On Thursday 5 February 2016, the Thurrock Leaders’ Prayer group met at St Catherine’s Parish Church in East Tilbury Village.
The church building has recently been refurbished and had added to it a kitchen and amenities extension fit for the 21st century. The main auditorium has had a paint and the old pews are now replaced with comfortable chairs. A carpet will follow, hopefully in time for the rededication of the building on the ebbing of Sunday 28 February.
13 people in various leadership roles in the borough’s church and related agencies met on Thursday to intercede on behalf of the small congregation who remain at St Catherine’s. The parish is large in area, including West Tilbury and the lands right up to Tilbury Power Station. Some 6000 souls live there, but the congregation is currently only about 24.
So we prayed for them, and for Linford Methodist Church at the top end of Princess Margaret Avenue; for St Francis’ in the Linford estate; and for an African fellowship which meets in the Village Hall on the Bata Estate.
That estate was originally built for workers at the former Bata shoe factory and now that the factory is closed is a community of workers who drive out of the area everyday across the level crossing and commuters who use the East Tilbury railway station. There is a huge harvest field there and in Linford and the ‘village’ – we prayed for the fellowships to work together in mission all along Princess Margaret Avenue.
Isaiah 37:31-32 says:
Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.
For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
God sees remnants not as cast-offs but as ‘kept-ins’. The quantity of a community of disciples of Jesus doesn’t necessary reflect the quality of their spiritual depth and impact. With God, East Tilbury’s Christians are in the vast majority! (Remember Gideon’s whittled-down ‘small’ army?)
This naturally led to another key topic for that part of Thurrock in particular – the ‘Option C’ route of the proposed third Thames Crossing. Chris Smith pointed through the window at the fields that gently roll down to the river’s edge and described how a four lane motorway will cross this land and disappear into a tunnel, remerging on the Kent side at Shorne and Chalk, similar rural communities. The TLP prayed into this, aware of the lives, dwellings, greenbelt and farmland that potentially will be disrupted and changed forever. Obviously, the plans effect other areas in land as well. Is this the kind of transformation we want for the borough?
East Tilbury is historically a crossing point used from pre-Roman times when the river was wider and shallower and could be forded. The Romans built a road to here as it was a strategic place. In the 650s, St Cedd – the Northumbrian missionary sent from Lindisfarne to convert the East Saxons – established a monastic community on the site, it is believed, of the current church, because it was at such an important crossing point (Cedd’s influence probably extended to the Hoo Peninsula in north Kent). In Medieval times, pilgrims to Canterbury and Europe beyond would be ferried across the now deepening river. And of course in the 1860s General Gordon of Khartoum built Coalhouse Fort as part of a string of fortifications along the Thames to protect London. Geography has informed the history, and the history has informed the spiritual atmosphere. East Tilbury is a significant spot.
The TLP also prayed for the imminent arrivals of new incumbents at All Saints, Chafford Hundred, and the villages of Orsett, Bulphan and Horndon on the Hill united as one parish. Area Dean Rev Darren Barlow is excited by these appointments and pointed out afterwards the huge strength and potential of having 21 ordained Anglican ministers in Thurrock. There is a great opportunity for fellowships, both confirmed and non-conformed, to come together and work in cross-denominational unity.
The pictures show some of the TLP in St Catherine’s new kitchen and trying out the new chairs before they got down to business with God.
Next week, the TLP are doing a first – having a 4-hour long session on a Tuesday to worship and hear from the Lord; seek God for each other; and discuss further the Ephesians 4:11 ‘5-Fold Ministries’ and possible events at Pentecost. Being Shrove Tuesday, we’ll also have a lunch of pancakes together!