These words and many others have been uttered and thought in Plymouth over the past couple of weeks since the Keyham killings. While it was not on our doorstep as a family or directly near our church building (although there are several Baptist churches very close by) we as a church have felt some of those things too as the victims, their families and the Keyham community are our neighbours literally and spiritually.
I have been deeply moved by the way that the community, and the community leaders, have come together and offered support.
I have been touched by the tributes given to those who died and the ways in which they have been honoured.
And I was impressed by the emergency services who rushed towards the incident when everyone else’s instinct would have been to run away.
This sort of horrendous event often raises all sorts of questions, doesn’t it? And one of the problems is that it often raises unanswerable questions that leave us dissatisfied: just because a question can be asked doesn’t mean that it should be, or that there is an answer. Sometimes a question is rhetorical and an expression of anguish and lament.
Another difficulty is that sometimes the time for asking questions is not right. I struggle with the intrusive questioning of friends, neighbours, and family by reporters who are looking for a human interest angle on the ‘story’ when actually what is happening is a real life tragedy that should not be exploited for journalistic hubris.
Some of the questions asked are looking for someone to blame, someone to complain about, someone whose fault it is when actually what people want to do is vent their anger, their frustration and their pain and they can’t do that when the perpetrator has taken his own life. There is a time and a place for investigations and lesson-learning, but that’s not in the street outside the police cordon, or in the news media.
Sometimes we have to hold the questions and carry them with us as part of the way in which we work out our own how we are feeling. Forensic answers won’t do when what we actually are expressing is an emotional response. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions at a time like this, but we need to think about why we’re asking them and what we need to happen as a response.
So, how are you feeling? What questions are you carrying? Do you want someone to reply, or do you need to be heard? Do you want answers or do you need to work through what lies behind your questions?
And whose questions can you listen to today?
And we continue to hold our questions, those who are most keenly affected, those who mourn without feeling comforted and offer them all to God in prayer.
Be blessed, be a blessing