We woke up on Tuesday morning to a different world.
That might sound like an over-statement, but to many of our students, their perspective on the world has been altered by the events of Monday night at the MEN arena. On Monday, they thought that terrorism was something that happened in capital cities like London, New York, and Paris. They thought terror happened in places that were far away from them and their families. Now they know differently.
It has been a terribly sad week for our team. None of the schools we work in have been unaffected, and we have been trying to give as much pastoral support as we can. At 8am on Tuesday morning the team was messaging each other back and forth, supporting each other, and preparing to email all of our school contacts with condolences and prayer. Just as quickly, the work started. Joe’s Tuesday morning assembly turned from a light-hearted affair into a passionate endorsement to face hate with love. I made my way to the Academy, just to be available to students and staff. News was still drifting in; several students there attending the concert and many stayed home to recover. Staff had family members in hospital. From then, the pace didn’t let up. My previously quiet Wednesday turned into a busy and emotionally intense day of projects and questions as we delivered reflection assemblies and a lesson that aimed to help students understand what had happened. We tried to approach the situation head on, not to hide. We wanted students to feel free and safe to open up to us, and they definitely did. On Thursday, Joe sat with a class in a school where two of their students are in hospital. They asked questions for forty-five minutes. I took my usual club at the high school, but this week, instead of chatting about the upcoming holiday, the students spoke about people they knew who were at the concert. People they knew who had been hurt. People they knew who had died. Today, we visited a school and created a prayer space in their library. We expected maybe 4 students to drop in, thinking they would rather be enjoying the volleyball on the playground. We had closer to twenty students. One of their friends in due to be released from hospital today. One of their fathers’ works for the emergency services. They wanted to know how this could have happened. We could not give them a real answer to that question, but we tried to give them the space to ask anything on their minds. On the last day of school, none of them mentioned their holidays.
At the end of a half term I usually send an upbeat post, giving you the amazing numbers of what we have achieved through God’s power. I will attach our official newsletter with reviews of our work, letters from our chairman and prayer requests included, but it didn’t seem right to do that same kind of post at the end of this half term.The truth is we are going into half term heart broken and soul heavy. The only numbers we are thinking about is the number of students we have spoken to this week whose families have been hurt by what happened. We hold them all in our prayers and thoughts, and we hope you will too. Yet we take inspiration from their bravery and kindness, and comfort from the promises of God:
We have the great hope of all people; that a day will come that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, and every tongue confess him Lord. We have the great of hope of all people; that a day will come when the new order will begin, an order without pain or sadness or deaths of children. Until then, we will take all of our sorrow to the feet of Jesus.
This is the song that we played in our reflection assemblies, which is called “Even Now” by Philippa Hanna. We explained to the students that this song is all about trusting someone, even when something terrible has happened. We explained how we, as Christians, believe that we can trust God, but we also believe that we need to continue to trust other people. As a community, as Manchester, we need to continue to trust those around us and not turn against them. I have found it to be a very helpful song this week, and I hope you find it comforting too.
Please do read our newsletter here: NEWSLETTER SUMMER 2017 It will give you lots of info that I haven’t included here. I hope that none of you reading this are grieving the loss of someone close to you due to the bombings. I pray that God has his hand over you and your loved ones at this time. I ask that in his mercy, he will give you the wisdom you need to speak to the young people in your life who may have many questions, many as raw and as sore as any adults questions. I pray for all of us at this time of grief and struggle, that the Lord will make us like him.
Please enjoy these images of the work that the children have done this week in processing the tragedy. They have written prayers, made things, written good things about Manchester, and generally turned towards hope rather than hate. I pray that as our city moves forward, we can all do the same.