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World News

Grieving community turns to church for solace after four teenagers killed on camping trip

by Donna Birrell

Prayers are being said for the families of four teenagers from Shropshire who died during a camping trip in north Wales.

Harvey Owen, Jevon Hirst, Wilf Henderson and Hugo Morris, who were aged between 16 and 18, were found yesterday in a car that appeared to have left the road near Tremadog in Gwynedd.

The teenagers had been missing since Sunday morning.

They’d all attended the same school in Shrewsbury and the town is said to be in shock, with many people turning to the local church for solace.

Rev Charlotte Gompertz, who is vicar of Oxon Parish Church, knows three of the boys' families and has opened up the building for prayer. She's been describing the atmosphere in the community to Premier:

“It’s just one of devastation. Today we've got to work out how we pray, how we protect the families and how we support and hold the community as well.

“I’ve been over at the church and there’s been people coming in constantly wanting to light candles and just sitting there quiet.

“We’re opening properly tonight again, as we did last night, and I'm sure we're going to have loads of people. Three of the four lads lived in this parish and I know the families. But it's the sort of place where everybody has got some connection to somebody. It’s absolutely devastating.”

“It just breaks our hearts. It’s hard because grief is, in many ways, such a private thing. And for the families today their privacy is absolutely paramount. But for the wider community who hold this grief, often for people they don't know, they just need to take it somewhere. That’s where the church steps in. That's what we are called to do in holding people in this difficult space.”

Harvey Owen’s mother, Crystal, has said she wishes she could wake from her "nightmare".

Rev Charlotte said that even as a vicar it is difficult to know what to say in the face of such grief:

“I have to acknowledge that I don't have the words either. I just continue to pray silently for Crystal, Harvey's mum and all the other families. I pray that God's presence will be with them. I have very little expectation of any peace at this stage in the proceedings, but just a sense of God holding them somehow as only He can.

“The Bible is full of stories of this sort of level of devastation and yet somehow within there, there's some incredible lament that we're not always good at as a society. But as the church, we need to help people cry and help people lament and say, ‘Why God?’ and that's actually fine. God’s shoulders are plenty broad enough to cope with our questioning, particularly at a time like this.”

A police investigation into the incident is continuing.

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