Thursday, 11 August 2011

London Looting: news from the 'Front Line' at St Mark's Battersea Rise

Dear friends,

Thank you so much for your message of support and concern for the looting of St.Mark’s parish from side to side and end to end.

It has been a rather surreal three days, but with much to thank God for – no harm to any of our church family or their property, despite some needing to be rescued and escorted to their homes; no damage to the church buildings, despite the fact that the whole church curtilege looked like a car-boot help-yourself (rather than sale) for several hours; only limited fire damage; no violence since Monday night; a heart-warming evening of united prayer among local Christians and church leaders who joined us on Tuesday evening; the ‘broom army’ of hundreds, including many of our own congregation, cleaning the streets; and a renewed conviction that our present vision to expand local community ministries, especially among the young, is utterly necessary and, in whatever way we can make some difference, right on track.

I witnessed grave failure in the leadership and coordination of the police effort over many hours of Monday night, but had many conversations with the most admirable, mainly young, responsible and professional police men and women – it was the apparent complete lack of leadership strategy not the dedication of officers which needs examining. Talking to many of the looters over several hours, trying to persuade them to go home, it was evident they were in carnival than belligerent mood.

The government and authorities in the coming months will be inundated with endless individuals and groups complaining and criticising, offering problems rather than solutions. There may be only muted reference now to the ‘Big Society’. But this is our kairos moment. ‘For such a time as this’ the church should be seen to be the church in action, God’s people, ‘repairing the broken walls’, and in our small way we not only know what the big society is, but are doing it. Yesterday we took steps to appoint new members of staff – a full-time youth pastor, an associate member of staff for students and another among all-age groups, and the possibility of a prison re-settlement chaplain based at St.Mark’s. We will advance the planning application to re-develop the old school building for community ministry among young people.

Meanwhile, thank you again for your prayers and messages of loving support. I have been reminded that in prospect of the sacking and looting of Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus reassured his followers: ‘When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, don’t be alarmed’. So for us it’s business as usual and ministry continues without hesitation. Our Night Pastors, newly trained by police members of our church, will go into the heart of the troubled Clapham Junction area on Friday and Saturday nights next month, and it has been heartening to see the ‘God loves Battersea’ T-shirts worn by our St.Peter’s church members in their recent community mission in the Winstanley Estate, where the mob gathered the other night.

With love as ever, Paul

Paul Perkin


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