Manchester - May 28 , 2017
I thought I would just scan through the international news channels before I went to bed on Monday. I didn’t get any further than CNN - and it was from there that I heard the news of the bombing in Manchester. This was closely followed by a text from my son in Canada. He had just picked up the news too. The statistics are stark: 22 dead, 64 injured to date, and the reverberations have been felt close at hand in people young and old and right throughout the world.
On Tuesday I went to a vigil in Bramhall. It’s a scene that has been replicated around Manchester in many places, fulfilling a basic human need to come together at special moments. We formed a circle in the shopping centre. Strangers stood next to each other. Differences in age, faith, colour and culture melted into the background. We said prayers. We stood in silence. Candles flickered in the breeze and then people started bringing them forward and placing them together, defiant lights in the darkness.
It was the Europa League Final on Wednesday between Ajax and Manchester United. It began with a minute’s silence. There were one or two non-compliant voices, a stark reminder that it only takes one or two to spoil the party. The crowd waited the minute then gestured their displeasure in no uncertain terms.
On Thursday I woke up, for no obvious reason, with William Blake's Jerusalem ringing in my ears, summoning us to build Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land. An England, marred then by those dark satanic mills that threatened to enslave people in their millions. Some sing it as a song of nationalist fervour. I wonder whether William Blake saw it as a call to prayer. And when the silences have given way to noisy voices, routines are reactivated and ‘normality’ resumes the need for our prayers will only just have begun.
Lord, we thought we were secure. We pray for parents, children, and young people caught up in this traumatic and devastating explosion. We pray for those who have been injured, facing months of painful recovery and readjustment. We pray for those who have lost so much so soon. We pray for that peace that heals, that brings us together, that summons us to prayer. In the name of Christ. Amen.