Address given at a Service of Commemoration to mark the 5th anniversary of the terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge and in New palace Yard

Today is a day to unite against evil. Today, we stand alongside each other to pause and pray.

The Reverend Tony Miles Superintendent Minister, Methodist Central Hall Westminster

Tuesday, 22nd March 2022 at 11.00 AM

Whilst the significance of this day in 2017 might escape many, for most of you, what happened on Westminster Bridge and in New Palace Yard on 22nd March 2017 will never be forgotten. This day is seared into your hearts, minds, and memories—impacting and devastating you, your families, and the world. I am aware that this in-person commemoration, and the unveiling of a plaque as a permanent memorial, is well overdue for many reasons. We have a lot to learn about how we can effectively care for those who have experienced trauma. But we are here; recognising, remembering, and uniting. Ceremonies like this are essential for our well-being and healing; they can help us respond to evil acts and build courage and resilience.

Over the years, I have witnessed the hard work that many of those personally affected by the incident have put into ensuring that today’s events took place. This has included those grieving, survivors, and first-responders. We should be grateful to them for their campaigning and determination. Your mutual care and support for each other have been essential. You are truly the VIPs at this event. The rest of us simply stand in solidarity with you—our common humanity drawing us together.

Today is a day to unite against evil; whatever our nationality, race, gender, sexuality, politics, religion, or none; whatever our health, wealth, status, education, or employment. Today, we stand alongside each other to pause and pray.

Our Bible reading from the prophet Isaiah begins, ‘Comfort, O comfort my people.’ ‘Comfort’ is such a contrast to ‘terror’! Then Isaiah chapter 40 carries a message of hope and concern. At the time, the message was for Israel, for those exiled in Babylon who were living in dark times. Their world had been destroyed and they felt powerless. Those exiled were wondering if the future could be any different. And the Prophet responds, pointing them back to God. Isaiah suggests that they get their lives in perspective by looking at the stars. Could it be that the One who created and knows them all also notices you and is concerned for you and all you have been through? The reading also suggests that the God who created the world is the One who sustains it. Though we may not understand or perceive it, Isaiah’s words suggest that God is always active. And, because our Maker doesn’t grow faint or weary, neither shall we if we look to God. Despite it all, there is hope. Hope that we can, once again, soar on wings like eagles.

Many years ago, my then seven-year-old daughter watched the rain with a frown on her little face. Eventually she asked, ‘When it rains, is it God’s tears?’ My wife decided to respond to her with a question: ‘What do you think would make God cry?’ There was no hesitation, ‘If people die, or when they’re ill, or if they’ve been arguing with each other!’ Very perceptive! If our daughter had asked me, ‘Where are God’s tears, then?’ I think I would have to answer, ‘Not far from our own!’ 

As a Christian, I share with many theists a belief that God is heartbroken by the indiscriminate acts of human violence and our failure to live accordingly to the Maker’s instructions. At the end of Jesus’s ministry, I recall how he came close to Jerusalem and wept over it, knowing it was heading for destruction. Then, at the heart of the Christian faith is the execution of an innocent man that we believe is the Son of God. And through the resurrection of Jesus on the third day, there is the hope of new beginnings, life beyond the feared enemy of death, and justice beyond the grave.

In the storms of life, I hold on to the biblical promises that, one day, our comforting God will wipe away all tears. Misery and injustice will be replaced with joy and peace for all who trust his eternal love. A Bible verse says: ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.’ (1 John 4: 18) Love is the antidote to terror and fear. Amid so much terrible news globally, I thank God for all acts of kindness and generosity springing up all over.

Many of you here are thankful for the help you have received from surprising people. Those who have supported you through the dark and challenging days. The words of the late Archbishop of South Africa and a Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu:

‘Good is stronger than evil;
love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours, through him who loves us.’ 

There is strength when ordinary people resiliently stand together against evil, and live lives of love, tolerance, and peace. My prayer is that those motivated by hate, or intent on violence, may be challenged and transformed by love to find a better way. 
Amid the raging storms of life, tears are falling,
but may we hear God’s comforting whisper today;
may we comfort and care for one another;
may we hug our loved ones that little bit closer;
may we hold on to hope and even dare to believe that ‘those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.’ Amen.