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Healing and Serving

Bishop of London the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, who before her ordination was chief nursing officer at the Department of Health, preaches to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS.

The new Bishop of London, the Rt. Revd. Sarah Mullally, who before her ordination was Chief Nursing Officer at the Department of Health, preaches at a service to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the NHS, live from the church of St Bartholomew-the-Less, situated within the walls of St Bart's Hospital in London. The service is led by the Rector, Fr Marcus Walker, and the choir of St Barts is directed by Rupert Gough. Producer: Ben Collingwood.

38 minutes

Last on

Sun 10 Jun 2018 08:10


It’s ten past eight, and time now for Sunday Worship which comes live from the church of St Bartholomew the Less in London. It’s led by the rector, the Reverend Marcus Walker, and the preacher is the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Dame Sarah Mullally. The service opens with an introit by Sydney Campbell: ‘Sing we merrily’.

CHOIR & ORGAN: Sing we merrily (Campbell)

Welcome to this Hospital Church of St Bartholomew the Less. Founded in 1123, it has been at the heart of the hospital dedicated to St Bartholomew for almost 900 years. In this place, through plague and fire and civil war and blitz the people of London have found free respite from sickness of body and mind. As we celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the NHS, we sing our first hymn “O for a thousand tongues to sing.”

CHOIR & ORGAN: Hymn – O for a thousand tongues to sing (Richmond)

Today we celebrate seventy years of the NHS. We give thanks for those who worked to make this dream a reality in 1948 and for those whose work in hospitals and clinics and surgeries across the country continue to make that dream a reality today; we pray for those who at this time suffer with illness or live in the shadow of death, particularly today we think of the community not far from here in West London grieving the tragic loss of relatives and friends in the Grenfell Tower fire, the anniversary of which falls this week, and for all those affected by the memory of that night.

And we join our prayers together with those of the whole company of heaven in the words given to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ, that great healer of the sick.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.


The artist William Hogarth was born and baptised in this parish and, furious to hear that a Venetian had been commissioned to paint two murals in the hospital’s Great Hall, offered his services for free. The first of his two paintings is of Jesus healing at the Pool of Bethesda, and Hogarth used patients from the hospital as models for the sick by the pool. Over the centuries medical students have tried to work out the various ailments portrayed – does the child in his mother’s arms have rickets or congenital syphilis? Does the man under Jesus’ gaze have Myotonia Congenita? Sir Marcus Setchell, former Surgeon-Gynaecologist to Her Majesty the Queen, who has worked for Bart's and the National Health Service for 50 years, reads the first lesson.

READER 1: John 5 vv.2-15
The Gospel according to St John, chapter 5, verses 2 to 15.

2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool called Bethesda, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ 7 The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’ 8 Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

Now that day was a sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.’ 11 But he answered them, ‘The man who made me well said to me, “Take up your mat and walk.”’ 12 They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take it up and walk”?’ 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.’ 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
The choir sings Psalm 41: appropriate, with its prayer that God consider the poor and the needy, for a hospital named, until 1948, as the “House of the Poore in West Smithfield” and which has sought, as the psalm demands, to comfort the sick, lying on their bed.

CHOIR & ORGAN: Psalm 41
1 Blessed is he that considereth the poor and needy : the Lord shall deliver him in the time of trouble.
2 The Lord preserve him, and keep him alive, that he may be blessed upon earth : and deliver not thou him into the will of his enemies.
3 The Lord comfort him, when he lieth sick upon his bed : make thou all his bed in his sickness.
4 I said, Lord, be merciful unto me : heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.
5 Mine enemies speak evil of me : When shall he die, and his name perish?
6 And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: and his heart conceiveth falsehood within himself, and when he cometh forth he telleth it.
7 All mine enemies whisper together against me: even against me do they imagine this evil.
8 Let the sentence of guiltiness proceed against him : and now that he lieth, let him rise up no more.
9 Yea, even mine own familiar friend, whom I trusted : who did also eat of my bread, hath laid great wait for me.
10 But be thou merciful unto me, O Lord : raise thou me up again, and I shall reward them.
11 By this I know thou favourest me : that mine enemy doth not triumph against me.
12 And when I am in my health, thou upholdest me : and shalt set me before thy face for ever.
13 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel : world without end. Amen.

The second Hogarth painting in the Great Hall of St Bartholomew’s Hospital is of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Here there is only one patient, having his wounds treated with oil and wine (a practice less encouraged in medical craft today), while a priest looks hautily on from the side. Alison Knapp, Past President of the League of Nurses of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, who trained here at Barts,  reads the second lesson.

READER 2: Luke 10 vv.25-37
The Gospel according to St Luke, chapter 10, verses 25 to 37.

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ 30 Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37 He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’


We sing the hymn “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds” after which our new bishop, Dame Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London, and former Chief Nursing Officer for England, will preach.

CHOIR & ORGAN: Hymn – How sweet the name of Jesus sounds (St Peter)

For 900 years, on this site where we stand today, there has been both a hospital and a place of worship. St Bart’s traces its roots back to the Augustinian priory that once filled this site. For nine centuries, healing and mercy, compassion and love, the physical and the divine, have brushed up against each other. This very place tells the story of a health service rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The NHS was born out of a vision of healthcare available to all, regardless of wealth or status. Born out of a belief in something called the common good.

It was in the middle of the Second World War, at the height of terrible suffering and loss, that the Beveridge Report dared to dream of a new society that would make provision for the health of the nation and the care of the sick. Remarkably, the NHS was born just six years later, despite the devastation and the exhaustion that war had wreaked on Britain. Or did it perhaps take such despair to give birth to such a radical vision?

