Community News

Rev Clive Hamilton, St Barnabas Church – Reflection on Community Response

As I stood on the corner of Ilminster Avenue on the afternoon of Sunday 28 January I was, like so many, in shock as we sought to understand what had happened and what could be done to offer practical support beyond our initial prayers for the families, friends, and local community who were grieving.

Peoples concerns, anxiety and trauma were palpable. As I commented then the loss of Max and Mason, is “just so heart wrenching and soul destroying for the families, no parents would be expecting to lose their children in any circumstances before their time – but for it to happen in these circumstances, is even more raw and devastating.” Amongst other big questions we wondered “Where do we go from here?”

Speaking at Bristol Cathedral as part of the community panel for the “A Manifesto for Hope” (Friday 1 March 2024), I observed that the families and friends of Mason and Max, as well as the community, have been brave yet compassionate in their response to these tragic events and thanked them for that inspiration. It reflected the close sense of community we know and value in Knowle West but with a desire to change things for the better. That has become more evident as time moves on.

St Barnabas’s practical part in extending support to the families and community was simply making sure St Barnabas was open as much as possible (beyond Foodbank, Warm Welcome Space and on Sunday). As well as opening a book of condolence for the community to record messages, it was a safe, sensitive, and friendly listening spaces for people who needed to talk to someone or discuss any concerns. These spaces are so important in life in general, but especially so during times of significant community upset.

Ministry colleagues and congregations from the Church of England across South Bristol came alongside us as we offered a Listing Space and prayer. The depth of breadth of response also included other Christians from the estate like Phil and Alice Lawrence at the Cairn as well as those from further, Field Vineyard (who we collaborate with in the BS4 Foodbank).

This generous support in turn meant that alongside my Associate Minister, Rev Dr Trevor Dean, I was able to work with the small team of crisis-trained street chaplains who we drew in (from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team) being out in the community.

As in church we could be a comforting pastoral presence and start to hear and respond to some of the questions people had (have) [like Why? How do you make sense of this tragedy?]. Beyond listening and talking with people we were able to offer encouragement, hope (and prayer) for each in their situation and the emotions they were facing and recognise the need for continuing collective response to improve things. We all have a part to play; as the old saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child”.

This approach has reflected much of positive partnership between communities, faith groups, the voluntary sector, police and the local authority which will be key to creating long lasting change.

St Barnabas continues to be a Listening Space should people need. The drop in Welcome Space (Thursday (:30am to 1:30pm) has proved a real place of support and hospitality to many.

Pic by Rev Clive Hamilton with (some of) volunteers supporting St Barnabas Listening Space 30 January 2024. Used with permission.

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