Responding to Terror on the High Road

On Sunday 2nd February just before 2pm the Streatham High Road became the scene of a Terror attack.

The swift and decisive action of the Police and emergency services meant that none of the victims lost their lives, for which we are all deeply thankful.

St Leonard’s gathered for evensong at 6.30pm and The Rector spoke to the situation and offered prayers. Her homily is here:

‘The sermon was written, and I was all set for a quiet Sunday afternoon watching the Rugby when shots were fired a few metres from the Rectory. Within an hour the shocking news of a suspected terrorist incident in the heart of this Parish was headline news.

 Some of us are here tonight quite simply to be together and to say defiantly that this is a community of kindness, and friendship. We are proud not just of our diversity but of the quality of relationships we enjoy with our neighbours that go way beyond that rather loaded word ‘Tolerance’.

 Our prayer tonight is for all those affected by the events of this afternoon. For those, for whom a quick trip to Iceland or Boots will never be the same. For the staff in our High Street Shops and especially for the injured and their families. We also give thanks to God for the skill and professionalism of our Police and ambulance services. These are people who understand and live out the costly call of self-giving service everyday and for them we are so grateful.

 It is also at times like these, when the reality of the forces of darkness that are at work in our world hits us and we instinctively want to be with others in a place that has held the hopes and fears of this community in its walls for generations. Somehow just being in this place feels like an act of defiance.

And it is made more poignant today, when this morning we celebrated the feast of Candlemas. An occasion when an elderly man looked into the face of the infant Jesus and said the words, we have just heard sung in the Nunc Dimittis as he recognised that here was the ‘Light to lighten all peoples’.

Tonight, we refuse to let the darkness overwhelm or frighten us. Instead we stand on the words of an old proverb which says: “When I light a candle at night, I say to the darkness, ‘I beg to differ’”. Tonight, in this place we beg to differ.

And so we pray:
O God of life, this night, o darken not to us Thy light.
O God of life, this night, close not Thy gladness to our sight.
Keep Your people, Lord, in the arms of Your embrace.
Shelter them under Your wings.
Be their light in darkness.
Be their hope in distress.
Be their calm in anxiety.
Be strength in their weakness.
Be their comfort in pain.
Be their song in the night.
In peace will we lie down, for it is You, O Lord,
You alone who makes us dwell in safety.      Amen      

The following week saw our community respond with compassion and a determination not to allow this incident to divide local people or instill fear.

The following day over 30 people from local churches gathered at St Leonard’s to pray

An interfaith breakfast was hosted by the South London Mosque on Thursday, to which local councillors, police and members of every faith group were present, including the Bishop of Southwark.

On Tuesday The Rector visited St Leonard’s school and on Friday  spoke with our own Youth group, exploring with the young people the impact the incident had had on them and led them in prayers.

On Saturday community choir members and local people gathered at St Leonard’s church to learn songs for peace and then they took to the High Road to participate in a large community gathering at which the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan spoke along with other local political and religious leaders. Our Rector was among those who offered prayers for Streatham as part of the event.

You can read here the prayer she offered:

A Prayer for Streatham

God of light and love,
We pray for this community of Streatham.
We give thanks for the resilience of this community
For our rich diversity and for the friendships we enjoy in this place.
We pray for all those affected by the events of Sunday –
Heal those who have been injured, calm those who have been disturbed, reassure those who are frightened.
And as we look to our future, we pray that you would bless these streets.
Bless our homes, businesses, schools and places of worship.
And by your grace strengthen us all to live each day in the light of your love.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Church Times wrote about the incident. The article can be read here: