Grieving community finds solace in church following the death of four teenagers
Four missing teenagers - Wilf Fitchett, Jevon Hirst, Harvey Owen and Hugo Morris - were found dead on Tuesday, the 21st of November. The boys who attended the same school in Shrewsbury, went missing on Sunday during a camping trip.
Shrewsbury Abbey opened its doors early for students, friends and family at the college’s English Bridge campus, where the four boys studied. People turned to the oratory for solace and to pay tributes. A few of the teenagers brought flowers and lit candles near the altar.
According to 16 year-old Dan Cox: “I still can’t believe it – it just doesn’t feel real. These were wonderful lads, it’s devastating, really, and we’re all feeling it. We only spoke to them a few days ago.”
17 year-old William Love said: “I’m just thinking about all the good times we had, trying to stay positive but it’s hard not to feel upset – they were one of us and it’s hurting us all.”
Reverend Charlotte Gompertz, the vicar of Oxon Parish Church, also opened up the Lord’s house for prayer. She also knows three of the boys’ families and shares her sadness about the loss of these young boys: “It’s just one of devastation. Today we’ve got to work out how we pray, how we protect the families and how we support and hold the community as well. I’ve been over at the church and there’s been people coming in constantly wanting to light candles and just sitting there quiet. We’re opening properly tonight again, as we did last night, and I’m sure we’re going to have loads of people. Three of the four lads lived in this parish and I know the families. But it’s the sort of place where everybody has got some connection to somebody. It’s absolutely devastating. It just breaks our hearts. It’s hard because grief is, in many ways, such a private thing. And for the families today their privacy is absolutely paramount. But for the wider community who hold this grief, often for people they don’t know, they just need to take it somewhere. That’s where the church steps in. That’s what we are called to do in holding people in this difficult space. I have to acknowledge that I don’t have the words either. I just continue to pray silently for Crystal, Harvey’s mum and all the other families. I pray that God’s presence will be with them. I have very little expectation of any peace at this stage in the proceedings, but just a sense of God holding them somehow as only He can. The Bible is full of stories of this sort of level of devastation and yet somehow within there, there’s some incredible lament that we’re not always good at as a society. But as the church, we need to help people cry and help people lament and say, ‘Why God?’ and that’s actually fine. God’s shoulders are plenty broad enough to cope with our questioning, particularly at a time like this.”