I go to bed early. But through the night the phone in the corner kept buzzing away at an unusually high rate. Then this morning the phone rang and I was asked by someone in the press what I thought about what has happened here in my home city Manchester.
Within minutes I had read all the texts, had all the information, and all the questions, but so few answers.
How can this have happened here? I love this city that I lead Ivy Church in so much! My year started at the Arena as over ten thousand of us gathered to pray in the New Year for Festival Of Praise. Now I hear of this carnage in the same place. One of our friends, an Ivy member, was there with his kids last night at the concert there, he says a last minute mess up with the tickets put them away from the seats they should have been in right where the blast was, so they were saved. I thank God for them, but then so many were not so blessed, God – why?!
How could someone do this? I was a police officer here for ten years and the fists tend to clench before I can move them into prayer when I hear about cowardly attacks like this.
What about the families? So many Ivy members work in the emergency services and in medicine. I get in touch with consultants running some of the major A and E departments who are part of our church and let them know I am praying and hear distressing stories from the front line of care. Ripples from people we know affected directly or indirectly. I know that will grow.
What can we do? My phone is continually receiving texts and calls from friends all over the world saying they will #prayformanchester and offering support. I should open the church! So we do, makeshift signs, and the offer of a ‘brew’ and a place to reflect where nobody will ‘mither’ you unless you want a chat. I have never ministered in a place where there is such unity among church leaders than here and before long after a chat with my friend Glyn Barrett we are planning to meet at 7pm at Audacious church, just outside the police cordon, to gather thousands from across the city and #prayformanchester.
We are part of the 24/7 prayer movement and my friend Pete Grieg contacts me, he reminds me of the 4 Ps that might help people formulate their prayers when you don’t know what to pray – and that goes on the screen in church.
The streets are quieter than I can ever remember them right now, but a steady trickle of people passing call in and sit and pray for;
People affected – comfort
Police – wisdom
Paramedics – strength
Perpetators – justice and mercy.
I’ll be honest. I struggle with the last bit. My hands are still fists. Right now I’m angry. I’m all about justice.
So I sit in my church and tell that to my God. But as I look at the cross, frustratingly I see that my God is also about mercy. It’s hard to argue about that with someone who in the middle of being tortured and brutalised says, ‘Father forgive them.’
So as his grace, the power to be who I need to be and do what I need to do for the rest of this grim day fills me heart, I slowly open my hands and say, ‘Lord have mercy. Have mercy on Manchester.’