As we round into the final Sunday and week of Lent, we are coming to our last Soup+Bread study session – “Why Serve?”
We have been asking the “why” questions, beginning with the broad issue of “Why Faith?”. As we have gone along we have narrowed down the topics from Faith, to Christianity, to the Word, to Worship. Along the way we have been building a foundation for understanding why we do this thing called “Church” together.
Now as we ask the question, “Why Serve?”, we are trying to get at what this foundation means for us in terms of how we ought to live our lives. But to get the answer to that question, you will have to come to the study on Sunday!
However, as a tangent to the question of “Why Serve?”, I will admit that I have often been interested by the monastic life. I cannot say that I would have ever really considered becoming a monk, but the idea of living in a community whose life together is gathered around a singular purpose and governed by ritual, rhythms and patterns has a certain appeal. In some ways I got a parallel taste of that life in my five summers of working at various bible camps.
For quite a while now, one of my favourite TV shows has been Call the Midwife. It is a British drama set in the 1950s and ‘60s following a group of Anglican nuns and National Health Service (NHS) nurses/midwives serving the fictional community of Poplar in
The nuns and nurses live together in Nonnatus House, and from there they serve the community around them. Primarily they serve as midwives during the Baby Boom of the post-war era, helping women to safely give birth to the many children born during this time. Throughout the show, they cover several of the various health crises that marked the time, including the Thalidomide crisis and the Polio epidemic.
Interwoven with stories of their personal lives and those of particular characters in the community, the nuns and nurses live lives of service. The nuns punctuate their busy days of births, pre- and postnatal clinics and general medicine with daily prayer – morning, noon, evening and night.
Several poignant moments of the show have shown the nuns praying the prayers of Vespers (evening) and Compline (night): “Into your hands I commend my spirit” with moments of Birth, Life and Death that go along with the practice of midwifery and medicine.
I encourage you to check the show out. But the way Christianity is portrayed is so different from what is usual for Hollywood dramas. There are no Bible-quoting villains, neither are there heroes sitting in a church praying to an unknown God in a moment of desperation. God and the Church aren’t some foil for misguided virtue or judgmentalism. Faith, as a part of life, informs the care that the nuns offer to the community around them. God isn’t some outside force to be appealed to in a moment when all hope is lost; instead, God is a part of every moment of life. When the skills of midwifery and nursing fail to bring a new child into the world safely or to extend the life of someone sick, there are traditional prayers that remind the nuns, the people of Poplar and us that, in Life and in Death, God is there.
Service, Caring and Empathy are the main themes of the show. And while not all of us can live such lives of service, the show provides a template for what it looks like to be bound by something larger than ourselves that calls us into the world as people of faith. As we ask the question, “Why Serve?”, an important place to begin answering that question is to explore all the “why” questions we have explored already, to know why Faith is important to us and how to take that Faith is the foundation holding our feet to the ground and turn it into a way of life.