New developments in the Ministry of HealingOver the years, Christian healing has been marginalized and, to some degree, held in disrepute. Why should that be? It is because the Church has not seen healing as central to its mission, a core ministry of the Church. Also, in some aspects healing has been sensationalised and has been seen to be delivered by “healers” and not by Jesus Christ. This has permitted a vacuum into which itinerant wonder ministries and tele-evangelists have claimed centre stage. However, over the past years, the ministry of healing has been transformed in Ireland by God’s blessing, honouring 75 years of faithful, Biblical service, and, in many ways, private and unseen ministry. All aspects of the ministry, physical, emotional and spiritual, are done in the name of the Lord Jesus, in a quiet, respectful, confidential and holy manner. Sensationalism is shunned. Our Ministry is supervised, governed, appraised and staff are in continuous education and discussion to achieve best practice.
An interview with Pat Mollan
Published in the Church of Ireland Gazette, conducted by the Editor, Rev Earl Storey.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
They say ‘life begins at 40’ – and for me, that was when things really started to happen. We were living in Holywood and our new vicar, Canon Jim Monroe, was a man of many challenges. I thank God for him making my pew uncomfortable and causing me to look upwards and then inwards, and examining faith matters more deeply.
Growing up in a Christian family and living next door to St Patrick’s church, Jordanstown, gave me a good start in life. I was educated at Richmond Lodge School and Belfast Royal Academy, where I met my life’s companion, Rab. We matriculated at Queen’s University, Belfast, in 1963 – Rab in medicine and I in science. I graduated PhD (Chemistry) in 1970 and BD in 1997. We have four children and eight grandchildren.
During that time, the Gazette ran an advertisement for Belfast Bible College that asked: “Would you like a deeper understanding of God’s word?” and “Would you like help finding where your spiritual gifts lie?” I had hardly applied for their Women’s Study Fellowship, until I heard God’s call into the ordained ministry. It took me a while to verbalise what was going on, and my delight was that God had been taking Rab on the same journey. We were ordained side-by-side for non stipendiary ministry at Pentecost 1997.
How did you first become involved in Christian healing ministry?
The Down and Dromore Diocesan Healing Committee invited Rab to speak at their biannual general meeting in 1997, and I ended up on the committee! They sent me on a residential course on Christian Healing for clergy and health professionals at the Church of England Healing Centre in 1998. This was where I first encountered the practical reality of Christ’s healing ministry and the benefits of the symbolic laying on of hands and anointing with oil.
For anyone unfamiliar with it, how would you describe Christian healing ministry?
Christian healing is best defined as ‘Jesus Christ meeting me at my point of need’. Jesus heals today through the prayers of his faithful people. As humans, we exist as body, mind and spirit, and healing can take place in any – or all – of these areas. Healing may also be in relationships with individuals, within families or in communities. The most precious healing takes place when someone commits their life to Jesus.
Can you tell us about the Church of Ireland’s Ministry of Healing – how did it originate and what is its current role?
It emerged in Ireland in the 1930s. The Archbishop of Dublin recognised Canon Noel Waring’s gifting and directed him into a Dublin parish, where he could exercise his special gift of healing. The ministry spread from there, being established in the 1960s in Belfast at 11 The Mount.
Our mandate is found in Luke 9:2, “He [Jesus] sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” God still heals today, through the prayers of his faithful people – that is anyone who believes in our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive” (Matthew 7:7). So often, we don’t have because we don’t ask.
What is your present role in the Church’s Ministry of Healing and what does it involve?
In 2009, the Church of Ireland encouraged the setting up of two autonomous charitable companies – there’s one in Belfast and one in Dublin. I am CEO and director of ministry at Church’s Ministry of Healing-The Mount.
We have teams for emergency prayer, intercessory prayer and one-to-one prayer, which may be received either at our healing service at St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, every Friday lunchtime; at The Mount; or in parishes by invitation. We also offer spiritual direction, counselling, mentoring and befriending. Our counsellors are professionally trained and registered. Likewise, I also teach on all aspects of the healing ministry and provide seminars on related topics to encourage and develop the spread and scope of the ministry.
Are there common misconceptions about healing ministry (i.e. does everyone get healed)?
People have different expectations of Christian healing and are disappointed if healing is not immediate and complete. Two ill-informed accusations are frequently and distressingly levied at people who haven’t experienced immediate healing, “There is sin in your life” and “You haven’t enough faith.”
However, everyone has sin in their life, therefore it is always necessary to pray prayers of confession before praying for healing – not just for the sick person but for those who pray, so that the ground is ‘clean’ before we move forward. The sick or troubled person may also have doubts about their faith, but faith resides in the one who prays, and so we join our faith to theirs when we pray with them. It is a relief that Jesus said that you have to have faith the size of a mustard seed.
The frequently unspoken blockage to healing is un-forgiveness and bitterness, which need to be dealt with before healing takes place. This is a particularly delicate area of ministry, as people must be brought to the understanding of the necessity of forgiveness before healing happens. In all cases, prayer for healing is simple and always in the name of Jesus.
What is your vision for the future development of the Church’s Ministry of Healing?
Ultimately, I would like to see an active ministry of healing taking place as routine in every parish – that Jesus’ command to his disciples to “heal the sick who are there and tell them that the kingdom of God has come near” (Luke 9:2), would be taken as the mandate for every believer.
Until that happens, I would like to see more centres like The Mount, where ministry is offered free at the point of need, and where expertise can be taught. One of the most exciting things is watching someone nervously becoming involved in praying for healing and then seeing their prayers answered. They take a step of faith which God rewards with the healing they have requested. It is a striking way of evangelism.
What do you find most challenging or rewarding about your involvement in healing ministry?
The biggest challenge that occurs is when someone walks in, unannounced, with serious suicidal ideations. You realise that because they have come, there is a part of them that wants to live, and you pray that God will open a way of communication to healing; so you sit them down with a cup of tea and begin the listening journey. All the while, you pray silently for God to give you revelation and insight into their situation which will open a door of communication.
For someone who is fragile, or diminished, and has been very badly hurt in life – to respect them in paying attention to their distress is very important and without putting them under duress; to be given the privilege of pointing them to Jesus and watch as he sets the captives free, releasing them from the darkest dungeon (Isaiah 61).
The biggest reward is seeing someone come to a living faith; trusting their present and future into Jesus’ hands, and knowing that they are truly loved. It is the healing of the relationship between the person and their heavenly Father.