IN THE town of Machynlleth, St Peter's has become the focal
point of the community. Since Monday of last week, when April
Jones, aged five, was kidnapped, the church has been open 24 hours
a day, and vigils have been held each evening. Members of the
congregation have operated in shifts to keep the building
The Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Kathleen Rogers, said that
emotions in the town had changed as the search for April
progressed, and the church was trying to provide a space for people
simply to be silent, or to pray. She attends at 6 p.m. each day to
talk and pray with them.
A book of hope has been set up for people to write messages to
April's parents, Coral and Paul Jones, and candles are lit.
Mrs Rogers said: "When we were told it was a murder inquiry, it
was horrendous and absolute shock - you could touch it, almost. The
hope has now shifted to being able to bring her home. . . While she
hasn't been found, she is safe in God's hands."
"Everyone knows me. I was born and bred here. . . People know
they can reach out to me, whether they are churchgoers or not. At
the moment, the family want to be on their own, with other members
of the family. The family have not been part of our congregation,
but I know the children; I know April."
She said the church's actions and words this past ten days had
been welcomed by the community. "People have been clinging to what
I and the bishop have been saying; no one has said or doubted or
questioned me about my faith. But I know the anger and questioning
A local man, Mark Bridger, has been charged with April's murder.
As he was driven to Aberystwyth magistrates court to hear the
charge on Monday, he was met with anger and abuse from
The Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Revd Andy John, led a service for
the community last Sunday. Half the town's population of 2000
turned out to walk in silence from April's home, on the Bryn-y-Gog
estate, to St Peter's.
He told the congregation: "Jesus said: 'Let the little children
come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs
to such as these.' We take comfort that April is in the strong and
loving arms of God, but we want her home."
He thanked the community for its compassion. "You have touched
the hearts of people across the world. You have shown resolve,
determination, and love beyond any expectation. Light truly is
stronger than the darkness. We know just how dark that darkness can
be when we're faced with events like this. But that love shows us
that despair will not have the last word."
Speaking on the Sunday programme on Radio 4, he said
that the church was there to support the community in the long
term. "Long after the cameras have gone, the Christian community
will be there to support this community in its grief."
He praised Mrs Rogers's ministry. "At times like this, priests
recall why they are called to this particular ministry. The most
important thing is that you walk alongside people in the darkness.
The most important thing is to stay with them in the valley of the
shadow of death. It's a long, patient process. That is what has
been happening, and will continue to happen."
Mrs Rogers said "I never asked to do something like this, but
I'm glad that I have been able to do it."