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18 October 2020: Thanksgiving for Essential WorkersComputer image of a blonde nurse clutching a board

This is the Festival of St Luke. Our Rector decided to concentrate on Luke as the “beloved physician” and use the occasion for a 10:30 service of thanksgiving for all essential workers (otherwise known as key workers) in the church. The official government list of those regarded as key workers is surprisingly long, including medical staff, supermarket staff, producers and distributors of food and other essentials, transport and communications staff and “religious workers”.

The Rector asked my wife and me to lead the service and a retired hospital chaplain to preach. The four of us had an online meeting to design the service. We agreed that the retired chaplain should interview an essential worker living in the parish and preach later in the service.

The Rector never received a reply from the first essential worker she approached and the retired chaplain pulled out two weeks ago because she discovered that she had got herself double-booked. The Rector said she would preach instead and find another essential worker to interview.

Then on Wednesday the Rector pulled out as she was needed to help a close friend who had suffered a sudden bereavement. She had asked a couple in the congregation if they would be prepared to be interviewed but hadn’t discussed it with them in any detail.

We didn’t manage to contact the couple until yesterday, when the wife (an oncology nurse) phoned me. We agreed that she would be the one to be interviewed and discussed it in some detail.

My wife and I led the service together. There were just under 30 present in the church. Unfortunately the proposed interviewee was not one of them! She had become unwell overnight so her husband (an ENT consultant) came instead. I did get the opportunity to go through the list of questions with him before the service started.

I interviewed the consultant, who spoke very well. Before the Covid-19 crisis he was one of twelve ENT consultants serving a group of four hospitals. This meant he was on call one week in twelve. Once it was realised how serious Covid-19 is, it was decided that for safety’s sake each hospital should operate separately where possible. He was then one of three consultants at our local hospital and on call one week in three. This coincided, of course, with an increase in those seeking urgent treatment. He said he didn’t get to see his family as much as he would like.

Things are now returning to normal. However, he is saddened at the number of cancer patients who are now coming to hospital with more advanced cancer than would usually be the case, making it more difficult to provide effective treatment.

His wife has been balancing her job as a nurse with her responsibilities for looking after the family. In addition to a mother’s usual tasks, she has “had to become a teacher” to provide home schooling.

Initially their two junior-age children were delighted with extra time off school. However, they quickly discovered how much they missed their friends. At the moment the schools are open in this area, so they can meet their friends (and have lessons from qualified teachers) again.

He received applause at the end of the interview. After a Bible reading my wife read the sermon our Rector had already prepared. That was followed by a short period of silence when we all thought about particular essential workers, either by name or by function, before giving them all a clap.