Continuing our theme of healing and wholeness this week’s reflection is offered by Anne Galbraith
Isaiah 35: 3-6
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
Do you still have a paper diary, I wonder.I certainly do, and since I became Churchwarden, every year I have had the Churchwarden’s Yearbook.It is a gold mine of useful information, not least in setting out the Churchwarden’s responsibilities.I can look there for useful church related addresses,for the names of all the Bishops, Archdeacons and Diocesan Officers, I can check the table of fees, or the interfaith calendar, and it also sets out for each Sunday or special day what colour the hangings on the altar should be.Best of all, though, as far as I am concerned, it tells me if any particular Sunday is special for any reason.So, for example, that we have recently had Prisons Sunday, the week before was animal welfare Sunday, and this week just says Summer Time Ends – quit a useful reminder for us all.
Last week, I was pleased to see that it was Healthcare Sunday, as in all the present circumstances, it seems appropriate to remember the whole healthcare sector.It is also the feast day of St Luke, the Evangelist.In our collect for that Sunday we heard that Luke was a physician of the soul, giving the Church the love and power to heal through the wholesome medicine of the Gospel.That is a very powerful image. And in the reading set out on your sheet from Isaiah, we are told about strengthening the weak hands, and making firm the feeble knees -both of which I would much appreciate.The emphasis is on God coming to save you – the blind, the deaf, the lame and the dumb, all of which are powerful acts of healing and restoring to health.. As well as being the patron saint of physicians, Luke is also the patron saint of artists, bachelors, students and butchers – quite a mixed bag!
When I was working in the healthcare sector, I came to realise that healthcare is far wider than just doctors and nurses, important though they are.And I think recent events have made us all aware of the work of public health specialists, virologists, epidemiologists, medical statisticians et al.In quiet corners of most hospitals, there are laboratories and Xray and imaging suites, every bit as busy as the operating theatres.And we are all being urged nowadays to make greater use of the pharmacist, which is an excellent resource on most shopping streets.The scale of those working in the healthcare sector is massive.I don’t know the current comparison, but when I was involved, along with the Russian army, it was one of the biggest employers in the world.
Many of us will remember something of the evolution of the healthcare system since the NHS was created more than 70 years ago.I had my tonsils out in the Fleming Memorial Hospital in Newcastle when I was 4 years old.I can vividly remember the nurse sitting me on her knee in front of a roaring coal fire at one end of the ward, putting me into my pyjamas.After the operation, I do remember that we were given ice cream – a rare treat as it was war time, so my brothers were hoping that they too would have to have a tonsillectomy. What surprises me is that you never hear nowadays about youngsters having their tonsils out – just one area where thinking and practice has changed and evolved.
Even in more recent times, it was still common for hospitals to have volunteers who came in and “did the flowers” or who brought the League of Friends trolley with papers and sweet treats, spending time chatting with patients when nurses were busy.The flower ladies have definitely gone, as nowadays,there is active discouragement about taking flowers into wards but other informal volunteers play their own important role in chatting to patients and helping to keep them cheerful.
Now, the scale of what is delivered by our healthcare sector is almost too vast to understand.Procedures that were totally unknown in 1947 are commonplace now.Day case surgery and shorter stays in hospital are the order of the day, with support given at home where necessary.But if the going gets tough, as we saw in the most extreme examples of coronavirus, the technology as well as the skill and dedication of the staff, all come into play.If you saw scenes from intensive care on the TV news, like me, you must have marvelled at how anyone could work wearing the personal protection equipment.So no wonder the public felt moved to come out on Thursday evenings to applaud the NHS.The plaudits were richly deserved.
At this time we have the chance to give thanks for all who work in the healthcare sector.The NHS has been described as looking after us from the cradle to the grave, so all of us are likely to have reason to appreciate how fortunate we are to enjoy the benefits of the skill, knowledge and talents of all those who work to care for us. Of course, we can all too easily take it for granted that if we need it, we will be cared for by the NHS – but this is a precious resource, a limited resource and one not to be abused or misused.
Questions for personal reflection
- What memories do you have of the care of the NHS?
- How can we show our thanks for that help?
- Who are the hidden heroes of our health care system?
We had great fun preparing and worshipping together with our first Messy Church at Home!