This Sunday I joined several hundred people at the Service of Prayer for Stafford Hospital, held in St Mary’s church. I am not a regular church goer, but like many other people I have been quite deeply upset by many aspects of the Stafford Hospital story, and the way in which it has been told. I have been glad of the role that the church has played so far in leading public meetings and I felt it was completely right that the Churches should take a strong role in leading the town forward. I wanted to be there.
I have to say this was one of the most moving services I have ever been to. It was clearly planned with great care. It was opened by some young musicians from Blessed William Howards, playing and singing. This was very quiet and simple. Then Clergymen from many of the churches in Stafford played their part in leading different parts of the service.
The powerful sermon was given by the Bishop of Stafford. Right Rev Gordon Mursell. Perhaps to get the full effect you need to have been there, but because what he was saying was so important I have asked his permission to post the text on the new Stafford community website http://stafforddirect.ning.com/forum/topics/the-church-takes-a-lead-in-a
For me the important thing is that the Bishop acknowledged the full complexity of what has happened to us here in Stafford. He could see that we have all been through something very confusing, where many people have been hurt in many different ways. He had no hesitation in saying that we have been in the presence of something that is evil, and that it requires us all to come together to look for the light in order to overcome this.
The messages that came through to me is that the way for the town to come through this well is for us to be caring towards each other, to be peacemakers, to support all those people who have a responsibility to provide care, or who have to make the decisions about how care is given, to help people who may have fallen short of perfection to have the support they need to be able to acknowledge and learn from mistakes, to be forgiving, to value the truth, and to find the ways to support those who are ill and suffering as well as we can.
What I saw, and was glad to see is a church that was confident that it has something valuable to offer, to a community that has been very troubled.
Perhaps the most important symbol of the service was not in the words but in the light. Light was passed through the church from candle to candle. I will feel that everyone who was in that church is now bound to each other in a commitment to help with the work of healing our town. I believe this is a light that will spread.