E1 Community Church, East London

In the Spring 2011 newsletter Phil Warburton introduced the E1 Community Church:

Where are you based?

We are in London’s East End. E1 Community Church is defined by the local post code, which covers the south west of the Borough of Tower Hamlets.

How and why did you begin?

We began church life as an Urban Expression church planting team. Our concern was to plant an expression of church relevant to the local area. We began as a small team on a steep learning curve. Some years later E1CC grew from a merger of three UE church plants.

We remain a small church that struggles in many ways with the seeming chaos of life and messiness of church but there is also a lot of joy along the way and much hope for the future.

What are your main values and priorities?

We have five key distinctives. We are a Jesus-centred church. Worshipping and following Jesus together in our daily lives is key.

We are a church at the edge, seeking to be a church of people who have too little rather than have too much and of those who often feel marginalized by society and sometimes by the church.

We are a local church made up of people who live in the local neighbourhood. Our worship, discipleship and decision-making aim to be relevant to the area in which we live.

We are a multi-voiced church. Our worship, preaching and decision-making again aim to be multi-voiced in order to discover together what God might be saying to us.

We are a church fighting for peace among ourselves and in E1, London and further afield.

What are your main activities?

We enjoy weekly worship gatherings. We work hard to create space for multi-voiced worship. You will rarely hear a sermon but I hope plenty of what God is saying. Once a month we have celebrations which are all-age, messy church, café-style, with a meal to finish!!

We are running a winter homeless night shelter in partnership with 12 other churches in Tower Hamlets. We are also partners in Foodbank. We are dipping our toes into TELCO, which is part of London Citizens. We also own a monthly community project called Helping Hands, often involving, prayer, simple gardening and house maintenance.

We partner with a small local charity called the Geoff Ashcroft Community that was born out of the vision of one of our founding churches. This is about being a safe place for isolated people to find community. It’s a place for people of all faiths and none. It celebrates how faith can be part of our road to wellbeing and recovery.

We have a church partnership scheme, which asks for a higher level of commitment to the church community. This includes having a mentor and agreeing to work through conflicts that may arise.

In what ways do you draw on the Anabaptist tradition?

I hope you will see the Anabaptist tradition writ large in our five distinctives and in some of our activities.

Recently we have found a new way to live the tradition. I have often been asked by members of the church if we can give them money, food or furniture. Previously the church leaders have decided the church can help and sorted it. We now believe that gave the leaders of the church too much power in the process and divorced the whole act of giving from our worship.

So as a church we have chosen a few members to become a ‘Meeting Need Group’ (a rubbish name but does what is says on the tin!). They bring any requests for assistance to one of our worship meetings explaining what is needed and how much, but keeping the beneficiary’s name confidential. We pray, thanking God for his provision and asking him to provide. In our context we used not to take up offerings in our worship meetings – until now, when we make these specific requests. We do not pass a tin around because we expect the money to make its way to the tin. It’s early days and the whole thing scares me – but it seems good to us.

What are your hopes for the ANC?

I would like to see how we can challenge each other to find ways of making our values flesh in the Christian communities and neighbourhoods in which we live and work. What does a local Anabaptist congregation/community look like? Looking to North America may help a little, but they may need our help on this one as much as we need theirs.

A new and exciting initiative that members of the ANC may be able to help us with is ‘Mission House E123’. A group of four small churches in Tower Hamlets with a track record of working together are hoping to secure some investment (only £100,000 – so far) to buy two houses to plant small missionary communities in order to engage in local mission with existing churches.

We are looking for individuals or churches to release capital to this project over the coming 12 months. We are also looking for people to
come and live in these houses and work at what community life and mission looks like in Tower Hamlets when we seriously engage with the Anabaptist tradition. Anyone interested?