In January 2017 the process of developing collaboration between the parishes of St Helen and St Giles in Rainham (with St Mary and St Peter at Wennington), St John and St Matthew in South Hornchurch and St Nicholas in Elm Park began.
The Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, in announcing his diocese wide strategy for mission and discipleship (Transforming Presence), wrote on the diocesan website: -
“As the Church of England in East London and Essex we have a strong presence but we are part of something infinitely bigger than ourselves and the geographical patch that we represent and are responsible for. We are members of an international movement which encourages human flourishing, works for justice and peace and displays signs of God’s activity in the world. And as such we are called to be beacons of hope and carriers of joy!”
As the strategy has developed, ministry and mission units (MMUs) have been created which encourage parishes to collaborate together, to make best use of their resources, and to be a support to each other in time of need. The four parishes that have come together in what is known in the Havering Deanery as a PIMM (Parishes in Ministry and Mission) form a geographic column stretching from the southern outskirts of Romford and Dagenham, down to the northern bank of the River Thames; all part of the Borough of Havering and totalling a population of 39,000 as calculated in the 2011 census. This has continued to expand in the intervening years, and will expand significantly as the Beam Park Development moves forward.
Historically, all four parishes enjoyed close links through a number of church and community networks and have all been affected by all the demographic and economic changes that the outer areas of Greater London have been exposed to (greater transience of population, increased presence of minorities, many from central Europe, and decreasing home ownership as properties have been bought up and rented out) in the last decade. The current clergy have begun to work together, and with their PCCs, to develop a shared approach to mission and ministry which recognises and values difference in tradition while seeking to share the different skills and abilities. This is particularly important when considering the very large increase in population in the Beam Park Development which will include 3,600 new homes and proposals for a new Church of England school for 4-11 year olds (triple entry).
The establishment of this PIMM has occurred in recent months, following a reorganisation of a wider MMU in this part of the Havering Deanery. Our new partnership is a journey of discovery where leadership, resources, teaching, vision and fellowship are shared as we seek to grow closer together across our parishes to create new and fresh opportunities of sharing the gospel together in our communities. There is a challenge here of pioneering and modelling a new approach to collaborative ministry and re-envisioning our parishes with a new mind-set that will enable us to serve one another as one church. There are many areas we will want to explore and investigate whereby we can enhance the effectiveness of our ministries, support one another as co-leaders and develop mission strategies that will see Kingdom values influence and affect our outreach and witness with increased potential. There are a variety of things under consideration that will shape what we seek to develop. These may include:
Collegial support and encouragement across our leadership teams, both clergy and lay with greater accountability for each other's welfare, wellbeing and workload.
Shared responsibility in the distribution of our Parish Share within our PIMM.
A Forum for our church wardens to meet and support one another, and spearhead initiatives in collaboration with our clergy team.
Developing joint gatherings and celebrations where appropriate. e.g. PIMM Confirmation Services, joint prayer nights, parish vision sharing days, social events.
Shared training and teaching inputs, e.g. prayer ministry, children's and youth work, supporting and equipping small groups (aka house groups/fellowship groups)
Equipping, resourcing and sharing missional opportunities
Shaping the development of the Beam Park project which will increase our mission field by potentially a further 24,000 people (approx.) and ensuring there is a spiritual input into the identity and life of this new community as it emerges.
The new appointee will have a key role as part of this leadership team in developing the direction and scope of this MMU (PIMM) venture as together we step into the new.