In the past couple of weeks there has been a run of graffiti attacks on churches and monuments in the Milton Keynes area. They seem to have been focussed on the eastern edge of MK, from Newport Pagnell, through Willen, to Wavendon. The police are involved and stories are appearing in the local news.
Local people are understandably upset and feel personally attacked. It can be particularly difficult for people visiting the graves of loved ones. It’s really important, however, to take proper advice before attempting to remove graffiti from stonework. It’s possible to cause more damage.
Please be aware of the possibility of an attack on your church or churchyard. If there is an incident, please report it to the police and to Archdeacon Guy (Archdeacon.Buckingham@oxford.anglican.org).
In the meantime, please pray for those affected and, as Matt Trendall says “for the love of Christ to change the hearts of those who are doing this”.
All the best,
St Mary’s Wavendon has become the latest church affected by the recent spate of graffiti vandalism on Friday 9th March – following attacks in Newport Pagnell, Willen and Broughton, the artist(s) in question sprayed aggressive messages on the outer back wall. All the graffiti has the same tag: ‘NU Gambian Manz’.
Whilst we are sad at this outbreak, and encourage all to be especially vigilant at this time, at a church prayer meeting on Monday night we felt strongly that this is a moment to follow Jesus’ example and ‘pray for those who persecute us’, that we may be children of our Father in heaven. So can we urge our fellow believers in MK not just to pray for justice and protection but also for the love of Christ to change the hearts of those who are doing this? With our love, blessings and grateful thanks.
– Matt Trendall
On Saturday morning 3rd March I was getting ready to clear snow from the steps at Willen Church in readiness for church services on Sunday. A member of the local community who knows me, phoned to say that she’d discovered the church had been defaced with graffiti of an incitement to racial and religious hatred nature and had already alerted the police. Since then we have been subject to two or three more attacks, all of which have been reported to the police, and which have evinced considerable feeling amongst local residents. I gradually learned that we were not alone – a number of other local prominent and public buildings have also been violated in this way. The graffiti is more than simply youngsters doing damage for kicks – it would appear to have some political or vengeful motivation from some quarter that feels impugned.
My feelings, some of which will be reflected in other’s reactions are a mixture of anger and feeling violated; shocked that such an assault has happened in what has previously been a graffiti-free area; wanting to protect the sensitivities of my flock from obscene language on entering a place of worship; vulnerability and helplessness not knowing how to prevent such a thing due to the churchyard being a public thoroughfare; frustration at not being able to remedy the mess immediately; feeling responsible as a guardian of a local piece of heritage; wanting the perpetrators to be apprehended and possibly punished; wondering what the heck some of the words and phrases actually meant (!); trying to work out the mindset of the perpetrators; being practical and dealing with what I could straight away (ie dealing with the police).
I have been able to communicate with the wider local public via social media – mainly something called “Next Door Willen” which I’d already signed up for late last year. I have appealed for restraint, especially as I think the perpetrators were trying to stir up an aggressive reaction against perceived enemies. But also social media has helped keep the local community informed about what was happening “behind the scenes”. The incident(s) have demonstrated how much affection and good will there is in the local community for Willen Church and how incensed they have been over the vituperative defacement of an important part of the local heritage. This is a sentiment that encourages me and reassures me that we may be able to draw on this as needed (eg to make a financial appeal for ongoing maintenance needs). The police were initially very responsive and supportive and I imagine they are working in the background with all of these local incidents.
Finally, dealing with all of this has taken a great deal of time and part of my frustration is that I have had to be diverted from what is more important such as caring for my flocks and providing spiritual leadership. The aftermath of the incident entails much communicating and chasing of support agencies including our insurers, architect and conservation companies. It seems out of proportion to the amount of time it must have taken to perpetrate the crime in the first place!
– Paul Smith