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When Jesus Came to Town in Barking 


Barking and Dagenham churches have truly joined together in mission in recent years. Liz Mednick reports on what's happened, and how it came about  

Jesus in TownPete Grieg recently said that he felt revival has begun in the UK. One of the key signs he sees pointing to this is the extraordinary increase in Christian unity – something my husband Michael and I have been privileged to experience.

Several years ago, Michael received a clear vision from God for the churches in the borough of Barking and Dagenham to join together in mission. This started in a prayer strategy and developed into practical action as we began to take on the provision of some services in the local community. It is a story of prayer followed by faith and following God’s leading as He made opportunities available to the members of the assorted churches involved.

Barking Churches Unite (BCU), the movement that came into being, saw God open windows of opportunity in some amazing ways for us to build relationships with people in the council and in the local shopping centre. As a result, we were given a whole shop unit in the town centre from which to operate, which was called The Source, and from which we would eventually find ourselves serving around 1,100 lunches a month to homeless and needy people in the local area.

The Source has also been a place where other ministries have started, such as an art-based therapy course, and bereavement counselling. It has become something of a ‘one-stop’ centre for general advice and referrals to civic agencies in the town, as well as a place where members of the public can receive a listening ear, a cup of tea, further direction and prayer.

Working together, BCU also opened a night shelter, which for the first two years ran for the winter season only, operating out of different church halls on different nights. However, this now runs all year round, and has become an essential service, sheltering 15 people at a time. We were eventually able to employ a case worker who can help get these people into permanent accommodation, so that their spaces are made free for new guests.

Other outreach ministries which we have been able to establish, such as a Saturday ‘Kidzklub’ in a housing estate, a business chaplaincy for the employees of the aforementioned shopping centre, and a Saturday music academy offering cheap instrumental lessons, have all served to impact the borough for good, and for God.   

As already noted, a strong foundation of prayer has been the basis of everything that has happened, and the first two years of BCU’s existence were solely given to establishing prayer bases of different types and waiting for God to guide us, including street prayer walks, united prayer times and smaller intercession groups. From these prayer events, and through many different individuals, prophetic words and pictures from God have been received and given us direction.

Of course, working together with so many churches of different types is not always plain sailing, and we have faced assorted challenges and practical difficulties in establishing some of the ministries. For my husband, as the leader of BCU, understanding the importance of different styles of communication has been essential for the very different types of churches involved to keep working harmoniously together through the (sometimes humorous!) challenges and dilemmas. Keeping focused on the scriptural priority given to unity and how God looks at the poor has helped bind us all together.

Among the reasons church leaders have sometimes been reluctant to work together are their large workloads and time pressures, which can discourage them from taking on any further commitments, and the expectations they are subject to, sometimes from denominational structures, to maintain certain levels of numerical attendance. There can also be the fear that their church members may be distracted from the work of the church by wider ministries of the united churches. For these reasons, it is advisable that anyone wishing to establish a body of united churches should not be an official church leader, meaning they will not be under these specific pressures and will be able to support those who are.  

In the book Jesus in Town, we have sought to bring together all the experience and insights gained by the Barking and Dagenham churches, sharing the journey and providing resources that can help others work together with different churches where they are.

In everything, we give thanks and honour to God because none of the work could have been done without His incredible acts of mercy and kindness.    

Liz Mednick is the author of Jesus in Town: How local churches partnered to bring Jesus to their community, published by Instant Apostle (978-1-912726-02-8, RRP £8.99), available from Christian bookshops and online



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Baptist Times, 12/06/2019
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