Prayer for Liverpool
As some of you know, prior to last summer, I had spent the last two decades in Hull as a Vicar. Although I cannot claim to have been the most active of footie fans of Hull City, nor of Hull FC or Hull KR for rugby league, I did tend to follow the results fairly closely. It is always a good tactic, as a Vicar, to know when at least some members of our congregations would be bouncing off the walls with elation or in the depths of despair because of another defeat. Back in 2016, Hull City had just about stayed up in the Premier League and, in September of that year, headed down the M62 to play Liverpool at Anfield. For the record, Liverpool thrashed Hull 5-1, but it was a match that sparked other headlines both in Liverpool and Hull.
One of the life-long Hull City fans who travelled across to the match, Ian Abey, was wearing a Tigers shirt with the number 96 on it and the words ‘Never ever forget’ – his tribute as a football fan to the 96 Liverpool fans who had lost their lives as a result of the events at the Hillsborough Stadium on 15th April 1989. As was reported in the Liverpool Echo and the Hull Daily Mail at the time, the gesture was deeply appreciated in Liverpool. Mr. Abey told the media that he remembers being utterly shocked on the day of the Hillsborough disaster as he watched the scenes on the TV. As he turned up for the fixture at Anfield he was quoted as saying, “I know what it’s like to lose somebody and to lose 96 people, for their families to watch them go to a football match and not come back, it’s just, there are no words for it. And it’s something you never know is going to happen. It could happen to anybody, head along to a football match and just not come home.” Following the warm reactions of the Liverpool fans he went on to say, “I realised football is all about family, and Liverpool that day was a family for me.” It is one of many tributes to the 96 that has been offered over the years from football fans from many other clubs, including fans from Everton. Some of them, of course, lost family members and friends on that tragic day.
I cannot begin to imagine the feelings of those whose lives were blighted by the loss of loved ones 31 years ago today, nor the impact of the exhausting processes of the quest for truth and justice that have dragged on all these decades. I can, however, stand in solidarity with them and ‘Never ever forget’ as we pray for those who work to ensure that such a disaster shall never happen again. I guess that I feel something of the same whenever I have conducted acts of remembrance for those who have died in the service of freedom for their country. I have done that many times over the last two decades and I cannot begin to imagine what is going through the minds of those veterans who have put their lives on the line and seen comrades fall in battle. But I can stand quietly beside them and say truthfully, ‘We will remember them’. When on Thursday evenings, we have been joining in with the communal ‘clap’ for those working in the NHS, for carers and anyone on the front line of the fight against Covid-19, many of us cannot begin to imagine what it is like for them physically and emotionally. But we can stand and remember and say ‘thank you’.
The shortest verse in the Bible records the fact that ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35). He was moved by the grief he saw on the faces of those who had known a man called Lazarus, both family and friends, and who now mourned his untimely death. From deep within the humanity of Jesus welled up an overwhelming and empathetic response of solidarity. Moments before this, he had proclaimed, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.” The people around Jesus who heard him say this probably didn’t really understand it but, looking back after the resurrection, the disciples of Jesus were able to see this prophecy of Jesus working out in changed lives. Many of the followers were to die for their faith as martyrs, but did so knowing that physical death, as a result of that first Easter, is no longer the end. We all have lost to death ‘those whom we love but see no longer’ as the Funeral Service puts it, but as Christians, we do believe that there will be a reconciliation one day in God’s eternity. It is a mystery that is far too deep for us to fathom – but then that calls for faith.
Faith for the future starts, however, with remembering the past, which is what Christians do every time we break bread and drink wine at the Eucharist or Communion – together or (at present) virtually – so that every day might be a celebration of Easter and of Christ’s victory over death. To that end, at the heart of the Eucharistic Prayer is the ancient chant, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!”
Remembering is what we do today for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough Disaster and their families and friends in that ‘new normal’ which has been its aftermath. At the two Cathedrals in Liverpool, over the years, we have been pleased to respond to the requests from the families of the Hillsborough victims to hold an annual Hillsborough Memorial Service, alternating between the two places of worship. Sadly, we cannot offer that this year given the current restrictions. So in our ‘virtual prayers’ as a ministry team, we will nevertheless join many today in pausing to remember those who were unlawfully killed 31 years ago today. We will also hold up in prayer all those whose lives remain blighted by the loss of their loved ones, and the mental scars of what they witnessed and experienced on that day. Let us “Never ever forget”.
While you're here:
Why not prepare for next Sunday's worship? Our preparation sheet for adults and for children can be accessed by clicking on the Resources tab of this website: https://www.prayerforliverpool.org/prayer-resources.html.
Prayer for Liverpool
brought to you from Liverpool Cathedral
St James Mount
Liverpool Cathedral is a place of encounter.
Built by the people, for the people, to the Glory of God