I Believe in Angels Songs of Praise


I Believe in Angels

Pam Rhodes meets people who believe they have encountered angels and introduces some popular angelic hymns.


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MUSIC: "I believe in Angels" by Abba

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"I believe in angels", sang the pop group, Abba, but do you?

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Do you believe that your guardian angel watches over you

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on your journey through life?

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Or are angels just mythical creatures, the stuff of legends

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and fairy tales and rather beautiful paintings, like this one?

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On today's Songs of Praise,

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who was the mysterious figure that appeared at the scene of a car crash?

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Was this church protected from gangs by guardian angels?

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Plus, some favourite hymns

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and a special performance by Sir Willard White.

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What do you think when you hear the word "angels"?

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Beautiful statues in Victorian cemeteries?

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Angels on top of Christmas trees?

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The lovely Clarence from that classic film, It's A Wonderful Life?

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Or the traditional image of an angel seen in stained glass windows

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in churches everywhere?

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Angels have been inspiring artists over the centuries and in fact,

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there are well over 150 paintings of angels

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here in the National Gallery's collection in London.

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This one dates back to the 15th century

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and it features no less than nine choirs of music-making angels

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on each side of the holy family.

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Whilst angels are often shown making music,

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we mortals are also inspired to sing about angels.

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Robbie Williams, The Eurythmics, even the great Aretha Franklin.

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And of course, there are lots of angelic hymns,

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like our first one today, Angel-Voices Ever Singing.

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One in three people in this country believe in angels,

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that's if you believe the statistics.

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So perhaps it's no wonder that there is a growing industry

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in angel jewellery, angel ornaments and angel books,

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about four shelves of them in this book shop alone.

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I must say I have sometimes felt a bit sceptical

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about the whole idea of angels appearing today,

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but when you think about it,

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the Gospels start with the appearance of an angel

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so if we believe the rest of the Gospel, why not believe in angels, too?

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I'm not sure if I believe in angels or not

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but I suppose I'd like to think there was something there.

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I do believe in angels in a sort of metaphorical sense.

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I don't expect the angel Gabriel to come down from the sky and tell me the good news,

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but it could be in the guise of somebody else, somebody you've not met before,

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who gives you good advice, or someone showing you some kindness.

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I don't know, I just know I have something watching over me all the time.

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No, I don't, I'm afraid.

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-Not even an inkling they might exist?

-No, not even an inkling.

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My religion tells me that you should honour angels

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just the same as honouring Christ.

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I think there's so much that we don't know about,

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God speaks in many ways and sometimes, yes, perhaps he uses angels.

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So, if angels do exist, what is their purpose?

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Well, according to our next hymn,

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because angels are close enough to see the face of God,

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they can help us to worship Him as we should.

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One frosty evening in December 1981,

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Roy Godwin was driving with his wife and children.

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We were travelling on a main road,

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quite a wide main road through a forest.

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Suddenly there were four headlights side-by-side immediately in front of us.

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One car overtaking the other.

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I instinctively pulled the car to the left onto the grass verge

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but the car that was in front of me hit us head on.

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It was very serious indeed and I was quite clear that I was dying.

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Both the police and an ambulance came.

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Smoke started to come up from the front of the car

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and they needed to get everybody out.

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They couldn't get me out because I was well and truly trapped in there.

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Roy believes that whilst he was waiting to be freed from the damaged vehicle,

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something quite miraculous happened.

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I was alone in the car.

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Suddenly through the darkness came a figure.

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He walked very steadily and clearly straight between the trees,

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through the forest, which was impenetrable,

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certainly at that time, with brambles.

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But he walked in a straight line, straight to the side of the car.

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And he climbed in.

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The seat was covered with broken glass but he simply sat there.

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He was wearing a coat with a hood up, I didn't see his face.

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But he put his arm straight across my shoulder.

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It felt as though I'd been plugged into the mains.

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The most incredible force and power

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was just continuously flooding through me.

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After a while, the ambulance men came over

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and said they were taking my family off to hospital

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and at that point, this person who was sitting by me climbed out of the car

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and said with a very strong and clear voice, "Stop".

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He said to the ambulance man,

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"You are to bring his wife over here to him."

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They brought her over to me.

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Then he spoke to me and said,

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"Man, you are to know that your wife and children and you as a family

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"will be together again and whole

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"and you are to disregard anything else that anyone tells you."

