“THIS week above all weeks, any false rhetoric, any words based merely on dogma or teaching, would have echoed very hollow in Manchester,” the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, said in an Ascension Day sermon broadcast on Radio 4 from St Martin-in-the-Fields.
Referring to the bombing on 22 May, he said: “What I have said has had to come from my heart and from my lived experience. I have spoken only of what I have known to be true in the darkest days of my own life, when I have found the crucified, risen, and ascended Christ draw closer to me than ever.”
Dr Walker spoke of the possibility that other terrorists were plotting attacks. “Part of their aim will be to legitimise public abuse of visible minorities. Christians, and everyone, must shout out against such occurrences, and support those who shout first. If we do, the promised Spirit will be our guide and our strength.”
In Manchester, vigils, marches, and services have all been organised in memory of those who died, and their families. The square at St Ann’s has been transformed into a carpet of flowers, candles, and football shirts. It had been the most moving week of his life, the Bishop told the Radio 4 Sunday programme. He has spent much of it in the company of the country’s imams, including Irfan Chishti, who described the gathering at the first vigil, on Tuesday, as a “huge sea of love”.
DIOCESE OF MANCHESTERTributes: the square outside St Ann’s, Manchester, has been transformed into a sea of flowersOn Sunday, imams from around the country marched through Manchester to St Ann’s Square. In Wakefield, a group of more than 150 Muslims walked from a mosque to join a vigil at Wakefield Cathedral, at which the Sub Dean, Canon Tony Macpherson, named every victim of the bombing. A candle was lit for each of them, and their names were placed in front of the altar.
Last Sunday’s worship on Radio 4 was broadcast from St Ann’s, where the Rector, the Revd Nigel Ashworth, said that the immediate reaction of shock had been replaced by defiance. “We were not going to have our way of life, in which we cherish the children and communities of our city, trashed by an act of evil conceived out of hatred.” He described the “huge fragrant carpet of flowers, cards, and candles” that had filled the square outside the church.
On Monday, the bells of St Ann’s rang out at 10.31 p.m.: the precise time of the explosion. Tributes left at St Ann’s Square included the race-numbers of participants in the Great Manchester Run. The annual Whit Walk set out from Manchester Cathedral, which was reopened on Thursday. It was led by the Greenfield Band, who played “Abide with me”, a hymn that was also sung by the singer Laura Mvula on Songs of Praise, broadcast from Manchester.
On Tuesday, faith and civil leaders gathered at the cathedral to make a pledge to “stand together against hate and hatred”.
The 22 victims have now all been named. They include Wendy Fawell, who had taught at St Oswald’s C of E primary school in Otley; and Eilidh MacLeod, a 14-year-old, from the Scottish island of Barra, where, the RC parish priest, Fr John Paul Mackinnon, told the BBC last week, a “dark cloud” had descended. A vigil was held at Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in Castlebay.
Family and friends said prayers at St Hilda’s, South Shields, last week, for the safe return of Liam Curry and Chloe Rutherford, whose deaths have now been confirmed. A service was held for John Atkinson at St Mary’s, Radcliffe, on Sunday.
The Manchester Evening News set up a campaign to raise £2 million to support families of those killed and injured in the attack. The target was passed on Wednesday.
DIOCESE OF MANCHESTERThe “We Stand Together” pledgeDozens of victims of the attack remain in hospital. The Deputy Head Hospital Chaplain at the Royal Bolton Hospital, the Revd Catherine Binns, described in a blog how she had been called in to work in the hours after the attack, and had “prayed for God’s strength”. Four prayer vigils were held on Tuesday, followed by an act of remembrance in the hospital chapel on Thursday.
The Bishop of Bolton, the Rt Revd Mark Ashcroft, visited the hospital this week, as part of his ten-day prayer pilgrimage — a contribution to the Thy Kingdom Come “prayer wave”. A beacon event will take place at Manchester Cathedral on Sunday.
Advice has been issued to C of E schools. The Director of Education in the diocese of Blackburn, Stephen Whittaker, advised: “It is . . . of the utmost importance that children understand that, although terrible things happen, love does conquer; and our schools and churches can be a part of building inclusive and loving communities.”
'It felt like an act of defiance'
A C of E priest has described the "electric" atmosphere at the Great Manchester Run, in which he participated on Sunday.
The Priest-in-Charge of St Chad, Ladybarn, the Revd Mark Hewerdine, and his wife, Naomi, were among 40,000 people who ran along a route lined by armed police. In the wake of last week's attack, he felt "even more determined" to participate, "as an act of solidarity with those affected, and to contribute to something positive for the city of Manchester to celebrate". His children, aged eight and eleven, also took part, in the Mini and Junior runs.
MARK HEWERDINERunning with perserverance: Mark Hewerdine and his familyThe family ran as part of a larger team from the L'Arche community in Manchester, raising money for L'Arche International. Mr Hewerdine and Kevin Coogan, community leader of L'Arche Manchester, pushed a L'Arche member in a wheelchair, and were helped to make it up the final hill by an unknown runner.
"The atmosphere as we ran the course was electric," he recalled on Wednesday. "Great passion from the crowd and among runners. . . The sense of mutual support was greater than any other event I've been involved with. People responded on that day, and every day since the bomb, by opening up to each other, showing ordinary kindness, recognising that God made us to rely on each other."
By the finish line, he was in tears, "and not just from aching legs". He paid tribute to the emergency services who had been on stand-by.
"It sounds like a cliché but running does bring people together," he said. "It is so simple and unspectacular to just put one foot in front of the other for an hour, but it felt like something important to offer to Great Manchester: a reminder that in these times of grief and loss, we all need to keep on walking together. Looking out for those who struggle, not rushing people faster than they can go. Grief feels like that 10 km course. At times it feels impossible to keep going, but it's the others around us that we can rely on and lean on."
Post-Christian nation looks back in mourning - Andrew Brown