The Revd Canon Paul Williams, the Vicar of Tewkesbury Abbey and County Chaplain to St John Ambulance and Sub Dean of the Order of St John blogs.
“I want to introduce some of my amazing friends and the fantastic work they are currently doing in this pandemic. Daily, in our county of Gloucestershire, St John Ambulance is working flat out to support the work of the NHS. All the St John workers are volunteers, many of whom also have a job within the NHS with families to protect and care for when they get home. We have 100 adult volunteers with 150 Cadets (10 – 17 years) and Badgers ( 7-10 years old) in units across the county. Around half of the adults are now working on COVID 19. Their work includes equipping and supplying ambulances for use in this crisis, and by retraining to work in the new Nightingale Hospitals. Others are helping out the NHS by taking some of the strain through working in busy A and E departments in our Gloucestershire Hospitals.
The work involved in disinfecting and restocking ambulances is massive, and the St John volunteers are working relentlessly. Their effort is impressive, especially as one Gloucestershire St John Ambulance volunteer has recently died due to the virus. Nationwide, St John Ambulance has some 8,500 regular volunteers in England with over 700 vehicles and often provides an auxiliary ambulance service at public events. With all public events cancelled, our usual income to maintain the charity has plummeted. The spirit of our volunteers, however, is high with the whole organisation geared up to continue in the next months to face the challenge of COVID 19.
The roots of St John go back many centuries to a hospital founded by Benedictine monks in Jerusalem who cared for, ‘our lords, the sick and the poor.’ We have a long and fascinating history, but, although we are proud of our roots, it’s our fruits as an inclusive Christian Order of Chivalry that makes us what we are today.
My colleague, Richard Lee, at National Headquarters in London said: “In the coming weeks and months, St John Ambulance will face extraordinary demands, the likes of which our organisation has not faced in peacetime. Our resources will be stretched, and our people will be tested, but we will stop at nothing to help beat this virus.”
In this country, and across the world, my friends and I in St John will spend and be spent in our service to humanity inspired by the example of Jesus. As one of our doctors, Hannah Pool, has recently written: “I pray most for the ability to provide quiet support and peace for those I work with: ‘I will hold the Christ-light for you, in the night time of your fear. I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear.’ That’s the essence of what I do.”
So, my friends, may I introduce you to my other friends and when you ‘Clap for the Carers’ on Thursday nights clap for St John Ambulance too.
In Christ’s service, Paul.