The Christmas special of BBC’s popular Call the Midwife drama will feature the work of the Anglican mission agency USPG. The show follows the fortunes of the midwives and nuns at Nonnatus House, in east London, in 1961. In the Christmas special, the Revd Tom Hereward and a number of the Sisters and midwives are sent by SPG, as USPG was known in the 1960s; to help a struggling clinic in South Africa.
Today’s USPG played a significant role in helping the BBC to research the episode, including input from Canon Edgar Ruddock, who was a missionary in South Africa in the 1980s.
“I had a lengthy phone conversation with the key researcher who tapped into my knowledge of the 1980s when many church-founded hospitals were still operating across rural southern Africa,” Ruddock explained. “I was also able to point them to various older colleagues who had worked there as doctors or nurses during the 1960s.”
Setting the scene for the Christmas Special, the BBC said: “Nonnatus House receives an SOS from a tiny mission hospital. Understaffed, underfunded, and with a poor water supply, struggling Hope Clinic is faced with closure. Far from home and everything familiar, the team are both shaken and exhilarated by the challenges they face – and by the time the mission trip is over, some lives are permanently changed.”
The global relations director for USPG, Rachel Parry, said: “Mission has changed a lot since the 1960s. We used to think of mission as something that ‘we over here’ did for ‘them over there’ – but now we understand that mission is ‘from everywhere to everywhere’. There is no one part of the church that has the monopoly on Christian understanding – instead we are all learning from each other.
“Another change is that USPG no longer sends missionaries in the old-fashioned sense. However, we do still support and encourage the movement of people in mission. The difference is that the movement of people today is, again, ‘from everywhere to everywhere’. In recent years, USPG has supported a Cuban doctor to work in Uruguay and a Ghanaian priest to work in The Gambia.
“Mission today is about a global network of Christians who all have needs and skills, something they need to learn and something they have to share.”
USPG has published a range of resources to accompany the programme to highlight the work it is doing today to support midwifery services.