Sometimes things happen in services that you just can’t plan for. Something happened on Sunday which could have ended badly but in fact was something quite profound. Let me explain.
Once a month we run a morning service called Liquid Church. We meet together at the beginning of the service for a short time of worship on a particular theme, then we break up into ‘streams’ which engage with the theme in different ways eg small group discussion, art, music. It’s been going quite well over the last few months and this month we decided to look at the often-tricky subject of healing.
Just to explain, the format of the service this time was not in streams but involved a conversation between two people from our congregation who have experienced healing/have changed their views about healing over the years. Then there was a time of exploring ‘prayer stations’ around the church while Taize music played in the background, with the opportunity to pray with our prayer team as well if needed. Then there was to be a ‘question time’ and then coffee.
So far so good. There was a real sense of calm and peace before the service. The conversation was thought provoking. Visitors seemed to be enjoying it. Then, just before we were about to wander around the different prayer stations, I noticed that one of our ladies was bent over in her seat. (I’m not naming her on a public forum but she is a lovely lady). I thought she was crying. However, as people began to move around the church it transpired that she had slumped in her seat and had passed out.
The people around her responded with care and love. One person quickly and quietly called 999 on her mobile. Others got a gym mat out of the cupboard and enabled the lady to lie down. During this time, some people gathered round but many carried on engaging with the prayer stations, quietly praying for our friend and not panicking. When the paramedics arrived (in a matter of minutes, well done NHS), I was able to meet them at the door and explain what had happened and also why people were wandering about the church. They were fantastic – just got on with helping the lady – and as I drew the service to a slightly earlier end than planned they took her out to an ambulance and then to hospital for a checkover.By this time she was conscious and returned home later in the afternoon.
Apart from the obvious irony of paramedics being called to a healing service, the effect of this happening was profound. Some people were struck by the peace and calm of the service even though something dramatic happened. Others commented that they had been struck by the matter-of-factness by which the congregation had surrounded the lady who collapsed with love and care. One person thought it was “all part of the service ” – let’s not dwell on that one..
What made it profound for me was that although this is a challenging thing to happen in a service, the drama of the paramedics arriving brought home very powerfully to me the ways that God can speak to us. We had been talking about wholeness and prayer and healing and yet here was an extremely practical example of help and healing right in front of us. Sometimes healing is not spiritual. Sometimes healing comes through the brilliant work of the NHS.
But all this felt very spiritual indeed. It wasn’t a well planned stunt. It wasn’t something we had arranged. It was completely unplanned and unrehearsed. It was a community of faith showing love and care to a lady in need and getting her the help that she needed and seeing God in all of that. Wow.