In the hours after a massive blaze ripped through a tower block in west London early on June 14, nearby St. Clement’s Church — a four-minute walk away — rapidly became an emergency relief center. It sheltered more than 100 residents as the blaze raged and was subsequently overwhelmed with donations.

People have given clothes, bedding and toiletries for the residents of the tower, many of whom fled the block in their nightwear and lost everything. Volunteers from churches throughout the area are running the relief operation.

The Rev. Alan Everett described how events unfolded in the hours after the devastating blaze: “I opened the church at half three in the morning and within minutes the local community started bringing in supplies — the tables are now completely overflowing. The response has been overwhelming.”

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St. Clement’s ran out of room to store more supplies.

Everett said St. Clement’s makes a strong emphasis on community outreach, and this tragic event brought people together in a very strong bond. “Because of this church’s longstanding community outreach work, it is a highly trusted place. We are trusted by people of all faiths. This response is the social gospel. In the wake of the tragedy, people might ask where is God? God is present in the hands that are reaching out to help.”

The Rt. Rev. Graham Tomlin said it’s crucial the clergy are visible. “It’s important to open the doors of our churches and of our hearts and to offer whatever help we can,” he said. “This church is at the heart of the local community, and we have here with us families anxiously awaiting news of relatives. There’s an Ethiopian family here who can’t find their five-year-old son. Our local Filipino chaplain is also very involved, as there are a number of Filipinos in the tower block missing.”

ACNS