FATHER KEN LEECH
PROPHET OF HIS TIME
PROPHET IN OUR OWN TIME
FATHER KEN LEECH, RADICAL ANGLO-CATHOLIC PRIEST - SO MUCH WITH WHICH TO CHALLENGE THE CHURCH OF TODAY AND TOMORROW......
Father Ken Leech (1939-2015), Anglican priest, Christian Socialist, theologian and founder of the charity Centrepoint, working with homeless young people. His life brought together three strands which too often stand apart: spirituality, political practice and a deep rootedness in the tradition of the Church, East and West. He worked in the East End of London practising a radical ordained ministry in an urban context and believed that prayer and community engagement were at the heart of being a theologian.
Fr. Ken was known to many for his friendship, encouragement and humble spiritual guidance (I was one amongst many who were privileged to benefit from his spiritual direction).
His work continues to influence Christians in Britain and America as well as a diverse range of theological and political movements including new reflections in Liberation Theology, ‘Radical Orthodoxy’ and urban ministry.
In “Subversive Orthodoxy”, written by Alison Milbank for a conference in 2017 which posed the question of what Ken as to say to the Church today , she says: “Ken Leech did not fill churches, raise money, fulfil targets. Indeed, in a wonderful meditation on the length of the Anglican lavabo cloth, he actually states baldly that ‘the ministry of the servant is not an excuse for evangelism. It is not an indirect way of preaching or filling pews’. ‘Feet,’ he writes ‘need to be washed because feet need to be washed’ and the greater length of the Anglican towel is larger only ‘to absorb the love which is both
received and given’.
While the Church needs to think about evangelism, plan and be prudent, she also needs the bedrock of confident faith in her core activities that these words assert, the hope in the Kingdom, and the love for human beings as God’s children. To focus on this would help to recover her poise.
She still needs her loiterers. In a period in which the gaps in social provision are increasingly being filled by churches and other voluntary groups, as in the huge extension of food banks, Ken’s words help us to understand what we are doing: not applying sticking plasters on social evils but embodying the revolutionary ethics of love and solidarity and justice and peace of the Kingdom.
It is not enough to run and serve the food-bank, but to protest at the need for its existence, and of a society of zero hours contracts, and one in which people can work all the hours God gives and still not have enough money to live on.
Ken commended the Victorian Christian social activist, Josephine Butler, who cared for prostituted women in Liverpool, for moving from purely rescue and pastoral care to reform, when she stood up against the indignities and double standard of the Contagious Diseases Acts, and would urge Christians to do the same in relation to the treatment of people as disposable in our society today.”