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What was the reaction of the doctors when you got to hospital

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and they saw your injuries?

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I was wheeled straight into theatre.

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They asked me to sign a form,

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giving them permission to amputate my left foot and lower leg.

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I couldn't give them that permission because all I could hear was,

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"You are to disregard anything that anyone else says.

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"You and your family will be together and you will be whole."

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So I didn't have my foot amputated and I have it today

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and we are doing very well together.

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One of the things I was concerned was,

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that because of the seriousness of my injuries, I had dreamt it all.

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But some weeks after the accident, the police turned up unannounced.

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They had two questions.

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Given the extent of the damage to the car, they wanted to know

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whether I had any explanation as to how it was that I was still alive.

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Then their second question was about the figure in the car with me

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who had carried such authority that they had unhesitatingly obeyed it.

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It seems to me as though God sent an angel to help me.

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I knew I wasn't abandoned, I knew I wasn't on my own.

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I was clear that God was going to carry me through where I was

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and I felt loved.

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This picture is of a Bible story from Genesis

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and it shows an angel appearing to Hagar,

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the servant girl who has run away, having been made pregnant by Abraham.

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The angel tells her that her son, Ishmael,

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will become the founder of a great tribe.

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It's one of countless stories

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of angels appearing to people in the Bible.

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And they seem often to bring a message.

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The word angel comes from the Greek word "angelos".

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It's the word that's used in the New Testament

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to describe angels.

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In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is "malach".

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And both of those words simply mean a messenger.

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So if you were going to describe a human messenger,

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you would use the same word as you would use to describe

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an angelic or heavenly messenger.

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You might not always know that it's an angel.

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Because if an angel is simply a messenger,

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it could be somebody sent from God, from the heavenly realms,

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who is very, very clearly an angel,

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like when Mary encounters Gabriel.

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But there are other places in the Bible where it's really not clear.

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The interesting example of that would be in Genesis 18

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where Abraham meets four people

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who later turn out to be God and three angels.

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But he isn't sure at the time.

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One of the really striking things about being a Christian

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is that you can be in a church which is stuffed with images of angels.

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You've got them on the stained-glass windows,

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you've got them in pictures all over the church,

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you hear about them when you hear the Bible readings,

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you sing hymns about them.

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And yet, actually, when you talk as a Christian,

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you very, very rarely talk about angels.

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And one of the reasons for that is because of a scepticism

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that has grown up about whether angels really exist.

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Also, they've become associated with

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what you might call a New Age view of the world,

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which people feel a little bit nervous about.

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But actually, angels are a thorough part

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of the Jewish and the Christian tradition.

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They're there all the way through the Bible,

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all the way through subsequent Christian tradition.

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And it seems that we've lost something.

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Because angels provide for us within the tradition

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something that's really important.

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Something about the mystery of God.

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Something about the way in which God

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yearns to communicate with the world.

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I've had a number of experiences in which,

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at really crucial times in my life,

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somebody has done or said something

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which has made a vast amount of difference.

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Now, I would argue that that was an angelic experience.

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Because whether they were human beings or not,

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they said something which communicated God's love to me.

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The point is that God works in the world often in ways that we miss.

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And the important thing is to be able to look back and to reflect

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and to notice the places where we discover God's hand in our lives.

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In 1985, Wallace Brown moved to Birmingham

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to become vicar of this church, St Boniface.

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And having left a very comfortable parish in Leicestershire,

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inner-city life came as a bit of a shock to him and his wife Mary.

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Within the first week of us moving to these big council estates,

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there was a murder about 50 yards away from our back door.

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And I thought, "What sort of place have I come to?"

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I found a trail of destruction

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where vandals had gained access and pulled down wallpaper.

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And there'd been excrement smeared around the study walls.

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And I began to think to myself,

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"How can I possibly bring my children here?"

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Wallace and Mary soon discovered that a gang known as the Quinton Mob

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gathered outside the church from 2:00 in the afternoon

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until 2:00 in the morning every single day.

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They were very violent.

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They wielded knives.

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They were quite drunken.

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And there was always bottles being thrown around and smashed.

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One particular night that I couldn't sleep,

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I had this sense of needing

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to go and get a bible and read the Book of Nehemiah.

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The trouble Nehemiah was having

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were people causing trouble on the walls of Jerusalem,

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preventing him from doing the work God had sent him to do.

