I think that a blog highlighting our need for healing and wholeness is quite appropriate for this first week in Lent. Signs of brokenness and need are all around us – including our own constant need for forgiveness and healing. Bishop Katharine, our Presiding Bishop, issued a statement two weeks ago in which she wrote about our Church’s need for healing and wholeness. Rather than send you to a link, I’ll copy the whole statement here:
On Healing and Wholeness
Healing is the primary work of people of faith and the communities of which they are a part. Christians, as disciples of One who came to save (rescue, heal, make whole) the world and its inhabitants, seek to heal their relationships with one another and with all that is.
Episcopalians believe this is God’s mission and we are its ministers or servants. We are meant to seek to repair what is breached and broken, to stitch up what is torn, to heal what is sick, to release what is imprisoned and oppressed, to comfort the dying, to encourage the ignored, forlorn, and grieving. Our life finds meaning in responding to the cries around us and within us, as individuals in community. We follow One who was himself vilified, tortured, and finally executed for proclaiming the possibility of reconciled relationships in communities divided by poverty, violence, and religion.
The tragic death of Thomas Palermo challenges us all to attend to the work of healing. We cannot restore what is past, but we can seek reconciliation and wholeness for all who have been affected – the Palermo family, Heather Cook, the biking community and others in Baltimore, the Diocese of Maryland, bystanders and onlookers who have witnessed any of these traumatic events.
We begin in prayer – lament and wailing at loss and at human frailty. We continue in prayer – for succor and comfort, for compassion, for transformation and healing. Episcopalians worship a God who came among us in fragile human flesh and suffered pain and death at the hands of other human beings. We understand his resurrection to mean that death does not have the final word – and that healing and wholeness transcend the grave. That healing is never quick or easy, it does not “fix” what has already happened, but it does begin to let hope grow again.
Our task is that hard work of healing. It requires vulnerability to the pain of all involved – victims, transgressors, onlookers, friends and families and coworkers and emergency responders and community members. A violent death often divides communities, yet ultimately healing requires us all to lower our defenses enough to let others minister to us, to hear another’s pain and grief, to share our own devastation, and indeed to look for the possibility of a new and different future. Healing also comes through a sense of restored order, which is the role of processes of accountability.
Healing requires hope for a redeemed future for the Palermo family as well as Heather Cook. Many have been changed by this death, yet their lives are not ended. They can be healed and transformed, even though the path be long and hard. Our work is to walk that path in solidarity with all who grieve and mourn. May we pray with the psalmist, “Yea, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me.” May we also be that companioning presence, the image of God in the flesh, for those who walk through that valley.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
While Bishop Katharine is specifically referring to one situation in our larger Household, we can easily look around our congregations, our families, our friends and ourselves to see the need for healing and transformation. I’m currently taking a class through the Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership called Ritual Care in Times of Transition in which we’re examining the liturgies and rituals that we need for situations of divorce, death, pregnancy loss, and change in life status. In most cases each of these mark periods of brokenness in our lives and times that are ripe for healing. And these are common to us all.
The need for physical wholeness is certainly as great a need and there is much we can do to bring support and comfort to those around us who are suffering. One such area of need is the on-going struggle of HIV/AIDS in our world. March 1st to March 8th is designated as the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS for this year. You may recall that a year ago at this time, I shared information about this important opportunity for people from all faith communities to join together in this awareness campaign. Because of this annual effort, strides have been made in HIV prevention, testing, direct service, advocacy and community engagement. This week of prayer also helps us to act on some of the resolutions from our last General Convention, specifically A165 and A166:
A165: HIV/AIDS Health Ministry Education
Resolved, That the 77th General Convention affirm the importance of HIV and AIDS ministry in the Church; and be it further
Resolved, That the 77th General Convention urge parish health ministry programs to include HIV and AIDS education as a component of their ongoing programming; and be it further
Resolved, That the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition (NEAC) and National Episcopal Health Ministries (NEHM) be requested to compile appropriate secular and theological resources for this programming, including, but not limited to, reliable, culturally- and age-appropriate HIV and AIDS prevention materials, with an emphasis on the role of behavior in reducing risks for HIV infection; and be it further
Resolved, That NEHM and NEAC further be requested to make these materials available to clergy, parishes, parish nurses, Christian educators and Episcopal schools.
A166: Week of Prayer for Healing of AIDS
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 77th General Convention urge all parishes and dioceses of The Episcopal Church to participate in the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, observed annually beginning the first Sunday in March.
There is still much work to be done. While the incidence of new cases is not increasing as rapidly as it was in the early 1990s, it is still on the rise. We need to continue advocacy and awareness efforts to bring these numbers down. One life lost is still one life too many! You can get more information and helpful resources for your congregation here – http://www.balmingilead.org/nwpha/
As we seek to follow Christ and share the Good News of the Gospel we will be surrounded by the need of us to be instruments of God’s peace and grace. Let us work together to bring the light of Jesus to all the people with whom we share our lives!
Let us pray:
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life. Amen
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council