Call the Midwife and the Gospel

I have a new post up at Her.meneutics, the Christianity Today women’s blog on the BBC series Call the Midwife, which I LOVED, purchased on DVD, and can’t wait to subject introduce my husband to. He is currently discovering the joys of Downton with me, and he liked the Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea miniseries ‘way back in the days, so I’m thinking he’ll like this one, too. Unfortunately for me his willingness to watch “chick” movies gives him reason to chide me when he wants me to watch some kind of comic book action movie with him and I’m all nah, I’d rather practice my Spanish by re-reading a translation of Pride & Prejudice…(an actual thing that I do.)

But ANYway, here is a snippet from the post. I hope you’ll pop over to the CT site and read it all. Meanwhile, I’m anxiously awaiting the availability of Jennifer Worth’s other two memoirs as Kindle books in the USA…in English. Not Spanish. At least not yet.

(Image via Wikipedia and used under fair-use guidelines)

While Downton is a story of life among Britain’s very wealthy; Midwife offers glimpses into life among London’s urban poor. It’s based upon three (somewhat fictionalized) memoirs by former midwife Jennifer Worth, who interned with an order of Anglican nuns providing community-based maternity care in the populous East End. A little universe of its own, the area she served comprised dockworkers and other laborers and their families living in crowded tenements—ten or twelve children in two-room flats—where access to contraception was rare, families were large, and births were frequent. In the 19th century, to give birth in this world was to put your life in the filthy and ignorant hands of an untrained midwife, like Charles Dickens’ Sairey Gamp, a gossiping drunk who, at a birth, was far more liability than asset.

By contrast, the midwives of Call the Midwife are spiritual giants. Anglican nuns in the order of St. Raymond Nonnatus, they campaigned for decades for proper training and legal oversight to regulate the practice of UK midwifery. In so doing, the aimed to make birth safer for ‘the least of these.’ Their advocacy went beyond working for policy change; they lived and made their home among the people they served, in “working conditions so disgusting, and […] work so relentless, that only those with a calling from God would wish to undertake it,” wrote Worth. From the mid-19th century until the founding of the National Health Service in 1949, St. Raymund’s sisters were the only reliable midwives working among this population. At the season’s beginning, newly trained midwife Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine) joins the sisters in their work, if not their religious commitment.

4 thoughts on “Call the Midwife and the Gospel

  1. “From the mid-19th century until the founding of the National Health Service in 1949, St. Raymund’s sisters were the only reliable midwives working among this population.”

    So then these godly womens’ services were no longer needed when? Oh, yes– when the godless commie socialist big brother government death squad NHS took over…

    1. A-ha, good point, Dad. ACTUALLY, I was thinking that could be a whole post: why even though “the church” was serving the “least of these,” the NHS was still needed. Simple answer: because there were things that the nuns/the church couldn’t do. They couldn’t do C-sections for the woman whose pelvis had been rendered impassable by rickets. They didn’t have incubators for the preemies. And the women in that community couldn’t pay for such services themselves until the NHS. In the second episode, when the woman with the rachitic pelvis has her baby via C-section (after 4 obstructed labors/stillborns) the voiceover says “the NHS had given her the gift of motherhood” (or something to that effect.)

      1. Of course the NHS gave her the gift. The word from The Mountain is that giving gifts is the path to reelection!

  2. I recently discovered this series as well! Sadly I see so many children still born into that poverty with one exception. The love and passion and care of a community is no longer there.

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