The newly re-formed Bishop’s Committee on Healing Ministries is expanding its vision and looking to connect with people and parishes across the diocese that are engaged in ministries of healing.
Until recently, the committee had been focused primarily on educating and supporting lay anointers and their parishes. “There are more healing ministries within the Church, as we know,” says the Rev. Canon Joanne Davies, new chair of the committee and chaplain to St. John’s Rehabilitation Hospital. “We began a more intentional way of expanding the committee, to bring on other members who were representative of the healing ministries.”
In its new form, the committee oversees lay anointers, lay pastoral visitors, faith community nurses, healthcare chaplains and seniors’ ministry. “Almost everything that we do within Church we could say, ‘OK, that’s healing.’ But these are the things that Christ sent the disciples out to do. So we felt that we would like to incorporate all of them into the umbrella of the Bishop’s Committee on Healing Ministries, because there was a way of making connections for people,” says Canon Davies.
Lay anointing will continue to have its own subcommittee, but with more links between it and other healing ministries. “Many people who were lay anointers were also lay pastoral visitors, so a lot of their questions and the things they wanted to learn were all interconnected in that way,” she says.
Seniors’ ministry is a new addition to the diocese’s healing portfolio. With many parishes developing important ministries to youth and young families, Canon Davies says seniors can feel overlooked. “The one age group that we forget, because we just assume they’re going to be there, are seniors. But the truth of the matter is they often leave because there’s nothing there for them,” she says. The committee wants to encourage what seniors are already doing to participate and find ways of bringing others back to a church community.
Canon Davies sees the committee’s main purpose as creating links and connections across the diocese. “This is not a committee we want to keep quiet; we want everyone to know that we’re there. We can be a voice that would advise the bishop on things that we’re seeing and things that are wanting, but we are also there to be a resource for the Church, for the communities and people of the diocese,” she says.
Previously, parishes and clergy may not have known who to call for information about certain healing ministries. Now, the re-formed committee and its chair will be the clear first point of contact. “I am happy to say I am already getting questions, so that’s really good. And I can already see that there’s information needed,” says Canon Davies. “What I don’t know, I will find out, because I have this wonderful committee.”
In particular, she says she hopes to draw on the wisdom of the diocese’s healthcare chaplains. “I’m hoping to use them – me being one of them – as a resource, the wisdom that they have from the healing ministries that they’re involved in,” she says. She also wants to reaffirm their role in diocesan life, since working in a hospital can be an isolating experience. “This can really be a home for them, to link in to the diocese, and to encourage them, that they’re definitely part of who we all are.”
Beyond providing valuable help and resources, Canon Davies also wants to encourage parishes to let her know what’s happening in their communities. “I’d like them to call me with what they’re doing, their ideas, so that I can put groups and churches in touch with each other,” she says. “Sometimes the church down the street’s doing something really interesting and hopeful. I’d like to hear what they’re doing, is it working, what is not working, and what is wonderful about it.”
As part of its mandate to equip and support the diocese, the committee has started working on a new education program for lay pastoral visitors. “It’s my dream that we will have a train-the-trainer program, and that eventually there will be somebody at least in every area that can do that and then, if we get really good, most deaneries might have somebody that could train as well,” she says.
Lay anointers have held regular education events for some time, and Canon Davies says she’d like to build from their success. The annual lay anointers’ refresher day often covers topics about healing more broadly, which could be an opportunity to bring together participants of many healing ministries. “They already touch on a lot of things like bereavement and pastoral visiting during those days. I have a vision of having a retreat day or weekend focusing on the subject of healing,” she says.
Ultimately, whether through education, resources, retreat or prayer, Canon Davies says the Bishop’s Committee on Healing Ministries hopes to uphold the health and wellbeing of all those across the diocese who are engaged in ministries of healing. “It’s important that we equip people with the skills they need to look after themselves so that they can go and look after others,” she says. “It says that we’re all holding each other up. It’s true – we who are many are one body in Christ.”