London's churches respond to terrorist attacks
Immediately after yesterday's transportation bombings, St. Paul's Cathedral closed to tourists, but remained open to anyone who wanted to pray there. One wonders, at such a time, are there any who would visit a church merely for sightseeing purposes?
Churches around the city opened their doors to the grieving and frightened, though there's no word yet on attendance at last night's prayer vigils and special services. The churches closest to the blasts, meanwhile, became relief centers, offering assistance and a home base for both injured commuters and rushing emergency workers.
The church most involved seems to be East London's St. Botolph's Church in Aldgate, which stands next to the station where the first Underground bomb exploded.
"Within minutes fire fighters and other emergency operatives were using the office of the rector of St. Botolph's, the Rev. Brian Lee, to coordinate their activities," reports the British Christian site Ekklesia. "This became necessary because of the blocking of mobile phone services by the authorities, aimed partly at preventing the detonation of another bomb."
The Times reports that St. Botolph's stayed open all night for those unable to get home. There's no word yet on how many people took advantage of the offer.
Most of the British papers today round up reactions from Britain's religious leaders, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Anglican Bishop of London Richard Chartres (who also preached last night), Roman Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Muslim Council of Britain's Iqbal Sacranie, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and others.
Williams also gives a special "Thought for the Day" on BBC's Radio 4 today (text | audio). "The only finally adequate response to terror and evil is to gather ourselves like thisto reach down into what feeds the roots of our spirit, trusting that justice, mercy, and joy are never going to be silenced or paralyzed," he says.
The Vatican also released a statement.
London church leaders are also urging their members not to see Islam as the enemy, and not to seek vengeance upon Britain's Muslim community, "Living near most of us will be families who are quite worried that they may be identified with a terror attack simply because they are from another faith," Bishop of Lichfield Jonathan Gledhill said last night, according to Ekklesia. " I want us to do what we can to reassure them that we recognize that just as the IRA has nothing to do with Christianity, so this kind of terror has nothing to do with any of the world faiths."
The ecumenical organization Churches Together in Britain and Ireland released a joint statement with the Muslim Council of Britain, decrying the attacks.
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