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Westminster Abbey and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Abbey is not currently open for public worship, general visiting or private prayer. Meanwhile, the community of Abbey clergy are continuing to worship and pray, in-line with government guidance. They are also producing a podcast to mark key liturgical events.

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Abbey turns itself NHS blue for nurses’ tribute

Tuesday, 12th May 2020

Abbey turns itself NHS blue for nurses’ tribute

Westminster Abbey turned itself NHS blue and invited in a clinical research nurse to help celebrate today’s 200th anniversary of the birthday of Florence Nightingale (Tuesday 12th May). At the same time, the Dean of Westminster paid tribute to nurses on the front line of the battle with coronavirus.

The Dean, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, said:

At the end of last week, I was in the Nightingale Chapel to record one of our Abbeycasts. Standing by the Nurses’ Roll of Honour, I prayed for nursing staff and all who work alongside them. 
It is a special occasion, the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. We know however, that nursing staff face a daily challenge and indeed, in the Abbey we pray for them daily. We give thanks to God for their courage, their care, and their resilience. May God bless them this day and always.

The Abbey is usually packed with nurses for an annual service on Florence Nightingale’s birthday but it was cancelled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the Abbey asked senior clinical research nurse Arlene Lee to mark the day with the Nightingale lamp which is always a central feature of the annual service. The Abbey’s Deputy Clerk of the Works Iain MacDonald turned the church’s chandeliers NHS blue for her visit.

Arlene works at University Hospital, Southampton, with the National Institute of Health Research (Clinical Research Network) supporting patients through clinical trials. All the unit’s research is currently focused on COVID-19.

Arlene is also a Nightingale scholar and this week should have been at Harvard University as part of a programme, funded by the Florence Nightingale Foundation, studying leadership and management skills.

During her visit to the Abbey she visited the Nurses' Memorial Chapel in the north ambulatory where the Nightingale lamp is kept. She said: ‘It was a very special moment.’

Although burial in Westminster Abbey was offered to the family of Florence Nightingale, famous nurse and reformer, it was declined, because of provisions in her will. She is buried at Wellow in Hampshire.

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At different times of the day, or in different seasons, the light falling in the Abbey will light up something that you have walked past a million times and never seen before.

Vanessa, Head of Conservation

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