We were overjoyed to welcome the chaplaincy team at one of central London’s biggest and busiest hospitals to both the CCN and its new interfaith sister network, Together for Hope, this week, having spent several inspiring days with a number of the chaplains in Coventry on pilgrimage in May.
‘What do hospital chaplains know about reconciliation?’, a CCN member had previously asked me. ‘We do a lot of reconciliation work,’ I replied, ‘praying with or listening to people coming to terms with illness, impending death or grief, or those who watched others die horribly, like in the Grenfell Tower fire. We don’t do much about political reconciliation or campaigning, but we work with individuals and families and the institutions we serve – mainly individuals.’
Many years ago, as an ordinand, I came to Coventry and was struck by the reality of the old Cathedral displaying transparent wounded-ness, and the art and architecture of the new speaking the old words of good news to succeeding generations. After the recent major London Bridge and Westminster Bridge attacks, on the doorsteps of our two hospitals, and the many sadnesses that are seen day by day, it has struck us anew how much the work of reconciliation is needed in our community.
On 3rd July, St Thomas’ Day, it was an absolute pleasure and privilege to welcome Alice Farnhill, Mark Simmons and members of the CCN to St Thomas’ Hospital where the chaplaincy team became members of both the Community of the Cross of Nails, and Together For Hope. The day started in the Marquee, outside St Thomas’ opposite the Houses of Parliament. There was a reflection on peace, hope and mercy. We lit battery tealights on our tables, 3 candles, as 3 staff members had died within a fortnight and there was a lot of pain in the institutions in which we serve. We remembered our patients, the firefighters and their need for safety, and for all visitors and for our hospital staff and those who work for the London Fire Brigade, whom our chaplaincy also serves. Then Simon Betteridge led a fun study day on reconciliation which was greatly appreciated. The Lambeth reconciliation course was adapted for a multi-faith and belief context and worked very well with the chaplaincy team members. There was much laughter and serious learning took place in a friendly atmosphere.
The presenting of the Cross of Nails took place in a special service in St Thomas’ Chapel, and was followed by a simple Reconciliation Agape. Attenders came from the Catholic and Pentecostal churches, the Church of England, the Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches, and Sikhs and Buddhists. All shared bread and juice, served by the chaplains, the Cross of Nails was very movingly passed among every person in the congregation, and everyone was given a Cross of Nails pin badge by Alice and were encouraged to take their folding portable cup home (we tried to be green!) Then the whole congregation, together with members of the ‘Critical Care Choir’ and keyboard, upped and went to the Marquee. The congregation included Jews, Buddhists, Christians and people representing the Muslim, Sikh, Humanist and Hindu communities. After hearing from the different belief communities about their understanding of reconciliation, and learning that there is much that unites us, the chaplaincy was presented with their beautiful ‘Together For Hope’ glass plaque, and the ceremony was followed by a release of doves on the river bank, signifying peace and healing.
The whole day was moving, prayerful and compassionate, fun and enjoyable. It was a happy day and we are delighted and excited to be part of both CCN and Together for Hope. Thank you for having us!
Hospitaller, Head of Spiritual Health Care and Chaplaincy Team Leader, Senior Brigade Chaplain
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust