The Bishop of London and Chief Nursing Officer for England took part in a national online service on Sunday celebrating the work of nurses and healthcare workers and marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.
Bishop Sarah Mullally, the most senior female bishop in the Church of England, and a former Chief Nursing Officer for England, lead the service, with the Gospel reading from St John read by the Chief Nursing Officer Ruth May.
In her sermon, Bishop Sarah spoke of the cost that has been paid by nurses and midwives on the frontline of tackling coronavirus and the need to support them now and in the long term. She said the nation is 'enormously grateful' for their work.
"This year is the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. It would have been filled with events to celebrate their contribution to health and society.. Instead, Covid-19 means that this year is filled with acts of compassion done by nurses and midwives, for which we are enormously grateful."
Bishop Sarah added that Florence Nightingale, who was in the front line in the battle to save lives and control infection during the Crimean War, knew of the long-term cost of her experiences - and that the 'hardest of challenges' could only be overcome with the support of others.
"If we are going to really celebrate nurses and midwives this year, we need to support them through the cost that they have paid, and to continue to support them when all this is over," Bishop Sarah said.
Earlier in the service Bishop Sarah spoke about her 'two careers' - as a nurse and a priest - and how they come from one vocation - to follow Jesus Christ.
"People often ask me what it is like to have had two careers, one as a nurse and one as a priest," she said.
"I often respond saying that I have had one vocation, to follow Jesus Christ and to make his love and compassion known. I have sought to live my life in the service of others, like so many others do."
The service featured contributions from nurses who spoke of their experience of working throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Community palliative care specialist Rachel Mead and Felicia Kwaku, Associate Director of Nursing and Head of Nursing Planned Medicine at King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London, described how their Christian faith has helped them during the pandemic.
Ms Kwaku, a nurse for more than 30 years, spoke of the 'honour and privilege' of caring for patients and working alongside 'amazing' staff. She added that the loss of her beloved uncle three weeks ago to coronavirus has deepened her personal reflection on the impact of the pandemic.
"This biggest challenge has been seeing the pain and suffering during this pandemic," she said.
"I have seen suffering for both patients, their loved ones and staff. On some occasions, the staff have also had to cope with the loss of their own loved ones or people they know. I experience God's presence by starting the day with thanksgiving to God but also I pray for patients and staff all across the world. I see every day as a blessing and my faith as a Christian has enabled me to cope with this unprecedented time."
Ms Mead, from Weybridge, Surrey, with 33 years of experience as a nurse, described how the prayers of friends and of her church, St Peter's in Chertsey, Surrey, have been 'vital' in recent weeks, in giving her peace and strength to cope with the challenges of the pandemic.
"The prayers of faithful friends and my church community have been vital in recent weeks, giving me peace and strength in challenging times," she said.
Intercession prayers were read by Gladys Ekpo-Daniels, a former nurse and midwife and treasurer of the Lewisham NHS Retirement Fellowship, with a reading from Jasmin Archibald, a retired nurse and midwife, from London.
The service, for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, was interpreted into British Sign Language with subtitles. The hymns were contributed by singers from St Martin-in-the Fields Church in London. All contributions were recorded separately in accordance with the rules on physical distancing.
Watch a recording of the service on Youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=TUAriWLhyKE&feature=emb_logo
See also - Nurse reflects on 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale: www.indcatholicnews.com/news/39547
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