'Our main ministry right now is to the police'
The pressure on our Greater Manchester Police has been intense, writes Garry Serra Di Migni, a Baptist minister and police chaplain in Manchester. Please remember to continue to pray for the emergency services
Thank you for your prayers for Manchester in the aftermath of the terror attack. Originally I wrote this reflection exclusively about Manchester. In the early hours of Sunday morning, I watched the news coverage of the terror attack in London the previous night.
Chris and I were on holiday during the Manchester terror attack and arrived back in the UK a week later, so we hit the ground running. Greater Manchester Police chaplains were mobilised, so Jayne had been doubly busy over the first week or so, and on my return I spent time at my police station, each of us offering pastoral support to officers.
Nobody we know was at the concert, although several of them know someone who was there, as you might expect. Some of them live only a number of doors away from houses that were raided by the police, and were unsettled by the realisation that they might have been living so close to members of a terrorist ring.
Our main ministry right now is to the police. Several of the officers we know were at the scene within 20 minutes of the explosion, and all of them have attended the scene subsequently, and hence seen things that nobody should ever have to see. They were called in from leave, worked 12-16 hour shifts, and some only had one day off in 15. A handful had only just graduated from the police training college. The pressure on our Greater Manchester Police has been so intense that reinforcements have been drafted in from Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire, Northumbria, Wales, and the Midlands. And yet they still manage to smile.
Some of our Muslim friends have been victims of a racist backlash, and many are fearful. However, such occurrences are few and far between. In the main, the community response has been one of typical Mancunian solidarity, creativity, and inclusivity. What men meant for evil God has turned to good, and brought the people of Manchester even closer together.
And all of the people of Manchester still manage to smile, too. Manchester is a very special place, and Mancunians are very special people. The heart of Manchester is encapsulated in the poem, read out by the writer, Tony Walsh, at the city centre vigil held on the night after the attack. It's called This is the Place.
You've no doubt been praying for the victims and their families and friends in Manchester, and now in London as well. Please pray, too, for the emergency services and volunteers, and for the medics, counsellors, and police who will be working with, and suffering from, the after-effects of the attack for years to come.
Garry Serra Di Migni and Jayne Irlam, are co-ministers at Church Without Walls, a fresh expressions church in Manchester, and are both police chaplains. This reflection was originally circulated by Gary to their nationwide prayer support group, and is republished with permission