|Real Help |What it is |What it's not |Your Situation |Decisions |Brethren Beliefs|



[The following is adapted from a brochure we distribute to anyone interested, written by Dean M. Miller. This biblical teaching as practiced by the Church of the Brethren is available on request.]


Olive Branch


The olive branch
has long been a symbol
of peace
and prosperity.
Oil for anointing
has also traditionally been
made from the fruit of this
Mediterranean tree,
bringing reconciliation
and wholeness
of life...


Anointing may be of real help to you in times of ...

     Physical illness. You may have received a disturbing diagnosis from your physician, or you have been battling a chronic or life-threatening illness.

     Accident or sudden trauma. You may be coping with the consequences of severe injuries or a loss of body function in a permanent handicap.

     Impending surgery. You may be facing the fear and anxiety of an operation with an uncertain prognosis.

     Critical decisions. You may be faced with choices affecting your job, your marriage, or your future that seem overwhelming.

     Risk and vulnerability. You may be undertaking a new assignment in strange territory, involving considerable risk to you and those whom you love.

     Reconciliation. You have just experienced a breakthrough in restoring a relationship that when broken, caused you much anguish and suffering.

     Emotional pain. You recall memories that arouse fear and guilt upon the loss of someone especially close to you.

     Spiritual renewal. You have experienced the closeness of God in a new way and found joy in renewing relationships with Christian brothers and sisters from whom you were estranged.

In any one of these experiences the service of anointing can bring healing, forgiveness, peace, and a profound sense of God's enabling presence.

What Anointing is...

     The Church of the Brethren offers an experience of spiritual renewal through which God often brings healing, arouses hope, communicates forgiveness, and bestows peace.

     Based primarily on the Biblical teaching in James 5:13-18, the anointing service provides an occasion for the individual to know and feel the powerful presence of God in the context of a faith community.

     As the service begins, appropriate scriptures are read and interpreted. Prayers are offered for an infusion of divine energy. Opportunity is given for the person requesting anointing to share insights and concerns in a confessional way. Then the person officiating will anoint the forehead of the individual with olive oil, stating the central affirmations of God's power to heal, forgive, and restore. This action is followed with prayers and the laying on of hands by persons from the assembled group.

     In the Church of the Brethren the anointing service grows out of our faith in God and the desire to implement Jesus' teachings, along with the practices of the early New Testament church. It rests on the conviction that healing forces are most often manifested within the context of the congregation where life's special moments are observed or celebrated. Here we surround one another with experiences of genuine caring. Here we offer continuing help and support to those coping with serious problems and life-changing events. Here through the anointing service we express openness to God's presence and our receptivity to the ministry of others. Here, through confession of sin, we receive God's blessing and the promise of restored relationships.

What Anointing is not ...

     As an act of worship, anointing does not substitute for medicine or therapeutic procedures. It is intended to work in cooperation with the applied skills of persons in medical and mental health professions.

     The anointing service is not "last rites' or "extreme unction." Rather, the purpose for anointing is focused on life, health, and restored relationships.

     The Brethren avoid the implication that the amount of faith determines the outcome of healing. There is no element of sensationalism. The ways of God abound in mystery and we never presume to use anointing as a manipulation of God's power.

Which situation is best for you...

     You may ask to be anointed in the privacy of your home, in the surroundings of a hospital room, or in the chancel of the sanctuary where you worship. It is appropriate to ask your pastor to lead the service, along with deacons or other congregational leaders upon whom you both agree. The presence of family members and other close friends is encouraged.

Anointing Service      The anointing service may be included within the Sunday morning worship hour or at some other time when the entire congregation is invited to attend. This is especially appropriate if you have been participating in the life and mission of your congregation. Just as we come before the congregation for baptism or to express our vows of membership, to enter a covenant of marriage, or to be commissioned to a special task of leadership within the church, so it is fitting that the anointing service be a regular and accepted part of congregational worship.

     You may call for the anointing service within the context of a congregational group where you are known to others. This may be a group that gathers for Bible study and prayer. It may be a Sunday School class. It may be one of the congregational or ecumenical groups engaged in particular ministries or witness to the community. Here the experiences of sharing episodes and insights from your spiritual journey on a more intimate level will greatly enhance your sense of being cared for by members of your faith family.

In making your decision about Anointing...

Study the Bible. Read about the use of anointing in the Old Testament (2 Samuel 10:1-9, 16:1-13, Exodus 30:26-30). With this background the New Testament passages (Mark 6:13 and James 5:13-18) dealing specifically with anointing take on considerable significance. There are other resources available to discover more about this practice. Ask for them.

Talk with your Pastor and lay leaders. Raise questions you may have about the service of anointing as a spiritual resources in the problem or need you face. Discuss your understandings of the Biblical teaching on anointing. Assess the best context in which to experience anointing: home, small group, or congregation.

Pray. Bring your present situation to God in prayer. Meditate on Biblical passages as you pray. Imagine that Jesus is present with you and say as he did to blind Bartimaus, "What do you want me to do for you?" (Mark 10:46-52). Lift up to God the particular burdens or encumbrances which you feel are blocks to your experiencing healing, forgiveness, and restored relationships.

A video on the anointing service, "Is Any Among You Suffering?," is available in our church library for you to borrow and view.

What the Brethren believe about Anointing...

     "The Church of the Brethren has taken this service as one of its rites and ordinances and through the years some remarkable experiences have come to those who have been thus anointed, to their families and friends, to those who have administered the service, and to whole congregations. Individuals who were fearful or under strain have found peace and contentment within God's will and have been led to commit themselves wholly to God's loving care. With it have also come forgiveness of sins, a strengthened faith, and, in many instances, some most remarkable in character, the healing of body, mind and emotions, as well as the restoration of social relationships. In cases where full physical healing was not experienced, the service has helped the persons involved to say with Christ, 'Not my will, but thine be done.' The blessings attendant upon the practice of this service justify an even greater use of it by the church in years to come."

-From the 1963 Annual Conference statement on the Anointing Service.


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