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/ 19 October 2020

Genesis delivered to new home on the Olympic Park

St Columba East London, a new worshipping community led by the Revd Dave Pilkington, has a permanent home following the delivery of a bespoke floating church.

Christened Genesis after the first book of the Bible, and alluding to a narrative of creation, the boat is moored on the River Lee Navigation alongside Here East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where it will remain for three to five years before reaching other canal-side communities.

Run in partnership with the churches St Paul Old Ford and St Mary of Eton, Genesis will help serve growing communities living around the canal in East London, in Hackney Wick, Sweetwater, Eastwick and Here East.

As well as providing a venue for Christian worship, the boat will provide a place of learning and well-being, and be available for hire for, among other activities, community development programmes, children’s theatre, art exhibitions, business functions and interfaith celebrations.

The boat was developed in close collaboration with Turks Shipyard and naval architect Tony Tucker, and funded through generous contributions from The Mercers’ Charitable Foundation, The Garfield Weston Foundation, Allchurches Trust, The John and Diana Kemp-Welch Charitable Trust, The Wates Family Enterprise Trust and The Jerusalem Trust, as well as those who gave anonymously.

The Revd Dave Pilkington, who was ordained in June 2019 and served on Genesis’ predecessor, the interim vessel Elsdale II, was priested earlier last month at a socially distanced service presided over by the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Dr Joanne Grenfell.

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE, said:

“The delivery of the vessel marks the completion of an ambitious four-year project to create a unique resource that will inspire new and creative ministry in communities throughout East London. It is only the beginning for the vessel, Genesis, which starts its journey in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, will move along the canals of East London in the years to come, inspiring dynamic religious growth across this diverse and ever-changing city.

“I would like to thank all those involved in the project; from those at the Diocese who conceived of the idea, to the funders, the imaginative architects at Denizen, those at Turks Boatyard who worked so hard to perfect the vessel and of course, to those from the parishes of St Paul Old Ford and St Mary of Eton who have been working with the community to lay the groundwork for this special day.”

 The Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Dr Joanne Grenfell, said:

“I am looking forward to seeing Genesis becoming a place of hospitality and conversation, where faith is explored and discipleship is developed. Jesus spent time on boats with his disciples, exploring the deepest questions of life. It’s exciting to see such a stunningly beautiful vessel at the heart of Stepney area’s waterways and to know that it can be a floating base to host people today on their journeys of faith.”

The Revd Dave Pilkington said:

“The sight of Genesis on the banks of the River Lee Navigation is fantastic. With so many changes happening in Hackney Wick and Fish Island, we must constantly seek ways to help build community, so I am pleased to report that St Columba East is a community going from strength to strength. With Genesis now in situ we can look forward to the next phase of growth, now with a space to support our desire for action, reflection and contemplation.

“Despite the milestone of delivery being met, current circumstances require that we must take the necessary steps to manage risk and protect people by limiting access to the vessel. Nevertheless, St Columba East met for the first time aboard Genesis two weeks ago and we can all look forward to a time when we the whole community can utilise this vessel to its full extent.”

Murray Kerr, Denizen Works:

“The project showcases what we think our practice is best at: providing innovative and joyful design solutions by drawing on the skills of a close network of collaborators. As a mixed-use faith and community project, we feel the boat could be a first step in our thinking about how communities can continue to be served as they grow and move away from traditional locations and building types. Most of all, the project demonstrates what can be achieved when a brave client with an exciting brief believes in an ambitious design team.”

Thomas Sheldon, Chairman of the Church and Communities Programme, The Mercers’ Company (Corporate Trustee to the Mercers’ Charitable Foundation), said:

“We are proud to have supported this unique and ambitious project to bring an iconic hub for worship, interfaith and community activities to the heart of East London, with a grant from the Mercers’ Charitable Foundation. We look forward to seeing how Genesis inspires people to participate in community and faith activities and build new friendships.”

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