Video: Jo Cox described to churchgoers as '21st century Good Samaritan'
'A 21st century good samaritan' and 'someone with whom Jesus would have been so pleased'.
That is how Jo Cox was remembered at a service of thanksgiving for her life and work at the church just a few minutes’ walk from where she was killed on Thursday.
In two services, prayers were said for the MP’s husband and children - and for the recovery of the “body and mind” of Bernard Kenny, who was seriously hurt when he intervened in the incident outside Birstall Library.
In contrast to the shock and sadness of the vigil held at the same church, St Peter’s, on the evening of the 41-year-old’s death, the atmosphere inside was one of thanks and reflection, and looked back with joy on contribution Mrs Cox made to the world.
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The Rev Paul Knight told the congregation: “Her humanity was powerful and compelling and we would do well to recognise her as an amazing example - a 21st century Good Samaritan.”
He continued: “Jo was someone who went out of her way to help others.
“I regret to say I didn’t know what she was like as a girl but she grew into a fervent advocate for the poor and oppressed.
“And though she must have been angry at times about what she saw here and around the world - those places she visited and worked - she seemed to me, at least, to be one who could fight with a passion and a disarming smile.”
After reading the story of the Good Samaritan from the Bible, the vicar said: “There is much wickedness in our world. But thank God there is so much goodness - goodness that does not recognise colour, nationality or creed.”
During the second service, around 60 people, including many young families, warmly remembered Mrs Cox, as well as offering prayers.
Lay minister Leif Wilkes also prayed for Mr Kelly who, “despite his 77 years intervened in the attack to try and save Jo’s life and was stabbed and badly injured.”
He said: “We give thanks for his courage and his example and pray for his speedy recovery.”
Mr Wilkes said the “horror” of Thursday’s events “had been felt across the world”.
And Mr Wilkes prayed for the causes Mrs Cox supported, including children fleeing from war zones “seeking safety among us”, the people of Syria, children locally “left behind in comparison with children in London” and people living with autism.
He said: “Jo’s compassion for all at the bottom of the world’s heaps - help us to look afresh at the world through her eyes and to play our part in continuing the work that she undertook.”
Pastoral minister Solly Wilson led prayers for the mother-of-two, her family, and for those who saw or have memories of “that terrible day”.
She gave thanks for the young MP’s humanity, her “selfless service” through her work with Oxfam and in her constituency - and for the work she did on poverty, child mortality and people’s rights, but also “the enthusiasm she gave to smaller local issues”.
After the service, a queue of people waited in line to sign the same book of remembrance signed by the Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn and House of Commons speaker John Bercow during their private trip to the church on Friday.
Earlier, Rev Knight had told the congregation that he hadn’t known of their intention to visit until “two big guys” arrived and said they might have visitors.
“They came for their own private remembrance and to sign the book,” Rev Knight said. “It showed me how deep they were all feeling about it. It wasn’t just for the cameras.”
In her tribute in the book, church member Karen Robinson, 49, of Birstall, wrote and how Mrs Cox would “never be forgotten”.
She said: “Her death is a loss for humanity. She had a lot of good ideas and her heart was in the right place.
“Everybody in the village is just devastated.”
Chloe Twite, 19, of Birstall, also left a tribute. She said: “I hadn’t met her but nobody had a bad word to say about her.
“It is still such a shock. People will make sure that she lives on in our community.”
Speaking between the two services, Rev Knight told the YEP: “Jo has been a shining example of what it means to love your neighbour, and our hope that her legacy will continue in this community, and in fact, all across the world, and that Christians will unite with others to make sure we work, as Jo did, to improve the lives of people, and do that with respect and generosity.
“I think we’ll remember the bubbly, vivacious young woman who gave pretty well everything - and in the end, did give everything - to serve her community and that will be remembered for a very long time.”
Speaking about Mr Kenny, Rev Knight said: “He like Jo, stood out on Thursday as a good samaritan and I think he should be honoured for that.”
Meanwhile, a petition set up calling for Mr Kenny to be given the bravery honour the George Medal, has garnered close to 500 supporters.
He remains in hospital in a stable condition.
The memorial service comes after Mrs Cox’s sister called for people to show “strength and solidarity” in the wake of her death
Kim Leadbeater told crowds gathered in Birstall on Saturday that they should “focus on that which unites us and not which divides us” as part of her sister’s legacy.
Ms Leadbeater, parents Gordon and Jean Leadbeater, and other family members viewed the hundreds of floral tributes and messages left to the Batley and Spen MP since her death on Thursday.
They embraced as they looked at the flowers in Birstall marketplace, metres away from where she was shot and stabbed in the street outside her constituency surgery.
Mrs Cox’s husband Brendan tweeted: “Jo loved camping. Last night the kids & I camped in her memory& remembered the last time we were all woken by the dawn chorus #MoreInCommon”
A memorial fund to raise money for charities Mrs Cox supported has reached more than £620,000, with donations from over 20,000 people.
The charities, chosen by Mrs Cox’s friends and family, represent her campaigns as an MP to help civilians caught up in the Syrian war, to fight racism and extremism in Britain, and to help residents in her Batley and Spen constituency in West Yorkshire.
A 52-year-old man who appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Saturday over the killing gave his name as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.
Thomas Mair, from Birstall, is charged with murder, grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of a knife.