East London now has a second floating church. The Rt. Rev. Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney, sprinkled holy water on the Elsdale II on Sept. 16, marking the launch of a new venture to reach new housing developments near the site of the 2012 Olympics.

“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,” Bishop Newman said in one of his last public functions before an early retirement.

The new venture will be a church for the St. Columba community and run jointly by the neighboring parishes of St. Paul’s Old Ford and St. Mary of Eton at Hackney Wick.

It will be a base for outreach to Hackney Wick, the Fish Island end of Old Ford, and the new housing developments of Eastwick and Sweetwater near the Olympic Park.

“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,” said the Rev. James Hughesdon, vicar of St. Paul’s Old Ford.

The barge used to launch the community at the weekend is a stopgap until a permanent floating church commissioned by the Diocese of London is ready next summer.

The vessel, which will cost £500,000, has an accordion-style roof believed to be inspired by the bellows of a church organ. St. Columba’s will rent it out for community events, children’s theatre, art exhibitions, business functions, and interfaith celebrations.

“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,” said Olympic Park missioner Dave Pilkington, who has started an outreach program in the new developments:

This is the second East End floating church. In 2003 Limehouse parish purchased and refitted a Dutch freight barge now permanently moored at Canary Wharf in West India Quay.

The inauguration of St. Columba East London marks another step toward the Diocese of London’s vision to establish 100 new worshiping communities by 2020.

John Martin

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