The Diocese of London, which covers a large part of Britain’s capital city, has reached the half-way mark in its ambitious plan to open 100 new worshipping communities. Capital Vision 2020 was launched at St Paul’s Cathedral in June 2013. The new worshipping communities are a mixture of new churches – St Francis in the Engine Room became the first new church opened in London in 40 years when it was dedicated in November 2017 – and new congregations in existing churches. At the end of April the Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, and the Bishop of Islington, Ric Thorpe, launched the 50th community – French Connect – to serve hundreds of thousands of French speakers living in west London. French Connect is based at St Barnabas’ Church in Kensington.
Bishop Ric’s role includes a focus on supporting and encouraging church plants. “Five years ago, we set a goal to create 100 new worshipping communities by 2020,” he told the congregation. “You are the 50th. You are part of something that is growing in London.
“We are seeing new services for new people starting across the capital, from the reopening of closed churches to the creation of new churches on estates or in schools and cafes. Wherever people are gathering, we want to provide a space where they can come and find out about faith in Christ. I’d love to encourage you to keep growing, reaching more and more French people with the good news of Jesus.”
Bishop Graham addressed the congregation in French, telling them: “I hope that many French-speaking people will come here and discover friendship, faith and joy. The simplest way to share your faith with your friends is by simply asking the question: ‘Would you like to come to church with me?’”
Until recently there were only three French-speaking churches in central London to serve what is believed to be up to 500,000 French-speaking people – roughly the equivalent of the population of Bordeaux. The new French Connect community joins them as does another recent initiative by Christ Church, another church in Kensington.
French Connect will be led by husband-and-wife Parisians Jean-Luc and Ginie Sergent , Jean-Luc is the curate of St Barnabas. It will be supported by the parish’s vicar, Andy Buckler, who previously spent 17 years as a pastor and mission partner in France with his family.
The opening of French Connect comes as encouraging news emerges from another recent Anglican church plant: KXC, or Kings Cross Church. Since it opened in 2010, near one of London’s main railway station serving passengers heading to north-east UK and across the Continent through the Channel Tunnel, the congregation at KXC has grown from 40 to 500. The average age of its worshippers is 28.