Thursday, 11 August 2011

London riots

In the midst of the violence and destruction of the past few nights, London's churches have been places of comfort, prayer and hope.  It is at moments like these that the church's local presence and engagement is most severely tested.  It has borne striking fruit.  Here are just a few of the stories from parishes on the front line:
  • In Tottenham, St Mary the Virgin on Lansdowne Road has been helping those whose homes and businesses have been affected by the rioting - including distributing meals and providing hot water and mobile phone charging for those left without electricity, to ensure they can remain in touch with loved ones. Churches in Tottenham united with representatives of other faiths at a 300-strong prayer vigil for peace addressed by the Bishop of Edmonton 
  • The role of social media in the riots and the responses has been much discussed. On Twitter, as the riots were at their worst, #prayforlondon overtook #londonriots as the most common 'tag' for comments. Churches such as St Peter's Walworth ( were tweeting prayer requests and using social media to advertise the times at which the church would be open for prayer.  Like many other churches in riot-hit areas, they also played a key role in the #riotclearup
  • In Hackney, Fr Rob Wickham and the new Bishop of Stepney were on the streets helping those they could as panic and disorder spread. Yesterday, Bishop Adrian preached at a solidarity service at St John-at-Hackney.  Hundreds of people gathered - many of them young people who are involved in London Citizens' CitySafe initiative (see this feature on the main PEN website).  A similar gathering in Watney Market was chaired by St Paul's Shadwell ordinand Jude Padfield, and drew together over 200 people from local churches and Dar Ul Ummah and East London Mosques.  In both cases, the central role of churches in the community response grow out of their ongoing commitment to building relationships and trust across faiths, cultures and age-groups (see, for example, these Jellicoe blogs from Shadwell and Hackney)
  • This ongoing work is vital as extreme groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) seek to foment division at a time when there has been a striking unity across faiths and communities in cleaning up and working and praying for peace.  The Bishop of Stepney and Area Dean Alan Green have played a key role in the campaign to stop the EDL marching in Tower Hamlets - another area where prayer is urgently needed.
  • There is up-to-date news of vigils for peace, practical support and advice for churches, and messages from the Bishops in a special section of the Diocese of London Website, with a message from the Bishop of Southwark (the CofE's Bishop for Urban Life & Faith) and news of prayer vigils on the Southwark website. Today's speech by Archbishop Rowan in the House of Lords is also online.
Do keep on contacting us - whether with stories to share, or requests for advice and for prayer. We will be blogging and Tweeting on the longer-term issues and how Christians can best respond and bear witness to the Gospel of hope and of peace.

Almighty God and Lord of life,
we pray for the peace and flourishing of our city.
Protect the weak and vulnerable,
comfort all who have lost homes and businesses,
protect and guide the emergency services;
and all for your name’s sake. Amen