20 March 2024

The Chapel and Quiet Room in
Milton Keynes University Hospital,
serving everyone in the hospital

The Chapel and Quiet Room in Milton Keynes University Hospital in the Blue Zone, on Level 2, near Ward 21 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

I returned to Milton Keynes University Hospital with Charlotte earlier this week on the second anniversary of my stroke on 18 March 2022. We sat for a while beneath the magnolia tree that offered fresh hope for health, renewal and new life in the week after that stroke, once again sipping coffee together hank each other for the life, health and love that we have enjoyed in the two years since then.

I was grateful too in my memories for the members of the hospital chaplaincy team who visited me and brought me Holy Communion during my stay, and so on Monday afternoon we also visited the Chapel and Quiet Room in the Blue Zone, on Level 2, near Ward 21.

The Chapel and Quiet Room and the Muslim Prayer Rooms in that part of the hospital are always available for quiet contemplation or prayer. But the area is for everybody, whether that person has a religion or not, and anyone can come there at any time to pray or reflect.

The hospital chapel and quiet room is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

The chapel, quiet room and Muslim prayer rooms are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, although at night a member of staff needs to swipe someone in.

A weekly Christian service of Holy Communion is held in the Chapel and Quiet Room on Thursdays at 8:30 am and Holy Communion is taken to patients on the wards on Sunday mornings.

The Muslim Prayer rooms in the same area have separate areas for men and women to wash and pray. Friday prayer is held in the chapel and quiet room around 1:15 pm every week. Muslim Prayer Rooms.

The chaplaincy team provides pastoral, spiritual and religious care to the whole hospital community (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

The hospital’s chaplaincy team provides pastoral, spiritual and religious care and listening ears to the whole hospital community, including patients, relatives, members of staff and volunteers 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

The chaplains offer time and impartial support in a non-judgmental and caring space. They offer help and support in practising religious faith, and support in having cultural needs understood and met.

They offer their support to people of all worldviews, including those who belong to a particular religious faith and to none. The chaplaincy team says they support members of the hospital community in a way that is person-centred, starting with the person and their needs rather than sharing their own faith or beliefs.

In a discreet notice in the chapel, the chaplaincy team members also say they ‘are committed to providing support to staff, patients and their families, whatever your sexuality, gender identity or trans status and whatever beliefs, faith or worldviews you have.’

The chaplaincy team supports members of the hospital community in a way that is person-centred (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

The departmental lead, the Revd Sarah Crane, is a Baptist minister. She studied theology at Spurgeon’s College and was ordained in July 2013. The other chaplains include Claire Reetz, who has worked at Saint Lawrence Church, Towcester, and has had a youth internship in Peterborough Cathedral, and the Revd Ali Facey, a Methodist minister.

Anne-Marie Newman is a Pastoral Support Worker, and two Roman Catholic priests, Father Francis Higgins of Christ the Cornerstone Church and Father Mark, are also available in the hospital.

I am back in Milton Keynes University Hospital next week for another check-up.

The chaplaincy team members offer ‘support to staff, patients and their families, whatever your sexuality, gender identity or trans status and whatever beliefs, faith or worldviews you have’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Lent with
early English saints:
36, 20 March 2024,
Saint Aelred of Rievaulx

Saint Aelred of Rievaulx, frontispiece of John Henry Newman’s ‘Lives of the English Saints’ (1845)

Patrick Comerford

Passiontide – the last two weeks of Lent – began on Sunday, the Fifth Sunday in Lent (Lent V), also known as Passion Sunday (17 March 2024). Today is the Spring Equinox (20 March), and today the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne.

Throughout Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on the lives of early, pre-Reformation English saints commemorated in Common Worship.

Before today begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning to give thanks for life and love, for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, A reflection on an early, pre-Reformation English saint;

2, today’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Saint Aelred of Rievaulx in an icon by Brother Robert Lentz OFM

Early English pre-Reformation saints: 36, Saint Aelred of Rievaulx

Saint Aelred of Hexham, Abbot of Rievaulx, is remembered in Common Worship on 12 January. He was born at Hexham in 1109, the son of Eilaf, a Saxon priest. After spending some years in the court of King David of Scotland he entered the newly-founded Cistercian abbey at Rievaulx, near Helmsley in Yorkshire, ca 1133.

Rievaulx Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in the north of England, founded in 1132 by 12 monks from Clairvaux Abbey. Its remote location was well suited to the Cistercian ideals of a strict life of prayer and self-sufficiency with little contact with the outside world. Rievaulx Abbey remained one of the great abbeys in England until it was seized in 1538 at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Aelred became Abbot of Revesby in Lincolnshire in 1143. He returned to Rievaulx four years later to become abbot and to spend the remainder of his life. He was profoundly influential through his spiritual writings, which he began at the request of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the two having a similar approach to the spiritual life. Because of this, Aelred was often called ‘the Bernard of the North’.

His most famous work is The Mirror of Charity; On Spiritual Friendship is a Christianised version of Cicero’s De amicitial. Aelred also wrote lives of Saint Ninian and of Edward the Confessor, a rule for recluses and a genealogy of the kings of England. His correspondence and his work on Saint Cuthbert have been lost. He died at Rievaulx on 12 January 1167.

Rievaulx Abbey was founded in 1132, the first Cistercian monastery in the north of England (Photograph: English Heritage)

John 8: 31-42 (NRSVA):

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ 33 They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’

34 Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. 38 I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.’

39 They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, 40 but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’ 42 Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.’

‘Abraham is our father’ (John 8: 39) … ‘Abraham, our Father in Faith,’ by Sean Rice (1931-1997), in Liverpool Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Wednesday 20 March 2024):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Lent Reflection: True repentance is the key to Christian Freedom.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Revd Dr Simon Ro, Dean of Graduate School of Theology at Sungkonghoe (Anglican) University, Seoul, Korea.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (20 March 2024) invites us to pray in these words:

Let us pray for husbands and fathers. May they have the compassion and steadfastness of Joseph and know courage and joy in the face of challenge.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
who called your servant Cuthbert from following the flock
to follow your Son and to be a shepherd of your people:
in your mercy, grant that we, following his example,
may bring those who are lost home to your fold;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Holy Father,
who gathered us here around the table of your Son
to share this meal with the whole household of God:
in that new world where you reveal
the fullness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share with Cuthbert and all your saints
in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday: Saint William of York

Tomorrow: Saint Thomas Becket

Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne depicted in a window of the Church of All Saints Pavement, York … he is remembered in Common Worship on 20 January (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org