‘Speak to your community police about the measures you can take to maximise security’, says the Diocese, ‘the advice is to be alert, but not alarmed’. One understands they have to say something, but this something is next to nothing. Our own community police officer shrugged. ‘What can you do?’ he queried. Well, synagogues are sometimes guarded, or mosques; but a synagogue, or a mosque, belongs to an identifiable group of people, and not to anyone else. In theory a church doesn’t. One might suspect that such pious thoughts might go by the wayside were the threat more concentrated and focused, but it’s not, and its diffuse nature means that we can effectively hide and not face the question.
Does Swanvale Halt look like a landscape of danger out of the rectory window this morning? It looks the same as ever, if a bit greyer and wetter than over the last couple of weeks. Although the schools are out and therefore I won’t meet quite as many people I know on my first morning journey to the church as I usually would, there will very probably be a range of encounters with parishioners here and there. It will be no different from the way it always is.
And that normality includes danger and sorrow. There have been a couple of murders and a couple of suicides here in the years since I arrived. There have of course been far more sorrows and horrors at the lower level, abuses and neglect and fallings-out and rage, things that come to the notice only of the people directly involved in them. These are just as much part of ‘community’ as the happier, cuddlier, more celebratory things. Part of the business, and the risk, of living.