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A Day at the Acorn Christian Healing Foundation

Whitehill Chase, which describes itself as ‘a safe place for healing’, is home to a resource centre and meeting place near Alton in Hampshire which runs courses on ‘listening, healing and reconciliation’. Its chaplain is the Revd Christine Knifton, whose original background was in medicine. After ordination, she spent four years as a chaplain in the National Health Service and then came to the centre in 2005.

Although one can see the overlap between listening, healing and reconciliation (in order to reconcile one obviously needs to listen and heal), they are three separate strands in the foundation’s work and many people come here following one particular strand.

It is difficult to write this, because I do not want to embarrass either you or me by being too personal. Let me just explain a little of how I came to spend the day here. There is a small prayer group which crosses two benefices in different deaneries  in order to pray for the needs of those in our valley, a more primeval form of community than the modern divisions of the Church of England, as well as the wider needs of the Church and the world. I was invited to join the group a year or so ago and was told that it was the group’s custom to make an annual visit to Whitehill. The appointed day duly arrived, and with little idea of what was in store, I joined my fellow pray-ers (not sure that we quite see ourselves as warriors).
The first thing about the day is that it was very unstructured. I thought perhaps there would be lectures, but instead we were greeted with some excellent strong coffee, and left to explore the grounds, sit around and chat or visit the bookshop. The only fixed point of the day was the service in the chapel (see illustration).  There was space, the luxury of allowing for serendipity, as a secular world would say, or the operation of the Holy Spirit, as others might describe it. Time and space were allowed for something – or nothing – to happen. Most days here are more packed with content than this, as a glance at their busy programme shows. But I really appreciated this flexibility.

Again, I have to be personal and say that the service itself was something  of a shock to the system. In my youth, I  -like many others- explored Hindu mysticism, Ouspensky and Sufism (well, it was the 1960s). But I never explored other Christian denominations or, indeed, any other way of being Anglican other than the middle-of-the-candle churchmanship of my upbringing. This was the first eucharist I had ever attended led by a Charismatic Evangelical (the Revd Christine Knifton). I found the service disturbing. (That is not necessarily a criticism, of course – I am sure Saul would have described his experience on the road to Tarsus as profoundly disturbing). I am still trying to work out several days later what I found difficult about it and why I am unable simply to dismiss it as just ‘another way of doing God’. One of the aspects which I do need to absorb is how different not just the practices, but the ramifications of the faith, are from my own, and yet we are all members of the Church of England.  The most striking example of this was the wording: ‘the body of Christ, broken just for you‘ (in my tradition, Christ died for us all, not individually).

This is what the foundation says about itself:

Invitation to Healing

This is an invitation to go on a journey into wholeness with God. Approximately 5000 people a year come to the safe surroundings of Whitehill Chase, the HQ of the Acorn Christian Healing Foundation to find the healing that they have been searching for. We have seen lives changed and healed and set free as a result.

Healing is an invitation to go on a journey into wholeness with God. People from all walks of life have come to the safe surroundings of Acorn Christian Healing Foundation to find the healing that they have been searching for.

Safe Place

We offer a safe place to just be and we have seen lives change as a result of participation in our services, retreats, training and quiet days.

Trained Ministry Team

We have a trained Ministry Team from all denominations who are there to listen to you and to pray with you if that’s something you would like.

Acorn is a safe place to be. All of the team are CRB-checked and have a wide experience within the healing ministry. We’re very proud of our team and the valuable contribution they make to our Healing Ministry.

If you would like to request specific prayer ministry, please contact us to make an appointment.

Providing Spiritual Care

Our Chaplaincy Project mission is about supporting the NHS mandate to provide spiritual care. We are already working with organisations like Whole Care and Christian hospitals such as Burrswood to establish chaplaincy within professional health care.

We provide the tools for chaplaincy through development and active listening training, given by our 1000+ Tutors and Listeners throughout the UK.

We have demonstrated that listening support helps people recover faster and better from their trauma. Now we want the whole of the NHS to benefit from this care resource.


I am particularly struck by the expression ‘safe’ in this connection. Though I imagine it is meant in the context of CRB checks etc, as I was brought up on the works of C S Lewis, I cannot resist quoting from ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’:

Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”


You can find out more from the website

4 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

I think that a safe space refers more to confidentiality and privacy, with the people you share with.

I’m a believer in Christian Healing and know someone who actually had a healing practice in a church, before church politics stopped it.

Healing and reconciliation are a part of Sacramental Confession within the Church of England, and I have benefited hugely from its use.

I have had healing prayer and laying on of hands and anointing with oils in a conventional church setting as well.

Both were powerful healing experiences. I felt the power of the Holy Spirit to be present there and will say, it wasn’t just a ‘so called religious experience’ it was genuine, real for me and those involved.

I’d love to visit Whitehill and might just do so – because it seems that we need to widen access to such services, not just allow them to exist in small pockets here and there.

We have a specific healing Ministry within Canterbury Diocese run from ‘The Living Well’ at Nonnington, just south of Canterbury. They run courses and we have authorised Lay Ministers who work within churches.

It’s not charismatic, its mainstream.

Lay Anglicana said...

I’m conscious that I know little about Christian healing (beyond the bible, of course). I am glad that it was such a powerful experience for you.

17 May 2012 19:25
17 May 2012 17:58
Elizabeth Knifton said...

Many thanks for your comments my name is Revd Elizabeth Knifton and Acorn Christian Healing Foundation is available for all regardless of their denomination or faith. We are an Anglican Foundation with Archbishop Rowan Williams is our Patron and Revd Dr Russ Parker as our Director.
Russ says “We have a single passion, to see people and communities healed and transformed through the love of Jesus Christ.
We are making a difference to so many lives through listening, healing and reconciliation.”
The day you came to was an Open day with a Service of Healing & Wholeness.The Service runs from 11.30-13.00 with lunch available and a team who will listen and pray with you.
The Holy Communion Service or Eucharist is for all and indeed Christ died for all but he also died for the individual and when we accept Him as Lord and Saviour He becomes very personal.
The Retreat Centre is availble to resource the Church through Listening ,Healing & Reconciliation and we offer courses on the above topics. We hold Ignatian Retreats and an Ignatian week in August as well as other retreat weekends.
Revd Dr Russ Parker has written many books on healing topics, he is a Conference speaker of note both here and abroad.
When we say Acorn is a safe place to be,we mean that the team have been commisioned and trained in listening & prayer ministry skills and have years of ministry experience and indeed are also CRB checked.
We believe in working alongside the medical/nursing profession and that our practices are safe and grounded in Scripture,guests can come knowing that what they share is confidential.
Healing is an invitation to go on a journey into wholeness with God.
We offer Quiet days and training courses as well as our weekly open day on a Tuesday.
Our listening teams are involved in Youth & Schools Work, helping to train Street Pastors, listening in GP Surgeries and Hospitals but to name a few. We offer courses in Reconciliation which is the most radical form of healing.
At the invitation of Archbishop Desmond Tutu of Capetown, we partnered our training with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. We have been involved in reconciliation training in Northern Ireland, Rwanda and Burundi as well as Uganda.
We hope that all will take an opportunity to come aside with God and rest in His presence.
Every Blessing

We hope you found the day helpful and valuable.We are here to serve
Every Blessing

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you very much for setting my post in context. It is very helpful to have this further explanation of the scope of all that you do and your ethos.

11 July 2012 15:19
11 July 2012 13:18

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