Grenfell memorial service: Anger remains as Bishop of Kensington says it's 'time we learned a new and better way'

Survivors of Grenfell Tower joined the Prime Minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury, members of the Royal Family and other faith leaders for a memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral this morning.

Bringing white roses the families of the victims as well as 1,500 others were joined by the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

ReutersBereaved families huddled together after the service at St Paul's Cathedral

The hour-long multi-faith memorial service marked six months since the fire where 71 people were killed in a tragedy that shocked the whole nation.

The service opened with a Catholic priest and imam from north Kensington carrying a banner bearing the green heart of Grenfell, which has become a symbol of the community. Afterwards the congregation followed the banner out, spilling onto the steps of St Pauls to mourn and greet each other.

The Bishop of Kensington said in a sermon that he hoped the tragedy would be turning point as the 'time we learned a new and better way: to listen and to love'.

'Today, we ask why warnings were not heeded; why a community was left feeling neglected, uncared for, not listened to,' he said.

'Today we hold out hope that the public inquiry will get to the truth of all that led up to the fire at Grenfell Tower ... and we trust that the truth will bring justice.'

Speaking to Christian Today after the service Graham Tomlin said faith was an important part of life in the poorer wards of north Kensington and the service helped to add a 'bigger perspective' to what had happened.

ReutersMembers of the Royal Family met families of the survivors after the service to comfort them.

'It meant a great deal that this was the whole nation gathering round the community to support them and those who died and to say "you are not forgotten",' he told Christian Today.

'Obviously there is the politics that has to be worked out but what we as faith leaders can bring is that bigger perspective and say "you may be forgotten by others but God remembers you". That is what we remember at Christmas – that God is with us, that he hears the cries of the abandoned. That bigger perspective is something that can be bought.'

He added: 'Faith has been a really big support to those in the local area and so being able to remember that and celebrate it and to hold this service in that religious context has been really important.'

But a deep sense of injustice remained among many around St Paul's and Kensington and Chelsea council leaders were advised not to attend as it would stir up anger. Instead they held a minute's silence at the town hall.

Chris Imafidon, who said he taught pupils from Grenfell Tower and worked nearby, told Christian Today the service was a 'complete distraction from the core issues' and a 'complete contempt for what religious really stands for'.

'If you care about the homeless you give them accommodation you don't bring them to a church service. These are homeless people, grieving people, bereaved people, people asking questions. And all you do is bring them here to read the Bible. Doesn't your Bible tell you to love each other?' he said.

'Instead of helping the homeless they are bringing them to come and pray. To who? What is the point of a church if that church doesn't care a cater for its community. It is a total mockery,' he told Christian Today.

'I know people who were in there. We ate together, drank together and we haven't even found their bodies.'

But others said they valued the chance to mourn. Kay Nikoi said her daughters had friends who died in the fire and she was there to pay her respects. 

'The pain will not go away. They will have to live with it everyday,' she told Christian Today.

'At least this is a sign of respect. We can let them know we love them and stand strong for them. Those who are beareved can know they have loved oens who are supporting them at times like this.'

She added: 'I am Christian and I believe some things that happen we cannot understand. We have to leave it in the hands of God.'

The Portobello Road Salvation Army Band as well as the Ebony Steel Ban performed an an Islamic girls' choir from the Al Sadiq and Al Zahra Schools sang the words 'never lose hope' in a deeply moving service. 

Shahin Sadafi, Chair of Grenfell United, said: 'We are coming together to remember the loved ones we lost in the fire, to unite as a community and to start to build hope for the future. We hope we can come together as a nation and show our support to the bereaved families, survivors of the tower and the affected community.'