There is a sense of being in limbo for the community around the Grenfell Tower two years on from the catastrophic fire that started in the early hours of 14 June 2017. This is a kind of hell for many people with no clear light at the end of the tunnel.
In life we all have periods of uncertainty – waiting for important staging posts such as exam results, diagnosis of an illness or for a political crisis to be resolved. This can make us feel vulnerable, distracted and powerless. When you are grieving, or in shock the pain is amplified.
We are a community of many faiths where belief is strong, and the experiences and stories of scripture are a treasury which has helped people to connect with their feelings and give expression to them. The reminders of God’s presence in times of lamentation has been comforting and helped to shape the search for justice and hope in the ashes.
The faith community has worked together to support people who has been affected by the fire. In the early days this meant allowing our church building to be used by the agencies and emergency services offering crisis response and to the world’s media who descended on us. People from across the country sent parcels of clothes and bedding which was stored in our church before distribution. The church was, and remains, open for all.
To mark the second anniversary of the fire our church (which is sits just below the tower) will be open for quiet reflection from midnight Friday. We want people to know they have somewhere to come if they need or wish to be together, not out of some duty, but if they feel it would help in some small way.
Grenfell United with other groups and the local churches, mosque and gurdwara have organised a day of events which will include prayer, space to reflect, a meal and a ceremony of remembering with 72 bell tolls, one for each of those who died.
A multi-faith vigil will take place in the evening outside our church and then our monthly silent walk which will begin and end at the church. This regular event has brought the community together in its grief and is a reminder that the grieving and search for answers carries on.
But we are conscious that we are living in many ways like communities up and down the country coping with issues such as hunger, loneliness amongst older people and homelessness. A new foodbank opened in the church late last year which had been planned before the fire. It is operated in partnership with the Trussell Trust, and offers support for the community to which Universal Credit was rolled out last December.
Major urgent building repairs in the last year mean from the autumn we can offer new community spaces including a kitchen. We hope to focus on young people and children as well as the wide spread challenge of loneliness amongst older people. Conscious that we live amongst people of many faiths and that the Church has been a meeting place for the wider community we now have a large reception area, full of light, which will help us develop our ministry of welcome and hospitality.
Over and beyond the stresses and strains of life in this part of London there is the long wait for answers to how the fire happened and for decisions to be made about the future for the tower. Patience is more than merely sticking it out, but an active, defiant waiting that refuses to be defeated by uncertainty and pain, and resolved to endure the limbo until the future becomes clear, just and hopeful.
Revd Mike Long is superintendent of Notting Hill Methodist Church