Welcome Home Initiative – A Chaplain’s Encounter
By Captain (Chaplain) Robin Major, Canadian Army.
A wise teacher once said to me, “You’re done learning, when you’re done living.” This seems especially true in the spiritual life. I never cease to be amazed by the power of God to open my eyes anew in ways that seem so obvious when my eyes have been opened while up to that moment I did not even realize in this issue, I was blind. We see this all the time with people that we are seeking to help who just don’t seem to get it. My road to growth as a helper is paved with the fact that when I am able to be both vulnerable and honest with both myself and God at the same time, I feel I need more help than those I’m called to help. What follows is the story of my recent experience with healing prayer that made this clear in a new and exciting way.
This past February, I attended the 20th running of the Welcome Home Initiative at the Christ the King Spiritual Life Center in Greenwich New York as an observer. While the 20th running, it was the first exclusively for women. The program was led by the Episcopal Priest, Reverend Nigel Mumford, a former British Royal Marine and PSTD survivor. His most recent book, “After the Trauma, the Battle Begins. Post Trauma Healing,” is an excellent story of his own suffering and recovery through the very prayerful approach that he embodies through leadership of the Welcome Home Initiative.
The Welcome Home Initiative is a three day healing prayer retreat for combat veterans suffering from trauma. The Initiative is explicitly Christian, and is grounded in the belief in the power of the Holy Spirit to heal people through prayer. This kind of approach was quite new to me as an Anglican raised and trained in what for lack of a better phrase I would call “non-evangelical tradition.” I had almost no experience with things such as praying for people through the laying on of hands in groups. The limited experience I have had with such things, I have found to be negative and unacceptable to my religious sensibilities. My encounter with the Welcome Home Initiative changed this.
I realize now in the removal of the barriers that were within me, what the barriers were and why. The first of the barriers to taking serious the healing prayer movement was that my prior experience had been with people who did not celebrate the things that were critical to my faith as an Anglican, namely the honoring of liturgical traditions of worship. While Reverend Nigel Mumford was well versed in more contemporary manners of praying and worshipping, the process also included an Anglican Holy Eucharist with Chalice and Paten. And through the contemporary breakout cross that was at the center of the Upper Room where healing prayer occurred, one looked directly across the valley to the sight of a majestic edifice called the Convent of the Sisters of St Mary. In this context, liturgical and evangelical co-existed side by side in harmonious mutual celebration of God.
The second barrier that was removed centered on my previous experience with the healing prayer movement in terms of the conflict that was posited between healing prayer and modern medicine. It was as if to affirm the value and role of medicine was to lack faith in the power of healing prayer. It was to my delight that the approach I encountered not only lacked the conflict, but rather affirmed and even celebrated medicine. What a freedom it is to pray fully for God’s miraculous healing of sickness by means of either supernatural, medicinal or both.
The third barrier had to do with concerns I had with the tendency for those who practised healing prayer to be overly full of their own sense of importance to the healing process. I made explicit inquires about the nature of the power in prayer with Rev. Mumford who was clear to me that we are called to pray and that something happens because of our prayer but ultimately whatever that is, it is God who is doing the work.
Another barrier for me is that everybody is not healed from prayer. Rev. Mumford’s reply was that in the context of prayer for healing, “All are healed and some are cured.” By this he explained that in some way in the context of prayer, he believes there is always some kind of healing that God is doing and it is our job to remain faithful to this and keep praying. That all are not cured of sickness is in God’s hand.
With these barriers removed, I found myself able to enter into receiving and offering healing prayers for people with an openness to praying faithfully for healing of all ailments and leaving the rest in God’s hands. During the retreat, I witnessed two physical healings, one of a woman with a headache and another with a person who had a continuous nervous shake as well as many tears and smiles that reflected inner healing occurring. These outward changes in my mind are small examples of what can be in time much greater healing of people’s hearts, minds and bodies through continued prayer and participation in every available kind of way to help with recover from illness.
In my own heart, the process created a safe place where I went with Christ to some dark places in my past where I experienced a healing of suffering. With this healing was also a call to more healing and at this time, in daily prayer, I continue to walk with the one who heals in deepening a sense of freedom from the past to live more fully today. I would not say that this process just started but rather, through this encounter, it has shifted and deepened in a way which is benefiting me personally and hopefully will benefit those I feel called to help.
For anyone who might be interested in attending, the next Welcome Home Initiative is 20-22 May 2013 which is the week before the Annual Chaplain Retreat. The location in Greenwich NY is four hours’ drive south of Montreal. If you are personally suffering from deployment based trauma, you may attend as a retreat member. Another option for attendance is as an observer/student of the process as I did this past February.
Captain (Chaplain) Robin Major