Sunday, October 18, 2009

Washington National Cathedral Forum on Faith and Healing: A Summary

Rev. Dr. Anne C. Brower

This morning at Washington's National Cathedral, a Forum to discuss issues in the light of faith and public life was led by Moderator Deryl Davis. His discussion was with the Rev. Dr. Anne Brower, a prize-winning practicing Radiologist for thirty years until she entered divinity school and became senior chaplain and director of the Healing Ministry at Washington National Cathedral, had to do with the role of healthcare and our healing in faith.

The discussion covered healthcare issues relating to her medical thinking on current customs and the ideals of medical practice. Throughout history, Dr. Brower says, physicians were trained to take thorough medical histories and physical exams and listening and touching were important to healing. Now, insurance companies dictate that doctors can't spend a lot of time with each patient. The examinations and meetings must be rushed through. She said that the only way around it is for the physician to rebel against the insurance companies and spend more time with patients. She says that doctors have become "blue-collar workers" working for insurance companies.

Most of her talk was about faith and healing and how God can be with us when we have a sickness or must stay in a hospital. She says that broken bones need to heal, and that this brokenness can also break one's spirits and one's relationships with those close to us and with God. We need to ask ourselves, why did it happen to me? We have to realize that our broken bones have nothing to do with God or our prayer life, but that it's part of the natural order of the universe. Everyone eventually dies, and it's events or diseases that kill us. We need to get beyond our brokenness to get to a new and better place, she says.

Doctors know that there are seven causes of organic diseases. Dr. Brower says that illness is our response to disease, and that calling disease "sickness" is the social response to diseases such as HIV and cancer. Others can hurt or help us cope with our "sickness" as others call it, but that we should aim to be where the patient is, to just be there with them, and listen to them.

Dr. Brower also says that a cure is putting your body back to the way it was. She says that doctors don't cure. Rather, they give medication to help your body function better, so that you can live with your disease and function better. (She also said to "forget about curing.")

Healing, says Dr. Brower, is a way of dealing with illness, involving change, love, surrender, moving to a new place -- a higher presence with God. She also says that touching is important to healing. We want to touch our wounds. "Touch is our most natural instinct." She says that all of us have our wounds but can still be whole.

At this point, the Moderator agrees that "the Spirit moves through you."

Deryl Davis, Moderator of today's Sunday Forum

A question came up concerning the value of spiritual history-taking by doctors. Dr. Brower asserted that doctors can now ask the FICA (faith, important, community, anything) questions. If doctors would only ask patients if they have faith, and if yes, how important is it to the patient's health? Can the patient's community of faith help? If yes, Is there anything doctors can do? Dr. Brower said that all psychiatry residencies now have a spiritual component in the curriculum which she attributes to the healing work of Dr. Larry Dossey.

Dr. Brower also mentioned that while positive attitude, humor and upbeat topics of conversation are useful, she thinks we need to pay attention to the soul and our faith/belief system. Jerome Groopman's books emphasize keeping a positive attitude, but she says it's very hard to keep up, and your faith can help in a time of transition. Your soul will help you get through difficult times.

She also says that it doesn't hurt to ask an anesthesiologist or surgeon to pray with you. Praying is your relationship with God, who will be with you and help you transition out of an illness. Dr. Brower's has written a book called "I am not ready to die just yet: stories of healing."

Again, thanks are extended to the Washington National Cathedral for holding these fascinating discussions. This summary is unofficial and not requested or acknowledged. The Cathedral has no responsibility for any statements and mistakes herein.

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