Preparing to Go Forth and Heal Through Worship
* By Melissa Hinnen
September 26, 2008—Nearly 200 congregational health professionals and advocates participated in a service of healing led by the Cherokee United Methodist Church and Southeastern Jurisdiction Association of Native American Ministries (SEJANAM).
The ceremony was part of the Empowering Ministries of Health conference in Lake Junaluska, NC. Sponsored by General Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR Health and General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, the conference included a program of education, praise and self-care.
Reaffirming Christ as Central to God’s Plan
The healing service was a highlight of the conference and included a smudging ceremony as well as healing through witness and story. Similar to anointing with oil, smudging is a ritual that conveys the healing grace and power of God, so that those receiving it may be empowered to bring healing and wholeness to others. “In the smudging ceremony we recall that God is the Great Creator. Christ is the central reality of God’s plan available for all. The Holy Spirit is able to bring healing and renewal to the face of the Earth. At the center of the Sacred Circle is God the Creator, Christ the son and the Holy Spirit,” the litany reads in part.
The ceremony was accompanied by flute and drum music and readings of scripture. The leaders burned a mixture of sage, cedar and sweet grass and using a feather, lightly brushed the smoke, in the form of a cross, over the recipients’ bodies while praying for healing.
Each person was presented with a prayer stick, crafted by Native American artisan Carol Brewington as a reminder of the gift of healing. According to Brewington, “Each prayer stick was prayerfully and carefully tied for the blessing of the one that receives it. Just like the prayer shawl, prayers were said each time an element was laid inside.”
Stories of God's Healing Power
Following the ceremony, those in the gathering were invited to share stories of the gift of healing in their lives. Stories included healing of physical illnesses like cancer, cleansing of addiction and redemption from the spiritual wounds of war. Pam Harris of the Kansas East Conference shared a story of God’s provision on a mission trip. She and a medical team of five had each packed 100 pounds of antibiotics to distribute in Zimbabwe. They held their mission in prayer asking for safe arrival and protection of the medication. Their prayers were answered and they were able to deliver medicine used in healing thousands of people.
In a week filled with intense learning and networking, many attendees felt the healing service was a significant gift to help them as they prepared to go back to their home churches to share their vision for health ministry. Patience Kisakye of Clay Trinity Church in NY, said, “The Native Indian Healing Service replenished my soul. Not only did I find it empowering but it also pointed me to God’s vulnerability as I experienced the witness of the person of the Holy Spirit in the diverse healing stories that bore witness to the fact that we have been called, nurtured, healed and empowered to bring healing to the nations in the name of Jesus, the great Physician“. She continued, “There is so much information I have received this week, and I return to put the information into an action plan for how our local church can use it to make a difference in congregational life, community and wider world.”
Learning More About Congregational Health Ministry
UMCOR Health is a strong resource for those wanting to develop their congregational health ministries. Says executive Patricia Magyar, “Whether people are looking to connect with other parish nurses, learn how to incorporate disability awareness into their ministry, network at the conference level or start a clinic, UMCOR Health is an advocate and a resource.”
Next year’s conference will take place September 21-23 in Lakewood, Colo. In the meantime, to connect with a network of United Methodist faith community nurses, join the online discussion group by submitting your information here.
* Melissa Hinnen is the staff writer for UMCOR communications