Covid-19 and the ministry of deacons: Reflections of a hospital chaplain

Alfred Banya, Lead Chaplain at King’s College Hospital, London, writes of how he re-evaluated his role as a deacon during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In July this year, I had the privilege of joining my healthcare colleagues in a series of multifaith services where we paused and reflected on our experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. When Covid-19 broke out in China, it may have seemed to many people as quite a distant problem that had nothing to do with those of us in Britain. I must admit, I was one of those who in hope, harboured the thought that Covid-19 would not reach us. At worst, if it did, it would be just like the yearly flu that we usually get warnings about. Around the end of January, I placed a prayer at the back of our hospital chapel for victims of Covid-19. The prayer was for the people of China but did not mention us in Britain, or people in other parts of the world. This perhaps reflected my naivety and misplaced sense of security.

The situation changed one morning when a colleague approached me. She was looking very anxious and concerned. This was around the time when news reports about the first cases of Covid-19 infection in Britain broke, and my colleague advised against the use of the holy water stoup at the entrance to our chapel. I promptly put the holy water stoup out of use. This was the first of what was to become several actions I had to take to ensure safety in response to the pandemic.

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