(Hark the Herald Angels Sing, verse 3, by Charles Wesley)
I first encountered a service of healing at Holden Village, a retreat center in the remote Cascade Mountains of Washington State. The language and the ritual of that service have stayed with me. I recall hearing that healing is a process, not a one time event; that healing can come even without a cure; and finally, that sometimes bodily death is a form of healing. I remember the worshipers kneeling in prayer around lit candles, while others placed hands on their shoulders and prayed with them and for them. This new experience of the wide embrace of God’s healing power made a lasting impression on me. It shaped who I am as a leader in the church.
Healing prayer and anointing with oil is a practice of faith that we are reclaiming at First Church. On Thursday (12/16), at 7 pm, we will offer a service of healing called “The Longest Night”. This time of worship acknowledges the grief that many feel especially during this holiday time, and embraces us under the “healing wings” of God-with-us. This service seeks to probe into the deeper meanings of Advent itself. Advent is not a time of cheer; it is a season of joy, the deep, full, complex joy of God’s birth amid our pain. The hopeful peace of Advent emerges only as we tend to all that is not yet right in our lives and in the world.