Yesterday was another traumatic day for Maureen Greaves, the widow of Alan Greaves, the church organist who was brutally murdered on his way to a Christmas Eve service last December. With one of his attackers already found guilty of murder, the second, Ashley Foster was convicted of manslaughter. As the verdict was read out in the court, Mrs Greaves sobbed in the public gallery, yet shortly afterwards she was able to compose herself sufficiently to give a statement outside the building forgiving her husband’s killers:
Reading the statement outside she ended by saying:
“Alan was a man who was driven by love and compassion and he would not want any of us to hold onto feelings of hate and unforgiveness.
“So in honour of Alan and in honour of the God we both love, my prayer is that this story doesn’t end today.
“My prayer is that Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster will come to understand and experience the love and kindness of the God who made them in His own image and that God’s great mercy will inspire both of them to true repentance.”
Mrs Greaves words were powerful and full of mercy that many people would find hard to comprehend given the suffering and pain she has been through. The BBC has been following this case since the beginning and quickly published three posts (here, here and here), none of which reported these comments in any depth. Of the three only the last mentioned God and that was in the context of God inspiring the men to ”true repentance” for their crimes. It is a disappointment to put it mildly and something of an insult to Mrs Greaves that the BBC failed to properly report the key part of her message. This is even more frustrating given that earlier this month the BBC published a report that found its journalists need to significantly improve the way they cover issues of religion and faith.
The BBC’s reluctance to mention God at appropriate moments almost appears to be policy. Take for example Usain Bolt’s triumph at the Olympics last year in the 200m. As Bolt, who is well-known is a devout Christian, fell to his knees manifestly thanking God for his victory, the BBC presenter decided to describe this spontaneous act of worship as Bolt having ‘a moment to himself’. This was utterly not the case, yet it was passed over with embarrassment, under the pretence that it was something it clearly was not.
Given the BBC’s reluctance to give Mrs Greaves’ words and faith a fair airing, especially considering what she has been through, it seems only right that it should be done here:
Maureen Greaves, is a Church Army Evangelist at St Saviours Church in High Green, Sheffield, working primarily with children and families who have had a limited experience of church. She and her husband Alan had dedicated much of their lives to church and community work before his murder.
As her husband of 40 years lay dying in hospital at Christmas, the 64-year-old found it within herself to “place in God’s hands” the people who killed him. Now, following the trial, she has admitted that “Forgiving my Alan’s killers is daily struggle” and she is “constantly fighting the battle” to keep to her promise.
In a eulogy at his funeral Mrs Greaves said she had decided to forgive the two men as it was what her husband would have wanted:
“It has to be a daily act of saying ‘I place them in your hands, God’, so that I don’t have to worry about them, I don’t have to hate them. After the massive shock and heartbreak, this was probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, to go down the path of forgiving them.
“It has been a wonderful release that I have not had the burden of hatred towards them. I have to do it every day so I don’t lapse. It is not an easy journey to look two men in the face who have killed the person you love most in the world and hang onto that.
“When you are sitting there in court and you see them and you are heartbroken at what they have done to you, they have taken from you the person who is still your soulmate, it is very difficult to sit there and continue to forgive them and want to forgive them.”
“One thing I have comforted myself with is that the God I believe in had a son who was beaten as Alan was beaten. The God I believe in had a son who was resurrected as I believe Alan will be resurrected to be with God.”
Speaking at her Church the Sunday after Alan died she told this story:
“In the midst of our deep grief, I was sitting in the [hospital] waiting room and a lady came in, and it irritated me, because I wanted to be by myself.
“And I suddenly looked at her and thought, ‘she’s grieving like me’. And so I went over to her, and I said ‘what’s wrong?’ And she said ‘My husband’s got a brain tumour’.
“And I said ‘how are you feeling about that?’
“And she said ‘I don’t believe in a God at all that could allow this to happen’.
“And God gave to me a wonderful moment, when I was able to say that ‘I believe in a God because at Christmas time he sent us a saviour and he can be your saviour too through all of the grief you’re going through’.
“Later on she got her results for her husband and it was a benign tumour and she came to me and she hugged me. And she said ‘I’ll leave this place thinking about the fact that there’s a saviour of this world’.
“And for me that was a great joy in the midst of my pain, because Alan only died a few hours later.”
Maureen Greaves has been an inspiration through all that she has had to endure and is a living example of how God’s grace , love and forgiveness can bring peace and reconciliation in the midst of our suffering. May God continue to give her the strength she needs to deal with her husband’s loss and that in the process may she be a source of blessing and hope to many others.