Prayers on the bridge
At 2pm today, a group of 7 people gathered from various churches in and around Clydebank. We met on the football field at one end of the Erskine Bridge and together walked slowly to the centre of this beautiful structure which, in the years since it was opened in 1971, has provided a much-used crossing point above the Clyde estuary and a gateway to the Highlands for many travelling from the South.
Sadly, the bridge has also become one of Scotland’s most notorious suicide sites with current estimates suggesting that at least fifteen people each year jump from the bridge to their death.
Today’s prayer walk was to mark this sad fact, to remember those who have taken their own lives – here and elsewhere – and to pray for all, especially young people, who, right now, are feeling so overwhelmed by life that they want to find a way out. Sensitively led by a local Wesleyan Reformed minister, we read from Romans 8 of the conviction that nothing can separate us from the love of God, we prayed, we observed silence and we scattered rose petals on the bridge and on the waters of the Clyde far below.
As we walked, I wondered about our companions – had they, like us, harrowing stories to tell of how suicide had devastated their lives? Were they there simply to add their prayers for people so much in need of prayer, or because a child, a parent, a sibling, a friend had ended their own life, leaving so many questions and so much sorrow? Today didn’t feel like the right time to ask questions or share stories, but just to walk silently in solidarity with each other, with those in our thoughts, and with those who had walked that same road but not returned.
We met another man on the bridge – whether or not he had come for the prayers was difficult to tell, but he joined in, rosary in hand. At one point I heard him reciting prayers under his breath and caught the phrase, “Let light eternal shine on them…”. Amen.
World Suicide Prevention Day is not far away, on 10th September, and I may touch upon this subject again in the coming weeks. What can we all do as individuals and churches to discover what Jesus’ words about life “to the full” might mean to someone in severe mental distress? For now, I am glad that the churches here are offering one simple response on one Sunday of the year.
Writing Peter’s story helped me in many ways, but it leaves unanswered questions too; “Thanks Peter God” is available from Christian Resources for Life.