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Floating church on a barge gets Bishop of Stepney’s ‘Holy Water’ blessing

PUBLISHED: 15:00 17 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:07 17 September 2018

Bishop of Stepney, The Rt Rev Adrian Newman, blesses the Elsdale II barge with Holy Water. Picture: Kristyan Rachael

Bishop of Stepney, The Rt Rev Adrian Newman, blesses the Elsdale II barge with Holy Water. Picture: Kristyan Rachael

Kristyan Rachael

Parishioners joined faith and civic leaders on a canal barge yesterday to get the Bishop of Stepney’s official blessing for their new community.

Churchgoers gather at the Lea Navigation canal to launch new church on a barge. Picture: Kristyan RachaelChurchgoers gather at the Lea Navigation canal to launch new church on a barge. Picture: Kristyan Rachael

Adrian Newman sprinkled Holy Water on the Elsdale II moored at Hackney Wick for the inauguration of St Columba East London church community.

He declared: “The foundation of the community is a clear sign that many here in east London share a vision for a church that is outward looking.”

It was one of his last major public functions before he is due to retire next month, when he met faith and community leaders who turned up for the launch, including Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier.

Bishop of Stepney meets Hackney South & Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier aboard the floating church. Picture: Kristyan RachaelBishop of Stepney meets Hackney South & Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier aboard the floating church. Picture: Kristyan Rachael

The new St Columba community is being run by the neighbouring parishes of St Paul’s Old Ford and St Mary of Eton at Hackney Wick.

It is catering for worshippers in Hackney Wick, the Fish Island end of Old Ford and in the emerging Olympic Park developments of Eastwick and Sweetwater.

Old Ford vicar James Hughesdon said: “The new community has the potential to play an enormous role, building on the 125-year presence that St Paul’s and St Mary’s have had in east London.”

Congregation packs Sunday service aboard floating chuch at Hackney Wick. Picture: Kristyan RachaelCongregation packs Sunday service aboard floating chuch at Hackney Wick. Picture: Kristyan Rachael

But the barge used to launch the community is only a stopgap until a permanent ‘floating church’ commissioned by the Diocese of London is ready next summer.

The £500,000 vessel with its accordion-style roof inspired by the bellows of a church organ, first revealed in the East London Advertiser last summer, will also be up for hire for community programmes, children’s theatre, art exhibitions, business functions and interfaith celebrations.

Olympic Park missioner Dave Pilkington who has started an outreach programme in the new developments, said: “So many changes are happening in Fish Island and Hackney Wick, so it’s important to keep the sense of community and ensure it’s open to others. St Columba will become an important fixture in the area, bringing a connection between people.”

How new permanent floating St Columba Church will look on the River Lea when it's completed in Summer of 2019. Picture source: Diocese of LondonHow new permanent floating St Columba Church will look on the River Lea when it's completed in Summer of 2019. Picture source: Diocese of London

The floating church was aimed at extending the work of the established Anglican parishes in the area to reach the new Olympic Park developments.

Hackney Wick vicar Sue Makin said: “We hope the barge that has inspired the community will be a place where everyone feels welcome aboard.”

The inauguration of Columba East London congregation marks another step towards the Diocese of London’s vision to establish 100 new worshipping communities by 2020.

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