Saturday, 9 November 2019

Remembrance sermon

My partner told me the tale of their grandfather Cyril’s experience of being a prisoner of war in Changi Jail,Java, held for a long four years by the Japanese. It was a cruel and brutal regime. The 1957 film Bridge over the River Kwai, was acclaimed for its portrayal of the regime that POWs lived and sadly died under. Cyril’s story was moving beyond measure, he was a clergyman in the RAF and whilst in the camp he pastorally cared for those held alongside him. He baptised, celebrated the Eucharist with them, and he conducted their funerals, many many funerals. Yet there is another half of the story, because back home, Cyril’s wife did not know if she was still his wife or had become his widow. He was listed as missing in action for all that time. It was not until the liberation of the camp that the London Illustrated News, published a photograph of a gaunt RAF clergyman ministering within a camp on Java, and a member of the family took the paper to his wife and said, “is that not Cyril?” that she could believe she was still a wife and not yet a widow.
Today we remember those who have died in wars and conflicts over the years. Those who went away and never came home. We remember those who have come home, but are not the men and women who went away to serve in theatres of war and conflict across the globe. And today we also remember those left behind. The widows, which in this time of modernity includes men. When we hear the term widow it is easy to conjure up images of Royal Wootton Bassett and the numerous repatriation ceremonies, coffin after coffin being driven through the streets over the years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
Yet there are other widows. Those from the world wars for whom there was no body to bring home, because bodies literally sank into the mud of the battlefields. For those buried as unknown in graves across the world. For those like Cyril’s wife who live in a limbo as a widow yet with the faintest hope that those listed as missing in action, would be found and returned home. 
There are those whose loved ones return and yet either through physical, mental or spiritual injury are changed beyond recognition, and so their partners are bereaved of the person who went away, widows in a very real sense

And today on this remembrance Sunday the gospel reading draws our attention to another a widow. We are told that the Sadducees, who were a well educated, sophisticated, influential and wealthy sect at the time of JesusWho did not believe in immortality, spirits or angels, give to Jesus a sort of riddle  -there’s a woman who marries seven times – and just not seven times, but seven brothers, in succession. Each brother dies, leaving her a widow. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.” First of all their question is absurd; it is similar to asking, “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” or “did Adam have a belly-button?” An absurd question isn’t valid just because it is directed to God. The Sadducees thought that if there was such a thing as resurrection, it was just this same life lived forever. Jesus corrects their misunderstanding of resurrection life by showing it is life of an entirely different order. That in the age to come, our lives will be lived on a completely different principle, in a dimension that we can’t imagine. We know it won’t be the same as what we know on earth, but we can’t say for sure what it will all be like in heaven - other than to know that we won’t be disappointed.

Jesus responds to their riddle in such a way that they have to admit he answered well, so well that they no longer dared to ask him another question. But I am left with questions; let’s look passed the riddle and passed the Sadducees to the object in the middle of the riddle, because that is what the woman, the widow would have been in those days. A piece of property to be married off and then married on and on, seven times. How did she feel? Was she bereaved, frightened, alone? Where I wonder was her hope? Did she in her grief, hope that she would be cared for and loved again. Did she believe in a God who would keep promises and enact justice beyond the boundaries of this world. To be once widowed is awful but seven times, what kept her going. I would like to think it is as St Paul says “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but when the end comes, “we will see face to face. Now, I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

