Birmingham's hope and prayers for those affected by cancer

Prayers, readings and music at the Pause for Hope service at St Chad's Cathedral
Prayers, readings and music at the Pause for Hope service at St Chad's Cathedral

An initiative to support those affected by cancer that started at St Francis Xavier's Church in Liverpool (SFX) almost 20 years ago extended to Birmingham at the weekend. The Pause for Hope service was led by Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham and Bishop Anne Hollinghurst, the Suffragan Bishop of Aston in the Anglican Diocese of Birmingham.

It was back in 1998 that Professor Ray Donnelly, a Liverpool cancer surgeon, was exploring ways in which to respond to the spiritual needs of those people who are affected by cancer. A group of like-minded people came together and devised an ecumenical service, Pause for Hope, which was held in the Jesuit parish in Liverpool. Since then, it has been held annually, alternating between Liverpool's two cathedrals. It has also spread to Chester, Manchester, Glasgow, the Isle of Man and various other centres throughout the country.

On Sunday, Birmingham held its first Pause for Hope service at St Chad's Cathedral, attended by Archbishop Bernard, Bishop Anne and local people who led the prayers, music and readings.

"This was a first for St Chad's," says Br Ken Vance SJ who helped to organise the first Pause for Hope service at SFX. "It was the first time that Archbishop Bernard and Bishop Anne have presided together at a service, made all the more special because we were remembering and praying for all affected by cancer."

The Christian value of sufferingArchbishop Bernard and Bishop Anne at the Pause for Hope service

The Pause for Hope initiative was set up with the several key objectives. In addition to praying that prevention or a cure for cancer might soon be found, it also aims to bring together in prayer those affected by all forms of cancer, their loved ones and carers and to remember dear ones lost to cancer. "Many people do pray very hard when diagnosed with cancer," says Prof Donnelly, "but many don’t pray at all and many would like to pray but don’t know how to and need help. Most people, though, feel the need for prayerful support and it is here that Pause for Hope can be so effective, helping people to know that they are not alone and helping them to bring God more into their lives and to feel how much God loves them and is interested in every single thing that happens to them."

Those involved in Pause for Hope also pray for those with responsibility for providing and allocating resources required in the investigation, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and try to help those affected to understand the Christian value of suffering: that the prayers of the sick and those who look after them have great power with God. And the initiative also strives to help those who do not have cancer but have a fear of the disease; and to reach out to those who are at home or in hospital as patients or carers and unable to attend the Pause for Hope services themselves.

Some of the Jesuits from Manresa House, the Jesuit novitiate in Birmingham helped to organise the service at St Chad's Cathedral and provided the catering staff. Further details about Pause for Hope can be obtained either from their website or by emailing Br Ken Vance SJ.