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Bristol churches open doors for community grieving Becky Watts

06 March 2015


'Pain and hurt': a book of condolence and candles are lit at St Ambrose Church near the family home of Rebecca Watts in Bristol

'Pain and hurt': a book of condolence and candles are lit at St Ambrose Church near the family home of Rebecca Watts in Bristol

CHURCHES in Bristol have been helping to support the family and friends of the murdered teenager Becky Watts.

The 16-year-old disappeared last month, but police announced on Tuesday that they had discovered body parts in a house in the Barton Hill area of Bristol, where she lived.

St Luke's, a short walk from Becky's family home, was open to the public on Wednesday and Thursday. The Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Martin Gainsborough, said that he wanted to let the community use the church as a "focal point" for their grief.

"People can light candles, reflect, write prayers or just be quiet. It's striking how this hits people - it reminds them of the preciousness of life and the fragility of life," he said.

Another church near by, St Ambrose's, has also opened its doors. The Vicar, the Revd David James, said on Thursday that, after their regular Wednesday morning eucharist service, there had been a "steady stream" of people coming to lay flowers, sign a book of condolence, or simply sit and reflect until late in the evening.

"Yesterday, as the developments emerged as to the appalling circumstances surrounding Becky's body, there was a lot of shock and horror, hurt and pain," he said. "People didn't know what to do with it. We want to do what we can to fulfil that role of being the sacred space that people need at this kind of time."

Mr James said that Becky had previously attended the local primary school, and a few years ago would have sung in an annual carol service inside their church.

Becky's 28-year-old stepbrother , Nathan Matthews, was arrested last weekend, before the body parts were found. Shauna Hoare, his girlfriend, aged 21, has been charged with perverting the course of justice. They have both been remanded in custody to appear before the Crown Court at a later date.

The Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, said on Wednesday that, as a father of four daughters, he had been deeply affected by Becky's disappearance, and struggled to understand how anyone could "do such things to a young girl".

"I feel sure that people both of faith and of no faith will join with me in wishing to support the friends and family of Becky Watts in the light of the deeply shocking and unfolding news of her death," he said.

"I am grateful to Avon and Somerset Police Service for their investigation of these heinous acts, and hope that the truth of what happened to Becky will lead to both convictions and justice."

Mr Gainsborough said that he believed that, in these circumstances, the Church should "come alongside people" rather than "try to make sense of things". He continued: "But, as Christians, we are also people of hope, and it is about trying to find ways to gently suggest that."

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