Vigils held after Cumbrian massacre

03 June 2010

by Bill Bowder

CHURCHES in Cumbria are holding prayer vigils after Derrick Bird, a 52-year-old taxi-driver from Whitehaven, shot 12 people dead and wounded 25 on Wednesday, before turning his gun on himself.

Mr Bird shot another taxi-driver, believed to be Darren Rewcastle, in Duke Street, Whitehaven, at 10.35 a.m. The killings ended three-and-a-half hours later with Mr Bird’s own death in Boot in Eskdale, 20 miles away. His motives were yesterday still unclear.

The Prime Minister and the Queen have sent condolences to those affected. Mr Cameron has promised more help for the area, which is still suffering the effects of severe flooding last year and a school-coach crash last month.

On Wednesday night, the Church in Gosforth held a vigil, and on Thursday, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, United Reformed, and Baptist church leaders put out prayers for the “close-knit and hugely supportive” communities of West Cumbria. In a joint statement, they paid tribute to the members of the public who had gone to the aid of those who were wounded, as well as praising the emergency services.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been caught up in these terrible events of yesterday, but particularly they are with the family and friends of those who have been killed or injured. The community grieves deeply at the losses we have suffered: the confusion and pain will be long-lasting.”

The church leaders “strongly encourage all churches in the area to make their buildings and people available for people to come and pray, light candles, and have someone to talk to”.

A spokeswoman for the Carlisle diocese said that churches and clergy across the affected area and beyond had responded quickly, and were ministering to those affected in their communities. They had also offered to help hospital and emergency-services chaplains.

A three-hour vigil has been arranged at Egremont Parish Church on Friday, beginning at 7 p.m.  The Revd Richard Lee, Team Rector of Egremont, described it on Thursday as being “a time of prayer and reflection, a way in which the town and community can come and go”.

Every 30 minutes there will be a bidding prayer and a piece of meditative music or a reading. It is hoped that people will join in part of the service, in a similar way to the three-hour devotion on Good Friday. It is ecumenical, backed by Churches Together in Cumbria, and the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, is planning to attend.

The Team Rector of Whitehaven, the Revd John Bannister, has organised a service with Copeland Borough Council to take place ace in the grounds of St Nicholas’s, a bombed church, at 6 p.m. on Sunday, she said. This event is described as a “community gathering to express corporate grief”.

On Sunday, between 8 and 8.30 a.m., BBC Radio Cumbria expects to broadcast a service in which Anglican and Methodist clergy will contribute readings and prayers by telephone. “The Bishop of Carlisle will provide a thought for the week,” the producer, Richard Corrie, said.

Prayer for West Cumbria

O God, Creator of us all, in your Son, Jesus, you have walked the way of darkness and death. You send your Spirit of healing and truth to all in need.

We pray for those injured or bereaved by inexplicable violence: may your gracious compassion surround and uphold them.

We pray for all individuals and communities whose lives have been changed by this tragedy.

May your sustaining love be present in all expressions of support offered and help received.

We give thanks for the commitment and dedication of the emergency services and pray that they may be given the strength they need to serve others.

We give thanks for the resilience and courage of West Cumbrians, and pray that the bonds of community care and concern may hold fast at this time.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer, and let our cry come unto you. Amen.


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