A Catholic and Anglican priest climb on top of train destined for The City

This morning (Thursday, 17th), two members of Christian Climate Action, the Christian arm of Extinction Rebellion, climbed on top of a train at Shadwell station, stopping a train which was destined for The City. The two were members of clergy – Fr Martin Newell is a 52-year-old Catholic priest from Birmingham and Rev Sue Parfitt is a 77-year-old Anglican priest from Bristol.

A third member of the group, Phil Kingston, an 83-year-old ex-parole officer, superglued himself to the side of the train. He then knelt down on the station with two other members of the group and they held a prayer vigil.

Before the action Fr Martin, stated “we are acting to raise the alarm in a spirit of repentance for our complicity in sins against God’s earth and God’s poor. Parliament has declared a climate emergency but environmental issues were virtually absent from the Queens speech. We need action not words.”

Earlier on in the week, when giving a statement on his response to the aggressive police tactics being used against Extinction Rebellion, Mayor Sadiq Khan stated that he was “particularly angry at those targeting the London Underground – which would be extremely dangerous and counterproductive”. In response to these comments, before the action, Nick Cooper, a shoe maker from Northampton who took part stated that: “we don’t want to be causing disruption. We are not disruptive people we are desperate people. For so many years we have been writing letters to our MPs, signing petitions and joining in marches to draw attention to this climate emergency at our doorsteps. We don’t know what else to do. We are so sorry to anyone whose day to day lives are affected but sadly economic disruption is the only thing which those in positions of power will listen to. This train was destined for The City, which is one of the economic powerhouses of the world”

Before he was arrested, Mr Kingston, a devout Catholic from Bristol, said “I am doing this to ring the bell about the enormously dangerous situation our children and grandchildren are in. Greta Thunberg in her UN statement said we have 8 years in which to reduce CO2 emissions to stay within the 1.5 degree limit. So emissions need to be falling rapidly today. In fact, 2017 and 2018 saw record rises in emissions. For our descendants, for the poorest peoples and Gods other-than-human creation, there is so much suffering happening – now destined to get worse without huge national and international response.”

Ruth Jarman, who was present at the action, added some rationale for targeting the DLR: “We were targeting the city – one of the economic powerhouses of the world to cause economic disruption – because that is what those in power pay attention to. We have spent a lot of time blocking roads and are not being heard. People are dying now because of the climate crisis and it threatens all we love. We are sorry for disrupting the lives of ordinary people – we are desperate and don’t know what else to do.”

The group carried out the action as part of a wider action across the rail network. Police arrived at the scene and arrested the four members of the group.

Ends –

Range of high res photos can be found through this link: https://we.tl/t-cw6KIrcIiO

All photo credits to Vladimir Morozov

3 thoughts on “A Catholic and Anglican priest climb on top of train destined for The City

  1. Nigel Thomas says:

    I hope all those who support and encourage the actions of CCA do learn from the misguided actions on the tube station last week and the reactions of the public to them. I hope the activists involved withdraw from frontline activism for a season and reflect. It might be that the adrenalin-fuelled rush to get arrested needs to be surrendered and other forms of action engaged in after contemplation. It is pretty clear that, when one looks prayerfully and considerately at the reasons for CCA’s existence, the website which states ‘Who we are’ and ‘What we do’, that these recent actions and other, less publicised actions, fall short and that the identity and intent of CCA has been brought into question and found wanting. Please allow yourselves to be reformed. Might I suggest CCA reach out to the fastest growing Christian communities – the black, Pentecostal churches. A full-on, community gospel choir might make more of an impact than a C of E bishop – a figure representative of our colonialist, expansionist, class-driven, prejudiced, consumerist, hypocritical, carbon-profligate past
    Pax et bonum


    • Martin Newell says:

      hello Nigel. You might be aware that Jesus overthrew the tables of the bankers and the traders in the Temple, clearly disrupting the everyday lives of ordinary people as they went about what they probably regarded as their most important activity in their lives. Speaking personally, I certainly did not do this in a rush of andrenalin. I’m sure you are right that it would be good for us to reach out to black churches. More that it was imperative and urgent to take more serious action to raise the alarm about the climate emergency. I don’t know who you are, but I hope to hear that you too have been willing to take the risk of following the way of the cross. This often means risking real sacrifice, and being willing to takes real risks to confront injustice and violence, to act for the truth: risks with freedom, with physical safety, and with reputation.


  2. Martin Newell says:

    I want to add to my comment just now: regarding C of E Bishops and black churches etc: You – we – have to start somewhere, And generally we start with where we are – where else? And those of us who started CCA are white (not our fault), evangelical, CofE, Catholic, etc. If you would like to help us reach out to those churches you mention, that woud be great!


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