News from Harold Hill

Richard & Alison Shorter write: On the morning of the second of March we awoke to the terrible news that 17-year-old Jodie Chesney had been stabbed in a local Harold Hill Park. As the details of this dreadful event were becoming known to the local community, there was a real sense of community shock and horror. As a UE team we didn’t know the family, but conversation, discussion and debate about this awful event were commonplace all over the Hill. Church leaders came together to pray.

Parents feared to let their children out, and purple ribbons appeared everywhere (and are still up).

In the following weeks, we were part of discussions in different community groups and our church groups. These discussions reflected the fear, anger and deep sadness felt that this had happened where our children play and seemed to lack any rhyme or reason. The local community organised a candlelight vigil at which over 1000 people came together in community support and shared grief.

Now that the press has moved on and the local political leaders have had their time in the public eye, the Hill starts to return to ‘normal’, but there is still the sense of ‘that could have been my kid’. Questions as to what is the cause of such a shocking crime and what are the best community solutions will be explored and well-meaning local people have already tried to have a knife collection scheme.

For us, as ‘community’ leaders and a little church, poor Jodie’s murder remains the cause of questions and reflection. What can we, small as we are, do? How do we keep the rumour of God alive and the story of grace amid such pain and anger? How do we keep the needs of the local young people on the agenda without making them scapegoats or offering simplistic solutions which have no long-term fruit? More questions than answers and the sombre sense that as parents, Jodie sounds like someone we’d want our three children to look up to…but she is gone.

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