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/ 17 June 2019

Project Update – St Columba and the floating church initiative

Ahead of the delivery of its purpose built vessel later this year, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP) Missioner Dave Pilkington has written the first in a series of updates on the progress of the floating church initiative and the flourishing of St Columba as a worshipping community:

“Here at St Columba we’re feeling happy the sun has started to shine and so excited that the new boat will be arriving soon. It can be pretty nippy on a boat during winter when the heater stops working (yes, it’s not just a problem in old churches!).

There is something unique about a barge as a place of worship; the intrigue of worshipping on a structure that moves with the water.  To thrive in communities, churches need to be innovative and unique in how they approach worship and outreach, and we at St Columba are now seeing the fruits of our labour. Like all Londoners, despite the changeable weather, we have carried on with the job in hand, offering opportunities for the local community to explore spirituality and getting to know more and more people locally.  Our vision has been to establish St Columba as a place where men, women and children across the communities of Hackney Wick and Fish Island on the East side of the Olympic Park can come together in an open-minded, welcoming environment and be introduced to Jesus.  We’ve done this by attending community meetings to find out how we can best serve them and building relationships that allow conversations about spirituality to flourish.

I’m pleased to say that with these relationships now becoming more established, St Columba is busier than ever. Our Thursday gathering follows a spiritual programme based on the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and how we apply this to our lives regardless of whether we have any visible addictions. It has been incredibly encouraging to see this gather momentum and see people new to church, totally unchurched and uninterested in church attend and find space to discuss deep issues.

We also see success in our regular football game for locals on a Monday evening, made possible thanks to the support of one of the local schools.  Following an exhausting two matches a few of us made our way down to the local pub where, returning from the bar, I found a guy who attends our Thursday night gathering.  He was explaining to some of the other guys how he has been an ardent atheist all his life but recent events have caused him to question that. Through attending St Columba he has started to revaluate how he viewed Christianity and was encouraged by the open conversations he had been involved in and had even started to pray.  It is things like this that make me proud to do what I do, and excited to see what the future will bring for St Columba.

It’s clear to me that the vision of the Parishes of St Paul old Ford and St Mary of Eton to plant a new worshiping community in the Olympic Park has started to flourish. It has been an exciting journey and one that has demonstrated the importance of working together. Two parishes of differing traditions partnering closely with the London Diocese to create a space to explore what Church might look like in this new community has produced wonderful opportunities to speak of God’s love and care for the people of this area.”

Dave Pilkington
QEOP Missioner

To find out more about the floating church initiative click here.


Dave Pilkington from St Paul Old Ford, leads the joint missional work with St Mary of Eton.

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The diocesan communications team provides support to the network of clergy, churches, parishes and other worshipping communities that comprises the Diocese of London, as well as to the staff teams of the London Diocesan Fund.

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