Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Rev. Ken Leech Obituary

The Rev Ken Leech  
Ken Leech in Whitechapel, east London, where he lived and worked as a ‘community theologian’. Photograph: Frank Baron for the Guardian

KEN Leech, who has died aged 76 of cancer, stood firmly in the proud tradition of radical prophetic priests in the English Catholic, rather than Roman Catholic, tradition – one that comes closest to Latin America’s liberation theology. His commitment to allying prayer with political action led him to create the Centrepoint charity for young homeless people in central London, to work tirelessly on promoting good race relations, and to become an influential writer exploring the relationship between intimacy with God and compassionate political commitment to a more just and peaceful world.
As a curate in London in the 1960s, confronted by homeless young people in Hoxton and Soho, he characteristically put his faith into action by founding Centrepoint, still Britain’s principal charity in this field. Pointedly, and with his ever-present, sardonic sense of humour, he named the charity after the Centrepoint high-rise building that had been standing empty for years on the edge of Soho while people nearby lived on the streets. He spent his nights among his homeless parishioners, many of them drug dealers and prostitutes. Unsentimentally, he studied the youth drug scene in depth and wrote expertly on how to help its victims. No better-than-thou preacher, he had to fight his own demon, alcohol.

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