The Christian dispensation acknowledges that we do not know, we do not have control, we are not in charge. But what we can have, in the worst of times is hope. Hope that beyond death it is not simply the continuation of what now is. 
In my time as a military police officer I have experienced violence and conflict around me that has made me think I might very soon be face to face with the answersI have been frightened beyond measure and enraged at the injustice and brutality of humanity. I was a witness to the genocide taking place in Bosnia when I served there in the early nineties, and in those darkest of times I had to hope that what was happening around us would stopand that there would be a better world when the fighting ended. was transported back to that place when the news broke of the discovery of a mass war grave that had a potential 1000 bodies in north – west Bosnia. 1000 people buried, countless relatives left wondering if they are wives or widows. Have those left behind kept hope?
Over the last years I have attended and led the funerals of my regimental friends and family. I have spoken to those ‘widows’ left behind, I have been to see friends with life changing injuries and spent time with their widows. What have I learned, what have I seen? 
I have learnt that widows have hope. It comes in many forms and guises; some hope that those they loved did not give their lives in vain. There is hope that those killed and maimed in action have left behind a world which is slightly better because of their sacrifice. There are hopes that injuries of body, mind and soul will heal, that one day the person who went to war will hopefully return. For some their hope is in their children, for others there is only the hope that they will meet again with their loved ones beyond this world in a better place.
In the darkest of times, at those moments in individuals lives when it seems all is lost, even if just in a glimmer we can see hope then we catch a glimpse of the knowing fully that St Paul spoke of. 
I return to Cyril, in the darkest of places as a prisoner of a brutal regime, who in his ministry offered the chance to desperate frightened soldiers a glimmer of a world in which life will rise out of the ashes of crushed hopes and dreams.
This remembrance tide remember the dead but don’t forget the hope of the living.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Don't let the rainbows fade away...

This weekend has been the Northern Pride event at Newcastle. An event that has grown exponentially since I first came back to Toon some 15 years ago - way back then it was referred to in hushed tones as "Hide on Tyne" and it was almost impossible to find the hidden venue buried somewhere in the Northumbria uni buildings.

But things change...

Last night as I drove home later on from visiting a patient at the RVI, whilst stopped at the various traffic lights it was impossible not to notice that Pride was afoot: Road closure signs, people leaving the very popular Northern Runners LGBT 5kms race, the plethora of rainbow flags festooned around the place from pubs, to Greggs, flying above the universities, the civic centre and my own places of work at Newcastle Hospitals. Dare I even say the lighter feel to the early night revellers.

Things change don't they...

and that is fabulous, with all the glitter, rainbows and bubbles that abound


do we remember those that paid for the change, those for whom change has meant sacrifice, who truly believe  that all is sparkly in wonderland?

At our very first ever NHS Pride breakfast hosted by Newcastle Hospitals, in the grandeur of the Piano room, well signed in, well advertised and very well supported by the executive and senior leaders of the organisation,

 I took a moment to pause from extracting the boy Grub from the croissant and jam mountain (yes how awesome our families were actively invited to attend and made to feel so very welcome) to have a look around.

Change had come...

There was grandads with their new granddaughter proud as mustard. Rainbow and ally families in attendance with small people trenching their way through 2nd/3rd or 4th breakfast, making new friends with the ease that confident and loved children do. There were young and older members of staff from across the disciplines, totally beaming and alive, knowing that here they were accepted, welcomed and wanted, not tolerated, put up with or hidden. Seeing their joy at being in that place, was one of those true moments of happiness. Staff and family allies, enjoying the joy of being a part of something so love filled


then I scanned the room further, to see those who had at some point had to make sacrifices, those whose  journeys had been ones were hiding was the norm, were having children of their own wasn't even an option because of draconian cruel rules, those who had been disowned, those who had been persecuted or abused for who they were and who they loved.


I saw those who as straight allies had clearly travelled their own journeys that will have required them to look at how they treat people, good people who after a lifetime of negative laws, beliefs and opinions, have turned and said no, not on my watch will this happen. Love is love, no matter who we are or love.

Change has come...

in so many ways, to so many people change has come.

Change, like all beginnings and endings can be frightening, it can make us aware of feelings we thought we had dealt with, it can bring with it grief for that which is lost or could never be.

And do you know?
That's ok.

Taking that moment to recognise the change is important, to acknowledge the environmental, societal, cultural changes and the changes within us, allows us to centre back on who we are, how we are with those around us and our role in change.

Change is important, it isn't always easy, it nearly always comes with a price, but once it happens, we are left wondering how we never thought to do this before.

So yes,

NHS Pride Breakfast, next year, yes please.

Things will have changed and those of us who are long in the tooth at this diversity and equality battle will mutter that it wasn't like this before; before swallowing another coffee and diving into a bed making competition...

but somewhere in that little corner of our souls, let us never forger that for every rainbow flag flown, waved, drawn or worn today, somebody somewhere and probably not too far from us, made a sacrifice of some description so that, that rainbow could be coloured in and created.

