Rev Canon Sue Booys, Rector of Dorchester

I DON’T expect any of us will forget those pictures of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy found lying on the beach and then in the arms of a soldier.

One dead child focused the pain and compassion of the world.

The question we all asked then was: “What can I do?”

That question hasn’t gone away and I pray it will remain as long as necessary.

That week Denise Line, our mission co-ordinator, came to me and said: “Not sure what you’ll think. This idea may be a bit old hat.”

She was proposing a mile of pennies around the abbey to raise money to support migrants and the idea grew.

We would lay the first coins immediately after harvest festival, beginning in the chancel.

Steph Forman, organiser of the Dorchester Festival, was persuaded to offer help and expertise and the event quickly became the “mile for migrants”.

We had just a couple of weeks from idea to event which might seem just a bit risky.

But we gossiped this bit of news everywhere we could and it soon became clear that it had caught people’s imagination.

It allowed anyone to join in – pennies are not big things and, as we were to discover, many people have kept coppers for years.

Local schools, press and radio publicised the event.

Members of the Fellowship of St Birinus – people who make outstanding contributions to Church – attending a service a week earlier gave over £500.

A lady from Blackbird Leys saw the Oxford Mail and phoned to offer her lifelong copper collection.

So perhaps we should not have been surprised when at 11.30am on Sunday people began to arrive.

A gentleman with a sack trolley and two boxes of coins, one child who had emptied her piggy bank and another who had made his mum drive from Hermitage.

Josh and Ella Forman and Adrian Brooks made the Save the Children logo of pennies to start the mile and Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of SCF International, who lives in Dorchester, came to take a look.

In less than half an hour a triple line of pennies stretched along the nave to the back of the abbey.

By six o’clock and after several visitors, stories and cups of tea, we made a mile and a quarter of pennies and a massive £1,068.42.

Watching over us as we made the mile for migrants were the figures in our stained glass windows, telling stories of faith in glass and stone.

Pregnant Mary on a donkey with Joseph, migrants with nowhere to stay when Mary’s baby was due.

They were refugees, forced to flee to Egypt in the face of King Herod’s violence against boy babies.

Centuries earlier Jacob sent his sons to Egypt in search of food where they found Joseph – the brother they believed dead – in charge of the food.

Later, Moses led slaves away from Egypt in that great migration ‘Exodus’.

Migration is not new, neither is the persecution and hardship that causes people to leave their homes in search of safety and security.

Maybe we sense that this could happen to us, our children or our children’s children and perhaps that is why widows, children and the wealthy joined Denise, Steph, Josh, Ella, Jean and a host of others to make a mile for migrants.

A big thank you to them all.

In the abbey we shall hold a vigil for migrants on Sunday, November 1, from 6.30pm to 9pm.

Our Advent carol service on November 29 at 6pm will follow a pattern of prayer and readings to help us pray together for the plight of those who have left their homes.