Masks and gowns – 23 March 2020

This picture shows doctors and nurses fully gowned and masked in preparation for hospital treatment of a patient. On first look they appear strange figures, eerie and alien. A closer look allows us to see the glimpses of the individuality of each person, their eyes, hands, and body shapes. Their appearance is entirely determined by their desire to protect the patient, great care taken to protect the one who was sick. They were concerned in this case about microbes passing from the hospital staff to the patient. The picture helps us to see how important this care and preparation is for the future health of the patient, who is a figure we cannot see because obscured in the bottom right of the picture.

These monumental and solid figures are drawn by Barbara Hepworth, famous for her sculptures much less so for her drawings. In the late 1940’s her daughter Sarah was admitted for an emergency operation into Exeter hospital. Barbara was hugely impressed by the careful professionalism of the National Health Service. In 1948 she was invited into the hospital to sketch the doctors and nurses at work. She was particularly struck by their hands and how they worked together as a team. She thought them to be like artists or sculptors, preserving and bringing forth life. She encouraged the hospital to put art on its walls for patients and visitors, and one of the surgeons, who had operated on her daughter, visited her in St Ives where he learned to carve.


Gracious God,
give skill, sympathy and resilience
to all who are caring for the sick,
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure.
Strengthen them with your Spirit,
that through their work many will be restored to health;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Common Worship

Merciful God,
we entrust to your tender care
those who are ill or in pain,
knowing that whenever danger threatens
your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe.
Comfort and heal them,
and restore them to health and strength;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Common Worship

Preserve us, O Lord, while waking, and guard us while sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

Compline antiphon