Part of the farm attached to Living Springs campsite. I brought a camera but didn't use it for any of the more typical bits of the week's activities. This shot will have to do.This past week was spent at Totara Springs, near Matamata, attending the international conference of The Order of St. Luke. I was there to deliver a keynote address and lead a workshop on meditation. The OSL has as its raison d'etre the promotion of the ministry of healing, an aim with which I have developed a considerable sympathy over the past few years. I had been a member many years ago, but let my membership lapse. Back then, in my thirties, I had found my fellow members to be a decade or two older than me and their ways of doing things a little too highly regulated for my taste. When Archbishop David Moxon moved to Rome and could no longer attend the international conference I agreed to take his place in the programme. Coincidentally, the invitation to attend and speak came at about the same time that Bill Sim was putting effort into reinvigorating the local branch, and with Bill's enthusiastic encouragement I had become peripherally involved once more.
I arrived in Matamata wondering how much had changed in the OSL in the 20 or so years since my departure, and it seemed on first glance, not much. I play a little private game in most Anglican meetings: I count the number of people in the room younger than myself. No matter what the size of the meeting, I seldom have to use the fingers of both hands, and the first night's informal gathering was no exception. In fact that first night I didn't have to use the fingers of even one hand. This was one of those cases where first impressions were more than a little deceiving. Things have changed in the OSL and I suspect they are about to change a whole lot more.
After the opening pleasantries I was first up. I spoke of an incident that had happened in our family some years ago which had caused me to retain an unshakeable belief in the power of God to heal. I spoke of my own current illness and of the difference between healing and cure. I spoke of the link between body mind and spirit as three interrelated dimensions of our being and of our temporary presence in this world as part of a greater scheme that God seems to have for the universe. It seemed to be received well.
It was a pleasure to be in the audience for the other conference speakers. Dr. Jack Sheffield from Texas spoke about his work in healing centres and of the Glory of God. He is a lively personality and a very entertaining man but he showed the depth and vulnerability that can only come from someone who has faced and integrated personal loss. Dr. Colin Campbell from Canada soundly addressed the link between faith and science. He gave a brief history of the development of scientific thought in the West, linking it to the development of Western Christian thought, and outlined a metaphysics which can accommodate both the physics he teaches in his professional life and the the healing ministry his practices and promotes.
There was the usual conference round of workshops and discussion groups and worship services, but for me the most revelatory part was meeting the other participants. As the main body of participants arrived the next day I did find a few - well, actually quite a few - people younger than myself, some of them much younger. Regardless of age I found in almost every conversation people who have struggled with their own issues of health and wholeness but who despite this - or perhaps because of this - are deeply committed to developing the theology and practice of divine healing. I had some powerful and moving encounters with some very special people. Amongst the younger attendees in particular I found an urgency to connect their faith with what they knew of the workings of people as bodies and minds and spirits.
I was impressed by the growing enthusiasm for establishing Healing Centres. Jack Sheffield ran a workshop on this way of opening the ministry of Christian Healing to the general public, and there are already several places in the country where steps are being taken to establish them.
The OSL is reinventing itself and could, over the next few years, be a means by which we can develop a more complete practice of Christian healing than we have hitherto known. I left on Friday and was driven through familiar Waikato countryside to Hamilton airport feeling refreshed encouraged and hopeful.