Some Protestant s are rightly suspicious of "empty ritual" - rote repetition because "we've always done it that way". I'm definitely not referring to empty ritual, but rather to actions and words that lay bold claim to God's truth. Actions and words of power, which are given to us as we ask the Holy Spirit for them. Actions and words of power through which God heals. Actions and words of power that are rooted in the tradition and wisdom of the church, indeed which use familiar Christian liturgies in new ways.
Such liturgies of healing are yet another unique contribution that only ministers can make. After all, ordained clergy are professionals specifically trained to create and lead worship services, and lay ministers are likely to have had long experience with worship and liturgy as well. Further, we have an exceedingly rich tradition from which to draw, and pastors are likely to know about the many styles of worship through 2,000 years of church history. The prayers, the rites, the many forms of worship are ours to claim.
Personalized liturgies of healing are similar to Gestalt experiments in certain important ways. Both involve discerning what action the person's growth process is suggesting and finding ways for the person to actually do what is necessary in the safe setting of a private session or small group. Both invite increased awareness and discovery. In secular Gestalt workshops participants feel affirmed when other people identify with their inner work; during Gestalt Pastoral Care retreats Christians often become aware of their longing for the church to act as both witness and truth-teller in their growth process. In other words, while secular Gestalt draws on the power of community, Gestalt Pastoral Care relies on God working through the gathered church to pave the way.
WHAT CHRISTIAN HEALING LITURGIES ARE NOT
Individualized Christian liturgies are not a harangue or a pep talk that sends a message to "snap out of it". They are not a way to get someone to change. They are not coercive or condemning; instead they are respectful and gentle. They are never done without the explicit and detailed permission of the person for whom the liturgy is created. As much as possible, the wording and flow of tailor-made liturgies should come from a blend of the church's liturgical traditions and the person's own expressed desire or faith imagination.
It is even more important to understand that Christian healing liturgies are not magic; they do not try to manipulate forces somehow to obtain specific results. Their purpose is certainly not to make God bend to our desires, but to proclaim God's love in a targeted, personalized way. They do not seek personal power; instead they support deeper surrender to God's healing work. It is clear, however,
that there is more "doing" in creating personalized liturgies than there is in simply praying for healing. Some planning will surely be involved, and during a liturgy the minister of healing and the congregation may be quite active. In addition to praying for healing they may proclaim gospel truth, they may anoint the person who is the focus of the liturgy, or they may assist with some highly individualized action. With such an important role for the gathered church it is more important than ever to be clear that healing comes, not the rough liturgical actions, but through God at work in our worship.
--Rev. Tilda Norberg: Consenting to Grace an Introduction to GPC