Sunday, August 7, 2005

Meeting for Worship for Healing

Tomorrow is our monthly Meeting for Worship for Healing at Atlanta Friends Meeting. This is something very near and dear to me because I feel most connected to the Holy Spirit when I am "holding someone in the light". Although "holding in the light" is often used as a Quaker euphemism for praying for someone, my friend Richard Lee has a much richer description which I will summarize by saying that you are fully connected with God and you take that essence of the person, that "child of God that's within them" and put them fully in the presence of God.

At the end of this message I will describe the process of Meeting for Worship for Healing as fully as I can in case it is something you wish to do at your meeting. Before that, though, I'd like to say that this meeting tends to lead to very deep worship. I have yet to be in a regular Meeting for Worship where I have felt inner peace and joy as deeply as I have felt after Meeting for Worship for Healing. Perhaps it is the focus, or perhaps it is just because I have a spiritual affinity for this kind of thing (being the son and grandson of nurses, that's not a huge surprise, I guess). There may be other reasons, as well. No one is talking about politics in MfWfH. If someone speaks, it is usually a deep insight for the person we are holding in the light. The whole process of holding someone in the light is a deep expression of love for that person. It is my hope that one day, this kind of meeting is a part of every Quaker meeting.

Along the same lines as MfWfH, there is a Meeting for Worship for Peace. Richard Lee described the process for me (hopefully he will write an article for Friends Journal about it, too), and it is basically the same process as MfWfH, but instead of holding someone in the light for healing, we hold people and situations in the light for peace. In the typical MfWfP, they try to hold people in the light who are doing specific peace work. That is, instead of trying to hold Iraq in the light, they hold in the light a person or a group of people who are doing peace work for/in Iraq. Immediately following this meeting, their Peace & Social Justice Committee decides on any actions that come out of the worship. What tends to happen, according to Richard, is that the things that come out of this deep worship are often very creative, and usually get more support than programs they had come up with before they implemented MfWfP. What I believe happens with MfWfP is that the people in the meeting do a better job at connecting with the Holy Spirit and listening to the divine guidance because they are not focused on having a planning meeting. Although we as Quakers are supposed to allow God to guide our work, it feels to me like we don't maintain as close a connection as we should during committee meetings. Maybe it's just me, I know I feel that way. MfWfP provides a way to focus on and listen to God for an extended period of time before any business gets done. I wonder if there are other areas where we could apply this same focus.

There are a few important guidelines to remember when holding Meeting for Worship for Healing. The first is, you don't pray at somebody, you don't pray for somebody that wouldn't want you praying for them in this way. For example, if you hold President Bush in the light (and I believe we all should), you aren't doing it to try to change him and make him do what you want him to, you just pray that God will help him and heal him from anything that is troubling him. In MfWfH, that might apply to one party in a divorce, or someone that needs to change some self-destructive behavior. If that person doesn't ask for healing, or it is likely that they wouldn't ask, we don't pray for them.

Second, we aren't praying for a specific resolution, we are just holding that person up to God and asking for God to heal the person or situation. If someone is dying, the end result might be for the person to die, we don't always know what is best, so we put our trust in God.

Third, sometimes people feel moved to lay their hands on the person being healed. I have a tendancy to do this. We make sure that anyone requesting healing is comfortable with this or not. If the person is not comfortable with it, we make sure everyone knows not to put hands on them. There are so many reasons why someone might feel uncomfortable with touchin and it is important that people not feel that pressured to accept touching, it can do more harm than good. Also, Friend Hildie Weiler told me that when she trained in England, they warned not to place hands on the top of the head. I don't know why, and I have to say that I have never felt moved to place my hands there, but I pass this information along.

The Meeting for Worship for Healing has a clerk, or a convener, who initially writes down the requests. We prefer that the person to be healed is present, but we also take requests for people who aren't there (assuming they would approve of our efforts). You should do no more than 8 requests (I have done 9 once, but it did get pretty long -- it can be an exhausting process, don't overdo). Once the clerk has a slate of requests, the group goes into silent worship for a period of time. When the clerk feels moved to do so, he or she reads off the one of the requests. The clerk discerns which request to present next, they are not necessarily in the order they were first taken down. It is also up to the clerk to discern how long to spend on each request. I find that we tend to spend more time when the person is actually present, and there also seems to be a pretty clear sense of when we are done. I think that so far, it has been rare to spend more than 10 minutes on someone. When we have gone through the slate of requests, the clerk asks for any other names to be held in the light, this is usually done at about the speed we do at the end of Meeting for Worship. When the meeting is over, we either shake or hold hands. Sometimes we all join hands and stand for a moment.

Richard Lee always recommends having refreshments handy for afterwards. The meeting can be pretty draining, especially with a full slate of requests. We haven't really gotten into that habit at Atlanta Friends Meeting yet, that's probably my fault.

1 comment:

  1. Mark really has the essence of this ministry. It is wonderful to see him continue in his gift. He is a powerful healer.

    I tried to read what Mark wrote as though I knew nothing about the topic. I came away feeling like I learned a lot. It is a clearly written piece.

    All the best!

    -Richard Lee