It barely seems possible that only 40 hours ago a young MP was murdered on the streets of a quiet West Yorkshire town known previously for science (Joseph Priestley) and the Brontes. I spent much of the last two days in Birstall, doing media interviews and trying to support the local vicar and church. I make the following brief observations not for the benefit of the wider world (as if…), but in order that I should not lose for myself the impressions of the last couple of days.

  • Jo Cox was an unusual MP because she represented the place she grew up in and the people among whom she grew up. She not only did not forget her roots in Yorkshire grit, she returned to live among them. Hence the emotional impact locally – she was one of them.
  • The thoughts that keep,me awake have little to do with politics and everything to do with her husband and children. This is a grievous loss – an unimaginable cruelty to them as well as to Jo herself.
  • The man charged has now owned in court his far right, nationalist motive: he gave his name as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. Although speculation about motive was unhelpful in the early hours after Jo's death, there was one observation that merited consideration: the political discourse in this country is poisonous – and recognised beyond our borders to be so. To put it bluntly: if the linguistic and cultural pool we swim in is poisoned day after day – with opponents in the Referendum debate being dismissed as dishonest, corrupt, abusable and our European partners being daily written off as corrupt, incompetent and (their real crime) foreign – then we shouldn't be surprised when some people, for whatever broken and destructive reason, push language to consequent action.
  • If you haven't seen it, watch the German film Die Welle ('The Wave').
  • I am so proud of the local church in Birstall and the vicar, Paul Knight, who, never having been faced by anything like this before, did what the Anglican Parish Church is there to do: created space for all-comers to come together and share shock and grief. But, this space was not empty space – the few words spoken by Paul, by me and by the Bishop of Huddersfield were intended to do two things: (a) offer a vocabulary for grief and lament, and (b) to offer a framework for living for a time with unspeakable reflection not only about Jo Cox and her family, but also about our own mortality and fragility. Civilisation is thin. But, it is not bishops who do this day by day in a particular place; it is clergy and their people who, confident that the cross speaks of looking the real world in the eye (with all its brutality, injustice and agony), make space for grief in the context of resurrection. This violence and appalling destructiveness do not and will not have the final word.
  • Many of Jo Cox's fellow MPs were there at St Peter's, Birstall on Thursday evening. I feel strongly for them. For several of them – young parents themselves – the fragility was clear. As I said in the vigil: MPs do not simply curse the darkness, but light a candle to dispel it. They commit themselves to a vision for which they then work amazingly hard. What they get from a public fed by a cynical media is abuse, suspicion and sneering resentment. This must stop. Social media do not help in this, but consideration must now given to the potential legal consequences for those who threaten and abuse on social media.

Enough for now. I have a family celebration to go to in Liverpool. And I am not insensitive to the poignancy of this.

Finland is fantastic. This is my first visit this far north and I love it. The weather has been 'interesting' – the sun did emerge in Helsinki when we were leaving yesterday, but today it is back to the cloud and mist and wet – the sort we have become familiar with from all the Scandinavian crime series on the telly (The Killing, Borgen, etc.).

The main reason for being here was to speak at a seminar at the British Embassy yesterday – an annual event put on by the British-Finnish Society. We came to Tampere on Wednesday and during the following couple of days visited the Bishops of Tampere and Porvoo, met lots of clergy (who were wonderful and whose English was better than mine…) and learned loads about the country and its history.

For example (and call me ignorant), but I didn't know that Finland has two official languages – Finnish and Swedish. This, of course, opened up the history of the country – which isn't very long, but has involved a lot of violence and burning. This is a bit surprising given that the thing everyone tells you about the Finns is how quiet, thoughtful, honest and peaceful they are. (Maybe the problem has lain with belligerent neighbours.) I also learned that the Diocese of Porvoo is based on language rather than territory – all the Swedish-speaking Lutherans wherever in Finland they find themselves.

This, again, illustrates the gift of seeing through the eyes of a different culture with a different history and language. In West Yorkshire & the Dales (the new diocese that next Easter will replace the current Dioceses of Bradford, Wakefeld and Ripon & Leeds) there will be three cathedrals: Bradford, Ripon and Wakefield. For some people this represents an insuperably difficult problem: a diocese can only have one cathedral. Well, why? Tell that to the American dioceses that have no cathedral or to the Irish dioceses that have two or three. And does a diocese have to be territorial? Possibly, but not necessarily. We create 'tradition' as we go; we do not merely inherit it.

This ties in to the social media seminar at the British Embassy yesterday. Social media are changing the world: the way we think and relate and commune and live and communicate. This is a world we are shaping, but cannot control. We are at the beginning of a journey, not the end. It is a world being occupied by those who have an eclectic curiosity and a sense of adventure – which doesn't characterise everyone in the church…

Yesterday's seminar was really enjoyable and fascinating. The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church is doing some really good stuff. The best thing is the humility social media engenders in the church here: no one is claiming to be getting everything right, but they are enjoying the journey and not afraid of getting it wrong… for the right reasons.

Anyway, today is a free day before I fly on tomorrow to Italy to do a paper for the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung at Cadenabbia at a symposium with Germans on issues to do with Europe, culture and religion. Hey ho.