Lent and Well-being: Remember that you are connected

Yesterday I went to the Ash Wednesday service at Christ Church Cathedral. If you, like me, went to a service that included the imposition of ashes, you probably heard the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Remember that you are dust. In one sense, of course, this is a call to remember our mortality. Remember that you are going to die, and in light of that inescapable fact, how are you going to live?

In another, related, sense, it calls us to repentance, reminding us of the sackcloth and ashes of the prophets of old. It calls us to look for the experience that makes part of us die, and turn away from it.

But there’s another significance that occurs to me. In her article, Jesus of the People, Sister Elizabeth A Johnson reminds us that, in fact, we are stardust.

Aruther Peacock, a scientist who is also a theologian, explains, “Every atom of iron in our blood would not be there had it not been produced in some galactic explosion billions of years ago and eventually condensed to formthe iron i the crust of the earth from which we have emerged.” Quite literally, human beings are made of stardust.

She goes on to exclaim the ramifications for this when it comes to the incarnation:

. . . In [Jesus’] person, gracious solidarity encompasses not only all people but the whole biological world of living creatures and the cosmic dust of which they are composed. . . . Jesus of Nazareth, composed of star-stuff and earth-stuff, existed in a network of relationships extending through the biological community of Earth to the whole physical universe”. (See Johnson’s article ‘Jesus of the People’ in Holiness and the Feminine Spirit, 2009.)

To remember that we are dust is to remember that we are connected. Connected to the ground beneath our feet, connected to our fellow dust-creatures, and connected to the God who put on dust to join us.

So what does that have to say to us as we consider our well-being?

It turns out that high on the list of factors that influence our sense of well-being are our relationships with others. Australia’s Better Health Channel includes “happy, intimate relationship with a partner”, “network of close friends”, and “a sense of belonging” on its list. Likewise, in its recommendations for achieving well-being, it lists “develop and maintain strong relationships with family and friends”, “make regular time available for social contact”, and “join local organisations or clubs that appeal to you”.

Remembering that we are connected is an exhortation to nurture our relationships and a reminder that no matter how lonely you may feel on any given day–and on a day like Valentine’s, it’s easy to feel it that much more keenly–you are not alone.

Remembering that we are connected also means remembering that our well-being is tied to the well-being of those around us. In that sense, it is both a consolation and a responsibility.

That responsibility features in yesterday’s reading from Isaiah:

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.  . . . You shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

I want to be careful here, mindful of those whose dedication to others is so great, they can forget to tend to themselves. What is clear is that the two are connected. When we nourish our own well-being, we become, like a watered garden, better able to support those around us. And when we tend to the needs of others, we tend also to our individual and corporate flourishing.

I couldn’t end without saying something about our connection to God. Yesterday evening, as I sat in Christ Church, I realised that I cannot seem to think of Ash Wednesday without also thinking of Good Friday. They are both solemn occasions, both days of fasting, both days on which the shadow of death can linger in the mind. But there is (at least) one stark difference: On Good Friday, the altar is stripped bare, and there is no Eucharist, no Communion, as is fitting on the day we mourn Christ’s death; but on Ash Wednesday, even when we are exhorted to recall all the things we’ve done wrong, individually and corporately, when it would be easy to feel cut off from God by a sense of unworthiness, we are welcomed to God’s table. As we are, dust and imperfections and all. 

So today, on St Valentine’s, with the words of Ash Wednesday still ringing in our ears, remember that we are connected.


Lent and Well-being: Ash Wednesday

In a 2010 Ash Wednesday sermon, the Rev Darren McCallig talks about sin and self-examination in a thought-provoking way. Referencing Barbara Brown Taylor, the American priest and author, he says this:



The trick is to identify what sin is for you, to really know yourself. And to do this, she says, you look for the experience that makes part of you die.


Look for the experience that makes part of you die.

Look for the things you do which make you a smaller person than you know you really are.


Look for the experience that makes part of you die.

Look for the habits in your life that make you a less generous, a less forgiving, a less compassionate person than what God wants you to be.