We owe it to all of them, to ensure that when the flags are put away that the colours they represent do not fade away into the background or worse are erased and replaced with a grey void where each of our unique, fabulous and awesome selves return to a time where change was only dreamed of and whispered about behind closed doors.

Change has come, but we still have an enormous amount of transformation to do if we are all to flourish into the awesome humans we are each created and called to be; don't let the rainbows fade away when the flags get put away for another year.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

So I went forth...

04:45 alarm - really, do you really want to get up.
04:47 - up, kettle on.
06:00 - leave house
07:25 - on the trail

St Cuthbert's Way, Pennine Way circular, 40 kms. Self supporting, which in the current warm spell included 4 litres of water, coffee, rations for 24 hours, sleeping bag, warm kit, spare socks, torch, water purifier, waterproofs (it is Britain after all), battery pack, map, compass and my shades of course.

In my head, a whole world of questions, angst, worry, anger and imaginary conversations I would have if anyone of a number of contestants started on me this week.

What I found was peace, a sense of the world/the universe/the divine giving me a not too subtle dig in the ribs to make me look up and see the beauty in front of me and the phenomenal power pack inside of me that is fuelled by our experiences, integrity and authenticity.

This week was never going to be easy, it was rather like walking down a narrow valley with the uneasy feeling that at the end of the valley was going to be a vertical drop or an ambush killing zone. You keep going because there is no other way but...

I was off work this week but Wednesday was the only day off I had in the week and I had ear marked it for me to have a day away, Hence a 04:45 alarm to ensure I got as many hours as I could out of my day off,

Then it hit me, slowly at first, rather like the little lumps on the trail I had plotted, becoming increasingly higher and with more spectacular views as reward for the lung busting climbs, which cause the legs to wobble and your heart beat be so loud  in your ears..

This was my journey

no one else's just mine and I wasn't talking about the 40kms run I had plotted; no my journey was my journey. So why on earth was I allowing someone else's journey to subsume my own. Why was someone's else path illuminating across my map markings and covering not only my waymarkings, but also the spectacular features along the way.

It was as if in that moment the heavens aligned, as if mind and body aligned, as if head and heart aligned.

my journey

I confess planning my run had terrified me because it was going to require some savvy navigation using good old fashioned map & compass work and because of the fog some nifty running on bearings work (get me). Internal squashed Katie, looking at everyone else's wonderful journeys had lost the confidence that I could even get my compass lined up left alone navigate on the hoof, but here I was doing it. Rewarded by some spectacular views (once the fog hopped it).

The hurting internal Katie watching someone else's journey proceeding along towards a destination I had once believed was mine, had begun the day doubting my own ability, my own ability to reach a destination, but once I looked at the map, the land features, took a bearing and set off, I was more than rewarded, I was blessed. For in the stepping out into the unknown, alone, allowed my own journey to become the goal, I could have happily sat out on the those hills all night long, looking at the views, hearing the wild birds, feeling the sun on my back warming both body and soul.

I had come to a point where the ancient words of psalm 121 came to life for me, "I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come. My help comes from he who makes heaven and earth." Ironically words that I use in my work with the dying and gravely ill in the hospitals that I serve in. Yet here I was not dying but very much coming alive. Recognising that in one route closing off to me forever this week, whilst watching someone I love continue to travel down it, was not an ending but a split in the path. That my journey was from this point on in a different direction.

Again, and bizarrely another piece of script, that I use in my death and dying ministry, was going round and round my head as I slogged up the hills:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East. (Minnie Louise Haskins)

Do you see what I mean when it seemed like all of creation was giving my a nudge on my journey.
Even when I fell out with myself at 17 miles and needed to make use of my current audible book and headphones, it was sent as if by a miracle - for the book I was listening to #BreakPoint by Ollie Ollerton, was just at the part where he talks of his use of visualisation and how he managed to find true happiness way down his journey, he also made me chuckle a lot with some of his anecdotes.

