When Revd Phoebe went to help a young woman who was being assaulted in her North London church car-park, she was set on by the five attackers, who were high on drink and drugs. ‘We’re in quite a deprived area with a lot of anti-social behaviour,’ says Phoebe. ‘The men knocked me to the floor and I was abused by them. My daughter was there and called the police, who arrived very quickly.’
As well as the trauma inflicted on Phoebe, she suffered damage to her back and shoulders. ‘I went on an NHS waiting list but it was huge. As time went on, I was getting pins and needles down the side of my body and five months after the attack, I could hardly walk.’
‘I was really struggling’
She struggled to find support and help but continued to minister, despite the fact she found going into the church building deeply traumatic. ‘Sometimes people think priests don’t need help because they’ve got God!’ says Phoebe. ‘But I’m a human being and I was really struggling. I couldn’t find anyone to listen and I was begging for help.’
When her bishop heard Phoebe was unable to get the help she needed quickly, he suggested she try St Luke’s. ‘I called St Luke’s and there was Hazel [St Luke’s medical secretary] on the end of the phone. It wasn’t just that St Luke’s could offer medical help, it was that Hazel and St Luke’s were a listening ear. She made me feel of value.’
Help from St Luke’s
Phoebe was referred to a shoulder specialist, one of St Luke’s honorary consultants, who give clergy pro bono consultations to enable them to return to health and able to minister. ‘He recommended an MRI scan, which St Luke’s funded, and confirmed that most of the damage was to my spine. He was really lovely and treated me as though I was a millionaire!’ says Phoebe.
Phoebe is now awaiting an NHS-funded second MRI and course of treatment. Although her injuries are not yet resolved, Phoebe feels St Luke’s support was transformative: ‘I felt it was like Matthew the tax collector, whom the Gospels say was seen by Jesus. It’s as if St Luke’s stopped everything they were doing and made sure I was seen, as a person. I felt so lost and they reassured me – I felt that someone cared about me.’