Ritual and congregational healing.

Date of Award


Document Type



Drew Theological School

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry


People experience worry occasionally. Africans sometimes interpret crises as arising from enemies or offended ancestors, whom, in anger, trouble the individual. If individuals believe that hexing comes from an enemy, then the problematic relationship between them will worsen if a hexing accusation becomes public. Such social eruptions can happen within church bodies, stifling progress. Hexing is a symptom of anxiety and because such beliefs are traditional, the tradition has its own methods to bring back wholeness. This paper cites anthropologist Victor Turner for a deeper understanding of kinship, conflict and illness. Africans use rituals ostensibly to cure the patient or address their problems, through settling the conflict. However, most mainline African churches lack any ritual that addresses the conflict. Therefore, their adherents may visit other churches or traditional practitioners when under stress. Can Christian ritual encourage reconciliation in the Zambian Lutheran Church? Might Zambians' faith deepen if liturgy inculturates African religious concepts? Our ethnographic study involved a pastor's intensive during which we discussed liturgy, conflict, suffering, healing, prayer, and traditional religion. They then composed intercessory prayers which referred to African values: ancestors, farming, child-bearing, kinship/conflict, spirits, and illness. Each pastor experienced deep listening and personal hands-on prayer, for their consideration for possible inclusion in their own ministries. Afterwards, back home, these pastors used the communal intercessory prayers and hands-on prayers for those worshippers carrying burdens of various kinds. I collected qualitative feedback from focus groups, pastors, and project leaders. Feedback demonstrated that worship reduces anxiety. However, forgiving enemies remains difficult. Holding up commonly-held cultural values in the prayers was well received. Personal, hands-on healing prayers are essential. Using ritual objects was not formally assessed. The author's influence as a white missionary and cross-cultural limitations are considered, towards assessing to what extent the project findings are provisional, yet useful. Tentative signs indicate that such a workshop and liturgical supplements can contribute to church transformation, including better relationships between members and pastors, and among pastors themselves. Engaging traditional religion bears fruit for ministry. Concerns over the dead remain a spiritual priority. Forgiving enemies remains a spiritual challenge. Continued inculturation of worship holds promise for churches to deeply touch their adherents and have increased ownership of their liturgies.