Friday, 10 October 2008
Titoki healing centre, where I spent the last few days, is set in farmland just out of Whakatane. Titoki began in the mid 1970's when Don Ferguson, the Vicar of St. George's, in Tauranga left his parish to set up a healing centre. Don had been interested in the healing ministry after a dramatic answer to a healing prayer early in his priesthood. Later, a time in the Solomon Islands convinced him of the link between physical health and mental and spiritual states. He regularly held healing services and sought to deepen his understanding and expertise in this role. Gradually, he became convinced that he needed to set up a healing centre similar to Burrswood in England. In 1975 he found a suitable property, and taking an immense leap of faith, abandoned his regular stipend to found Titoki. Thirty years later the centre is flourishing.
The original farm house has been added to over time, so that now, accomodation wings sprout out of most of its sides and modest houses for staff nestle discreetly under trees around the back. A small chapel sits apart, the large picture window over the altar giving a view of the surrounding countryside. There are ten acres of well tended lawns and gardens whose openness and flatness add something to the spacious spirituality of the place. The accommodation is clean, neat, homely, well maintained and comfortable without any undue pretension. It is a pleasant place to be. There is space for 30 people to stay in rooms, most of which are twin share and most of which have ensuite bathrooms. The staff are largely voluntary, living as part of a small spiritual community, maintaining and running Titoki as a retreat and healing centre, offering spiritual support to the guests in return for board and lodging. They were attentive, discreet and someone among them certainly knows how to cook.
Titoki has a close link with the Diocese of Waiapu, although it is now run and administered by an ecumenical trust. Most of our Anglican dioceses - except, unfortunately ours - have retreat centres associated with them. These places of rest and prayer (and, in the case or Titoki, of healing) generally sit slightly to one side, set by necessity in some quiet place away from the rush of diocesan life. I can see why this should be so, but it is a pity that they are often marginalised and pushed for funds. It might be imagined that an organisation such as the Anglican Church which is founded for the sole purpose of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ would have a place of prayer at the very centre of its life, in much the same way that the prayer community of the Cathedral cloister once formed the centre of English dioceses. Instead, in all our dioceses, the centre of our sharedlife is the diocesan office. True, we have cathedrals as "mother" churches, but I can't think of a single instance where the cathedral is popularly regarded as the very heart of diocesan life. Say the word diocese to most Anglicans and you will evoke a mental image of the office and of committees. I guess it's a symptom of what we have become. Or perhaps a cause.