Faith and healing

Published April 1, 2012

The Rev. Canon Joseph Asselin performs a healing ministry.
Photo: contributed

For many, spiritual healing calls to mind televangelists such as Benny Hinn, whose  “Miracle Crusade” fills huge stadiums and sends devotees fainting backwards into the arms of burly attendants. In contrast, Anglicans have their own form of spiritual healing, one that seeks to imitate the acts of Christ with quiet compassion.

“Anglican healing has nothing to do with placing the emphasis on a cure,” explains Shelley Tidy, pastoral care associate at St. Paul’s Bloor Street in Toronto, who for the past six years has chaired the Bishop’s Committee on Healing in the diocese of Toronto. “Everything is done in the name of lightening a person’s burden by placing it at the foot of the cross,” she says.

From small disappointments-such as losing a hockey game-to big-ticket items such as job loss or death of a loved one-“we see our prayer bearing fruit in our lives,” says Tidy, adding that this doesn’t mean physically curing a problem but rather offering “a better support system, or a better ability to live with pain or find meaning in suffering.”

Anglican healing sacraments include the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, both accompanied by prayer. While performing the laying on of hands is restricted to ordained clergy, anointing may also be performed by licensed laity under the supervision of a priest.

Every year, Tidy runs a popular fall weekend program at the Convent of the Sisters of St. John the Divine in Toronto to train lay anointers through lectures, practical training, group discussion and prayer. Before training, a prospective lay anointer must receive approval from his or her incumbent and undergo a screening process. After completing the program, the incumbent petitions the area bishop to grant a licence. The annual program is often booked to capacity.

There are many congregations and individuals working to promote healing ministry, both in parish settings and in their larger communities.

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