Reverend Reflections


In the fifth of a series of articles, Revd James Gilder of Wanstead Parish says thank you to all who offered support and donations after thieves stole a safe from Christ Church a few weeks before Christmas

Just before Christmas, Christ Church suffered a break-in. The thieves hacked a hole in the front doors of the church and made a real mess inside, making off with an entire safe, which contained cash we were collecting for the Children’s Society. Even more sadly, the safe also contained all the parish records of baptisms, weddings, confirmations and interments in our Garden of Remembrance. These will have no value to the thieves and may be discarded, so please do keep your eyes peeled for these hardback books full of handwritten ledgers.

CCTV showed it was two young men who broke in, in the dead of night. Their getaway vehicles of choice were a bicycle and an e-scooter, and one of them – in a feat of acrobatics – somehow managed to balance the safe on the e-scooter and then proceeded to drive off, sitting on the top of the safe. It would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. Our friends at the United Reformed Church were also subject to an attempted break-in that same night, and two other local churches were burglarised in the preceding weeks.

It took a little while for us to get back on our feet, especially as lots of things, like Christmas orders of service, had been carefully prepared and printed, and were now scattered all over the office, amongst bits of all the furniture the thieves had broken. The initial shock quickly turned to unexpected joy, however, as offers of help began to flood in. In the space of 24 hours, the good people of Wanstead donated more than £2,000 to replace the Christingle collection – far more than we had originally raised. I had over 50 offers of help from individuals to clear up the mess, and offers of painting and carpentry, too. I would like to use this space to say a huge thank you to everyone. Your goodwill far outstripped the negativity and evil committed by the thieves. 

It feels rather like Wanstead has been beset with crime over the last year. I have no stats to back this up, merely anecdotes of some terribly violent things happening on our High Street, and I see for myself the antisocial behaviour that goes on in the churchyard at night. However, in this instance, the degree to which Wanstead people showed how much they cared proves that – no matter how bleak things can feel – there is a goodness in us that can beat the worst. 

January is a time when that bleakness can feel overwhelming. It’s a time of tax returns, dark days and bad weather. The good news is, Easter comes early this year! If you find yourself unable to shake off the gloom, a reminder that our mental health support group meets in Christ Church vestry at 5.30pm on the first Sunday of every month.

Thanks again everyone – I’m truly grateful for all your support.

To contact Reverend James Gilder, email wansteadparishadmin@uwclub.net