Churches respond to riots

Simon Morris reflects on the ways that the Tottenham riots brought out the best in his church:

Tottenham riots brought out the best in my church

It’s heartening to see my congregation acting so spontaneously to help those affected by the devastation of Tottenham’s riots

By Simon Morris in The Guardian (UK)

Photographs can only convey so much. There was havoc on Lansdowne Road when we pulled up in the minibuses on Sunday afternoon and saw the ruin of a building that had survived the blitz still smouldering as a result of the violence. This was Carpetright: an icon of the devastation and opposite Saint Mary’s church.

Mass had been offered in the morning but with a much depleted congregation, largely because the faithful had been under the impression that the church was closed. The church, the vicarage and most of the street didn’t have electricity until Monday lunchtime but the faithful got into action spontaneously.

Emergency service personnel and those affected by the devastation were offered friendly faces, tea and coffee, food, somewhere to sit, a toilet and somewhere to charge mobile phones (landlines aren’t that common).

It was amazingly heartening to return and find all this already in progress – it was the natural response for the congregation. It also meant I could walk round the parish and be with people elsewhere. Most people say hello to the clergy in Tottenham but in the last few days the customary salutation has been exchanged for statements and questions: “So, what do you think about this?”, “I’m glad you’re around”, “Isn’t it frightening?” They wanted to speak to someone with authority, but perhaps especially because they’d seen me walking those same streets and living there with them for the past three years – it’s what we do in the Church of England.

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