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  • 25 years ago today...

    Most of us have days/dates that are seared into our memories.  For me, 20th March 1993 is one of them.

    I was 30 years old, and had invited my godsons and their parents up for a weekend. We caught a bus into Warrington and then took the train to Manchester to vist the Granada Studios Tour, a great day out for boys then aged 5 and 3 along with the adults.

    It was also the day before Mother's Day (and my sister's birthday), so Warrington town centre was packed with families, children and teens buying flowers, gifts cards and so on.

    When we left Manchester, we discovered that trains to Warrington were stoppiong at Birchwood (one stop out from the town) due to an 'incident'.  We called a taxi and got home, having been told there'd been a bomb explosion in the town centre.  Turning on the TV there was nothing about it, something in Russia remained the top news story throughout.

    Two boys were killed by the explosion, Jonathan Ball, aged 3, who had been with his father to buy presents for his mother, and Tim Parry, aged 12, who was looking for a football top.  Another fifty people were injured, some seriously.

    Twenty five years later, Jonathan would be almost the age I was then, had he lived, and Tim would have been roughly the age I was when I began ministerial training.  I wonder how their lives might have emerged, had things been different.

    The long term impact of the Warrington bombing is quiet and significant.

    Tim Parry's parents devoted huge energy to trying to understand the Northern Irish situation, and I honestly believe this event was a key moment in the Peace Process, which is now so fragile in the face of possible border changes.

    There was a degree of outcry from the north of England that the south-centric media had barely mentioned events in Warrington, and again a shift in thinking meant that, subsequently, such events did receive extensive coverage.

    The photo above is part of the 'river of life' that runs down what used to be the main shopping street of Warrington.  Town centre planning has meant that the effective centre has shifted and this once buzzing street is painfully quiet.  But if you walk along it, you will see this water feature, around the rim of which are faces of real Warrington people, including Jonathan and Tim, and handprints of children who will now be in their thirties.

    At 12:25, the time the bombs exploded, I will pause to remember, and to let that remembering continue to impact my thinking and living.

    RIP Jonathan and Tim, hate stole your young lives; love inspired hope from tragedy.

  • The World is my Parish...

    Yesterday I went down to Manchester for a day conference, which was also being attended by a number of friends.  After it was over G, J and I met B for tea and cake before I caught my (ludicrously crowded) train to start my homeward journey.

    I had a good day, caught up with many good people, listened to interesting talks, ate far too much stodge on the way back home, and was, again, encouraged that we Gatherers are doing OK!

  • RIP Professor Stephen Hawking

    This image, which I think originates in the Guardian newspaper, is spreading far and wide on  social media.  It is beautiful, and poignant and at the same time makes me go 'hmmm!'

    Stephen Hawking was definitely a man of huge intellect and scientific ability whose life has richly benefited the study of cosmology.  He was a man whose words often showed great wisdom and compassion.  He was a man who lived a reasonably long life (and more than 50 years longer than predicted when he was diagnosed with MND).

    There are many ways to read the image.  At its simplest, it is a man now free from the constraints of a failing body and able to walk free.  And that is beautiful. It also, consiously or otherwise, expresses a belief in life beyond death that is in some way 'better' or more 'whole' than that left behind. Stephen Hawking famously said something along the lines of, 'heaven is a fairy story for those who are afraid of the dark', yet here is an image that shows him in heaven, or walking towards it.

    Many years ago (like 30 or more!) I read that the atheist communist Chairman Mao speaking on the death of his wife said something along the lines that 'the angels of heaven all came to meet her'.  I feel there is something similar in this image.

    I believe in a God of grace and mercy, whose love is for all creation, and who believes in us whether or not we beliive in God.

    I believe in the Christ of God, Jesus of Nazareth, whose death destroyed the power of sin and death for all, for all eternity.

    I believe in the Sophia Spirit wisdom of God, uncontainable and uncontrollable, reaching deeply into all creation to alert it to its origin and end.

    I believe in the grace of the triune God, reaching beyond any human construct to touch and heal, redeem and liberate all.

    And it is to that God that I gladly commend Stephen Hawkin (if to do such is in my gift) trusting that God's promises are true and trustworthy.

    Rest in peace, Professor Stephen Hawking, you lived well and enriched the lives of those who follow.  May you be pleasantly surprised by what you discover beyond the black hole.