Zion Christian Churches Churches Liturgy Prophets Services Members

© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Healing Service

Healing is an important aspect of the Zion Churches. Healing implies something wider than that available from the "modern" health services. For example it includes the healing of livestock, property and crops. A sufferer is not necessarily treated as an individual, nor a particular problem as an isolated random event. As with traditional religion the sufferer is often treated together with his family, and an incident may be seen as a symptom of a wider social problem.

The aim of many of the Zion remedies is similar to that of the traditional ones, to strengthen and protect the seriti (personal “shadow” cast by an individual - babies and young children and adults who have been subject to sorcery are believed to have weak shadows leaving them prone to harm and attack from sorcerers) . As with traditional medicine this involves treating the family as a unit. This is seen in the various special services referred to in this study. During prophesying, when a prophet "sees" the problems, the causal frame of reference and aim of remedies is similar to that outlined in connection with traditional medicine.

Although general healing of members took place at many individual services, a special Healing Service may also be held. I attended one such service at Apostolic Africa Christ Church in Zion in March 1979.

This was held for sick members and it was explained to me that this was their "hospital", sick members attending this special service akin to patients attending a hospital clinic.

The particular individuals requiring healing at this service were the secretary's three children, the Bishop's two sons and two lady members. Both of the latter had previously been prophesied; and at this service they both received their appropriate cords and head scarves. The cords had been "seen" as necessary for one lady to relieve the pains  in her arms, and the head scarf for the other to cure headaches.

A large bath of water was placed in the centre of the dance circle with a small bowl at either end. Five candles (provided by their parents) were lit for each child to be healed. These lighted candles were held by the members of the congregation who stood in a circle around the Bishop, his assistant, the children and the bath. While we sang hymns, the Bishop poured various substances from papers into the bath, stirring them in with the tassel on his waist cord (i.e. he was using it in the same way as traditional doctors use a seditse (whisk)). Whilst doing this the Bishop chewed matches, he lit other matches and threw them into the water. He also spat on the chewed matches -transferring his protective strength to the healing mixture. Each of the children was then undressed and washed in turn by the Bishop, water being poured over their heads using the small bowls alternately, as pourers. The childrens’ cries were drowned by the hymn singing.The Bishop then prayed on each of the children and wrapped cords around their waists, wrists, necks and ankles before they were dressed. Then the women had their cords and head scarf tied on.

The Bishop then asked if anyone had received prophecy. He described what he had "seen" concerning the children and one of the Baruti. Both of these prophecies referred to the same problems dealt with by traditional doctors. For example one of the Secretary's children had been bewitched by its paternal relatives because the Secretary's engagement to the child's father had ended. Further Kgotla cases over the children and engagement presents were foreseen. The Moruti had similar problems - he was being bewitched by a girl who wanted to marry him - she was a member of another Zion church.

Baruti praying on patients whilst “laying on of hands”

Healing and protective cords kept in bottle of Holy Water

These cords are then tied onto patients by Baruti to heal and protect the patients

Bishop “creating” protective Holy Water to cure children whom he then “washes” with the water. As part of the process, he chewed matches and cast them into the water to which he had added healing and protective herbs. Then stirred the water with his prophecy pole. The congregation formed an outer circle, They held the lighted candles and sang hymns.

A senior Moruti issues candles to congregation before lighting them

Congregation dance and sing hymns to “call” the Holy Spirit to enable the prophets to prophesy

Secretary reads  out relevant part of the Bible

Congregation sing and claps rhythm of hymns to accompany the dancing

Following dancing and hymn singing the prophets reveal the prophecies “shown” to them by the Holy Spirit

(Fuller details of this Healing Service and the prophecies follow in the sub section)