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Author(s): Michael Harper, Michael Fulljames
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Dr Michael Harper is the Medical Director of Burrswood, the centre founded by Dorothy Kerin, just outside Tunbridge Wells. Michael Fulljames retired as Chaplain of Burrswood in 2001; he now lives in Canterbury
Burrswood was founded in 1948 as a centre for divine healing and medical care, with a very clear mission: to heal the sick, comfort the sorrowing, and give faith to the faithless. It has developed greatly, but still brings together in a unique fashion both Christ’s healing ministry and the best of whole person medicine treating people in body and soul, heart and spirit. Many continue to find God’s peace here and signs of his healing comforts, both outwardly and inwardly.
Tell us about the book – what does it aim to do and how did it come about?
We were invited to write the book by the SCM-Canterbury Press, to follow a book they had published of general morning and evening prayers for a month. For this book a Doctor-Priest partnership was sought, and Burrswood is a good place to look for that sort of co-operation ! Our aim was to provide morning reflections and evening prayers on a wide range of issues and experiences met by those suffering sickness, or praying for healing in its broadest sense. We try to face difficult questions and feelings without evasion, and express our reactions openly, even bluntly, in the prayer pages. We hope it expresses a living relationship with our Lord.
Tell us about who it is for – people suffering, carers, professionals – who exactly?
It is for people suffering disease and its consequences; it is also for their carers and people concerned about the personal issues involved. We hope much of the prayer material can easily be converted from prayer from ‘me’, to prayer for ‘her’, ‘him’ or ‘them’.We have been invited to think about a sequel. It seems to us that there is very little available to help carers, professional and otherwise, wrestle with, and pray through, their experiences and questions. What are the deep challenges and issues for nurse, doctor, pastor, counsellor, social worker, therapist or lay carer ? We would be grateful if people could post ideas of suitable topics.
What is your background in healing ministry?
Between us we have enjoyed wide learning experiences, both professionally and in our Christian walk.
Michael Fulljames, an Anglican Priest for over 40 years, with ministry in parishes, in psychiatric and general hospitals and a hospice, and on to Chaplaincy in Holland, and at Burrswood. For him Fr. Jim Wilson, of the Guild of Health and then Agnes Sanford first ignited interest in healing ministry; followed by sharing in the ministry in Canterbury Diocese, and working on its expression in psychiatric arenas. Ministry at Burrswood included public healing worship, personal ministry often offered with other professionals, both for hospital patients and guests.
Michael Harper, a Doctor specializing in palliative care, an Anglican lay minister; practised in the RAF, general practice, hospices and now Director of Burrswood. He has been interested in healing ministry since being a young Christian, involved in the charismatic movement, house churches and Elim Church; was concerned for whole person healing as a GP, working together with Anglican clergy in Port Talbot, and became increasingly open to finding ways to pray regarding healing with hospice patients.
The book is grouped into 31 days and 31 likely emotional responses. Why did you find this format helpful?
Reflecting on our experiences, and thinking through the implications, and the questions that arise, informs the way we pray. Sometimes it is not clear where one ends and the other begins: It is probably a good thing to have this carry over. It certainly helps us avoid denial before the Almighty, and even allows us to express the impoliteness of hurting feelings. The Psalmist is very good at that.
You dedicate a section to ‘Christ the Healer’ and yet you must see so many people in pain. What can you say in the light of suffering – both to a patient and to their loved ones?
The first thing would be to say nothing, but to sit quietly and listen. Job’s comforters started well in this way; things went downhill rapidly once they opened their mouths. Yet testify we should, eventually, once the listening has borne witness to some empathy and showing understanding of where the pain really bites. Then there may be the possibility of fruitful sharing and dialogue.This will often include:
· acknowledging that bad things do happen to good people, and that some questions do not have simple answers
· realising Jesus shared our sufferings, pains and doubts, even our bereavements, on the cross.
· seeking to know the reality of Christ’s presence, entering our pains, doubts and fears;
· looking for signs of hope and strength, despite the darkness and weakness
· wanting to know his healing touch at the point of need
· thankfully counting blessings, and assurances of care and love received
· praying togetherPrayers for Healing: A Burrswood Companion by Michael Fulljames and Michael Harper is published in June 2003 priced £9.99.