The Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday (Thurs) that he drew hope for the New Year from his experience of working as a junior hospital chaplain during the pandemic.
The Most Reverend Justin Welby has been volunteering as an assistant chaplain in St Thomas’ hospital since the first wave of the virus struck in the spring.
He said in a New Year message: ‘This year has seen tremendous pain and sadness. Many of us have lost family members or friends, often without being able to say goodbye.
‘It is at St Thomas’ that, alongside acknowledging this darkness, I find reasons to be hopeful for the year ahead. Because what I see here teaches me something about human beings – and about God.’
The Archbishop, who is to deliver his message in a BBC One broadcast today(Fri), has been spending time with patients, relatives and staff, and visiting Covid wards in the hospital, which neighbours Lambeth Palace.
St Thomas, which also sits a few hundred yards from the Palace of Westminster, was the hospital which treated Boris Johnson in its intensive care unit after the Prime Minister went down with the virus in April.
Archbishop Welby, who was working for the senior hospital chaplain, the Reverend Mia Hilborn, said: ‘One evening, I might be with a young child, praying with him and his mother. On another I could be sharing a joke with someone – finding a moment of warmth and connection in a frightening time.
‘Sometimes the most important thing we do is just sit with people, letting them know they are not alone.’
Speaking from the hospital chapel, Archbishop Welby said: ‘This chapel is at the heart of Guys and St Thomas’ in central London – one of Britain’s largest and busiest hospitals.
‘Like health workers across the country, the staff here have been on the front line of the coronavirus crisis and have responded with incredible bravery, skill and care.’
He added: ‘This crisis has shown us how fragile we are. It has also shown us how to face this fragility.
‘Here at the hospital, hope is there in every hand that’s held, and every comforting word that’s spoken. Up and down the country, it’s there in every phone call. Every food parcel or thoughtful card. Every time we wear our masks.
‘For anyone who is on the dark and difficult journey of grief – a path I know myself – I want to assure you that I am praying for you.’
The Archbishop suffered the death of his seven-month-old daughter Johanna in a car crash in France in 1983.
He continued: ‘The Bible tells us that God rejoices in these small acts of love – because they reveal who we truly are: human beings made in God’s image, deeply connected to one another.
‘Such gestures speak to me of Jesus – the one who shows us what God’s love looks like.
‘And for this reason, we can have hope for each and every month ahead. May God bless you, and all those you love, in this coming year.’