The Mothers’ Union is an international organisation founded by Mary Summer in 1876 to uphold the value of the family within Christian marriage. Worldwide, there are 3.6 million members in 78 countries. Within this diocese there are around fifty branches, many of whom were represented at a service at the Parish Church of St. Mary’s on the evening of 16th October. Remembering St. Luke, the physician, the evening focused on those who are in need of healing and support through illness, bereavement, depression, anxiety or troubles.
Led by the Bishop of Dunwich, The Rt. Revd. Clive Young, assisted by the Rector of St Mary’s, Revd. Canon Kevan McCormack and the Assistant Curate, Revd. Paul Hambling, the Laying on of Hands and Anointing was a part of the Parish Eucharist. This quiet, personal and sensitive act was offered to the large congregation prior to the celebration of Holy Communion. A very moving experience, whether accepted for oneself or on behalf of another in need.
In his address, the Bishop repeatedly referred to the well-used phrase, ‘Do Not Touch’. He reminded us that we all experienced touch at the very start of life – the touch of our Mother after birth. And the importance of touch at the end of life when other senses are dimmed, words are inadequate and touch of a loved one means so much. But, in between, today’s society has a very sad and strange attitude to touch: brutal, seductive and abusive touch are destructive, especially towards children; we have become afraid to touch, hold or comfort another human for fear of suspicion, intimidation or accusation; parents must not touch their children in discipline; teachers must never touch a pupil in affection or anger. The ‘natural’ response has become threatening. Society has become touchy about touch.
But the Bible, and the Gospels in particular, have many references to touch. Jesus healed by touch and people were healed by touching him, or even his clothes. The Prodigal Son was hugged by his Father. The Good Samaritan bound the injured man’s wounds. Within the Anglican Church, touch is symbolic: anointing at Baptism; laying on of hands at Confirmation; joining of hands in marriage; touching the Bread when it is broken at Communion; passing the Peace.
Touch, said the Bishop, can change lives. When Princess Diana touched an AIDS patient, the media ceased upon it as a news item, giving it great publicity. But, that one simple act changed society’s attitude to AIDS victims. Similarly, the tender touch of Mother Teresa highlighted the plight of many children in the world and promoted a more compassionate awareness toward them. Jesus is no longer here to physically touch. But we are able to do so in His name. And that is what happened here in St. Mary’s on that special Friday evening.
|Copyright © St. Mary's PCC, 2007
(contributors reserve their individual copyrights)