Manchester - Dwelling Spaces

Tuesday, 23 May 2017


View of Manchester from the Cathedral © Robert Watson

This morning I put on my dog collar with a heavy heart and a sense of trepidation. What does it mean to wake up in the morning, as a vicar, to hear the news of an attack like the suicide bombing in Manchester? After initial prayers for those caught up in the bombing, thoughts turn to your own community. What effect will it have on people here? And what words can I offer into that? The swirl of your own distress about what has happened somehow needs to be oriented towards God. Within an hour, the first conversation, a man walking home with his paper, feeling like nowhere is safe now. Also not knowing how to respond. I urge him to do good and believe in the goodness of others. Because that is apparent too. One bomber versus thousands of people helping because they were there, or it is their job, or they could do something small to help another. Twitter full of offers of beds, tea and phones. A narrative of hate, some would say evil, juxtaposed with a narrative of love, care and compassion.
And so this is where I begin when I think about our world. The truth is that we all carry within us a mixture of love and hate, of good and bad. We all have a choice about which direction we want to move towards, to love more or to hate more, to do good things more often or bad things more often. I wish I was more consistent in my choices, but even the most consistent person does not live a perfect life of love and goodness. And what are we to do about this? In a bomber we might see the magnification of a hate that we sometimes see in ourselves. In a grandfather who swoops down to keep an unknown young girl safe until he can find a way to reunite her with her parents we see a magnification of care and love that we sometimes see in ourselves.
And this is why the Christian story gives me hope. Because it is a story of original goodness. It is a story that both recognises the extraordinary value of every life, and this capability we all have of choosing to do good things and bad things. It is a story of a God who loves and cares so much about people that these good and bad choices are not left hanging, but are gathered up by One who judges justly. And in this gathering up also offers the opportunity of repentance and forgiveness. I cannot give an answer to why bad things happen, but my trust is in a God who can hold all that together and calls us into a story of hope and redemption.

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