“What’s your name for the Divine Presence?” It’s one of the first questions we ask as we embark on a Healing Partners session with our clients. Even though we are rooted in the Anglican tradition and model the healing ministry of Jesus, the women who created The Pilgrimage Process — which is the basis for Healing Partners here at All Saints — wanted to make sure that anyone who came for a healing felt comfortable. Because words can have power over people.
Depending on how you grew up, even words like “Jesus” or “God” can be synonymous with “anger”, “judgment” or even “cruelty.”Less than a decade ago, I, myself, couldn’t say the word “God,” let alone “Jesus.” Because of my past, it took a long time for those words to come to mean what they should mean: “love,” “patience,” “compassion.”
During our first few trainings of Healing Partners at All Saints, I heard the words that I expected to hear, in answer to that first question: “Jesus”, “Christ”, “God”, “Holy Spirit.” But what was remarkable is once we started to work with the parish, with clients who were not healers themselves, the vocabulary changed radically. We heard names like “The One,” “Breath,” “Great Spirit,” “Great Mother,” “Acceptance,” “Love.” Even words and phrases in other languages. At first, it seemed to me mostly an intellectual exercise. It was certainly interesting, what names other people came up with, and I would wonder a bit why they came up with those names. And when I used their names, to pray over them in the beginning and end of our sessions, it definitely took a certain amount of focus and reminding to get the name “right.” I have been so used to “God,” that it was indeed a change.
But very quickly, I began to feel something different. Words can have power over people. And standing with another healer over a brother or a sister, praying for them, holding them, serving them…I became aware that their words were also my words. Maybe I’d never prayed those words “formally”, but somewhere, inside, I could acknowledge that I have experienced God as “Breath.” That God has indeed been “The One.” That God has often been my “Great Mother.” It made me understand that so often I limit God to that little three-letter word. As if, really, all I need to get by in this troubled world is some “God” in my back pocket. I should really been using the name “Lucky Charm” in that case.
I also began to notice that almost no one answered the question quickly. When asked, “what is your name for the Divine Presence?” it takes most people a second. I think not only to remember that that is indeed what God is … a Presence that is here and now, with us always. But also, there is a moment, when most people almost smile. There is a delight in their faces, when they realize that they can use their own words to describe what, for them, has been possibly the most intimate, or most powerful of experiences.
They are free to speak what perhaps has not been spoken before, or perhaps what has never occurred to them before, or perhaps just what God feels like to them on that particular day. And to be on the receiving end of that, to know that just by sitting there with a fellow healer, allowing another living soul to just be where they’re at, be who they are, to let them know that how they choose to name their experiences has dignity and will indeed be honored…well, it is a gift. And it reminds me that that is the only way healing can occur.
When a heart can speak its truth to another heart, and that heart receives that truth, and both hearts remain in whatever name we have for the Divine Presence.
Every week we celebrate one of the many ministries that make up the work and witness of All Saints Church. This week our featured ministry is Healing Partners … and our featured blogger is ministry member Ann Noble.