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And I thought, "Gosh, that's so like us."

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And Mary said to me, she said,

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"I think the Lord's been saying to me

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"that he wants us to go outside

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"and to pray for angels to protect us."

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I took a deep breath.

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I'd never had anything to do with angels before.

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But I was so depressed, frankly, I would've done anything.

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So early the next morning, the two of us went outside

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and we said, "Lord, please send your guardian angels on these walls

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"to help us in our deep, deep problems."

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And we did that every day for the next week.

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This 35-strong Quinton Mob,

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which we knew had been there for at least seven years,

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seemed to diminish by the Monday down to about 12.

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And a few days later, no gang turned up.

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And it just seemed like God

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had planted his guardian angels over the walls.

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They never came back.

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And we stayed in this place for 18 years.

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This place turned into a lovely community

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where we were so glad to be,

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seeing God at work transforming the area

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and bringing his love to many, many people.

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# Love, fear not though sad thy dreaming

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# All through the night

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# Though overcast bright stars are gleaming

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# All through the night

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# Joy will come to thee at morning

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# Life with sunny hopes adorning

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# Though sad dreams may give dark warning

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# All through the night

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# Angels watching close surround thee

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# All through the night

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# In thy slumbers close surround thee

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# All through the night

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# They will of all fear disarm thee

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# No forebodings should alarm thee

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# They will let no peril harm thee

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# All through the night. #

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Lorna Byrne grew up in Ireland in the 1950s.

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She believes she can actually see angels.

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She's written several best-selling books about her angelic experiences.

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I'm Catholic, so I was brought up as a Catholic

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and I have four brothers and four sisters.

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And we were very, very poor. We lived in Old Kilmainham in Dublin.

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How far back do you remember seeing angels?

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You know, I always say from the very moment I opened my eyes.

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You know, lying in the cot.

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You know, reaching up and trying to catch them, to play with them.

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Um...they were always over my cot and always around me.

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And it was only, say, when I was about two and a half,

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when I discovered that they were angels

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and my mum and dad couldn't see them, or my sister.

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Why you, Lorna?

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Actually, I don't know why me.

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I'm just a very ordinary person.

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I don't know why God chose me and, say, not you.

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I really don't know. I don't have an answer.

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How do you see angels?

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In your mind's eye or close enough to touch?

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They're real enough to touch.

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I see them physically, as I see you sitting there.

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They are so, so bright.

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They give a human appearance.

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I don't always see wings.

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If I see wings on an angel, I feel privileged.

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Because they are extremely beautiful.

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But I couldn't say really whether

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they're giving an appearance of male or female

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because angels don't seem to be either.

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You know, if you were out on the street,

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you'd see all of the people walking up and down.

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I see all of the people,

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but I see the guardian angel with everyone, as well,

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as physically as I see the people.

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And everyone has a guardian angel,

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regardless of their religious beliefs,

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whether they're a Catholic or a Protestant or a Muslim or a Jew,

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or even if you're good or bad, you have a guardian angel.

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You're a Christian.

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How do angels fit in with our Christian view of God?

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Angels are creatures created by God.

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You and me and everyone in the world out there

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has a soul which is that speck of light of God.

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That is one reason why your guardian angel never leaves you for a second.

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Because it's in the presence of that light of God.

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# When at night I go to sleep

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# Fourteen angels watch do keep

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# Two my head are guarding

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# Two my feet are guiding

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# Two are on my right hand

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# Two are on my left hand

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# Two who warmly cover

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# Two who over me hover

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# Two to whom it is given

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# To guide my steps to Heaven. #

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Dear Lord, thank you for the times

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when you've sent us angels to comfort and protect us.

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To offer guidance and words of wisdom.

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To give us hope and enlightenment.

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And for the many different ways that your love is manifest to us.

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Amen.

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Angels have captured the human imagination for centuries

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in pictures, poems, films and songs.

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And the words of our final hymn today reflect the belief

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that angels have been with us since the dawn of creation.

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Next week, Aled's in London preparing for the season of Lent

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with traditional pancake tossing,

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stocktaking at the zoo

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and cricketer Henry Olonga, who tells of his sporting sacrifice.

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Plus a special performance from Only Boys Aloud.

0:33:410:33:44

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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Pam Rhodes meets people who believe they have encountered angels and introduces some popular angelic hymns.


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