Even my route planned a few weeks ago with childish excitement for my day off, provided blessings and nudges. Early in the week I had met with some new friends at @ForwardAssist and @SaluteHer to talk about how we could do some joint working. I was immensely luckyto have this time with Tony and Paula, whose energy and drive are awesome. I came away from our time together enthused that my experiences and skills could be put to good use within the veteran's community, They had talked about a retreat they had recently run at an independent bunkhouse called 'Mounthooley' way down the College valley. It wasn't until I checked my mapping I was literally going to run through the grounds and make use of their fresh water (thank you so much). But there was more, for as I ran down the valley I came across a moving memorial to service personnel killed during WW2 on the hills of the Cheviots when various airplanes crashed. Taking time to stop and sit in the memorial for a few moments, remembering those honoured there but also my friends and colleagues who died in Iraq, Afghanistan and those who took their own lives or who came home with life changing injuries, where a timely reminder of those who no longer have the chance to step onwards on their journeys. As if the ghosts of my past had also joined in the mass attempt to get me to look up and outward at the glorious journey ahead. Thank you for Forward assisting me troops.

Now as with all journeys the highs are met with lows, I fell off a baby head into a swamp, I got sunburnt and when I got home there was a mound of ironing and kids' pack lunches to make. However life is like that isn't it, one minute a fantasy setting the next a swamp, and to think otherwise would be deluded. Likewise I am no fool and know that I will have lows, that I will look across to another's projected path and think that should have been me, but I am hopeful that my 40 kms across the Cheviots will become part of my battery pack that enhances and enables me to swing my pack on to my back, orientate my map, set my compass bearing and set off again on the next leg of this adventure called life.

What I do know for now is that my journey will continue to be varied, will from now on be spent quite often solo and self supporting, and I'm ok with that; I just need to settle, check my compass and run on into the next stage - sunburnt, covered in bog mud and surrounded by the glory that is a good, authentic and integrity filled life...So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East. 

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Flush to Flourish

Flush to Flourish

We are all humans, we all have our own things going on and we don’t always know what each other is carrying. We do know however what we are carrying and so let’s start there:

Now you are kidney dudes are you not, between you, you probably know more about workings, the breakings and fixings of kidneys than anywhere else in the Trust. Whereas I am simply an owner of 2 of them. 

I am certainly not here to give you a lecture about kidneys, but, it would be remiss on World Kidney Day and in this group not to give them a not too small role in the event.

So correct me (gently please) if I am wrong but the owner’s manual for kidneys would say something on along the lines of:

Kidneys are the filters of the body. They sort, second by second, what is coming in, what is needed, what is good for me, what is bad for me, and then sends the good to where it is needed and the bad to the trash disposal.

Am I on the right lines?


For the kidneys to work we need to be kind to them, they need to be hydrated regularly, they don’t mind occasional glasses of something other than water, but only in moderation?

They like to have minerals, salts and vitamins that help the body regulate and rebuild itself?

Is that the right idea?


So if it is the right idea for our kidneys, then why not for the rest of us, and in particular our souls and minds.

It stands to reason that if we don’t regularly hydrate our souls, then they can’t work well.

It stands to reason that if we only put bad stuff in to our souls and minds, then there is nothing of good to be filtered into the rest of us.

If we have nothing good and only bad then surely our filters will become overwhelmed and stop working, just as our kidneys would, then we would become, well what? You’re the medical folks:

(Suggestions from the audience)

Toxic, poisonous, lacking of energy, unwell, tired??

So what can we do to hydrate our souls?

We can flush.

Flush out the toxins, the waste products; we can make a positive decision to give ourselves a good clean out.

Then when we’ve detoxed, we can in the same way as most people seem to do from the 1st to about 6th of January every year, we can resolve to continue to look after ourselves, by hydrating our souls regularly, in the same way that we should be hydrating our kidneys, regularly throughout the day.

You will have all heard I imagine the expression “you cannot pour from an empty cup” and it is true. 

In the recent series “Mutiny” when a team of lads re-enacted Captain Bligh’s extraordinary 4000 miles journey from the middle of the pacific to Timor in a tiny open boat. They got to within 130 miles of their destination when they had to call in the medic on the rescue boat, who pleaded with them to take on fresh water from them and drink it, as they were all in an advanced state of dehydration. The GP acting as ship’s surgeon on the little boat, said the last time they had peed had been 24 hours ago and it looked like Guinness!

