Healing is central to the independent churches of Zionist type. It is their most distinguishing characteristic and all-important to their existence. People join the African independent churches - very few are "born into" them - and being healed is the overwhelming reason given for becoming a member.
There are broadly three ways of being healed through the church: healing during church services, healing by immersion, and healing through consultation with a prophet. Generally in Ethiopian-type churches healing is restricted to church services where the sick are prayed for and have hands laid on them. In the Zionist-type churches, where healing is of such importance, it takes place in all three ways, and can be 'direct' or 'indirect'. In indirect healing it is not necessary for the healers to be aware of the specific complaints of individual patients - they are healed through the power of the Holy Spirit, uMoya, acting through the agency of the healers, and often of the church congregation as a whole. Direct healing takes place where the healer is specifically aware of the patient's complaints, and prescribes specific cures for them.
Healing in church services is mainly indirect, most commonly through prayer and laying on of hands, and this usually takes place in one of two ways: either the patients are called up in front of the congregation, kneel and are prayed for, or else they are placed in the centre of a circle and prayed for while members of the congregation dance round the perimeter singing to the accompaniment of drums. Spirit possession is quite common. The healing is led by the prophet, if the church has one, or by the leader of the church.
Holy Places or healing circles are common-used both outdoors and inside by many of the Zionist-type churches. They range from circles worn in the grass in patches of vacant ground to more elaborate permanent structures. Symbols used include crosses, stars, moons and the sun.
Holy water is widely used and may be drunk to heal or to purify and protect against illness and misfortune. The water used is generally tap water which has been prayed over and blessed by a prophet.
The third research type of healing is by consultation with a prophet,as healers are mainly called in the Zionist and Apostolic churches. Prophets are believed to have the ability to predict, heal, and divine, and the strongest prophets develop a practice through the church and more widely through word of mouth and hold private consultations. They heal mainly with prayer and holy water, but use a variety of substances and techniques (see section on Prophets).
See Martin West, Bishops and Prophets in a Black City, Chapter 6, for a full discussion on healing. (page 91)