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A spiritual comment and prayer to begin the day with the Bishop of Ripon, Rt Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley.

A spiritual comment and prayer to begin the day with the Bishop of Ripon, Rt Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley

Good morning. Thirty years ago on this day, crowds of excited football fans made their way to the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield. 94 did not return home, and by 1993 the death-toll had reached 96. Anniversary days are thick with memory and meaning and as each year passes, the layers of all the other things that have happened in life add their weight to all that has gone before. Burdened by all the sorrow and grief of the past, how is it even possible to see hope for the future?

When I lived and worked in New Zealand I learnt much from its indigenous people, the Māori who said that you face the future with your back to it. In other words, you don’t ignore or avoid the pain of the past, you’ve got to tackle it head on, and only then can you begin to live again. That’s easier said than done of course.

Although time moves in a linear sense, one stage after another, it’s also possible to think of it in terms of depth. The poetry of the Psalms puts it this way: ‘Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.’ That particular Psalm also asks the searching question: ‘How long?’, which brings back memories of childhood car journeys: ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ The answer is never straightforward, which is perhaps the point: as the years stretch by have we truly faced up to the reality of what has gone before us so we can begin to imagine a future with optimism?

God of past, present and future, help us on this day to honour the memory of those who we have loved and see no longer, and bring your peace, justice and mercy to situations of pain and distress. Amen.

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