The laying on of hands is a religious practice found throughout the world in varying forms. In Christian churches, this practice is used as both a symbolic and formal method of invoking the Holy Spirit during baptisms, healing services, blessings, and ordination of priests, ministers, elders, deacons, and other church officers, along with a variety of other church sacraments and holy ceremonies.
|(I tried to make this gap smaller, but it didn't work. Wiki goes on...)|
The tradition of the laying on of hands has its roots in the times of the bible. The laying on of hands was an action that conferred blessing or authority. To wit, Isaac blessed his son Jacob by laying hands (Genesis 27), and Aaron and the High Priests who succeeded him transferred the sins of the Children of Israel to a sacrificial goat (Leviticus 16:21). Finally, in the Old Testament priests were ordained by the laying on of hands.
In the New Testament the laying on of hands was associated with the receiving of the Holy Spirit (See Acts 8:14-19). Initially the Apostles laid hands on new believers as well as believers who were called to a particular service. (See Acts 6:5). In the early church, the practice continued and is still used in a wide variety of church ceremonies, such as the ceremony of confirmation, where a bishop, priest, or minister lays hands on the confirmand and prays for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Many churches also lay hands on a person when commissioning them to particular work, such as missionary or pastoral service.
In its healing form, the laying on of hands is based on biblical precedent set by Jesus. Jesus would walk for days, offering his healing power to peasants and whores, alike. Both Christian and non-Christian faith healers will lay hands on people when praying for healing, and often the name of Jesus is invoked as the spiritual agency through which the healing of physical ailments is believed to be obtained.
Me again: to be sure, the ritual of laying-on-of-hands has been primarily reserved in UUism for the act of ordination and I can understand the questions, but it seems to me that a bit of googling would reveal the definition to be bigger than objectors might have thought.