These guys literally had nothing left in their cup, they were beat and emotionally they were not far from failure. However when the Captain gave the go ahead for the water to come onboard and to be drank freely, not only did they physically begin to pick up, but emotionally and psychologically as individuals  they did, and so did their team work.

In short draining yourself to the point of Guinness pee, is not good for you or your team or your family. It is toxic, poisonous, unhealthy and not necessary. This applies to both your fluid intake and your soul.

You cannot drink from an empty cup…

How do we get back from this…

We Flush,

We Flush our systems out

We Flush our souls out…this can be annual leave, days off, something just for you that reboots you and flushes out all the toxins.

So on the theme of water, last weekend I packed up my campervan and headed up to Kielder water. On the first day I set off and ran to the source of the North Tyne, just over the border of Scotland. To see this tiny little spring bubbling up and knowing what it would be within in 2 miles was amazing. On the second day, having spent the night camping at a viewpoint alone, watching a dark sky come alive – (hydration for the soul enough!), I set off to run 27 miles right around the reservoir, no headphones, no company, just me and my tired and weary soul. 6 hours later with a little stop for soup at the cafĂ© at Kielder. I arrived back at my truck, with weary legs and a revived soul. 

Whilst running works for me, it isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t even matter what you do, as long as it hydrates your soul and refills your mind cup.

In Flushing out the toxins, we free up space for 3 letters. 

O R and I

Adding those three letters to our Flush



#Flourish is a part of life here in the hospitals. It is a force for good, it is like adding a sachet of those minerals and things to our water which help top up what we need.

In hydrating ourselves we enable ourselves to #flourish in part because we are hydrated enough to work/live efficiently and secondly because of how we are then able to be alongside others.

For example, if we are running on Guinness pee reserves, all anyone sees of us is toxins and that’s not nice. Our lack of energy becomes contagious and saps others, and the atmosphere becomes unhealthy, we become radgy and irritable when dehydrated and this is also true when we are emotionally dehydrated.  If however we take the time to Flush and thus enable flourish to become our norm, then things can be different.

We will embody healthiness, we will have more energy with which to engage, encourage and inspire others. We will be able to work more efficiently to sort out the good we need from the bad that we need to let go and dispose of.

We see the difference not just in our working environment (our kidneys) but in our whole lives (the whole body), our families and friends, the people who so often are on the receiving end of the toxins and waste products. 

Those around us will begin to see the difference in us and be inspired by who we are, thus flushing and then flourishing themselves.

When not just the kidneys are working effectively in the body, but all of the systems and organs, then just how awesome are we as humans; and similarly as teams and families when we are all working well, just how amazing are we.

In long distance running It is really easy to skip filling up your water bottle regularly and by the time you feel thirsty and get a headache it is too late, you are dehydrated, you’ve got the cramps and legs that wont move, your race is over. Taking time out to stop at the fuelling stations is imperative and essential, yes it might seem to cost you time, that when you are as slow as me, you don’t have to waste, but unless you take time to stop and refuel and refill, your race is over, you just don’t know it yet.

When we are dehydrated emotionally chances are we have already been causing damage to ourselves, our kidneys our soul. We just might not have noticed yet, or we might be so chronically dehydrated that how we are feeling has become our normal. Tired, grumpy, headache and lacking in enthusiasm for the things that used to make us happy and energised. Dare I say it is like coming in from a night on the pop, knowing that you really should have been drinking water alongside your chosen tipple, that you really should have a pint of water before you go to bed to counter the inevitable sore head from dehydration in the morning, but you can’t be bothered and you have gone past the point of caring about the consequences. You’ll really wish you had in the morning.

Taking the time to flush and refuel your soul is not selfish, it isn’t time wasted, it is investing in you. Under our professional leadership standards I would go as far as to say you have a duty to model good soul hydration regimes to those around you and to encourage others to take the time to find what helps them to do the same.

It can be hard if someone doesn’t recognise that emotionally they are dehydrating, and it takes courage to be like the medic on the rescue boat approaching a bunch of hardened survivalists to tell them they are really not doing themselves any favours by sticking to their damaging regime. Sometimes folks will listen, sometimes they will act on your advice and take action to flush out their systems. Sometimes you just need to leave a bottle of fresh water on their desk, in the hope that they will take a sip and taste just how thirsty they are. All we can do is the best we can, to encourage and nurture, to grow and develop. From that tiny spring on the hillside that I visited, flows the beginnings of the north Tyne, which by the time it joins the south Tyne 46 miles later is a torrent of fresh tumbling powerful energy, but never forget it starts with that tiny spring. 