Though we may often forget it now, the NHS wasn’t universally welcomed or without controversy when it was set up.  The cost was expected to be great and most doctors believed that it would reduce their fees and their freedom.  90% of doctors threatened to resign rather than join it.  So it was born into economic hardship and entrenched opposition.  It took enormous courage and determination on the part of Aneurin Bevan, Clement Attlee and Stafford Cripps to set it up. And their vision of course extended further than the NHS - to providing a wider package of reforms; unemployment benefit, old age pension, widows pensions and death grants.
At the heart of their vision was the belief that all people should be treated as of equal value in times of hardship, whether because of sickness, or old age or unemployment. It was a vision of love and compassion given freely, to all.

Before the founding of the NHS, we should remember that those without means didn’t dare call a doctor for fear of the bill that would land on the doormat. They couldn’t afford to go to hospital so they went to work houses to receive the most basic of palliative care. Without the NHS, the poor were left to fend for themselves at their times of direst need, relying on home cures and quack medicine for the most terrible illnesses and diseases.

Today we celebrate and give thanks for the courage and passion of those behind the NHS, 70 years on. We celebrate and give thanks for those who continue that vision in today’s NHS, despite the growing pressures upon them and the Service. And we say thank you to all those who today continue to provide care.

I am a passionate supporter of the NHS. It has touched my life in many ways – through the birth of my children, the death of my parents, and for many years, directly through my work as a nurse. I have seen some of the great changes the NHS has undergone due to our longer lifespans, increases in technology and research, and a growing population. These changes have put pressure on the commitment to equal care, though I know that commitment still underpins the motivation of all who work for the NHS.

In our reading we heard the well-known story of the Good Samaritan. It’s a parable, told by Jesus, of a traveller who is beaten and left for dead on the side of the road, and of the treatment he gets from those who walk past. Two ignore him – a priest and a Levite – but the third, the outsider, the Samaritan, stops. He has compassion. Jesus’s listeners would have known how remarkable this was: enmity between Samaritans and Jews dated back millennia. The injured man was his enemy and yet he treated him as his neighbour. Jesus tells this parable when he’s asked by a lawyer – who is hoping to catch him out - who is my neighbour?

Who is your neighbour?

Ask any nurse on any ward in this country this question and I am pretty sure of the answer you’d get: the patients they tend and care for. The NHS embodies this Gospel vision of compassion for all, regardless of age or race or religion.

The NHS doesn’t of course absolve the rest of us from the need to care for our neighbours. We all have a duty – of compassion – to care for our neighbour, whether they live next door are in the next office, or on the side of a road.

We have to care for the society we live in, the society we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in. This care shows in our words and our actions, such as how we choose to spend our money, our leisure time.

Florence Nightingale said ‘why pray for those dying of cholera when raw sewage is flowing in the Thames?’ She continued ‘I believe we need to pray and act.’

Despite the huge progress of the NHS, the wonderful achievement that is universal care free at the point of delivery, inequalities still abound. Baby boys born in Blackpool in 2014 can expect to live nine years less than those born in Kensington and Chelsea. Girls in Middlesborough will live an average of seven years less than girls born in Chiltern.

Addressing these inequalities is of course not just about health, but about housing, education, welfare and nutrition.

We are here today to give thanks to God for our NHS and to pledge ourselves anew to make it the best we can. To ensure it serves all who need it with humanity and dignity and compassion. In the coming months and years there will be more pressures upon it. More change. Difficult decisions. We pray today for those making those decisions that they might be true to the vision of the common good which inspired the creation of the NHS seven decades ago.

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus said to him. “What is written in the law? How do you read? And he answered, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus then went on to say “go and do likewise”.

CHOIR & ORGAN: Comfort them, O Lord (Handel)

The Anthem which has just been sung is taken from Handel’s Foundling Hospital Anthem, which was composed to raise funds for the charity which looked after abandoned or orphaned children and was based near here, in Bloomsbury. It was Handel’s last piece of English church music. And now we make our prayers and petitions to Almighty God, led by the Reverend Tasha Critchlow, a Chaplain at St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

Almighty God, bless the National Health Service. Guide all who work there: the doctors and nurses, surgeons and cleaners, administrators and civil servants, chaplains and volunteers. Accompany them them in their labours and lead them as they follow your Son’s command to go and do likewise.

Keep in your loving care, O Lord, those who are seeking the comfort of medicine this day; give them comfort in their pain and calm in their worries. Bless those who care for them and those who fear for them and those who suffer with them, for your name’s sake.

Keep watch, dear Lord,
with those who wake, or watch, or weep this day,
and give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick,
give rest to the weary,
sustain the dying,
calm the suffering,
and pity the distressed;
all for your love’s sake, O Christ our Redeemer.

Let us join together with the historic Prayer of Thanksgiving for this hospital and its founder, Prior Rahere.

O God, by whose grace your servant Rahere, enkindled with the fire of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. 

Our final hymn takes up the message of service and pledges us to follow him wherever he might lead us. We sing “O Jesus I have promised”.

CHOIR & ORGAN: Hymn – O Jesus I have promised (Wolvercote)

May God the holy and undivided Trinity
preserve you in body, mind and spirit,
and bring you safe to that heavenly country
where peace and harmony reign;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.

ORGAN: Voluntary: Organ Concerto in G minor, Op 4 No 1 (Andante) (Handel)


Lent Resources 2019

Lent Resources 2019

With Bible Society