Easter Day in a ward

Writing acts of worship is hard. I used to do it at least weekly. Now I don’t: I work full time as a chaplain and when I come home I feel fulfilled but also mentally drained- there is not a lot left in the tank.

Weekends (they go on for two days: even with over 5 years working as a chaplain, I still find it a novelty) are down time, house cleaning, shopping, catching our breath: there is not a lot of headspace for the soul searching and contemplation for worship preparation.

I thought I was on a winner at February half term: space and time to begin the contemplation and stillness for Easter. I nearly finished my service for Easter day and was on the verge of emailing it before I thought that it would look a mite sad to do so.

And then the virus hit and the world stopped and every way I knew of being hit ‘pause.’ I thrive on human contact in what I do for a living and I had to work from home; for a long time I was disorientated- I guess I still am. The Easter service I’d written still exists and will maybe get reworked some day: I can’t use it at work; it wouldn’t connect.

I thought my Easter was done- quietly worship at home; read the stories, let them sink in and see what came to the surface. I thought it was done and then- and I can’t remember exactly how it happened: I’d promised two people that I’d phone them on Easter Sunday and that evolved into an act of worship- I found myself leading an act of worship in a ward 40 miles away whilst I sat in our front room.

The tech took ages to work, the ward staff were wonderful- beaming me into a ward flatscreen, the internet sometimes slowed and occasionally I disappeared from view. But… it worked.

Not choreographed, not precise or tidy, but it worked. I first noticed when my halting words elicited a response: people began to respond in a way that reflected their different traditions, when the prayers came, people began to offer their own, so I gave up my script and joined in.

It  was perhaps the most meaningful act of worship I’ve ever been part of: and I say ‘part of’ for I stopped being a leader and became part of something. Facilitated by atheists/agnostics because they cared, shared in by people who came to take part and not spectate, untidy- messy even, but ‘real’. Often mental health wards feel more ‘connected’ than the outside world: there is generally less artifice and more honesty: those who are broken and know it struggle less with being real.

Sometimes it is good to lose yourself in wonder and it often happens when you don’t expect it.

Happy Easter!


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