After many years of working in the area, Greenwich United Church (United Reformed and Methodist) has started a fresh expression of church on the Greenwich Peninsula. SACRED explores the sacred in body, mind, heart and spirit. Revd Martyn Coe explains more.
This area is experiencing rapid change and will continue to do so in the run-up to the Olympics in two years' time. There's no doubt that London 2012 will have a major impact on the lives of those who live and work here, and all of the churches are beginning to look at how we might respond to those challenges. SACRED is part of that thinking, though our concern is very much for the here and now as well as what is to come. We want to be seen to be available to those around us and be part of the community today. That has to be better than trying to play catch-up with an expected influx of 20,000 people to the Peninsula over the next decade or so.
We meet in Millennium Primary School on Wednesday nights for about an hour-and-a-half and have a four weekly pattern encompassing worship, reflection, thinking creativity and symbolic action. We look at Heart – looking inside ourselves; Body – worship reflecting on the whole body of Christ throughout the world; Spirit – communion influenced by the Iona Community and Head – using a DVD study course to explore faith.
We believe this monthly cycle gives us a consistency of presence and the chance to expand our horizons and get to know one another. Things are set to change again soon because, despite the economic slowdown, building work is continuing and a new multi-faith centre will go up quite close to the O2 Arena over the next couple of months.
There is undoubtedly pressure on developers to keep to that deadline – otherwise it will still be 3,000 parking spaces by 2012. That wouldn’t look too good with the world's cameras trained on London!
During Lent we are working alongside an Anglican church which meets in the same school on Sundays and we use the Living Questions DVD to explore faith issues. For our theology and ecclesiology, the course works very well as it comes from our more radical liberal background.
We are looking to welcome to people when they move into the area, a sort of drop-in facility. As part of that we are in talks with the local authority and the Scout District about starting Beavers and Cubs to meet immediately before SACRED.
One of our challenges as a fresh expression of church is for us to become sustainable in funds and resources over a period. At the moment, SACRED is part funded by the southern synod of The United Reformed Church and I work alongside Deacon Jane Rice, and Alison Adam who used to be with the Wild Goose community.
Models of church and ways of reaching people have changed dramatically in recent times. In this area, for instance, it's very concierge-driven in that you can't easily do leafleting any more because you can no longer just walk into buildings and put a leaflet through someone's letterbox.
We also need to be aware that in many of these new developments what looks like public space may not be public space at all. I may think I'm on public property because it's an open, green area but I could be asked to leave it because I am actually on private land.
It is helpful that I am part of a multi-faith chaplaincy in the area. We visit businesses and developments, and my 'patch' includes ASDA and a number of restaurants in the O2 Arena. I also have a Health and Safety certificate so I can legally go onto building sites to speak to people.
I'm not sure if we will move SACRED down to the multi-faith centre when it opens. It will be handy to the O2 but not close to where people live. It's more in the commercial district.
We are talking about offering daily prayer there in the middle of the day. Everyone involved is hoping that it will work together but we have been very, very clear that what we are doing is a multi faith activity rather than an inter faith activity. We are people of faith working alongside each other for the common good.