West Hampstead vicar says ‘no surrender’ after LGBT flags torn down from church
PUBLISHED: 11:00 06 October 2016 | UPDATED: 11:06 06 October 2016
A West Hampstead vicar has vowed to put up new LGBT and transgender flags after two young men cut them down in what he believes to be a “targeted attack”
Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain, vicar of St James’ in Sheriff Road, West Hampstead, and St Mary’s with All Souls, Kilburn, is determined not to be intimidated.
The flags were cut down from St James’ on Sunday night.
CCTV images show two young men walking round the side of the church, where they disappear out of sight, and then appearing with the flags a while later.
Fr Foreshew-Cain believes it is a premeditated attack as the flags are high up, near the roof of the church, and the men must have climbed up.
But the West Hampstead vicar will invite the community to a small ceremony where he will replace the flags soon, with the date to be confirmed next week.
“I decided that they weren’t going to stop us – no, we’re not going to give in to that.
“We have the flags up proudly because it’s a statement of who we are.
“The flags show that this is a place of safety and everybody is welcome.”
The morning after the theft, Fr Foreshaw-Cain wrote on Facebook: “To those who cut down our Rainbow and Trans flags from our Church overnight.
“You cannot silence us and we will not give in to your bullying and threats.
Fr Foreshew-Cain, who was the second gay priest in the country to marry his partner at a ceremony in June 2014, has received “lovely” messages from the community after the theft.
One reads: “I walk past your church every day and seeing your flag just gives me a boost.”
The vicar recently put up posters advertising that the church will be taking part in Open Table which provides a “safe space” for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual Christians to meet and pray together, as part of a new London network.
He is concerned the theft of the flags could be a reaction to that, as the posters are prominent to anyone who pops into the church to use the Post Office which is based there.
In spite of this, Fr Foreshew-Cain will continue with his outreach work and fly the flags proudly.
St James’ is one of two churches in the country which flies an LGBT flag, with the other church in Birmingham.
Other churches, such as St Martin in the Fields in Trafalgar Square fly the rainbow flag for specific events such as Gay Pride.
Fr Foreshew-Cain put the LGBT flag up 18 months ago, and the transgender one nine months ago.