Christian Aid Legends: The Squatter

Ruth McCurry has taught French in East London, translated in the Soviet Union, and spent time with women on the streets of Guatemala City. She’s a legend.

I met Ruth at a café in Waterloo Station, where we talked about politics, publishing, the church, and midnight tiramisu-making. We talked about her grandchildren and how East London has changed over the years. She told me the story of how she got into publishing and how she mentors people who are deciding whether or not to train as a vicar – something she’s got a bit of insight into. 

As a self-proclaimed evangelical in her 20s, Ruth told me it was quite a shock when she married an Anglo-Catholic priest. She really appreciated how it helped her to think about faith in a different way – she mentioned Bonhoeffer, Tillich, and Weil as influential authors in her life; philosophers and activists who thought about church, community and the world in ways that were new to her.

Ruth told me about how she travelled to the Soviet Union – think: pre-fall-of-the-Berlin Wall – and did some translating for the group (which included former BBC presenter Rosemary Hartill), and about how she went to Guatemala to see some of Christian Aid’s work, then came back and shared her experience in primary school assemblies.

Ruth casually mentions these globe-trotting experiences, making me wonder if she has any comprehension of how inspiring she is.

Then she mentions how when she first moved to East London, she met a lot of women who attended churches that believed that divorce was wrong. This meant that women who were in abusive relationships didn’t feel like they could leave – and even if they did, they’d have nowhere to go.

‘So…’ Ruth tells me, ‘…we got together with some feminist lesbian activists and squatted in an 8-bedroom building that was abandoned, and we got it!’

They got the building (which to this day is still a part of Women’s Aid Refuge).

They got it. Ruth and the lesbian feminists – they got it. They got that when there’s a need, there’s no excuse to work in isolation. It’s people like this that make Christian Aid who we are.

When there are people suffering, we reach out and collaborate to right wrongs. We share our stories and step into others’.

Now that is legendary.