URC approach to Healing Ministry

The Health and Healing Development Group was established in about 1972 when the United Reformed Church (URC) was formed and in 1995 came under the umbrella of 'Church and Society'. Before that it came under 'Faith and Life'. In the 1990's the URC came together with the Methodist Church to form the URC/Methodist Health and Healing Development Group.

Representatives from around the country met on a regular basis to discuss, learn and share experiences, and were encouraged to promote this ministry in their own area. After the publication of 'A Time to Heal', this group, through Churches Together has sought to become fully ecumenical and in 2003 became a coordinating body within Churches Together and is now known as Churches Together for Healing (CTH). There have also been certain individuals who have championed the Healing Ministry, who sought to encourage its development within the denomination. It is on the agenda at General Assembly, but has not been given prominence.

Healing is seen in the context of the church's ministry of salvation which relates to the whole person, body, mind and spirit, and to the community. It is in response to the Lord's commission to his disciples to 'preach the word and heal the sick'.

Healing is what the church's mission is all about. Healing, wholeness, salvation; these words embrace what God has done for us through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The New Testament shows us that Jesus' healing of the sick and casting out demons were a vivid demonstration of the coming of the kingdom, and his charge to continue that ministry in his name was part of his commission to the disciples. Through the ages the church has responded by caring for the sick and troubled in many different ways... through pastoral care, prayer, the sacraments, spiritual gifts, deliverance ministries, practical friendship and so on'. 'Health is in a sense a direction. In the journey of living we travel towards health and wholeness, the destination is wholeness of life with God.' ('Into Wholeness', a URC publication, editor Janet Lees).

In the URC Service Book, and in 'Worship from the URC', there is an outline service and liturgy for a Healing Service. This may be followed as it stands, but it is recognised that healing services will vary.

The prayer life and spirituality of the church are central to the Healing Ministry, going hand and hand with sound teaching and preaching on aspects of spirituality and wholeness in body, mind and spirit.

There is a wide diversity amongst United Reformed churches when it comes to the healing ministry. This ministry is generally tailored to the situation and may have an ecumenical expression. Churches seeking to pursue this ministry are encouraged to form a healing prayer group, made up of those selected /commissioned by their church, who are committed to prayer ministry, undergo training, meet regularly and pray for needs in the congregation and wider afield, and follow 'Guidelines for Good Practice'.

Churches that exercise a ministry of healing and wholeness, tend to focus on a prayer ministry and generally hold Healing Services, which may be weekly, monthly or quarterly. For some churches this ministry is a normal part of worship and prayer ministry will be offered at every service. In many churches pastoral care and prayer ministry go hand in hand.

Some churches have specialised ministries usually based around the expertise of one or more people who have been specially trained e.g. bereavement, listening, counselling or with the disabled. Other churches have a more outgoing social ministry or one of reconciliation which reaches out to the community addressing needs e.g. children / young people, mothers and toddlers, elderly, homeless, immigrants etc.

Each synod has an Adviser for the Healing Ministry, who seek to promote the Healing Ministry as appropriate within the structures of the URC, local community and across denominations. Advisers respond to requests and offer training days as appropriate. Each Synod will have its own training system, in some cases they work alongside training teams and by appropriate means hold training days, and offer advice when requested.

At present two URC Advisers are appointed to attend the national CTH meetings and report back to Church and Society and ultimately to General Assembly as appropriate.

Some churches and individuals support local Christian homes of Healing and work hand in hand to promote them and also to use them as a resource for teaching and healing.

The URC Advisers seek to work ecumenically where appropriate as this is seen as an expression of healing, reconciliation and wholeness in its own right.

In a few cases this ministry also covers the deliverance ministry, but for many this is a subject outside their experience and training, and advice should be sought from the moderator/ advisers within each synod.