This is the big issue

ralph millwardThis week I read that a Church in Westbourne held a special community thanksgiving service for a murdered Big Issue seller. Hundreds of homeless people die or are killed across the UK every year and their passing goes unmarked. Thank God for the Editor of The Baptist Times who made the story of Ralph Millward front page news.

Ralph was an alcoholic and Big Issue vendor in Westbourne whose pitch for sales and sleep was outside the town’s Marks and Spencer store. His battered body was found outside the store on the morning of Friday, May 8th. Three youths aged 14 and 16 have been remanded in custody after appearing in court charged with murder. Ralph was well-known in the area and his brutal murder has sent shock-waves through the streets of this close-knit town. West Cliff Baptist Church has a well established ministry of reaching out to the local homeless community and Ralph had regularly used the services provided since their inception. The Revd Richard Burfoot, Ministry Team Leader at West Cliff said the church was ‘’privileged’ to have known Ralph- a gracious, gentle and polite man who lived a broken existence.”

 At Friday’s weekly breakfast drop-in candles were lit and a two-minute silence held to remember Ralph and a memorial service began with a community processions from M&S attended by hundreds from the community. This community seems to me to bestowing Ralph such dignity, respect, compassion and love. It reminds me of the episode in The West Wing when Toby Zeigler organised a full military funeral for a homeless ex-Vietnam veteran who had died wearing a coat Toby that had donated to a homeless shelter. Zeigler was profoundly moved by the plight of the man who had served his country with such bravery and honour.

On behalf of the Christ who showed love and compassion to the outcasts, the scorned and the rejected- I’d like to thank the Christians and people of Westbourne for showing similar respect for the life of Ralph.



Filed under Christian values, Christianity, faith, faith Christianity, homeless, religion

4 responses to “This is the big issue

  1. Anon

    As a relative of one of the boys charged with Ralphs murder, i’d like to say that i am disgusted by his actions. Many look for excuses everywhere when the young kill. I will not. I am shocked by the brutality of Ralph’s murder and i will never make excuses for him.
    He is not my child but his family need to look to themselves for his actions and not try to blame anything they can. There is no excuse for taking a life, particually, a life that was so defenceless. My thoughts are with Ralph’s family and not with my young relative charged with his murder. I will never forget Ralph in my own prayers. His murderers deserve nothing. I know the details of how Ralph died and i will never forget them. The only consolation for Ralph is that his bruatal death may make our country wake up to the plight of the homeless and help more. If no-one else will say it in my family, then i will. I am very very sorry for the actions my young relative took that night. No excuses. R.I.P. Ralph Millward.

  2. Dear “anon” I want to thank you for this post. I hope you can get to a place where instead of thinking that instead of the murders deserve nothing – you can pray that they deserve to encounter the grace of God and his love and forgiveness and through that to understand what they have done. Love is more powerful than hate- let’s hope they find it.

  3. Pingback: Relative values « Unfinished Christian’s Blog

  4. Anon

    Dear Unfinishedcristian,
    Thankyou for your reply and your words.
    I struggle to deal with the actions that have affected so many lives and i think i will struggle to understand for a long time yet. We read of horrific murders every day in the tabloids yet what do we do when it’s your own flesh and blood that has caused such pain to others?
    The boys are in custody an my young relative is visitng the prison chapel every day. Maybe there is some hope after all. Due to forth-coming trials, i can say no more.

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