Christian Women’s Prayerful Touch
A year or so ago, I was preparing for surgery on my hands. In the two years before this, I had three other hand surgeries, and all went well. But this was the big one—surgery on a finger that I had broken as a teen. This was mixed with severe tendinitis, and typical complications that come with middle age, over-usage (I love crocheting, sewing, cooking and typing) and lifelong diabetes. I was anxious. And not as confident as I would have liked.
At the time, I was going to a Christian Women’s Bible study in the small town where I lived. I was going because I loved the Christian community of women, and besides, there were no other Mormons in town. It was a remote community and our branch was 3 hour drive each way away. I grew to love the Christian Women’s bible group and looked forward to the meetings with all of my heart.
At the end of each meeting, we discussed the needs of the women in the Christian community. Meals were assigned for new mothers and women who were sick, and we prayed for those dealing with cancer, illness, miscarriage, unemployment, death or other issues in their families. We prayed for each other, and shared our fears with each other so we could pray for ourselves as well.
It was few days before I was leaving for my surgery, and everyone knew I was having yet another hand surgery. “No crocheting for you!” they would joke—“Oh, and no phone!” and we would laugh, recognising all the little limitations that come with something as small as microscopic tendon surgery.
“Would you like us to offer a special prayer for you?” Asked the female Pastor, who I will call Glynis, and who I had grown to love. Her only uniform was her “Sunday best dress,” which was modest and humble, no robes, no hats or scarves. You’d never know that she was lay clergy based on her appearance- it was appeared more financially modest than the dresses on many Mormon women I know. In my Mormon heart, I didn’t feel comfortable going to the non-denominational church on Sundays in lieu of home church. And yet, I felt a little ashamed of this—because the non-denominational Christian women’s bible study fed my soul so very much during the week and gave me inspiration to stay connected with God.
“Yes,” I said, anxiously. “I’m nervous about this surgery. I don’t know why. But this one feels…scarier.” I went on to explain that I had broken this finger as a teen, and had more issues with this hand than with the others. I explained that it was my second local anesthetic—which I liked because I had a much quicker recovery. But I was still nervous.
“Would you like us to lay hands on you?” Pastor Glynis asked.
I did not know what this meant, but after a lifetime in the Mormon church, I presumed maybe they would put their hands on my head—or kind of close to it. Or something. I wasn’t really worried.
So the Christian women gathered around me. Then they lightly touched my shoulders, hands, and arms. Unlike the men’s hands on my head in Mormondom, these women became the blanket of warmth that Mormon women have described as the Holy Ghost. I was filled with the spirit. It was intense and spiritual in a way I had not experienced before.
There were no politics of who had authority, or were righteous enough to be in the circle. There was no discrimination—all in the room participated, and in this case, we were all women. Heads were bowed, and Pastor Glynis offered a prayer. She invoked no priesthood, claiming no right or title or power. She prayed, thanking God. Blessing every cell in my body. Blessing my spirit. Blessing that the healing would be fast and complete. Praying that my hands and body would work as they ought. The chorus of Amen was peaceful, humble, and filled with love.
I wept, feeling the Holy Spirit surround me through these good, righteous, Christian women.
And my surgery was fine. Wherever the odd moment of nervousness crept in, I remembered that prayer, and was comforted and strengthened. The same feeling of the spirit also joined me over the next few months as I recovered and did the exercises to get full mobility back in my digits.
We’ve since moved, and now live in a town with a ward that is walking distance from my house. So I now sit at Mormon Church, feeling a sterile kind of rote worship where no one ventures to colour outside of the lines, no one has witness to a different line a thought, and where the hands of men are officially the only vessels to bring the spirit of healing. In this, I’ve been unable to comprehend why Mormon women can’t/won’t/don’t “lay on hands” in a prayer for healing. Why Mormon women can’t be pastors. Why –in the recent Ward Conference—the Relief Society president offered the closing prayer to the men’s talks as her token symbol of female participation.
Mostly, I have yet to feel the spirit in the same way that I felt in the Christian Women’s Bible study group, and I miss it, dearly. (I add that I have had a blessing from a Mormon woman via email once that invoked a very powerful spirit, possibly even more powerful that the bible study prayer– but it was yet “unofficial”. I will write about that another time.)