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St Peter’s opens round the clock for April

12 October 2012

by a staff reporter


Reaching out: the Revd Kathleen Rogers in St Peter's, on Sunday

Reaching out: the Revd Kathleen Rogers in St Peter's, on Sunday

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 running.

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 will come."

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 onlookers.

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."


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