17 December 2003

Soham minister's statement after Ian Huntley verdict

The Rev Alan Ashton, Superintendent Minister of the Newmarket Methodist Circuit, which includes Soham, has today made the following statement after the verdict was announced in the Soham trial:

"This has been a tragic experience for the whole of our community. It will live with us for a long time. Not necessarily at the front of everyday life, but you don't have to scratch too deeply on the outer skin of Soham without coming face to face with the rawness of emotion that lies under the surface. A whole range of experiences has been faced over these long months - searching, hoping, praying, grieving, loving, caring, listening being just a few of these.

"As in other parts of the country, you'll see all the signs outwardly in Soham of a community preparing for the Christmas season. Shops are full of tempting goods, coloured lights are up in the streets, Christmas trees are shining out from the front rooms of homes. Carol services have been planned for Church and community alike. For this community, the coming season will be in a strange sort of way the same as elsewhere but different.

"Our Christmas is tinged with an element of sadness sometimes felt profoundly - it is balanced against an intention that we need to celebrate. As Christians we are celebrating God's intervention in our humanity - with all the frailty and fault that such an action conjures up. This celebration isn't putting to one side the deaths of Holly and Jessica. It is not saying that now the trial is over we all move on and everything is back to normal. It is saying that it is within what is normal for any people and any community that the fact of the murder of two young girls from Soham is placed.

"Winter is a time of darkness - but Light is the destroyer of darkness. Advent and Christmas move us to a time of reflecting that in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world has come. One small struggling light is enough to defeat darkness. The powerful, searching Light of Christ transforms darkness and sets us all into God's marvellous light. One particular verse from the Bible has been powerful to me ever since the murders of Holly and Jessica: 'Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.' (Romans 12:21)

"May the Light of the Christ Child this Christmas shine in the darkness that you experience so that it is conquered. A hymn sung in our Christmas Service in Ely Cathedral for Holly and Jessica still supports me in my weaker moments. It is what we can offer to Soham and what Soham can offer to you:

'Lord the Light of your love is shining,
In the midst of the darkness shining.
Jesus, Light of the World shine upon us,
Set us free by the truth you now bring us,
Shine on me!'

"Take courage from these words and let Christ's light illuminate your way. Think of Soham, pray and support us in our everyday living this Christmas and in the months ahead."

Following the disappearance of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, and in the many months leading up to the trial and verdict, all the Christian churches in Soham have made it their priority to be open for prayer and their ministers to be available for families and others in the town seeking support.

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