For days it has been a makeshift warehouse for the relief effort, a place of shelter for the traumatised, destitute and grieving and a focal point for visiting dignitaries and politicians. On Sunday, in the forbidding shadow of Grenfell Tower, the church of St Clements and St James became a place of worship once more.
Local residents and people from elsewhere in London gathered to hug each other in welcome, children on their way to Sunday school laughed and babies cried in their parents’ arms.
But the floral tributes wilting in the sun, the pictures of the missing tied to the church railings outside and the presence of the visitors, the London mayor Sadiq Khan, his wife and the Bishop of Kensington, Graham Tomlin, marked why this Sunday mass was different and would perhaps never be the same again.
On the streets nearby the anger of the days before had turned to an eery quiet. Small knots of people gathered at corners beneath the tower, around the edges of the police cordon, staring up at its gaping windows and charred exterior, still in disbelief.
“It is quiet, it is calm today,” said Hamza Bayezidi, who lives opposite the tower. “It is silent. I find I want to go out away from here, so that I don’t see it all the time. I find it very difficult just seeing it there all the time over us.”
That quiet was reflected inside St Clements Church, which all week has been the bustling, noisy receiving centre for supplies and donations, a support facility for emergency crews and distraught residents of Grenfell Tower and a focal point for the national and international media.
Cleared of the boxes of relief, on Sunday it was a place of calm as the congregation stood for two minutes of silent prayer for the dead, the grieving, the evacuees and the those who still remain in the agony of not knowing whether their relatives are living or dead.
But when Father Robert Thompson, the curate of St Clements and a local Labour councillor, stood to deliver the sermon, the anger, this time crystallised and controlled, was there once more.
SOURCE: Sandra Laville