AN ANGLICAN priest has been at the centre of the community response to the fatal stabbing of a teenager in Coventry a fortnight ago.
Jaydon Washington James, aged 16, was attacked in the Wood End area of the city on 25 November, and died in hospital shortly after. A 16-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
The Vicar of St Laurence’s, Foleshill, the Revd Gareth Irvine, has led a vigil to commemorate Jaydon, and has helped the James family to cope with its loss.
Speaking on Tuesday, he said that he had told the community that “the power of love and forgiveness is stronger than the power of fear and revenge”.
Mr Irvine said: “The family are deeply connected with our church family. . . We felt so overwhelmed by grief and sadness after it happened. We thought we could pray for it, but also that we could be an oasis of calm in a sea of grief.”
A memorial was set up opposite St Chad’s, Wood End, close to where Jaydon was attacked. Mr Irvine said that the area had “a particular feel to it over the last week”, and that the estate was a “great place to live, but a tough place to live”.
St Chad’s was also the setting for a vigil service, held on Thursday of last week. Mr Irvine explained: “A lot of people didn’t know what to do; so, in conjunction with the local school and churchwardens, we opened up St Chad’s . . . involving members of both churches.”
Three hundred people attended the service, and hundreds more waited outside — unusual for what Mr Irvine called a “relatively small church in terms of its regular congregation”. The service, he said, created a “real sense of the community coming together in peace. . .
“One of the privileges of parish churches, particularly on estates, is that they feel like one of the last places for the community to come together, especially as local services have been cut. . . We have a role to play in helping the community to grieve.
“There was a shared sense from other community leaders that we have a responsibility and duty to change the narrative of how our young people are feeling in our city; there is a real fear out there of being out on the streets.”
Mr Irvine said that he had received support from the diocesan level, and that the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, had visited the area. He said, however: “No training can prepare you for the tragic events that clergy encounter.”
An investigation by The Guardian, published last week, found that young people were more likely to be stabbed to death in the West Midlands than anywhere else in the UK. Six young people have died from knife attacks in the West Midlands this year.