I’m a minister in the beautiful island of Jersey. For various reasons during the pandemic, the hospital chaplaincy team became seriously short staffed. They put a plea out to anyone who had some spare time to help out and cover some shifts. When I stepped in I discovered a team of six was now a team of two, and I was one of the two! I chatted through the issues with my superior – my Superintendent Minister – and it was agreed that, for the period of time that the hospital needed the extra coverage, I would step up on behalf of the local Methodist churches and minister in this context. It’s not a permanent move, but the local Methodist churches were happy to help out this important ministry in a time of deep need.
One Tuesday evening, I was called to the hospital in an emergency. Walking into the side room, I looked at the gentleman in front of me and thought ‘he only has hours left with us’. Working in hospital chaplaincy, you quickly recognise the signs of death that unconsciously prepare those keeping vigil for their departure. I spoke to his distraught wife and gleaned that they were visitors to Jersey, completely alone, and that this turn of events leading to William* walking the valley of the shadow of death was unexpected and untimely. His wife told me he was an Anglo-Catholic and begged me not to do the last rites, but instead some prayers for healing.
I flicked through the Methodist Worship Book and trusted the liturgy to guide me. At the end of the prayers, I decided to say The Angelus; a prayer which many Roman- and Anglo-Catholics have found comfort in. Through my mask, apron, visor and gloves, I watched him labour and gasp for breath erratically as he approached glory; I held his hand and prayed the prayer, and as I said “Amen”… he woke up. His wife and I gasped at each other as he miraculously started coming out of his unconsciousness and she cried out “Say it again! Say it again!”
William heard the comforting words familiar to him and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, came back to us for a short time. Surely in that hospital room, God is with us.