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Churches in Cumbria minister to the grieving

09 June 2010

by Bill Bowder

CHURCHES in Cumbria have been holding services and vigils in the past few days, after Derrick Bird, a 52-year-old taxi-driver from White­haven, shot 12 people dead and wounded 11 others, before turning his gun on himself, on Wednesday of last week. Further memorial services were held this Wednesday, and a minute’s silence was observed at noon at seven locations.

There has been much speculation about Mr Bird’s motives, some focusing on a family will and his tax affairs, but no suicide note has been found. His family said they could offer no reason for his crimes.

On Sunday evening, the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James New­combe, addressed about 1000 people at an open-air service in White­haven, at which the names of the 12 people who died were read out. He said that West Cumbrians remained afflicted, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; and struck down, but not destroyed.

“The sharing of each other’s burden will be crucial to the healing of each other’s communities over the long months and years ahead.” The people of the area were “tough as teak wood but gentle as lambs”, he said.

The Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria, Sir James Cropper, read out a message of condolence from the Queen and another from the Prince of Wales, who said he and his wife had been “utterly horrified to learn of the dreadful events”.

On Monday night, about 500 people attended a mass at St Begh’s Priory in Whitehaven, at which the Roman Catholic Bishop of Lan­caster, the Rt Revd Michael Campbell, presided. The Bishop said: “We have struggled and continue to struggle to find words and meaning for the unspeakable horrors that have visited the Cumbria communities.”

Among the other services was one at Haile, where Jennifer Jackson, aged 68, died alongside her husband James, 67, a member of the PCC. The NSM at the village church, the Revd Barbara Jeapes, said: “This is a com­munity wound,” The Times re­ported.

At Seascale, more than 400 mourners gathered on the beach. They heard the Revd Richard Teal, chairman of the Cumbria Methodist District, say that the events had put into perspective what really mattered. “I suspect that nearly every one of you here knew at least one person who was killed.”

At St James’s, Whitehaven, the Rector, the Revd John Bannister, was reported as asking people to pray “for the soul of Derrick Bird, his family and friends as they go through this trauma”.

Outside St Michael’s, Lamplugh, the NSM, the Revd Jim Marshall, read to the media statements from Mr Bird’s family, in which they sent their condolences to all the families affected.

Mr Marshall said that there had been no open rift in the family, and described Mr Bird’s caring attitude towards his mother. For a few hours on Wednesday, there had been “a new Derrick”, different from the one they had known for 52 years: the two figures “were very separate in the minds and the memories of the family”.

The message from Mr Bird’s sons, Graeme and Jamie, read: “We are utterly devastated about the death of our father. To us, he was the nicest man you could ever meet. We would like to say we do not know why our dad committed these horrific crimes. We are both mortified by these sad events.”

Last Friday, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Home Secretary, Theresa May, travelled to West Cumberland Hospital to meet some of the victims of the shootings. They also visited the police in Workington to pay tribute to those who dealt with the aftermath.

Mr Cameron said: “People — I have met some of them — are having to come to terms with the most appalling random acts that they will find very difficult to understand, and in some cases there will be no proper explanation.”

Churches Together in Cumbria published a prayer for the “close-knit and hugely supportive” com­munities of West Cumbria. It praised members of the public and the emer­gency services who “worked tire­lessly”.

A spokeswoman for the Carlisle diocese said last week that the churches and clergy across the area and beyond had responded quickly to minister to those affected.

A spokeswoman for the Carlisle diocese said last week that the churches and clergy across the area and beyond had responded quickly to minister to those affected.

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