Dreaming big for Hackney
Hackney’s diversity is well and truly part of its beauty, but also part of its challenge to gospel change. With wealth, technology and a thriving music and arts scene set against high crime rates, violence and deprivation - establishing a Christian community that meets the needs of all seems almost impossible. It’s into this cultural hub that Lead Evangelist, Stephen Plumb, and Pioneer Evangelist, Andrena Palmer, have set about to transform the area for Jesus…
“Hackney Wick has historically been the poorer end of the borough” explained Stephen as he described how Hackney’s diversity has shaped the ministry: “but in the last 15 years there has been a shift of people from the west of London. People who work in the city have bought property here so the prices have gone up and the demographic has changed. In this community, there’s people of all sorts of cultural backgrounds, races, languages, and I love that!”
“Everything we do at the moment is new,” Stephen explained. “We deliberately set-up Barney’s Café in St Barnabas Church because it’s accessible to so many; people come out of the hospital and sit over there.” Stephen points in the direction of the green – a medium-sized inner-city park lined with benches known as Homerton Grove.
“A number of rough sleepers and homeless people congregate in there so it becomes like a community gathering place. We deliberately invite people from here to the café. The atmosphere helps people relax and be themselves; one guy who comes is very quiet and you wouldn’t notice him in a room, he’s retired now but he used to work on the gardens for Hackney Council and when he starts talking about plants, nature and how to grow things, everyone listens. Normally he would never talk to groups of people.”
But Stephen also recognises the scale of Hackney is much larger than the efforts of just two people. He said: “Because Hackney is so diverse, I don’t see transformation happening through lots of different projects. Instead I want to grow missional communities that reflect people’s different backgrounds.
“One lady, Emma*, had been on the edge of church for about 18 months. Then one Sunday after I preached at St Barnabas Church she came up to me and said: “I want to become a Christian.” Since then, she has already started talking about her faith with the people she works with at a local fast-food outlet, and I’m really excited for her.”
“That is the best way for Emma to be an evangelist; to tell people about Jesus in the context she is already in - It’s more of a go-to model, rather than a come-to-us model and it’s organic. In five years’ time, I would love to see numerous small groups meeting in different places and doing mission and evangelism.”
If you would like to read the full article of Dreaming Big For Hackney read our latest edition of Catalyst, online. Here you’ll be able to read more about mission in Hackney, meet Andrena Palmer; the Centre of Mission’s new Pioneer Evangelist, as well as read other inspirational stories from our work around the UK and Ireland.
You can give now to help grow missional communities in Hackney to reach more people - donate online now.
Read more stories of transformation in other areas of our work here.