Last weekend, once again, innocent people were killed on British soil, by people driven by an ideology built on hatred and division. Lives were ended prematurely, and others were irrevocably changed.
I have written before about how we respond to acts of terrorism, and after three attacks in three months, it feels like I can say little which has not already been captured by others. I can share stories of people helping out, of little acts of resistance, whether fleeing pint in hand, or returning to settle up the next day. I can point out that acts of terror do little to increase the risks we all face in modern life (though this is no comfort to those directly effected). And I can reaffirm the importance of standing together. Of living boldly.
But there is one thing I can say, which has not, perhaps, been said before.
You see, London Bridge is somewhere I spend a lot of time. I sing at Southwark Cathedral, so this attack felt, in some ways, far closer to me than even the Westminster attack (which led to my boss being stuck in Whitehall). Indeed, just last week I enjoyed a curry and drinks with friends in exactly that part of town.
But on Saturday night I was nowhere near London Bridge. Instead, I was in the Cumbria, at the wedding of two people I love well, Matt (who followed me as an intern at Coventry Cathedral), and Ellen (who lived with us when she came to Coventry, and who was there through some of the worst frustrations of job hunting).
Matt and Ellen are people who live out, perhaps better than any couple I know, an example of love and service. Matt devotes his time to working with Refugees and Asylum Seekers, while helping churches in Coventry improve their interfaith relations. Ellen spends her days supporting children with lives far more complex and painful than I can imagine, as a learning support mentor. They do all this, while building a life together in Coventry, a city which neither of them new before two years ago. And yet somehow, they always have time for their friends and family.
Their wedding was, then, an occasion which spoke of love at every turn. It spoke of their love, and of God’s love for them and for the world. It is fitting that they met each other as they met God in the waters Baptism. They are from a far more evangelical tradition than me, which meant their wedding was more openly fervent than many I have seen, and everyone I met at their wedding was clearly aware of God’s love for them, and of God working through them.
Put simply, their wedding overflowed with love and light and life. I did not expect to be named as a surrogate brother, nor to feel so very welcome and comfortable, though surrounded by people I didn’t know.
It was shortly after my mum and I got back to our B and B that we heard about the attack at London Bridge. I could barely comprehend the sorrow, full as my head was with love. And that is a great blessing. If, somehow, the joy of that wedding had been pushed aside by the London Bridge attack, I would have lost something immeasurably precious.
For me, the 3rd June 2017 will always be Matt and Ellen’s wedding day. And when other people speak about the London Bridge attack, I will remember their love, and their importance to everyone who is touched by their lives. Their wedding will not be overshadowed by the deaths of innocent people at Borough Market. Rather, those deaths will be made a little less dark by the light they cast.
Because light will always outshine darkness.
Sorrow is overlit by joy.