I’m writing this just a few days after Tuesday 22nd May. The significance of that day, as I’m sure many readers will be aware, was that it was the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing. It was obviously a day of great sadness, but also one of encouragement and hope.
Here at Norbury, we held a service which we called “One Year On…”, and it was an opportunity for people to come and remember, release emotions, and look ahead. Many of those there knew someone who had been killed or injured or directly affected in some way. Two people had been at the Arena concert themselves and been seriously injured. The two halves of the service – “Sharing Sorrow” and “Working for Peace” – spoke for themselves, and echoed other services and events held in Manchester itself that day.
I was very taken with the cards that were made available for people to write thoughts, prayers or just names on. These were hung on trees around the city. We also used some at Norbury. They said simply “Remembering Together”. The trees were grown in compost made from the flowers left in St Ann’s Square the year before. The 22 candles used in the service in the cathedral were made from the remains of candles left in memory of the victims after the atrocity. There was a sense of bringing life out of death. The word “united” was heard and read often throughout the city on the anniversary. I was struck, in news reports, by the number of people talking about making sure that hatred did not prevail but that it should be overcome with love and peace.
Words like “community”, “solidarity”, “reconciliation” are often overused, but they had real resonance that day. They remind us of what is important and lasting in the world and they take us to the heart of our faith, and of the love of God for the whole world.