ADDRESSING the crowd gathered to celebrate the opening of St Francis at the Engine Room in Tottenham, the first new purpose-built Anglican church in London in 40 years, the borough’s MP, David Lammy, sought to issue a correction: “Somebody in No. 10 once said ‘we do not do God’. I have always been clear: here in Tottenham we do God; and I certainly do God. Amen!”
Speaking beneath an enormous reredos, The Eternal Engine, Mr Lammy described the church as “a phoenix that is rising from the flames”. Although the seeds of the church were planted ten years ago, planning had gathered momentum after the riots of 2011 (News, 3 August, 2012, Features, 3 August, 2012), at a time when it had been “very hard to envisage beauty, cohesion”.
The launch was a “very, very special moment”, he said.
Adjoining the church, which is in Hale Village, is the Engine Room community centre, which includes facilities including a café, nursery for 36 children, and learning workshop. Up to 500 people use it every week.
A congregation has been meeting here since 2013, and community workers from London City Mission have been building relationships with local residents, businesses, and groups (News, 5 August, 2016). Mr Lammy paid tribute to the chairman of Hale Village and founder of Lee Valley Estates, Michael Polledri, and his family, “for insisting that they are not just building houses, but they are building community as well”.
He also praised the artist who created the reredos, Graeme Evelyn, who explained how members of the congregation had painted some of the centre-piece. The Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt Revd Rob Wickham, suggested that the artwork represented “God’s love affair with Tottenham”. The church was evidence, he said, that the diocese “seeks to change the way we do things”, and the diocese’s aim to establish 100 new worshipping communities by 2020 was a sign that it was “seeking to be more confident in speaking and living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“There is no retreat from this place on the frontline of reminding people that they are loved by God.”
Before cutting the ribbon outside the church, he explained: “Right at the heart of today is a desire for one thing, and that is for Tottenham Hale to flourish and for the people of Tottenham to really thrive.”
There were cheers from the congregation for the Priest Missioner, the Revd Andrew William, who said that he had “never worked in a place where so many different people and groups are so determined to improve the quality of life for all local residents”; and for the London City Mission community worker, Andrew Kwapong, who said that the success of the church was “because of the strength of its partnerships.
“This place has been about connecting the community with new communities, helping us all grow together,” he said. It had also entailed asking “What does faith mean within this new context and how can we express our faith in new ways?”
Music was provided by the Steels Pans band of Holy Trinity, Tottenham C of E Primary School, who had the congregation standing on its feet and whooping after their performance of “Amazing Grace” and Calvin Harris’s “This is what you came for”.