In the days after the Arena blast, across a range of media broadcasts, I assured the world that Manchester would be there for the victims, for as long as it took. All who were affected have a lasting place in our hearts. You have become part of our story, and we will be part of yours. Yet quite soon it became clear that those most deeply affected by the tragedy were drawn from a much wider area than our immediate city and its surrounds. Only four of the 22 killed lived in the diocese that this cathedral serves. It’s very appropriate that today’s service is being relayed far beyond Manchester, including to cathedrals in other cities such as York, Liverpool and Glasgow. The Arena families and survivors will need the same love and care, over the years and decades ahead, even if they live and work far from this city. Support will need to be there for them in places where what happened on May 22nd 2017 is not part of the shared story of that community. Support will need to be given in villages and towns where the memory of last year will inevitably fade.
Rightly, much attention has been given to the families of those whose lives were lost that night. Theirs is the greatest loss, they are ones from whose arms someone deeply dear has been ripped away. They are the ones who will never see that loved face or hear that voice again. Yet I want us also today to remember those many others, whose lives were spared but who suffered long lasting, often permanent, damage in the attack. Part of the horror of the Arena attack was that it appeared to have been deliberately chosen as a venue that would be full of young people. Today they are one year into living with those life changing injuries, yet with many decades of continuing to do so lying ahead of them. Our society has rituals to mark a death, and to console the bereaved. We lack any equivalent for those who have lost limbs, suffered sensory loss, or will never recover their confidence again. Many of the hopes and aspirations they took with them into the Arena that night are gone. Today we mark and acknowledge their suffering, and pledge to play our part for their future wellbeing here on Earth.
There’s another reason why I’m glad we are gathered today in this particular location. It’s because this cathedral is a place of hope. It’s a very well used building. We host festivals, stage lectures, hold concerts, show films, serve dinners, as well as maintain the rhythm of the Church of England’s worship, day by day and week by week. When our ancestors planned and constructed these buildings, they knew what they were doing. You can’t be in this place very long, whatever event you’re attending, before your eyes are drawn upwards. And that’s deliberate. We may be engaged in our work on Earth, but we must never forget the Heaven beyond us.