Healing Pathway: a unique approach to health challenges

By Andrea Prazmowski – 

There’s a deep sense of peace this Tuesday morning in a softly lit corner of one of Richmond Road’s landmark buildings. Something is underway that resembles a dance, as two people stand across from each other and gently sweep their hands above the reclining figure of a third person. They move slowly from head to feet, in sync with each other, then returning to the head and flowing their hands again over the person lying between them.

Photos of Carol Garceau and Paul Durber, by Matthew MacDonald.

Photos of Carol Garceau and Paul Durber, by Matthew MacDonald.
Photos of Carol Garceau and Paul Durber, by Matthew MacDonald.

The place is the historic chapel of All Saints Anglican/First United Church, at 347 Richmond Rd. Among the usual collection of hymn books, stained glass windows and candles, there are some unexpected things: massage tables, and this “dance.” They are part of the Healing Pathway ministry of the United Church.

“We’re working with the human energy system, being fully present to another person and to Spirit, and working for wholeness and healing,” explains Rev. Sharon Moon, a Healing Pathway practitioner at First United, who has been involved since 2001.

The practice will look familiar to those acquainted with energy therapies like Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch and Reiki. The Healing Pathway approach arose through the United Church to intentionally connect energy healing with Christian theology, while recognizing the universality of the practice.

“We’re reclaiming the wisdom of many ancient healers, including Jesus. But people don’t have to be people of faith to practice or to receive,” explains Sharon, who also instructs others in the practice, together with her husband, Rev. Howard Clark.

First United is one of six churches in Ottawa offering regular healing sessions for the congregation and wider community, and Kitchissippi United Church on Island Park Drive has also begun including the practice in Sunday services. Across Canada, about 100 churches are involved.

“We just see amazing things happening,” says Sharon. Receivers have called the sessions “life-saving” and “transformative” in helping them cope with health challenges, and report feeling less pain, more energy, less anxiety, and more connected “in body, mind and spirit.”

A Healing Pathway session can take several forms. In a chair session, the receiver sits and a practitioner stands behind them, hands on – or above – their shoulders, and offers “soaking prayer” for five minutes or more. In a longer session, like those on Tuesdays at First United, receivers usually lie down on a massage table and one or two practitioners work with them for about 50 minutes. They may focus on balancing energy, clearing energy blocks, releasing pain, or other approaches specific to the needs of the recipient. Practitioners also visit people in the hospital. All practitioners are volunteers and payment is by donation, to support the work.

Receivers can choose a “hands on” or “hands off” session. While sessions might begin with a prayer, receivers decide on the words used for the source of the healing, and choices include Wisdom, Mystery, Universal Energy, Creator, and God.

“We work with a very careful Code of Ethics,” explains Sharon. “We recognize that people use different language and pathways to the spiritual dimension.”

Elspeth MacEwan is a psychiatrist and a practitioner at First United. She says the practice works on both the receivers and the practitioners.

“I’ve learned to ground myself. I’ve learned there’s a healing stream that I’m tapping into when I’m doing this work that I can tap into no matter what I do.”

If it sounds a bit beyond our usual conversations about health and healing, that doesn’t faze Elspeth.

“We’re dealing with mystery,” she says. “There is so much more that we don’t understand about healing than what we DO understand.”

For more information, visit healingpathway.ca. Contact information for First United is listed under Practice Groups.

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