Soham minister's statement after Ian Huntley verdict

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

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

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

"Our Christmas is tinged with an element of sadness sometimesfelt profoundly - it is balanced against an intention that we needto celebrate. As Christians we are celebrating God's interventionin our humanity - with all the frailty and fault that such anaction conjures up. This celebration isn't putting to one side thedeaths of Holly and Jessica. It is not saying that now the trial isover we all move on and everything is back to normal. It is sayingthat it is within what is normal for any people and any communitythat the fact of the murder of two young girls from Soham isplaced.

"Winter is a time of darkness - but Light is the destroyer ofdarkness. Advent and Christmas move us to a time of reflecting thatin Jesus Christ, the Light of the world has come. One smallstruggling light is enough to defeat darkness. The powerful,searching Light of Christ transforms darkness and sets us all intoGod's marvellous light. One particular verse from the Bible hasbeen powerful to me ever since the murders of Holly and Jessica:'Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.' (Romans12:21)

"May the Light of the Christ Child this Christmas shine in thedarkness that you experience so that it is conquered. A hymn sungin our Christmas Service in Ely Cathedral for Holly and Jessicastill supports me in my weaker moments. It is what we can offer toSoham 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 illuminateyour way. Think of Soham, pray and support us in our everydayliving this Christmas and in the months ahead."

Following the disappearance of Holly Wells and JessicaChapman, and in the many months leading up to the trial andverdict, all the Christian churches in Soham have made it theirpriority to be open for prayer and their ministers to be availablefor families and others in the town seeking support.