Elaine Mason needed a miracle. She had a cancerous growth on her nose and upper lip, which she describes as hideous. It bled constantly. Surgeons wanted to cut it out. Instead, the 54-year-old Virginia real estate agent came to Spokane to be healed.
For more than a year, modern religious pilgrims like Mason have come from all over the country to the Healing Rooms in downtown Spokane in search of a powerful spiritual experience. The phenomenon is a model of Pentecostal revivals that have waxed and waned throughout the United States for the past 100 years. Participants often laugh, cry, and fall to the floor as they experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.
|"There are a lot of people who are dissatisfied or even bored with their religious experience....They have a need for a daily, personal experience of God."|
The founder and director of the Healing Rooms, Cal Pierce, teaches that miracles are available to those who believe. "What Jesus did, we can do, too," Pierce said. "We can heal people and we can show others how to heal people, by plugging into the Holy Spirit." In addition to physical healings, Pierce said up to half of the people who come to him are seeking refuge from emotional demons like depression or addiction.
While critics dismiss faith healings as mass hysteria or emotional manipulation, the Healing Rooms are gaining popularity. For four days last spring, Mason walked from her hotel room to the third floor of the Rookery Building, a rundown office complex. There, volunteers prayed for her. Within a week the growth diminished to the point that doctors declared an operation was no longer necessary, she said.
She came back in the fall, bringing her husband and two friends, "to complete the healing." One September day, associate director Patrick McEnnerney ushered Mason into an empty room where he and an assistant began to pray for her. "God, we want to thank you for healing Elaine's face," he said. "We want to praise you and glorify you and hold your word high." He gently touched her face with his fingertips, and Mason collapsed backward. Her long blond hair was mussed. Her cotton blazer was askew. "Come spirit," McEnnerney said, kneeling at her side. "Make this healing complete."
For 20 minutes Mason stayed on the floor, moaning, crying and laughing. Slowly she opened her eyes, as if coming out of a deep sleep. "Can you feel it?" she asked in a Southern drawl. "The presence of God is right here in this room. It's surging all through my body."
That was a busy day at the Healing Rooms, which have been open since July 1999. Bodies were sprawled on the floor in almost every room. People from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Minnesota had come and everyone wanted prayer from the team that claims to have healed everything from brain tumors to strained ankles.
Supporters come mainly from the ranks of evangelical Christians, but Catholics and mainline Protestants also donate time and money. In the first six months of this year, donors gave more than $100,000, according to reports released by Pierce.
Twice a month, Pierce and several of his paid and volunteer staff travel to other cities, where they offer instructions on setting up Healing Rooms. They are booked through October 2001 in cities as small as Cody, Wyoming, and as big as London. At the second annual Spiritual Hunger Conference held in September and organized by the Healing Rooms, 1,800 people signed up to learn how they could obtain and impart emotional and physical healing.
McEnnerney wet his fingers with oil from a tiny brown glass vial. The mixture--a combination of almond oil, frankincense, myrrh, and cinnamon--is blended in a small room down the hall. Corder tilted his head back, closed his eyes and whispered, "Yes, God." Then he began speaking in tongues, a repetitive string of syllables considered by Pentecostals the premier sign that a person has received the Holy Spirit.