon. I know the Scriptural text for the sermon, and I just go with where the children want to go. People are also fairly shocked to learn that the Senior Pastor and I never discuss what the other is going to say. So being on that edgy place is where I find much of formation taking place.
Which brings me to the Service of Prayer and Healing. Several years ago I was attending an event that I wasn’t really invited to, but thought it would be of interest. It was on healing ministries of the church, and while most focused on clinics established by churches, and hospitals run by church related organizations, the Bishop present talked about her participation in a service of healing. A church that she served believed that this was an important part of the ministry of the congregation, and began a once a month service of healing. She admitted that at first she was uncomfortable, because so many folks equate healing with the “miracles of tele-evangelists.” But as time passed, she discovered what a blessing this was for her and the congregation.
On my first visit to the Isle of Iona, I attended the Service of Prayer and healing, which is on Tuesday evenings. And it was so compelling and moving, that it was often a service that I did not attend, because of the power that I felt during the service. I felt a bit like Moses having to turn my eyes from the visage of God, the presence and the power was so overwhelming. On my second visit, I participated in the service by being one of the people who lay hands on those seeking prayer, and I was almost paralyzed with the presence.
So it is no small thing when I tell you when asked what service I wanted to lead on Wednesday evenings I responded with Service of Prayer and Healing. It will take a great deal of formation to educate a congregation that there are so many things that we need healing for that are not physical. So many things that harm us in other ways, keeping us from the presence of God that I believe taking this on as Christian formation will not only be healing but helpful. This will ultimately create a thin place right in our midst.