Remember though that water left becomes stale, it becomes unhealthy and rank. It can itself become poisonous, and so can we. If we are left, if we leave others behind stuck in their own bog or swamp, then quickly that water can become bad for us. Our souls can only take so much before they like kidneys start to flounder with the toxins. If we leave things or issues unchecked, they become stagnant. Flush it away, great rid of the waste products, the problems, the anger and that will leave you, your kidneys, free to flourish again. Sometimes flushing will need to be in the form of a torrent of water, a discussion, a meeting, sometimes it will need to be a gentle pouring of warm water over a cold or injured soul. Flushing away the toxins and giving yours or another’s soul a clean filter to work with is important. I guess in some way it is like using dialysis to help a person whose systems are broken or overwhelmed a way of getting rid of the waste, allowing them to feel better enough to continue the task of hydrating themselves from the cup.

Find what helps you to become you and to flourish then take the time to do it. Be brave enough to say and I quote from Loreal “I am worth it!” because in doing so you will be living with integrity to yourself, living out your values and allowing those around you as well as you to #floUrish.

Remember that not all angels have wings but all members of the NHS are angels. You do an extraordinary job, you deserve to #floUrish not just here but at home. Be proud of who you are, be proud to flush and flourish.

Friday, 6 July 2018

NHS70 a sermon given by Rev’d Nigel Goodfellow

Sermon preached at Morning Prayer at St. Aidan's Church, Thockrington, Northumberland on Wednesday, 4th July 2018.

By Rev’d. Nigel M. Goodfellow MA
Trust Head of Chaplaincy
Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

A service to celebrate 70 years of the NHS
and remembering Sir William Beveridge.

1 Samuel chapter 3 verses 1 to 10 – Samuel hears God’s call

Matthew chapter 25 verses 35 to 40:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: 
I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying,
Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, 
Verily I say unto you, In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1)The story goes, or so they say,
That there was once a man, named Peter, who loved to garden 
But as he grew older, he found it increasingly difficult to keep on top of things.

He, loved to grow potatoes … 
but the heavy digging needed to turn the plot over was becoming just too much.

His son, George, used to do the digging for him but he had recently had a run in with the police and was in prison.

In one of his letters to George, Peter expressed his frustration at not being able to dig the potato patch.

“Son,” he wrote, “I think my gardening days are over. The digging is too much for me … so I won’t be planting the potatoes this year. I know you would have helped … but you can’t. I miss you.”

A few days later, Peter received a letter back from George.
“Dad,” the letter read, “I am so sorry to hear that you feel your gardening days are over. I’m really frustrated that I can’t help you this year but I’m also glad that you can’t dig the potato patch this year because that’s where I buried the bodies. Miss you too.”

The next day, Peter was woken early by the sound of police vans pulling up outside the house. A group of police officers got out and the senior officer knocked on the door to explain that they had received a tip off that there were bodies buried in the garden and that they had no alternative but to dig up the garden to check.

Eventually the officer came back to Peter and said they were very sorry for the trouble they had caused but they had found nothing.

The next morning Peter, received another letter from George,

“Dad,” he wrote, “Go ahead and plant the potatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances, Love George.”

2)Whether it’s true or not … I’ll leave that for you to work out … but like all good stories … as Jesus demonstrated in the way he taught ... it is the underlying message that is important.

As George demonstrated, in that story, sometimes in life it is really important to “Think creatively” or to “think radically” or to “think outside of the box”  (whichever term you are most comfortable with).

In meeting today to celebrate 70 years of the NHS and the key role Sir William Beveridge played in setting up the mechanism for its inception we are celebrating “Revolutionary thinking”  at its best … for that is what it was … as Sir William himself said:

Any proposals for the future, while they should use to the full the experience gathered in the past, should not be restricted by consideration of sectional interests established in the obtaining of that experience.
Now, when the war is abolishing landmarks of every kind, is the opportunity for using experience in a clear field. A revolutionary moment in the world’s history is a time for revolutions, not patching.”

