Bridgend community and Ward come together

by Jason Spragg


South Wales Police were called to a home very close to the Bridgend Ward chapel, following a tragic and devastating incident resulting in the loss of a precious two-year-old boy.

The family and local community were in shock, and the incident resonated beyond the immediate vicinity, as the details of it came to light. This sensitivity arose from another local domestic homicide, which had occurred a week earlier, when the life of a young five-year-old boy was lost.

One of the police officers called upon to assist in the investigation was Constable Jon Shorland, the Elders Quorum President for the Ward, who was working an evening shift. That very day Brother Shorland had been engaged with the incident in a Church capacity. A request had been ‘posted’ on social media by a local resident enquiring if the Chapel could be opened for members of the public to attend, lay flowers, and grieve. Never had such a request been made before.

Brother Shorland immediately requested permission from the Stake President, President Jason Spragg, and set to work coordinating the Ward’s response to the local need. Shortly afterwards, the opening of the building and the attendance of full time missionaries and ward council members was organised, and the opportunity for anyone to attend was advertised on social media.

Several local members of the community, along with Church members, subsequently attended to lay flowers and pay their respects. Messages were written on decorative hearts provided by the Stake Relief Society President, Carolyn Davies, who had been given them only a week before as a donation from the Welsh Millennium Centre.

That evening the specialist team, in which Brother Shorland was attached, were deployed to the scene, and this tested their emotional resilience.

Following the completion of their duties, and to Brother Shorland’s surprise, he was called upon by one of his colleagues to say a prayer. This colleague mustered the team of nine officers on to the front lawn of the family home, where they stood reverently in prayer.

Brother Shorland was impressed by his colleagues, almost all having no religious affiliation, and their desire to take part. All left uplifted and comforted.

Over the following days, the entire family of the deceased boy attended the Chapel, while it was open, where they displayed incredible faith and were extremely grateful for the Ward’s response.

A two-minute silence was also held for both boys during Sacrament service that following Sunday, to which all members, family and the community were invited.

The next day Brother Shorland was contacted directly by the family asking if they could attend to grieve collectively without the public or media representatives being present. He made the necessary arrangements. Time was spent in the Chapel reading the messages and in a prayerful reflection. Brother Shorland said it had an 'extremely spiritual impact' on him.

The donation of the hearts, Brother Shorland’s pastoral response and attendance at the incident as a Police Officer, the family contacting him and the availability of missionaries and members, and their desire to help, were all blessings for affected individuals and families, and the community.

Locally, the Church has a relatively small membership and is somewhat unknown to the public, but the circumstances and the Ward’s response illustrate the depth and majesty of the Lord's influence in the daily lives of all in the community.

Said the Bridgend full-time missionaries: “As missionaries, we speak a lot about baptism, how it's a commandment, how we can be forgiven of our sins, and become a member of Christ's church. However, during our time acting as servants to the community, offering consolation and refuge for those experiencing horrible loss, we recall the covenant we make at baptism, in addition to every other: To mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. It was sobering to act as representatives of Christ at the chapel, offering hopeful words to those who came there with heavy hearts. The gospel is a joyous thing; because of Christ there is peace and comfort to be found even in the hardest times.'