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Floating church launched on River Lea Navigation near east London’s Olympic Park

Posted on: September 26, 2018 11:06 AM
Architect’s concept drawing of the new St Columba’s floating church in east London.
Photo Credit: Diocese of London

The Diocese of London has launched another new church in its programme to develop 100 new worshipping communities by 2020 – this time on a floating barge in the River Lea Navigation. St Columba’s Church will eventually be housed in a new purpose-built floating barge, but last week it launched in its temporary home on board the Elsdale II. The launch coincided with the move of another London congregation – the large St Barnabas Church – from its Edwardian home in a quiet residential street in Holden Road, to a 1980s office block on the busy North Finchley High Road. The new premises will enable the Church to develop its growing ministry.

“It was a pleasure to join with colleagues and friends in celebration of the launch of St Columba,” Bishop Adrian said after blessing the floating Church with water from the canal and praying for the new venture. “While not yet in a permanent home, the foundation of the worshipping community here in East London is a clear and positive sign that many here in the Capital share a vision for a Church that is Christ-centred and outward looking.”

The River Lea Navigation is a short canal between the River Lea and the Thames – London’s main river. The new St Columba’s Church is moored in the East Bay – close to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP) and home to a thriving development of houses, retail, leisure and community spaces.

St Columba’s Church will be a community hub, run in partnership with the parishes of St Paul’s Old Ford and St Mary of Eton. It will help serve the new and existing communities of Hackney Wick, Fish Island and Here East.

“With so many changes happening in Hackney Wick and Fish Island it’s important to keep the sense of community that is here and ensure it is open to others,” Dave Pilkington, the Missioner for the QEOP, said. “After Sunday’s well-attended launch I’m convinced that St Columba will become an important fixture in the local area, bringing a deeper sense of connection between people, centred in hope and love.”

The Vicar of St Paul’s Old Ford, James Hughesdon, commented: “The new worshipping community has the potential to play an enormous role in the local area, building on the 125 year presence that St Paul’s and St Mary’s have had in East London. I’m sure I speak for everyone at St Paul’s when I say that we all look forward to seeing what the future holds for St Columba.”

Sue Makin, the Vicar of St Mary of Eton, added: “It is a delight to welcome Dave and St Columba into our Parish here at St Mary of Eton, and to celebrate with so many of the community here. We are already enjoying a rich collaborative relationship, and are excited that the community in Hackney wick has been so inspired by the Barge.

“We very much hope it will be a place where everyone feels welcome, and we’re already looking forward to the next stage with the new boat next summer. All Aboard!”

Meanwhile, in north London, more than 500 people took part in a procession in North Finchley from the Edwardian building in a quiet residential street which has been home to the Parish of St Barnabas for more than 100 years, to its new home in Solar House on the North Finchley High Road. In its new location, more than 53,000 people will pass the church’s new front door every single week.

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After an address by the Vicar, Henry Kendall, the congregation toured the new place of worship with has dedicated floors for children’s work, youth work, homeless outreach and worship space.

The building has undergone a £12 million investment that upgraded the interior. Further work will see the creation of a 500-seat auditorium.

“It was thrilling to welcome over 500 people from across North London to our new home in Solar House, and to join with them in celebration of a new era at St Barnabas,” Kendall said. “The move to Solar House will give us an even greater springboard for mission – both into our local area, across north London and around the world.”

This video from 2015 explains St Barnabas’ vision for its new premises: