Sunday, 9 July 2017

Keep The Doors Open, And The Lights On.

In the aftermath [there's that word again] of the Grenfell Tower fire, much has been written - cries of grief, words of anger, calls for justice, demands for safety check, praises for emergency services...
I was particularly taken by a piece in the Guardian by Giles Fraser. He talked about the immediate response of the local churches, whilst council officials were still getting their act together [and sadly, looking for someone else to take the blame]
Fraser described one vicar, Alan Everett, who said  “I was woken up at 3am by a priest who lives in the tower, and so I came down to the church, opened the doors and turned the lights on”
It all began from there. People started coming in out of the dark – often passersby looking to help. First they sorted out tea and coffee. By 7am, they had a fully stocked breakfast bar, with volunteers organising themselves into teams. Within hours, local restaurants were delivering food; clothes began to pile high in the church sanctuary – about 40 Transit vans’ worth, the vicar estimates. The place looked like a warehouse.
Fraser's article described how the churches got it right when other agencies failed. It ends like this
“We are called to share in the brokenness and the forgottenness of the people we serve,” the vicar explained. In poor parishes, the job is to keep the doors open and the lights on. And this being permanently present is no small thing. Not least because, as Christians believe, the light will always beckon people out of the darkness.
I have been so challenged by these words - and Giles, I don't believe it is just in poor parishes - for all of us who belong to the family of Jesus, we should ensure that we keep our doors open, and the lights on. We must be there to offer comfort, and hope, to people struggling in the dark.


  1. My brother is an LGO in a labour run council and it's run with the minimum of staff, numbers diminishing every year to cut costs. They are extrememly hard pressed to provide services on funds recieved and would in no way be able to rustle up extra staff and expertise to deal with such a crisis if it happened in his area. Outside expert help would be needed.
    It's not the council employees who should be criticised but the government for not sending expert support soon enough.
    This occurred in a tory council area so maybe funding is different but even so, if council administrators have enough on their plate doing an every day job they should be blamed if they are ill equipped to deal with a massive extra workload in a crisis they are not trained for.
    As always, people rush to blame "the council" but if my brother's experience is typical, most council staff work hard to do what they can with insufficient money and have to deal with abuse from the public daily.
    But, being british we always have to have someone to blame.

    1. Jean - I am sure that the people 'on the ground', like your brother work very hard, and many will have been distressed by their inability to do more. I am in total agreement with you that the problem is higher up the chain - where people are restricting budgets and forcing so many cuts to local services. As with our schools and hospitals, and emergency services, constant budget cuts and financial constraints make it hard enough to do the day-to-day jobs, without adding these dreadful unexpected crises. 25 years ago, when I worked briefly for social services , "Major Incident Training" was a regular, and frequent, part of our Borough's policy. I do not think that there is quite as much left in the kitty now, to help local authorities prepare their staff for such sad events. And I would not endorse personal abuse of workers at any time. My irritation was with those people 'at the top', who were telling the media it was not their fault, when they were the ones who had earlier made decisions about cost-cutting in the area of safety. I am just grateful for people like this Vicar, who had the network of volunteers and the infrastructure already in place, to set up a support station so quickly.

  2. It is a blessing to have venues where people can go, both to offer their help and to receive help. I am sure you and Bob do all what you can to keep the doors open and the lights on for all who wish to come.

  3. Wonderful. That's how it should be.

  4. Wonderful post! It's such a powerful witness when the Church shows up in this way.


  5. Very well said. I am saddened by all the churches near me that are locked almost all the time.


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