St Alban's parish holds ecumenical service for tsunami victims

 The parish of SS Alban and Stephen, in St Alban's, Hertfordshire, held an ecumenical service for victims of the tsunami disaster on Wednesday. Mike Walsh, who sent this report, writes: "It wasn't about fund raising, and we didn't have a collection. It was just a very reflective and unhurried time of prayer to which members of many other local denominations came." More than 100 people attended an ecumenical service for victims of the Tsunami Disaster, held at the Catholic church of SS Alban and Stephen on Wednesday evening. Parishioners Helen Bassill decided to organise the event after watching news coverage from the Indian Ocean disaster area. Helen explained: "The naked grief in the eyes of parents who had watched their children being washed away; the mountains of dead bodies on the road and the dignity of those who were helping - just tugged at my heart. In my wildest dreams I could never have imagined such utter devastation and grief. I knew I had to do more than just give money." Just a few candles were not enough: Helen wanted to see a crowd of people all joining together in a service of candle lighting and prayer. Mike Walsh, who chose the music, said: "I wanted to find words and music that were exactly right for this occasion. It took a long time but I think we got it right." Fr Manus Ferry MSC, one of the priests at SS Alban and Stephen Church, introduced the service by reminding those present that we are all one human family and we should always look out for one another. He also read a letter from Bishop James O'Brien who said that the very positive public response to the tragedy from developed countries was heartening and he hoped that this support would continue in the months and years ahead. Readings and prayers were also said by Helen Hutchinson, Chair of the St Albans Church of England Diocese group and Rev. Brian Woodcock of Trinity United Reformed Church. Each person in the church lit a candle and placed it below the altar. Some were placed on sand, to symbolise death on the beaches, and some were floated in bowls of water to symbolise the people who drowned in the sea. "The church had already been prepared for a funeral the next day, so there were white flowers everywhere. It was a beautiful sight," said Helen. "The people who came found it very moving. The atmosphere was very emotional and everyone felt united in prayer. It was very hard work but I'm so glad we did it." For more information and pictures of the service visit:

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