Saturday 8 July 2023

Celebrating 75 Years of the NHS

A steward at the table

I was being wooed and propositioned in an unrelenting recruitment drive to become a church steward for over a year. It was last weekend that I had a baptism of fire as it were. It was a weekend of ordinations of priests and deacons known as the Petertide in the Anglican Church calendar.

With a church brimming with high clergy, the ordinands, well-wishers, and visitors, I was to collect the offertory from a section of the seating in the church and then direct congregants to a communion station away from the altar. It was managed even if a bit chaotic.

Though these assignments were out of rota, I had volunteered as more hands were needed than what was required for regular church services. Today, I presented myself to steward the service of Thanksgiving for 75 Years of the NHS.

The programme pamphlet for the service celebrating 75 Years of the NHS.

Attending to attendees

As there was no offertory or communion, this was a civic service, and it became apparent that we needed fewer stewards. There were a few things to do, including putting inserts in the programme pamphlet that required attendees to write a reflection about the role of the NHS.

After that, I stood with fellow stewards at the door to hand out the pamphlet to arrivals for the service informing them of the insert for their reflections. It was not a crowded gathering, and it did seem we had a fair share of NHS chaplains attending, we all might have felt out of place and of sorts without a dog collar.

The service began

Just before the start of the service, Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester arrived, I handed him the programme and informed him of the insert, he was smiling, engaging, and appreciative before the Canon Pastor led him to his seat and the service began.

There was one other act to steward, the collection of the inserts after people had scribbled down their reflections, I stood at the end of one row waiting as one congregant wrote on both sides of the card, as if a whole thesis of thoughts needed an urgent revealing.

My reflections

I had written my own reflection early because of the duty I was assigned to the effect: “I was born on a Tuesday morning unexpectedly at 26.5 weeks, the NHS facilitated my transfer for incubation in a major city. I was the size of a hamster in the hand of my father.

At 57, I stand taller, much taller than my parents. I owe my existence then and daily now to the amazing NHS, the people whose humanity makes a difference to many lives.

My reflections on the NHS.

Andy Burnham who was the last Labour government Secretary of Health gave an address before representatives of faiths rose to give a talk, there was a homily, a hymn and then the sending out by the Canon Pastor.

As the event was quite passive, I began to wilt, when I got home, I was ready for bed and there ensued a long afternoon nap.

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