Health in community
The "new synthesis" must include more than the patient, doctor, and even the clergy, however. The story that develops in the next decade may very well be the importance of community in the role of prayer. What Koenig has found from research, the Reverend James Krings, a chaplain at Saint Mary's Health Center in Saint Louis, Missouri, has found from personal observation: Individual faith is helpful, but a community of faith is even better.
Krings counseled a young woman named Toni who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her physician wanted to schedule an immediate mastectomy, but Toni wanted to visit Krings first. Krings suggested that Toni receive the Eucharist at her church on Sunday, plus a laying-on of hands.
Toni drew desperately needed strength from the church community's response as her illness was made public. Later, she told the church, "Just as Aaron and Joshua [sic] held up the arms of a weary Moses, so you've held me up." As tears filled her eyes, she added, "I sat on the rock of Saint Cronan's as I traveled through my sickness."
What followed was a transformation—not just in Toni's life, but in the life of the church. The transformation is seen in the fact that, since Toni's experience, it has become normal for people at Saint Cronan's who are facing hospitalization or major medical tests to request anointing and prayer.
"Church members are much more public about their illness," Krings notes, "and Toni's experience seemed to give everybody permission to be ministers to each other rather than wait for the 'professional clergy' to meet their needs. Our people always had the ministerial instincts, but Toni's going public set them all free to use them.