Look for the experience that makes part of you die.

Look for the things you do that kill your joy and your peace and replace them with bitterness and anger.


Look for the experience that makes part of you die.


We have a tradition of giving up and/or taking up something during Lent, and sometimes it can be difficult to choose our ‘punishment’, so to speak. Wine again this year, or chocolate? Definitely not coffee.


What if we extend this concept of death, and its correlative, life, to our Lenten discipline? What if we ask:

What’s life-reducing, life-distracting, life-sapping in our daily routines? And give that up.

And what’s life-nourishing, life-creating, life-sustaining that’s missing from our daily routines?

And take that up.


How does your Lenten discipline this year relate to your sense of well-being in body, mind and spirit?

Lent and Well-being: Where the good way lies

This year in CMHI, we look at the theme of well-being in body, mind and spirit.


Beginning tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, we take advantage of the Lenten season to ‘stand at the crossroads, and lookand ask for the ancient paths, where the good way liesand walk in it, and find rest for [our] souls.’ (Jeremiah 6.16)


Lent may have a reputation for misery and deprivation, but it invites us to examine ourselves and our lives, to bring focus to that which points the way to Resurrection and the abundant life of Christ’s promise. It beckons us to pay attention.

Now Recruiting

The Church’s Ministry of Healing: Ireland wishes to appoint a part-time Ministry Facilitator to develop and grow the Healing Ministry.


The successful candidate will be ordained and have a commitment to and knowledge of the Healing Ministry at parish level.


To request a job description and application form, contact the Ministry Co-ordinator, Jessica Stone:


T (o1) 872 7876

E careers@ministryofhealing.ie


Applications must be received by 4th February 2013.

May joy, peace, and hope remain with you this Christmas

For many, the Christmas season is a source of joy, a welcome brightness in the dark, cold winter. But for many others, the holidays can bring with them a sense of loneliness, or stress, or open afresh the wounds of bereavement.


Whether you’re buzzing with excitement or burdened with care, I’d like to share this benediction from Following the Star:


Move quietly now through your day.

Joy, peace and hope remain.

Seek out the company of friends,

Remind yourself that God is near,

And allow small moments of joy to return

For the healing of your heart.

Rev Baden Stanley and Canon Susan Watterson Honoured at AGM

At CMH: Ireland’s AGM on 4th December 2012, two very special people were honoured for their work in the Ministry of Healing.


The Chairman, the Rt Rev Patrick Rooke, paid tribute to the Rev Baden Stanley, a former Chairman of CMH:I who retired from the Board earlier this year. Baden was unable to be present at the AGM, but the Chairman spoke of how Baden had given so much of himself to the role during difficult times and how greatly his contributions were appreciated by all. Baden remains a member of CMH: Ireland and a member of the Dublin & Glendalough Diocesan Committee.

The Rev Baden Stanley, former Chairman of CMH: Ireland


Also honoured at the AGM was the Rev Canon Susan Watterson, who served first as Warden and for the last five years as Training and Resources Advisor. In a farewell tribute, the Chairman remarked that Sue’s “quiet, but dependable personality, coupled with her expertise, made her ideally suited to this ministry”. Mrs Avril Gillatt presented Sue with a gift on behalf of CMH:I, thanking Sue for her constant encouragement and for “pointing and guiding us as to how we should behave as Prayer Ministers and in the Ministry of Healing”. Accepting the gift, Sue observed that in 25 years of ministry, she believed she’d learned the most from the 10 spent in the Ministry of Healing, adding, “Thank you for sharing those years with me.”


CMH: Ireland wish Baden and Sue all the very best and are grateful for their continued support of this ministry.

Chairman’s Welcome

Welcome to the website of the Church’s Ministry of Healing: Ireland. Linked to the Church of Ireland (Anglican), we are a limited company established in 2010 and based at Egan House, St Michan’s Church, Church Street, Dublin 7.


In sending out disciples, Jesus commanded them ‘Heal those who are sick and say the Kingdom of God is very near to you’ (Luke 9:10). Elsewhere in the Gospels, he commands the Apostles to teach, to preach and to heal.


