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  • Writer's pictureAlaric Mark Lewis

On the NHS and a bell

Yesterday evening, after praying along with evening prayer on YouTube, I toddled over to St George Tombland to say some prayers of thanksgiving for the good people of our NHS. And then, at 8:00 pm, instead of standing on my balcony or patio and banging a pot with a wooden spoon, I decided to ring a bell at the church because ... well now I can. Personally, I think it would probably be better to show our appreciation by making sure that the NHS is properly funded and its workers have the equipment and protection they both need and deserve; but until that happens I'm all for gestures that show them we are grateful. I, of all people, understand well that symbols are important in conveying truth.

I couldn't hear the clapping outside, so I really had no idea how long to ring. Since just before that I had been standing by a war memorial in the church, I decided I would give twenty-one tolls which - in my mind anyway - was equivalent to a twenty-one gun salute. I rang for the NHS whilst singing the "Regina Coeli" which - I'm sure - comes as no surprise to anyone. 

As I was locking the church a man shouted at me from just outside the gate. "Were you ringing that bell?" he asked.

"Yes, I was," I replied.

"Is it automatic?"

"No - I was ringing it by hand."


"Well, mainly to show my appreciation for the NHS and also to let people know that I was in there praying."

"Are you a vicar?" (I was still in mufti from my afternoon walk.)

"Yes, I am."

"Would you pray for me?"

"Absolutely! Is there something in particular that you would like me to pray for?"

"I would like some peace."

"Of course." 

I bowed my head. "Dear God," I began.

"Wait," he interrupted. "Aren't you going to ring the bell?"

What could I do? "Yes, of course," I said and ran back into the church. Once again I really had no idea how long to ring, so I settled on twenty-one  just in case he had counted. I didn't want to do twelve and run outside only to have him say, "Hey! What about the other nine?"

I came out of church again. He looked at me and said, "Thank you. I feel better."

And I said "You know what? So do I."

I'm sorry, but I'm just going to have to say it again: Praise God for our holy places.

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