'God is right there, in the midst of disaster': Christian pastors on the front line helping distraught survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire

Ruth GledhillHours after the fire began, flames were still pouring out of the windows

Jesus would show compassion, he would weep with those who weep, and he would extend hope and joy to people in him. 

Rev Mark O'Donoghue, area dean of Kensington, spoke to Christian Today as flames continued to pour from windows of the Grenfell Tower block in west London, hours after a tragic fire began in the early hours of the morning.

At least six people have died – the toll is expected to climb – and 20 are critical in hospital after the raging fire that began shortly after midnight engulfed the block. This afternoon, the 24-storey block is still on fire.

O'Donoghue, the Area Dean, was at St Clement church, just minutes from the block, and which had become a place of refuge for the distraught and homeless, and where neighbours are bringing food, water and clothing. 

He said: 'Local churches are responding in the way that communities of Jesus Christ ought to respond. They are throwing open their doors. They are receiving people who have lost everything, who are worried about friends and neighbours, who are worried about loved ones, who are coming in needing a shoulder to cry on, somewhere to rest. People have been evacuated from their homes and aren't sure if they are going back today, tomorrow or ever.'

Ruth GledhillSt Clement Church West Kensington is helping survivors cope with the aftermath

He said the church was working to ensure that the parishes in the 'leafier' parts of Kensington could help as well. 

Ruth GledhillA sign on St Clement Church offers a number for people to call

Local supermarkets are providing food, the church is attempting to organise hotel accommodation, and even the personal chef to Stella McCartney, who works nearby, is at the church, cooking lunch for survivors who have been offered refuge there.

'Some people inside are distraught, some people are feeling completely at sea and lost, not knowing what do do. We sit there thinking, what would Christ do in this situation? He would show compassion, he would weep with those who weep, and he would extend hope and joy to people in him.'

He continued: 'The big question of, "Where is God which we saw in things like the terrorist outrages and the tsunami?" – the answer is, God is present in Jesus Christ through his people. And that's why inside at the moment you see all sorts of people giving up all their time to help out in any way they can.

'The God of the Bible does not pretend that this world is supposed to be this way. The world bears the scars of a world out of kilter with the God who made it.'

At Latymer Community Church, Buchan Lennon, who is helping coordinate the food donation and distribution efforts, said it was a time of need for the community. 'We just want to bring Jesus to people in whatever way that works,' he said. He had arrived at work when the pastor called him and asked him to come and help at the church instead. 

'This has been an overwhelming response,' he said. 'Construction workers had given their time to the relief effort. 'It's just  huge huge help from anyone and everyone.'

And also near Grenfell Tower, at the Tabernacle Christian Centre, Pastor Derek Wilson, who runs church with his wife Pastor Paulette, was woken at 4am. 'The community has been terrific. They have come together from all over to help out and give support. to this real tragedy.'

The church's school in Holland Park had a former pupil aged 12 who was missing. Minutes before speaking to Christian Today, he had heard that she had been found in hospital. 'Disasters happen everywhere,' said Wilson.

But he said this disaster, by what he was being told, was down to human beings, not God, suggesting mistakes had been made in the refurbishment of the tower which left it inadequately protected against fire. But God could offer comfort: 'The church communities have come together with those made homeless and we are offering our comfort and our support. God is right there in the midst of disaster, all the time.'

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