As part of the October Rebellion, Christian Climate Action coordinated one of several protest sites in London – the Faith Bridge. This was planned as an occupation of Lambeth Bridge, creating a multi-faith oasis of peace, prayer and worship over the Thames, together with XR Muslims, XR Jews and XR Buddhists.
Like all the protest sites, the bridge would include a small village of tents providing food, information, first aid, etc. Prayer flags were made by churches around the country and brought to decorate the space. A garden would be created with donated plants. And as a centrepiece, an ark!
“The call went out for a carpenter who could make an Ark” says Barbara Keal, “and I volunteered my husband Rich. For the two and a half weeks before the rebellion he worked long days designing and building a beautiful ark with the young people at the school where he teaches woodwork. His workshop is in the woods, a converted stable. The Ark was built from old pallets, under a large tarpaulin stretched between trees. It was too large to travel in one piece, so the last days were spent carefully taking it apart again into pieces. The dovecote for the top and the window boxes were taken down, the house was flat packed. Only the prow and stern were two large solid pieces, and the van was densely packed for the journey.”
The delivery did not go to plan on the morning of the occupation. As other sites had discovered, the Police were alert to deliveries of infrastructure, and they intercepted the van close to Lambeth Bridge. The van was unloaded, and then re-loaded by the police in order to confiscate the ark. “Rich texted to say the Ark was gone and our sons and I were sad that it would never be seen” says Barbara.
However, in their hurry, the police couldn’t fit it all back in, leaving the prow and the stern behind. Activists picked them up, the heaviest parts of the ark, and lugged them for almost a mile onto the bridge. They arrived at a perfect moment.
“I stood and watched the police removing sections of the ark,” said Gaynor Jenkins. “It was so sad. Seeing it reappear, at least in part, was inspiring. Of course the ark was spiritually symbolic. It was also very heavy for those who uncomplainingly carried it! Most importantly for me, it was a visual rallying point for us faith folk as we merged into a massive number of rebels on the North end of the bridge, with the police crushing us from behind. I felt like we had lost our identity as a faith group, and I admit I was terrified. But as I watched brave rebels sitting in the ark and surrounding it I smiled in the middle of my fear – a moment of God given clarity.”
Barbara was also delighted to see the Ark survive, in part. “We saw the prow and stern coming down the street towards us at the north end of Lambeth bridge – it was like a tiny resurrection! The Ark was having a life after all.”
When the police stopped the last pieces of the ark, activists sat in it until they were arrested. “We are XR and we are the Ark” said one. “I was arrested because of the ark” said another member of Christian Climate Action. “It was a huge symbol for me of faith, witness, life and death.”