Following the horrendous incident in Forbury Gardens last weekend, it seems that many in our town have felt the impact either through a personal connection to one of the victims, or simply through the connection of something like this happening ‘on our doorstep’.
The death of Holt teacher James Furlong has had a particular impact on our local community and Monday saw The Holt School cancel the day’s lessons and offer the school community the chance to grieve.
St Paul’s Church was able to open its doors for people to light a candle and to pray, and many were
on hand at St Paul’s and at the school to give people the chance to talk.
I was very moved to hear that more than 1,000 people entered the church that day, and also to see the photos of students, staff and other members of the school community gathered together, united in their grief and shock, but also in their determination that James Furlong’s memory should be honoured and his life celebrated.
It struck me that it is so important in times of grief that we are able to come together, and that is something that we have all been deprived of during lockdown.
There is something powerful in the physical coming together of people, the comfort and understanding offered in a hug or even a hand on a shoulder, and the strength that is felt as people stand together, united.
These are things that we have sorely missed over the last few months, and there are many who have lost loved ones during the pandemic who have been unable to grieve with others in this way, and so their loss has been all the more agonising.
My hope and prayer, as the country begins to emerge from lockdown over the coming weeks and months, is that we will once again be able to physically stand together and comfort one another in our grief, and that perhaps we will appreciate the value of that all the more.
The Revd Hannah Higginson, associate priest at All Saints Church in Wokingham, writing on behalf of Churches Together in Wokingham