‘Support, consolation, and victory.’
A Christian Science perspective: Prayers for Manchester.
—In light of the tragedy of the bombing in Manchester, England, we can echo these words, sent to the grieving widow of US President William McKinley following her husband’s assassination: “My soul reaches out to God for your support, consolation, and victory” (Mary Baker Eddy, “The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 290).
The people of Manchester have displayed a spirit of “support, consolation, and victory” in their response to Monday’s tragedy. But at times of great grief, it’s also natural for many to reach beyond our best human efforts to seek a higher source of reassurance that evil isn’t the end of the story.
That was something I began to grasp in my early 20s while I worked in Manchester as a Community Service volunteer. While I never faced tragedy on the scale of the recent bombing, I, like many others, struggled with the question of good and evil. Britain was mired in mass unemployment; in many cities there were riots related to racial tension and inner-city deprivation, including Manchester; and the country seemed deeply polarized. I was finding my personal life challenging, too.
In the midst of all this, I had a moment of suddenly feeling overwhelmed by a sense of evil. At that point, I pulled out a copy of a book I had recently been given as a gift and started to read. It was written by the woman who had written that note to Mrs. McKinley, Mary Baker Eddy.
What I read in her book described a God who was good – all good – and it offered a spiritual interpretation of the words Jesus had spoken to his followers in response to a request to teach them how to pray. A line from this prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, says, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). This was rendered in her textbook on Christian Science: “Enable us to know, – as in heaven, so on earth, – God is omnipotent, supreme” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 17).
If God is omnipotent and good, I reasoned that evil isn’t ultimately the reality it seems to be, and must prove powerless in comparison to this supreme, all-good God. I felt a profound reassurance.
This spiritual basis for facing fear and overcoming it proved very practical for me soon afterwards when I was asked if I’d be willing to take juvenile offenders into my home. Steadied by this spiritual lesson, I felt able to say, “Yes.” Seeing them through that same spiritual lens – created to express an all-good God – I was able to encourage and support three boarders consecutively in their efforts to show they could live constructive lives.
It proved to me that facing down fear enables us to rise above evil and rebuild our communities.
Our prayers today can continue to help us face down fear and mend our broken hearts through feeling the healing touch of an all-good God that enables us to glimpse why evil doesn’t get to have the last word.