Transforming the communities of Essex & East London through Christ’s presence

With the population of Essex and East London set to grow by more than 300,000 just counting new houses already under construction or approved, four vast new housing areas will gain new church communities under plans unveiled by Chelmsford Diocese. Bids are being considered for new church schools.

The plans have been supported by a substantial investment from the Church Commissioners, the body that supports the work and mission of the Church of England. They have awarded the diocese £1,997,000 towards a project to help successful churches plant new churches in new communities. As well as being there for people at significant times in their lives, churches provide a focus for community life. They are essential for turning houses into homes and new housing areas into communities where people want to live. The diocese’s first four strategic mission priority areas are:

Barking Riverside: One of the largest areas of regeneration and new housing in Europe, with over 13,000 new homes planned. Following on from the opening of George Carey CofE primary school, our plans include a new resident pioneer ministry team and starting a new congregation for this new and growing community.

Beam Park, Havering: A large redevelopment area of approximately 10,000 people in Rainham / Havering where we plan to serve the local community through growing an urban mission community, with a particular focus on children and young people.

Beaulieu, Chelmsford: This is an extensive new suburb with a potential population of more than 10,000 being built north of Chelmsford. New ministry has already begun, working with partners on the new community centre at Beaulieu Heath. This will be managed jointly by the local parish council and church, and will include provision for those with disabilities. We are looking to support the local churches in their plans for new congregations, resident ministry, and potentially a new church school.

Colchester North and West: A project will see a wide variety of new churches and mission initiatives serving the development arc from Stanway in the west, through the former Severalls hospital site, the old rugby club to St John's and the Greenstead estate which bordersthe University of Essex. A pioneer and fresh expressions training hub will support new ways of ministering and being church in the new housing areas.

The plans include developing and growing the church community in Stratford where an evening multi-lingual church plant at All Saints Forest Gate in Newham will aim to respond to the highly diverse and fast-changing surrounding community.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, said that he is proud to be serving an expanding diocese and wants to make sure the Church continues to support new communities as much as established ones: “The Church has always been there to support people wherever they have settled. Now it is our turn to invest in new communities as well as in older settlements. “New housing areas should be neighbourhoods people choose to call home and raise a family, with churches and schools they love, sharing the good news of Christ and helping to build stable communities. “This approach focuses on developing centres of worship and service to the community through people and relationships rather than buildings.”

The first five years of developing new worshipping communities will be funded. Project teams will now meet to set goals and timescales.

Picture (courtesy of Barking Riverside Limited): Artist’s impression of how the completed Barking Riverside development will look.