The Reverend Noel Waring first established the Church’s Ministry of Healing in the Church of Ireland in 1932. In this, he received strong support and encouragement from the then Archbishop of Dublin, Archbishop Gregg. Over the years, CMH has been instrumental in developing and encouraging this important dimension of the Church’s wider ministry throughout Ireland. As well as its Dublin base, it developed a centre at The Mount in Belfast and other diocesan centres were established. Today, CMH: The Mount is an independent company but CMH: Ireland continues to work collaboratively with it and with all the dioceses and parishes both north and south of the political divide.


Our aims are to educate, to encourage, to co-ordinate, to provide and to resource. Although our primary responsibility is to the dioceses and parishes of the Church of Ireland, we are happy to address the needs of all those who seek healing of body, mind or spirit. We have two part-time employees; a Ministry Co-ordinator and a Ministry Facilitator. All enquiries should be addressed to them at healing@ireland.anglican.org


+Patrick Tuam:


The Use Of Oil In The Ministry Of Healing

The use of olive oil was extensive in the Old and New Testaments not only in cooking but also for medicinal purposes and in sacred ritual. Olive oil was considered a precious commodity and used sparingly. Olive trees are native to the Middle East and grow for hundreds of years. In 1 Samuel 16:13 David is anointed king of Israel. “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” this passage illustrates the sacramental nature of the use of oil in highly significant religious moments. David is chosen by God as his anointed and commissions the prophet Samuel to anoint him as king of Israel. Samuel anoints David by pouring oil over his head. The traditional definition of a sacrament states that a sacrament is the outward sign of an inward grace. In the anointing of David, described as a sacramental moment, the outward sign of the oil being poured over his head is a signification of the inward grace God is bestowing on him by anointing him as king of his people Israel


In the New Testament reference to the use of oil in sacred ritual appears in the letter of St James where he is instructing the early church. St James says to his listeners: “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:14). Here St James refers to the healing ministry of the church as sacramental. There are three elements in this short passage about the healing ministry which give a clear image of the process of healing. First of all St James instructs: are any of you sick? Here the apostle is giving a clear statement that the church has a divine mandate from God to engage in a healing ministry to the sick. Then he continues: They should call for the elders of the church. Here the apostle is affirming that the people who are ordinarily commissioned to administer the healing are the bishops who are the elders of the church and who through the commission of their ordination are called to heal the sick. Priests of the church, who derive their priesthood from the fullness of priesthood contained in the ordination of a bishop, are commissioned by their ordinary to heal the sick and thus share in his (the bishop’s) priestly ministry.  The sacramental element of this passage is introduced by the apostle when he commissions the elders to: “pray over the sick and anoint them with oil.” This is a clear statement that all healing is an act of God. The outward signs of God’s inward healing grace at work are the laying on of hands in prayer and the anointing with holy oil.


Throughout the ages of the church the use of oil as the outward sign of God’s inner workings was synonymous with the sacrament of the sick. In the reformed tradition the seven sacraments were reduced to two namely, baptism and Eucharist. With this derogation the use of oil in the healing ministry declined with that ministry being put to the margins of religious practice. This was an unfortunate legacy of the reformation which in some cases ‘threw out the baby with the bathwater.’


Thankfully, with the 2004 prayer book and a growth in theological understanding of the ministry of healing in the church, that same ministry is being restored to its proper place in the worship and life of the church. The use of oil in the healing ministry is extensive and the administration of that oil is seen more and more as sacramental when used with prayer and the laying on of hands.  More and more diocesan bishops are celebrating the Chrism Eucharist in their diocesan cathedrals with their priests and lay ministers. At these celebrations three oils are blessed: the oil of Chrism for blessing at confirmations, ordinations and the consecration of bishops. The oil of Catechumens for the blessing of candidates for baptism and the oil of the sick for use in the ministry of healing. It is my prayer that it will become the norm as we lay hands on those who are sick asking God to send his healing Spirit on them we will also anoint them with the oil of the sick as an outward sign of God’s healing grace working within them.