I’ve Seen Miracles. And Ghosts
I am among the most theologically conservative and traditional Anglicans, those called Continuing Anglicans because we maintain authentic Anglican Christianity when the mainline body did not. It is not without some reluctance that I relate the following experiences from my life. Two are ghost stories, the others stories of miracles.
I have seen ghosts, and I have seen miracles. Jesus Christ is Lord.
The Supernatural Events
Of the miracles that are part of my own life experience, each one was witnessed by people who were with me at the time. Bear in mind, these particular events all happened years before I was ordained. I was a layman in those years. Furthermore, in my church such things are not the sort of experiences one advertises. Pentecostal preachers may boast of miracles. Priests in the Continuing Anglican churches do not. It does not enhance one’s resume, so to speak.
The following stories are not presented for the sake of argument. These events are autobiographical. I lived through them.
Reluctant to Tell Them
I am reluctant to tell the first two stories, because they are true ghost stories. I would never want to lead someone into the sin (as the commandments of God in Scripture clearly forbid it) of trying to contact the dead through mediums. Not only is it sin, it is also quite dangerous, as any experienced exorcist knows.
Why some spirits of the dead may wander for a time is open to speculation. Some have said they must be lost souls. Maybe they are simply not in a hurry, or some might be imposters.
I am reluctant as well to relate the other stories from my experiences, namely the miracles, because I cannot endorse much that has been included under the huge umbrella of “the Charismatic Movement.” I do not endorse the craziness of the “Prosperity Gospel,” nor any notion that every Christian should speak in tongues, for example.
On the other hand, the tradition of the Church has never taught that some age of miracles is over, or that it ended in or shortly after the first century AD. In the catholic tradition the Church has attested to many, many miracles. The continuation of spiritual gifts has remained essential to the theology of the sacrament of confirmation.
This is, no doubt, why traditional churches were very much of the home of the Charismatic Movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Without charismatic theology we have no sacramental theology. We must believe the Holy Spirit acts to believe He acts in the Church.
Indeed, it is only the power of real conversions that has saved lives, saved marriages, and turned misery into joy. I know. I have seen it.
My own parents had been separated for four years, between 1970 and 1974, before they experienced what we were calling the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (drawn from the words of John the Baptist and of Jesus Christ Himself). The words from the Book of Zechariah speak a truth that we cannot afford to forget: “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts (Zech. 4:6).”
— Robert Hart
My older brother Addison, older by two years, prayed for a toy silver derringer, the sort of prayer we would discourage from anyone at all older than he was in about 1960. The next morning that very toy was sitting outside on his window ledge, and a deep snow all over the ground showed no footprints or any disturbance. Our father opened the window and pulled it into the house.
About a year or two before my younger brother, the well-known David Bentley Hart was born, I saw a full-body apparition, a boy walking through my bedroom wearing the sort of night clothing common to the later nineteenth century, carrying a lamp, heading for the famous haunted house known as Lilburn in Ellicott City, Maryland (directly across the street from our house, the “Crow’s Nest”).
He walked a few steps and then disappeared. Many years later I would learn that Lilburn had been a home for boys at just the time corresponding to how the ghost was dressed.
Every Vertebra Out of Place
In 1974, when I was age sixteen, and David was only a nine year-old child, Addison and I were very much involved in the Charismatic renewal or movement. My mother had joined us in this spiritual journey. Her back was in constant pain because every vertebra was out of place. She asked for prayer one evening before dinner, I guess because the pain was very intense that day.
I did not need, at that age, to try to have child-like faith: I simply had the faith of a child. I sensed the leading of the Holy Spirit to say a quick prayer with laying on of hands, and then to step back and watch. Under her aqua-colored double-knit blouse the visible motion of invisible fingers went up and down her spine. She reacted with groans, and some happy sounding laughter, that were the obvious response to a very pleasant sensation. Every vertebra was put in its correct place.
She had been going to a chiropractor who had taken x-rays six days earlier of her severely damaged spine. The next night, after this prayer, he took an x-ray of her fully healed spine. She kept them both for many years. They might have been lost late in life, or David might find them in the house he was renting, and where she last lived.
In 1976 I was 18, and leading a Bible study on the subject of healing in a private home in the Maryland town of Westminster. It seems odd, in retrospect, to have been teaching adults when I was so young.
One young woman named Denise asked for prayer because her right shoulder was visibly deformed. We both knelt. I knew that the Holy Spirit was directing me to place one hand on each shoulder, and to look into her eyes and pray in tongues. And I knew that it would result in the healing of her deformed shoulder (perhaps why “faith” is specifically mentioned as a gift of the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians chapter 12). I obeyed that leading, and saw her right shoulder, where my left hand was, straighten out under her tan-colored tee shirt.
She let out a shriek of excitement and turned and ran through the house. Her husband, Craig, had been in the habit of spending his weekly paycheck on booze at a bar every Friday night, instead of on his wife and children’s needs. He saw her no-longer-deformed shoulder, and underwent his own personal conversion. He stopped drinking. I saw them many years later. He was a new man with a bright look in his eyes.
She Saw Christ
In 1985, I was teaching in a chapel at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Catonsville, Maryland. It was known as a Charismatic parish. Among the people at that gathering was an old couple with their daughter Phyllis. Phyllis always seemed very distant. Her expression was mostly gloomy. At the end of this service, as her father led the closing prayer, she suddenly began to levitate slightly off the floor, and was jerked around like a marionette on strings held by a mad man. She landed on the floor, lying at my feet, announcing in Hebrew (which she didn’t know) the presence of “Messhiach! Messhiach!” — that is to say, that Christ was present.
My wife, pregnant with our son, stayed with me, standing directly behind me to my right. I said to the demon, “I command you in the Name of Jesus Christ to come out of her — now!” Phyllis opened her eyes, streaming with tears, and sat up. Later I learned that she had been through a divorce from a husband who had forced her to participate in occult activities. When her father was praying she decided to join in. She was praying silently, praying for the first time in years. She saw a vision of the face of Christ. My speculation is that the demon saw the same vision, and was terrified.
We saw her again in church for several months before they all moved to Florida. No more did she look gloomy or behave in a very distant manner. She was happy, her eyes were bright, and she interacted quite openly with everyone. The change in her life was evident for all to see.
I could add more to these autobiographical reports. Make of them what you will. Of the miracles I draw only one conclusion: Jesus Christ is the Lord. But I already knew that.
Robert Hart is the rector of St. Benedict’s Anglican Catholic Church in Chapel Hill, NC. He is the main contributor to the blog The Continuum and a contributing editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. His brothers are David Bentley Hart and Addison Hodges Hart.