Praising God for the NHS

by Gerry Lynch last modified 11 Jun, 2018 05:19 PM

Spectacular Cathedral service celebrates work of Salisbury District Hospital and 70 years of the NHS

It’s not often that a church service begins with a brass band playing Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Yet that was the spectacular opening to a special Choral Evensong in Salisbury Cathedral on Saturday, celebrating the work of both Salisbury District Hospital and the 70th Anniversary of the foundation of the National Health Service.

The Woodfalls Brass Band were a marvellous addition to a service which also saw the Cathedral Choir sing from its own core repertoire, including Walmisley’s Mag and Nunc in D minor.

The Canon Precentor, the Revd Dr Tom Clammer, led the service. In his welcome of the congregation of well over a thousand to the Cathedral, he stated his gratitude to Salisbury District Hospital and the NHS, as someone who was now spending more time in its care than he once could have imagined.

Bishop Nicholas preached the sermon, beginning, “If you wanted to tell a story about Britain since the Second World War, or if you were going to give an account of British values, the National Health Service would be at the centre. As a country post-War, we wanted to build a society in which education, housing and health care were foundations good for all. In 2012, the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics was ‘For Everyone’ and gave an account of the United Kingdom to the world of which we were proud. We probably all remember the NHS being centre stage with 800 health care professionals dancing. 

“We are proud of the NHS because its people and the quality of its care are excellent and because its principles and values reflect the best of how we want to live.

“The health service is to: meet the needs of everyone; be free at the point of delivery; and, be based on clinical need, not ability to pay.”

Robert Childs Woodfalls Brass Band.jpgBishop Nicholas noted that in Salisbury we had this year particular cause for gratitude to our local hospital, in the professional way it responded, in the world’s eye, to an entirely unpredictable crisis after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. This service was to give thanks for a national health service and its local manifestation in Salisbury District Hospital.

Reflecting on the story of Christ healing the paralysed from St Mark’s Gospel, the bishop noted the connection between physical health and inner wellbeing, the connection between healing and wholeness that is difficult to describe but intimate. He also noted the importance Christians have had a reputation for caring for life since the earliest days of the Church, a characteristic rooted in the healing stories in the Gospel.

Finally, he also called not only for thanks for the NHS for prayer for those in NHS administration and government charged with making difficult decisions on resources in the face of constant public pressure.

“For our politicians and health service managers there are difficult choices about priorities, particularly in an age of such prolonged austerity. Like the people in the wilderness there is murmuring against God and Moses, the Prime Minister and Hospital Trust and management for not taking us straight to the promised land. It helps enormously when it is clear there is a real understanding and a willingness to take responsibility for political decisions about health care and be judged by the same values as the people who deliver such an extraordinary service on the front line.”

Read Bishop Nicholas’ full sermon here.

After prayers led by chaplains from the hospital, the service concluded with a special moment: the blessing of a new hospital banner, which was processed into the service with the existing one, which has been in use since before the NHS was founded. The Woodfalls Band concluded with the service with another rousing interpretation, this time of William Walton’s Crown Imperial.

Lower image: Dr Robert Childs conducts the Woodfalls Brass Band as they play Crown Imperial.

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