On the 5th of July 2021 - the 73rd birthday of the creation of the NHS - English Freemasons up-and-down the country simultaneously gathered for the inaugural celebration of the NHS, Social Care and Frontline Workers Day and to remember the ultimate sacrifice that many had made during the pandemic.
Dr David Staples, a consultant in acute internal medicine and Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England, said, 'The NHS has never been so tested in its history. Its staff have been stretched beyond comprehension during the last year, and they deserve our gratitude, our applause and all the support we can give.'
At an event hosted at Chingford Masonic Hall, London E4, the thirteen London Lodges and six London Royal Arch Chapters which meet at Chingford were represented by Metropolitan Grand Inspector, W Bro Tony Shepherd, PJGD.
Essex and London Freemasons who meet at Chingford, as well as some locally based NHS staff and a couple of London Fire Brigade firefighters based at Chingford Station, gathered to witness a specially designed NHS flag being raised, then lowered followed by a 2-minute silence impeccably observed at 11 am.
W Bro Mick Scotchmer, a member of London Lodges Jubilee Masters No 2712 and Needlemakers No 4343 and the Provincial Grand Chaplain of Essex, then proceeded to deliver a profound Oration:
'The last fifteen months have been a life-changing experience for all of us. If we had been told at the start of last year what would happen, we would not have believed it possible. And if that is true for us, the man in the street, how much more must it be true for the NHS, social care and front-line workers who have had to deal with COVID every working day, who have seen its devastating effects at first hand and have had to put their own health and safety on the line to help others.
‘These NHS workers are used to dealing with crises and emergencies, but this was on an unprecedented scale. As we saw dramatically in news coverage, it stretched the NHS nearly to breaking point and put the NHS workers under almost intolerable pressure. However, their skill, dedication and sheer courage ensured that they did rise to the challenge and overcame the pressure. Having seen news coverage from other countries whose health services were not able to rise to the challenge and overcome the pressure, we should all be eternally grateful to those in the NHS.
‘The heroism and the bravery of our NHS staff are recognised by us all. Today, on the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the NHS, it has been recognised by HM the Queen as she awarded the organisation the George Cross. It is only the third time that this award for outstanding heroism and bravery has ever been awarded to a collective body rather than an individual. We owe all of those working for and with the NHS a debt of gratitude we may never be able to fully repay. We give our heartfelt thanks to those who have come through this traumatic experience unscathed. We pray for those who have suffered physical and particularly emotional and psychological damage. And we give thanks for the lives who that were given combatting this disease.'
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 46 October 2021 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons - Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 46.