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Parishioners set up ‘Wall of Kindness’ after the death from Covid-19 of congregation member

20 March 2020

Darrell Blackley

Darrell Blackley

PARISHIONERS have set up a “Wall of Kindness” on their church Facebook page after the death from Covid-19 of a much-loved member of their congregation.

Darrell Blackley, aged 88, who sang in the choir at St Michael’s, Middleton, in Greater Manchester, died in hospital on Friday after coming into contact with someone who had returned from skiing in Italy.

On Monday, his son Jonathan asked that, instead of sending flowers or cards, people should list acts of kindness that they had made or experienced. He posted on the site: “Help someone who is lonely or struggling during this time, who needs shopping, childcare or a chat. Build something beautiful in Darrell’s memory.”

The Vicar of St Michael’s, the Revd Jackie Calow, said: “His death shocked so many people, because, up to that point, coronavirus was ‘out there’, not particularly close. It has certainly made people a lot more serious. It has changed people’s focus, and that’s what we need to do as a church. We have to move from worshipping inside a building to worshipping as the whole of life, and that means reaching out not just to the St Michael’s community but everybody out there.”

During an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live on Tuesday, she said that she would ask her local primary school to make 30 cards to cheer up elderly people in isolation. “Within minutes, the head teacher has rung to say all 210 children will be making cards. So many elderly are very active, and it is distressing for them to stay in; so to bring them a little sense of joy and hope is a great act of kindness.

“A young mum who needs to keep mobile because she is in so much pain after a car accident has offered to go shopping for anyone. Another person dropped off a bottle of wine on a poorly person’s doorstep.”

She is considering using a vacant church building as a store for donations of supplies to distribute to people who are housebound.

“Because of Darell’s death, we are probably ahead of most other churches,” she said. “We have followed all the guidelines from the Church, the NHS, and the Government. I have already cancelled my family evening service on Sunday, infant and junior church, Bible studies, and Lent soup lunches; and my daily morning-prayer gathering now is held over the phone. I am not sure if next Sunday’s services will go ahead.”

Mr Blackley had been unwell for weeks before his death at North Manchester General Hospital. He had been treated for cancer 20 years ago, and had suffered a number of infections. He was admitted to hospital on 3 March with sepsis, and quarantined because of his contact with the holidaymaker. Initial tests for the virus were negative, but it developed later. His isolation meant that doctors could not treat his sepsis adequately. At the end, the hospital chaplain had to administer the last rites by telephone.

Ms Calow said: “Darrell was a faithful man at St Michael’s for over 50 years. He sang in the choir with a beautiful voice; he has been described by so many as a gracious gentleman who is going to be sadly missed. I cannot stress enough the need to self-isolate if you believe you are at risk of infecting anyone else.”

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