Reverend Tricia Hillas: Under the shadow of grief, Parliament has chosen unity
Flowers are laid in tribute to Sir David Amess, Leigh-on-Sea, October 2021| Alamy
Disbelief, anguish, numbness, anger, anxiety and rage. These are almost certain to be amongst the constellation of our responses to the death of Sir David Amess, friend and colleague of so many across Parliament and beyond.
That this should happen so soon after the passing of James Brokenshire is especially heart-wrenching. Moreover, the events in Southend take us back to other times and other colleagues: Jo Cox, PC Keith Palmer, Andrew Pennington, Ian Gow, Anthony Berry, Robert Bradford and Airey Neave.
In times of such cruel tragedy and in the face of misguided evil, there are never easy answers, and I wouldn’t presume to suggest otherwise. Perhaps though, I might share some possible anchoring points in our present storm:
Separation and unity: With the pain of separation comes the urgent need for connection and unity. Which is why it was so important that we came together across party lines and across both Houses to honour Sir David. We’ve done so in our chambers, in personal conversations, and, as those peers and Members who could, in walking together to gather in St Margaret’s. In doing so we embraced the generous approach to lively relationship and connection which so many have attributed to Sir David. Faced with the bitter separation of death, unity.
Silence and speaking: Often in the face of horror there are no words and only silence will do. On Monday a minute of silence was kept across the parliamentary estate. A moment for remembrance and respect. Later there were words, many and heartfelt, as tributes were paid in both Houses. There is a time for silence and a time for speaking. And in the silence and speaking we may come to know that neither evil, nor even death, has the last word.
There are people with whom any of us can talk confidentially and 24/7. I and the Roman Catholic duty chaplain, Canon Pat Browne, are also available to you, whether you are a person of faith or otherwise
Tears and laughter: Fittingly there has been much of both, as memories have been rekindled and stories shared. Perhaps it is in our times of tears, and of laughter in the midst of grieving, that we are at our most healthily vulnerable and defiantly strong. May tears and delight in the wild stories, including my favourite one about the Pope and the boiled sweet continue to give strength.
Activity and stillness: Sudden tragedy brings much to attend to. Rightly, there has been much activity. Of course, Sir David himself was known for his active determination to get things done, especially when it came to the needs and interests of his constituents, constituencies and causes close to his heart. It is also true that Sir David drew on his own personal Roman Catholic Christian faith as a well-spring for all that activity. Following recent events many of you have been working relentlessly, all under the shadow of grief. I hope you might also find a place of stillness. For some, like Sir David, this might be in prayer, for many of us this might be in nature or with family and friends. However, you find it best, may it sustain you.
Sorrow and hope: one thing that my own experience, and faith, tell me is that the acknowledgement of pain and sorrow, not their denial, is often the first departure point for hope. It would not be unusual for this present tragedy to have tugged upon other personal sadness. There are people with whom any of us can talk confidentially and 24/7. I and the Roman Catholic duty chaplain, Canon Pat Browne, are also available to you, whether you are a person of faith or otherwise. Sorrow is real. I’ve twinned it though with hope because the life and passions of a person can change the world. In Sir David, this was true for individuals whose lives he affected for good and the impact he made on our national life. And for Sir David, this was rooted in the hope inspired by his Christian faith.
May the bright memory of his rich life ever outshine the tragic manner of his death.
The Reverend Tricia Hillas is the Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons
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