St Francis at the Engine Room is the first purpose-built Anglican church to open in London for 40 years.
The church is on the ground floor of a block of flats, part of a vast new housing and regeneration development at Tottenham Hale, and is the result of a brilliant move by the Diocese of London. They suggested to the developers that the statutory element of community benefit that has to be provided should in this instance be a much-needed community church.
Newlon Housing Trust, London City Mission and the London Borough of Haringey were also involved with the local community in bringing the Engine Room to life and 500 people a week are already making good use of it.
“As the nature of London changes, especially in areas of significant regeneration, we’re asking ourselves what are the most appropriate places for us to be in order for people and congregations to flourish.” The Rt Revd Rob Wickham, Bishop of Edmonton.
The Engine Room provides a community centre, a nursery, workshop space and café as well as a place of worship. It cost less than £3m, funded by the Diocese of London, the developers of Hale Village and donations, including £30,000 from Allchurches Trust.
“The response of the local people has been incredible as we have sought to foster relationships and build trust. In over 20 years as a priest I have 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.” Fr Andrew Williams, Priest Missioner at St Francis at the Engine Room
The reredos, or altar screen, at St Francis is the largest contemporary altarpiece in the UK and was commissioned from internationally renowned artist Graeme Mortimer Evelyn who spent a year living and working in Hale Village to create it. It was unveiled at the Grand Opening by David Lammy MP with leaders and members of the Tottenham Hale community.
“Someone at No 10 [Downing St] once said: ‘We don’t do God.’ I’ve always been very clear that here in Tottenham we do do God….Strong faith is a tradition in Tottenham, and for many people faith supports them through tough times. But this is not just about turning up on a Sunday – the church also fights for social justice, speaks truth to power and supports communities.” David Lammy MP at the opening ceremony.
The idea of a new church originated during the riots of 2011, which started after police shot dead a Tottenham man, Mark Duggan.
“This is not a church with community facilities attached. This is a community centre first, and one of the things we will do is church. There’s a subtle difference.” Andrew Williams, priest missioner at St Francis