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HALTERN AND LEICESTER

The Rector writes.   My abiding memory of this past overwhelming week will be of crowds; crowds coming together to remember, to grieve, to weep, to commemorate, of people confused, silent in deep, deep sorrow and utter bewilderment but also people coming together in an extraordinary unusual and never to be repeated act of what..Homage? Respect or Sheer Fascination? One crowd of young people in Haltern in Germany, shattered, quiet, overcome, angry, lost for words at the devastating loss of friends in a tragic event that has left us all reeling and shocked; Crowds in Leicester bidding farewell to an anointed monarch in an unprecedented moment in history with mixed emotions of dignity, respect, fascination, sensing a piece of history. In both events so different and yet both about coping with death, facing something about the fragility of life, about cruel moments of humanity, of inconceivable brutality, about how we cope with tragedy, how we live with seismic moments.

Our Lent group ended on Thursday as we gathered together, numb with news of what had happened on board the German wings flight, trying to take in the enormity of the horror of it all and trying not to think of the final moments of those 150 on board. Our Lent group seems to have taken place this year with more unfolding news across the globe than I can ever recall. It made a fairly tough course even tougher in one way and yet I was glad that we had the chance to come together, to explore what our faith means to us in the complex world we inhabit; a chance of us to share and pray and face I think what Incarnation means in its profoundest way as one quote in our course book put it, “In Jesus, God meets us face to face, wearing our mortal form, subject to frailty and death, clothed in human flesh.”

Coming indeed face to face with suffering as we have seen it so starkly in these last days, has brought home to us, the utter power and urgency of a God who pitches his tent among us, in the streets, on the mountain side in the Alps, on remote Pacific islands, on the battlefields of history from Bosworth to Afghanistan.

Now this week, today, we join with other crowds, crowds from a dim and distant past, crowds we walk with in a small and symbolic way today and through the week ahead; fickle crowds today who cheer and applaud and then turn and accuse and condemn; crowds who wave palm branches of adulation and then will soon jeer and gawp at a cross raised high in a few days to come. Thoughts have tumbled out of us during these Lenten course meetings. Our booklet was rich with reflections and quotes. One here from Bishop Richard Harries,“The cross of Christ is the reality to which we must continually return. For this is the light in which all our values are to be seen Our understanding of the good and the true and the beautiful is to be jarred and rejigged by the divine humility”. How the world has felt jarred and out of kilter this week.We shall walk through this week with so many emotions, and with so many prayers for each other, for those we love and worry for and in solidarity with those across the world with whom we grieve.

The ideas of Light and Dark have been never far away from our thoughts in our meetings, as they are never far away from the day to day reality of the world. For the grieving families there must seem little but darkness just now but the lights of candles burning outside the school were the light of prayers, which are about hope and our desperate longing for light to overcome the shadows which prevail far too often. Eight thousand candles were also lit outside Leicester cathedral on Thursday night after the re-internment of King Richard. In a way perhaps the savagery of his death in 1485 was laid to rest as well. Light even there had overcome darkness. It will again when once more the light of Easter shines brightly next week.