Testimony of a Response Pastor deployed at Manchester 22nd May 18
Can one single day feel like a week?
Can one single day feel like a week?
It is now just gone 1am , we left the house at 10am…
Meeting newly trained Response Pastors gave me a different perspective at the start of my day in Manchester. My colleague shared her apprehension and really didn’t know what to expect!? After all, it is extremely different to being a Street Pastor, where you have the cover of darkness to work within.
As a Response Pastor you very often work during the day. Today was a particularly bright and sunny day, no darkness to hide behind.
The sunshine was amazing. It was bright. It was perfect for the first anniversary of the arena attack. One young person said, it made the day a “good” day
My colleagues and I attended the service at the Central Methodist church, I was taken aback at how moving it was, seeing the faces of the 22 beautiful young people who had lost their lives. The dance performance of 13 year old Holly and her friends all in wheelchairs. Learning that up to 800 people had been hurt, some with life changing injuries…
I heard the two moving, powerful and inspirational poems by Andrew Rudd and Tony Walsh, making people proud of their city and the Mancunian strength of character.
The tears rolled down my cheeks, oh my days! The words of my colleague rang in my ears “today is not about us, we are here for them!” I allowed myself this outpouring of emotion, I hoped that would be enough to get me through the rest of the day.
We were then deployed to the cathedral gardens, in time for the service which had guests including Duke of Cambridge and Teresa May. I spoke with a gentleman, we chatted about the day, the occasion. He started to talk about the IRA bombing of the Arndale centre that had happened over 20 years ago, his memories very clear in his mind, he had connected the two tragedies.
The haunting singing of the Hallé choir interspersed with the sound of a police siren in the distance. The minute silence, where everyone stood rigid in reflective respect, was still peppered by the life going on outside. Yes Manchester was still mourning, still hurting, but life still went on…
We walked through to St Anne’s square, saw the flowers and the decorated trees with honeycombed shaped tags of personally written prayers and thoughts. There were loads of volunteers (from the Mothers Union, Marks and Spencer’s etc.) in yellow t-shirts handing out the tags. I learned that the significance of the Bee, which was EVERYWHERE, is due to the industrious nature of the creature and also the Mancunian people. The Honeycomb shapes are everywhere too! Bins, flower tubs, emblems badges.
Making conversations with everyone and anyone, it was easy to do, the weather, how many people, do you live here?
A few people picked up on my accent and were interested to know that I’d travel from “down south” I explained that there were a lot of us from farther afield. Distance was no trouble.
The day went on, with conversations, tears, tissues, prayers, hugs, smiles, laughter, flowers, polo mints, lollipops, sun cream, distraught crying, acceptance, resilience, remembering, ’22’ shaped helium balloons, bumble bees and honeycomb, dancing, singing, grieving, the hugs, the heroic stories, the loving and healing.
At the choirs concert, in Albert square, the mood was calmly defiant. The people were determined to be strong. The police offered a quiet and caring support, they interacted with the crowd, after all they had been there too!
I’ll never forget today in Manchester, and even after only one day I know I want to come back, it’s got under my skin already! The people, the caring, the kindness, the opportunity to pray with those still carrying their burdens from 22 May, 2017. God bless you dear Manchester, keeping you and yours, in my prayers 🙏🏻