Inner City Planting
What does church planting look like on an inner-city housing estate in England’s capital? Sam Gibb introduces us to Hope Church Vauxhall, a partnership between FIEC, London City Mission and the Co:Mission family of churches.
The Hope Church Vauxhall journey began with a conversation in a coffee shop.
My wife and I had left Bible College in 2017, buzzing with excitement and expectation. God had given us a passion to see the gospel transform and unite divided urban communities around Jesus, through the local church. So, with this vision engrained in our hearts and minds, we were heading back into Central London where I would begin leading a planned church plant.
However, within a few weeks the project had fallen through. So, broken and confused, I walked into Café Nero to meet with Jonty Allcock, my former pastor at The Globe Church, ready to have a bit of a moan and seek his advice.
But another story was unfolding in Vauxhall, one that began more than 50 years ago when London City Mission (LCM) established a ministry to the Vauxhall Gardens Estate. Since then, faithful missionaries have been reaching out to local residents with the same desire - to see the least-reached in Vauxhall hear the good news about Jesus.
That work led to a church plant being set up five years ago. However, the work struggled, and it came to an end in summer 2017. It was at this point that Jonty and The Globe Church were approached to help to fulfil this vision for a Vauxhall plant.
God’s timing is (as always) perfect and my coffee shop catch up with Jonty ended with cautious(ish) excitement about the possibility of leading a church plant in the Vauxhall Gardens Estate.
The next few months flew by. In January 2018 I was appointed by The Globe Church to lead the plant, and by March we had moved into the area.
Gathering a team
Over the following months we began to get a team together. Kevin Croft, the LCM Team Leader in Vauxhall, his wife Rebecca and his two children began the motley crew, along with the other LCM missionaries. Before long we were joined by others who had a heart for Vauxhall and who lived locally or were willing to move to be part of the plant.
Our little team of twenty adults and four children spent the summer throwing ourselves into the local area, eating food, watching football and just hanging out. As we opened the Bible together, we began to put flesh on the bones of the planting plan: God grew our heart for the lost in Vauxhall and together we began to shape what a ‘Vauxhall’ expression of local church could look like.
I originally wanted to call our church ‘Sanctuary’, but Kevin (thankfully) refused. He knew the name had to be straightforward and clear (and not sound like a Hipster Coffee shop). And so, on 2 September 2018, Hope Church Vauxhall met for our first church gathering – there were just over forty of us.
Since then, by God’s grace, our family has steadily grown. We have seen some people come to know Jesus, but others walk away. We have seen local Christians without a church find a home with Hope, and we are joined every week by many who don’t yet know Jesus but feel welcome here.
Our family is now made up of (to name a few) Brits, Americans, South Africans, Nigerians, Ugandans, Zambians, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, a scattering of Welsh and a growing group of Eritreans. Our family crosses classes, and races and cultures because the gospel crosses classes, races and cultures.
Together we are bringing Jesus, the message of Hope, in the heart of Vauxhall.
What does it look like?
To the community, it should look familiar. The red, white, blue and yellow of our logo are unashamedly nicked from the local fried chicken shops (if you’ve never been to a Tennessee Chicken or Chicken World then you haven’t lived).
On Sundays, we do properly church stuff in a properly Vauxhall way. We’ve studied the beatitudes with the help of ‘the Hamburger of Happiness’ (don’t ask) and our weekly ‘liturgy’ involves learning awesome things about God in a slot we call Lyrical Theology, where we rap along with Shai Linne.
But it also looks different. Very different.
A week before Easter and not even eight months since our first Sunday, one of the couples at the heart of our church family died in an incident while on holiday. Toby and Milly Savill were loved in the community, and our neighbours knew what they meant to us.
And this is where we have shown that we are like, and yet unlike, the people around us.
Though we have mourned, our mourning has been different. We have not stopped preaching Christ crucified. As we’ve walked with friends, we have held out the hope of the resurrection. We continue to weep and yet are able to proclaim that we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13).
In the face of yet another unexpected providence, we continue to pray that more and more people in Vauxhall be able to say the same.
That is Hope Church Vauxhall.