Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
God 'fills in' for dentists
A gold-cross which "appeared" during a Canadian church service
Charismatic Christians in the UK are claiming that God has turned their ordinary amalgam dental fillings into gold during church services.
The church-goers believe they are experiencing a phenomenon reported by their Canadian counterparts last month, and associated to the Toronto Blessing.
The appearance of precious metal fillings in the mouths of the faithful - as well as instances of gold dust appearing on their heads and hands - is being hailed as a miracle.
And they say some of the fillings are even cross-shaped.
The church's leaders - whose more usual dealings with the media have been to protest about proposals for lap dancing clubs - say they are awaiting confirmation from medical experts before giving the credit to a divine dentist.
Senior pastor David Markee, who has invested in a dental mirror to look at "miracles", said: "Our God is big enough to do anything He wants but I have still been taken by surprise at this phenomenon.
"I have asked my congregation to help me by getting dental verification where possible."
One Folly's End parishioner told the Christian online magazine, Ship of Fools, that God had turned her grey amalgam fillings into a metal which appeared to be platinum or white gold.
She said: "I was amazed! I was absolutely stunned. I thought, isn't God good? You feel humbled that He's purified your mouth.
"A man sitting in front of us in church received a gold crown, a really bright gold."
Another hive of alchemic activity appears to be Bath City Church - where last Sunday about 150 of the congregation said they had experienced "dental miracles".
Spokesman Sandy Campbell said that not all of those people had received gold fillings, but had had the mercury leached out of their existing amalgam fillings - leaving shiny metal behind.
He told BBC News Online that leaders of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship were visiting when the "miracles" happened.
He said: "There were also a handful of people who had gold fillings. One man was a medical doctor and he had two shiny gold crowns.
'It's a laugh'
"He and his wife were quite overcome - they were crying. They are both going to the dentist and have promised to forward any written or photographic evidence the dentist comes up with.
"I think they were very genuine because the emotion they were obviously feeling was very real.
"Gold fillings is probably the fun part of what happens in our church - it not only shows us God's care, but it's a laugh."
The Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship - where more than 300 incidents of "dental miracles" were claimed during a conference last month - say there is evidence in the Bible for the phenomena.
The "miracles" are associated with the "Toronto blessing" which came to prominence in 1994.
During a Toronto blessing, a congregation member will enter a trance-like state, fall to the floor shaking, laughing, shouting - or even making animal noises.
Believers say God enters the body during this blessing and carries out works which might not be achieved otherwise.
An official statement from the Toronto church reads: "... over 50 people were on the platform at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship testifying to having received what appeared to be gold or bright silver fillings or crowns, which they believed had supernaturally appeared in their mouths after receiving prayer.
But Ship of Fools editor Simon Jenkins says church leaders are irresponsible to encourage reports of "miracles".
He said that doing so was dangerous for the church - which may be made to look ridiculous through unresearched claims - and for individuals, who may feel cheated when they discover that the dentist put a filling there, and they had just forgotten about it.
He said: "My criticism is for church leaders who do not think it through, who do not put a break on these claims before they have been whipped up.
"We have the worst conflict going on in Europe since WWII, and yet we have these people saying God is performing trivial magic tricks.
"Many will be thinking, why is God concerning himself with people's fillings, while there is such serious trauma in the world as Kosovo. They are bound to ask, hasn't God got anything better to do?"