That revolutionary thinking, that Sir William championed changed the basis of British society and has enabled countless numbers of people to experience life in ways that were unthinkable before then, with as he said “the happiness of common man” as the “object of government in peace and war, not the glory of rulers or races.”

3It took revolutionary thinking to change people’s lives and so today as we remember Sir WIlliamBeveridge ... we give thanks and celebrate his vision and his Revolutionary thinking  that made the NHS possible ...

but we are not just celebrating the past today ... we are also acknowledging and celebrating what is going on today ... in hospitals, GP practices, in people’s homes and in community settings across the country ... even though it is so often taken for granted ... as a patient recently said to me ...”I didn’t realise what goes on ... how much people really care. It’s a pity you have to be ill to see what goes on day in day out.”

Sir Williams revolutionary thinking is alive and present in those places today ... where individuals continue to “think outside the box” to make a difference to people’s lives ...

be they a porter chatting to a patient about the England victory last night as they push them to x-ray and in doing so humanises the experience and puts the patient at ease ... even if it is only for a few minutes ...

or a domestic chatting to a patient as they clean around the bed of a patient and discovers that the patient is in pain but they don’t want to disturb the nurses as they have so much to do and there’s not enough of them ... so is able to tip the nurses off without making a fuss ...

or a junior doctor staying behind, yet again, to help a colleague because there’s no letup in the patients coming through the doors of the Emergency Department ...

or a consultant who devises a dialysis machine for tiny preterm babies in their garage ... in their spare time ...  because nothing currently  exists in the market ...

or a surgeon who takes the risk of operating on patients every day in an attempt to save someone’s life ... even though they could kill them in the process ...
or a nurse ... who dresses the wound, ...or brushes the hair of  the frail elderly person with compassion and care ... or keeps the junior doctors right when they have just rotated onto a new ward and haven’t a clue what they are doing ... or picks up the signs of a collapsing patient and begins resuscitation ... 

or a therapist who listens to a suicidal patient in their home and develops a care package that transforms their view of life ... or pushes the exercise plan for a patient beyond the pain threshold to help them regain their mobility ...

or a  lab technician who pushes the boundaries of medical knowledge in the laboratories and ensures that there are valid test results available to make the best clinical decisions ...

or a secretary ... or manger ... or accountant or chief executive who makes the appointments, looks after the books, and finds revolutionary ways of meeting the targets and keeping the whole thing afloat ...

or a Chaplain who journeys with patients, relatives and staff through the good times and bad helping them find ways of coping with all that’s happening to them.

The desire to change people’s lives is alive and well and so today as we look back over 70 years we also pause to say thank you for the skills and gifts that are used ... day in day out make people whole ... to revolutionise others’ lives ... to bring light into darkness and hope in despair.

4) Today ... indeed the whole 70th Anniversary celebrations ... are a great chance to look back, to think about the present and be grateful for what has been and still is ... 

but any event that just focuses on the past and present runs a very real risk of becoming an empty and meaningless ritual if it ends there and we don’t think about what this all means for the future.

In response to constant questioning about what needed to be done in order to reach their full potential as human beings ... to live as members of the Kingdom of God ...

Jesus didn’t talk about obeying every letter of the law as some people believed,

and He didn’t talk about the importance of offering sacrifices, rituals and worship to gain the favour of a benevolent God as some others did ... 

He was much more revolutionary in his thinking ... and suggested that the answer lay creating a society in which the sick, the imprisoned and the outcast are cared for ... without that everything else he suggested was empty and meaningless.

Nothing in life remains static ... we are constantly in the midst of change ... and who knows what the future holds ... even for the NHS ... but the one thing that is certain is that there will always be a need for “Revolutionary Thinking” to ensure “the happiness of common man” and a society in which “incentive, opportunity and responsibility is not stifled”.

As Ghandi famously said,

The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”

So as we celebrate the past and the present ... may the revolutionary thinking of Sir William be a challenge and an incentive to us ... to take up the mantle that is passed on to us ... to be revolutionary in our thinking ... to hold to account those in positions of power and authority, including those in parliament ... to ensure that going forward we do not lose sight of that vision for a society in which there is justice and peace, healing and wholeness.