Many of you will know by now that there was an arson attack at St Paul’s this afternoon. It is serious in terms of the damage done and the way we are left feeling: and this will have been a huge shock to lots of people, in the church and the community. I don’t want to downplay any of those feelings, especially after the last 12 months and the way the spire and open door have been so important to so many people. But the building itself is fine and the fires went out on their own and we can work around the damage to keep Holy Week in the way we were planning before this happened.
There is damage to the painting in the Walter Chapel, the pulpit, the wall above the lectern and the High Altar. The Victorian banner, the purple altar cloth and pulpit fall have all been destroyed. Some things have been pushed over which we can’t pick up yet but which may also be damaged- but we can work around all of this. The building itself is fine. (I’m being as descriptive as I can on this so you know what to expect on Sunday morning because it inevitably feels like an attack).
We are really grateful for the speedy and professional response of the Fire Service and the Police, and the support of the local community, which is so welcome and so constant.
Nothing changes. We are still doing everything we have been doing since 1864 to serve and support the community, and all that we have been able to do in the last 12 months throughout the pandemic in supporting the Foodbank, the Royal Berkshire Hospital, our schools, our care homes and those in need. We will continue to bear witness to God’s love for everybody. Nothing changes.
Sunday is our first Sunday worshipping in Church in person since before Christmas. St Paul’s is still our home. Our Church building might be scarred but we will be there. We need to pray for the emergency services who came so quickly and were so supportive, and for passers-by who have kept offering help, and for the person who did it, that they can find the help and peace they need.
I prayed before I locked Church tonight- and the words which kept coming to me were “Nothing changes.” We are doing good and important work. We all get so much strength and rootedness from the building. It means so much to so many people, which is clearly shown in the messages I have been receiving from all over the town and all over the Deanery and Diocese as I have been typing this Newsletter.
And the building is still there.
It’s nearly Holy Week, and there is something very powerful and very true about celebrating the Eucharist on a damaged altar.
See you on Sunday, whether in person or online. Nothing changes.