THIS book is described on the cover as “Everyday investigations into poltergeists, ghosts and other supernatural phenomena by an Anglican priest”. Jason Bray is a parish priest and biblical scholar as well as a member of the deliverance ministry team in the diocese of St Asaph. His book is a most welcome and very balanced contribution about the ministry of deliverance, in which he describes a variety of cases that have been referred to him.
The mere word “exorcist” stirs the imagination, and some will dismiss the practice of exorcism as medieval mumbo-jumbo and possession as some kind of psychiatric illness. Others will be fascinated by paranormal activity and view the ministry as some kind of Christian magic.
As Dr Bray demonstrates, it is none of those things, although it might contain some elements of them; but, rather, it is about a ministry to desperate people, who are often deeply troubled and view their affliction as being spiritual, which is why they turn to the Church for help and release. Those authorised for deliverance ministry need pastoral and psychological insights, wisdom and discernment, and a certain healthy scepticism.
The author describes cases of poltergeist activity and what appear to be place memories, hauntings, and the unquiet dead. Like a doctor, the deliverance minister listens to the symptoms, prayerfully diagnoses what appears to be happening, and, with advice, prayer, and sacraments, offers the healing of Christ. While prayer for protection and deliverance is routine, the major exorcism of a person is rarely appropriate and requires psychiatric advice and episcopal permission.
The New Testament demonstrates that Jesus was an exorcist, which poses the questions how and whether that ministry should be carried out today. There are dangers in over-personalising evil which may blind people to the evils in society, but there are also dangers in not recognising when people feel afflicted by evil, as this book illustrates. It also highlights the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach in ministering with others, and the need to safeguard people from the danger of spiritual abuse.
This is an exceedingly readable book, and the writer’s style reminds me of Bill Bryson, where the author has various detours to explain areas of theology, Anglican peculiarities, personal anecdotes, and life in the Welsh valleys, all told with humour and cultural insights. At the end of the book, Bray says that the BBC was set up “to inform, educate and entertain” — an ideal that he hopes to have achieved in this book. He can rest assured that he has achieved that, and I hope this book will be read widely by clergy, ordinands, and those interested in the often misunderstood world of deliverance ministry.
The Rt Revd Dominic Walker OGS is a former Bishop of Monmouth.
Deliverance: Everyday investigations into poltergeists, ghosts and other supernatural phenomena by an Anglican priest
Church Times Bookshop £18