Retired archdeacon’s daughters found dead
THE Metropolitan Police have launched a murder investigation after the bodies of Nicole Smallman, 27, and her half-sister Bibaa Henry, 46, were found in Fryent Country Park, Wembley, in London, on Sunday 7 June. The women were the daughters of a former Archdeacon of Southend, the Ven. Wilhelmina Smallman, known as Mina, who retired last year. They had been reported missing the previous day. An initial post-mortem revealed that they had both suffered multiple stab wounds; police believe that they were attacked by a stranger who left the scene bleeding. The Acting Bishop of Chelmsford, the Area Bishop of Barking, the Rt Revd Peter Hill, said in a statement: “We are devastated to hear of the tragic deaths of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry in North London at the weekend. Nicole and Bibaa were the daughters of our former Archdeacon and good friend Mina Smallman. This is heart-breaking news and the thoughts and prayers of everyone at Chelmsford Diocese are with Mina and her family. We ask that their privacy is respected and for everyone’s prayers at this most difficult of times.”
Safe Spaces project under new management
THE national charity Victim Support has been awarded the contract to manage the Safe Spaces project — a long-awaited support service for abuse survivors organised jointly by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. The project was first proposed by survivors and supported by the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, in 2014, when he was lead bishop on safeguarding (News, 27 February 2015). After years of delays and changes in management, a fresh plan was presented to the General Synod in 2018. The model proposed by Victim Support is a central helpline, website, and up to ten community-based survivor-led therapeutic support groups. It will run for an initial two years. The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, who chairs of the Safe Spaces board, said: “We know that for some this project has not come quickly enough. . . This is a matter of regret which the Church of England acknowledges and apologises for. But it is good news that we now have a charity with proven experience of putting survivors first.”
Lincoln priest prohibited for four years
A PRIEST in the diocese of Lincoln, the Revd John Girtchen, has agreed to a penalty of resignation as Vicar of Barrow and Goxhill and a period of four years’ prohibition as a priest from 31 May, a statement from the Acting Bishop of Lincoln, the Suffragan Bishop of Grimsby, the Rt Revd David Court, says. He had been suspended while a complaint made in February 2018 concerning “sexual acts with a married person” was investigated under the Clergy Discipline Measure. “The complaint was in regard to sexual acts with a married person, with whom he had a professional relationship and was in a position of trust as a leader in the church. He also engaged with text messages of an inappropriate nature with the same person. These were acts which amounted to conduct unbecoming and contrary to the Church’s teaching on marriage and a failure to observe appropriate professional boundaries.”
Security funding for places of worship doubles
THE Government has doubled the funding available through its Places of Worship Protective Security Scheme to £3.2 million (from 2019). The scheme offers places of worship such as churches and mosques grants for improving physical security measures — such as gates, locks, alarms, and CCTV — against hate crimes. The scheme, introduced in 2016, was simplified and expanded after the terrorist attack last year in Christchurch, New Zealand (News, 22 March 2019). More than 180 grants have been awarded to 76 churches, 75 mosques, 23 gurdwaras, and nine Hindu temples. The Minister for Countering Extremism, Baroness Williams, said: “During this global pandemic, personal faith has been a source of comfort and strength for many. I would urge all places of worship who feel they are vulnerable to hate crime to apply for the fund, and as a government we will do all we can to make your congregations feel safe and protected.” Groups have until 9 August to make an application.