During the week of writing this blog, the same week in which the Grenfell Tower block in West London went up in flames, a member of the parish showed me this prayer they had picked up when visiting the bishop’s palace at Wells :
We pray for peace in our communities this day.
We commit to you all who work for peace and an end to tensions,
And those who work to uphold law and justice.
We pray for an end to fear,
For comfort and support to those who suffer.
For calm in our streets and cities,
That people may go about their lives in safety and peace.
In your mercy, hear our prayers,
Now and always.
This last Sunday, as the heat of mid-summer prickled everybody’s skin, and communities were on red alert for terror incidents, or random acts of violence, there was a very appropriate gospel reading, fit for a nation whose queen has publically voiced its sombre mood :
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
It is reassuring to know that among the many random acts of kindness that have been flooding into Kensington and Chelsea, Finsbury Park and elsewhere, there have been local church members offering a listening ear, and prepared to pray with people as well as offer practical help.
If ever there was proof that the role of the local church is pivotal in today’s communities in Britain, then these recent times of national disquiet, wariness and shocked fear, are that proof. The church is called to be caring, generous, servant-hearted and empathetic, full of good deeds. A prayer like that of Psalm 46 will remind us that the only reason why the church can persist in this mission relentlessly is because “The Lord Almighty is our fortress: the God of Jacob is our refuge.”