A reflection on Sunday’s worship service in Kenya

February 19, 2013
On my second day in Kenya, I preached at a worship service.

On my second day in Kenya, I preached at a worship service.

As you can see in the video below, on our second day in Kenya, we attended a worship service. It was a large gathering representing several churches from the Nakuru West district of the United Methodist Church. We worshiped under a tent. I preached the sermon, and Susan and I served Holy Communion. I was slightly concerned that my sermon would be too long considering it would also have to be translated, but then I remembered that this is Kenya: Worship lasts three hours or more! What’s a few extra minutes?

Toward the end of the service, pastors brought forward four or five parishioners who were in need of healing. They wanted us to do something“O.K.,” I thought. “This is a little new for me. Act like you’ve done it before, Brent.” So we laid our hands on them and prayed for them. I prayed something like the following: “Almighty God, by the power of your Holy Spirit, give your beloved daughter the healing that she needs. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I then made the sign of the cross on their forehead.

That sounds pretty good, right? I couldn’t be more specific than that, since I didn’t know these people, and I couldn’t speak swahili to ask them what was wrong.

Healing prayers and healing services are, of course, an ancient Christian practice. We have prayers and liturgies for them in our United Methodist Book of Worship. When we wazungu (white people) were debriefing as a group (Susan, me, the missionaries Bill and Chat, and our brothers and sisters from Peachtree Road UMC), a few of us thought that was the most moving part of the service.

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Each evening, we debrief, reflect on the day’s experiences, share a devotional, and pray.

Why can’t we make a healing liturgy like this a regular part of worship back home? Would that be weird?

I grew up not exactly watching Ernest Angley on TV on Sunday morning, but his show was often on before the cartoons started—informing his viewers to put their hands on the TV screen in order to receive a healing. I’m aware that faith-healing has a bad name. But that’s not exactly the kind of healing that I’m talking about—although, by all means, I hope and believe that physical healings may result.

But good heavens, I need healing myself sometimes! Don’t you? Shouldn’t church be a place where we seek healing—given that God himself is always the One who heals us?

My own discomfort with participating in a healing liturgy is that it would mean swallowing my pride and confessing to the world that I need help, that I’m not self-sufficient, that I don’t have it all together. I don’t like doing that.

Anyway, enjoy the video.

2 Responses to “A reflection on Sunday’s worship service in Kenya”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    Brent, a good report. Glad to see the work being done by God through you and others there. (And I venture to say God gives you and others some of the credit, if for no other reason than being “willing vessels” who went there.)

    With respect to healings, I certainly believe God heals people, and may do so in a “supernatural” way. However, I shy away from any “miraculous” healings. By “miraculous” (since the terminology sometimes gets in the way), I mean something spectacularly overriding natural laws (a man born blind sees, a withered hand becomes whole, etc.), as in the New Testament accounts. Having beeen to several “healing services” myself, I have never see any such thing. My belief is that those “miracles” were “signs and wonders” to authenticate those who initially recounted the gospel and the teachings of Jesus and the epistles, per Hebrews 2. I don’t think I am a “skeptic”–I would be delighted to see miracles and I know God can perform them whenever he chooses. I just think he had a reason to bestow those at a certain time, and that reason is no more, so those are no more.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Tom, you’re back! 🙂 I hear you about the “willing vessels” thing. That’s not nothing. I hope the Lord is pleased—because this far outside of my comfort zone. We collaborate with God. I’m glad I chose to answer the call.

      As for healing, I share your skepticism; I would be reluctant to pray for some dramatic physical reversal of fortune. That’s why I said, “Give them the healing they need.” Who knows what healing they want? But any true healing, physical or spiritual, comes from God.


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