Sorrow, anger, compassion and love – just some of the emotions encountered by students from the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics while providing support to people affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.
A group from the OCCA travelled to London to help members of Latymer Community Church put on an outdoor service for the grieving community.
It was held under the A40 close to the derelict tower block where dozens of residents died. Hundreds of people attended to hear a message of hope from OCCA Chaplain Frog Orr-Ewing, who also leads Latimer Minister church which partners with its Kensington counterpart.
Frog said, ‘Today is a service of prayer – a chance to pray for those who have been lost and those who have lost so much.
‘It is a chance to pray for this specific neighbourhood, this intermingled community, it is a chance to pray for all those who have poured themselves out in help and compassion, it is a chance to pray for those who are frantic with uncertainty, torn apart by grief, and the many thousands whose lives are on hold, or those who loved intimately those who have been lost. Today is also a day to receive prayer, to receive comfort.’
During the service, departing fire crews were thanked by Frog, prompting spontaneous applause from worshippers and onlookers.
Before and after the service, the OCCA students listened to and prayed with members of the community.
Student Patrick Thomas said, ‘There was a lot of frustration, anger and protest in the neighbourhood, but Sunday was about the church ministering to the community.
‘Our role was two-fold; to help with the service and support the local church which had been working non-stop for so long in a traumatic environment; and to work as prayer intercessors responding to people’s needs.’
Among the heartfelt encounters experienced by the OCCA group was a meeting between student Rosie O’Donnell and a grieving woman: ‘You could see the anger in her eyes,’ said Rosie. ‘She told me about children she knew who were in there and a whole family who had not made it out.
‘She sang the praises of Latymer church and how they had helped Muslims, Christians, Hindus and others.
‘I have never ministered to people in an environment where everything is so raw. You saw anger, hurt, and compassion sometimes all at once. It also helped me to see visibly what we already know to be true – love and justice are two sides of the same coin. People are demanding justice because of the love they have for those affected.’
Being the hands and heart of Jesus to a hurting community was how fellow student Christine Sneeringer encapsulated the day. Christine, who gave out bottles of water and also prayed with people, said, ‘One lady I prayed with said, “It means a lot you are here”. She was really grateful for the support.’