TLP 14917 4The Thurrock Leaders’ Prayer gathering on Thursday 14 September was held for the very first time at the new RCCG House of Praise.

16 delegates from across Thurrock’s Christian faith community met to pray for the borough, engaging with a number of themes that emerged during their time together.

Present were pastors, vicars, ministers, evangelists and other folk in various kinds of local church leadership.

TLP 14917 5Pastor of HOP, Lanre Akinfenwa, gave a warm welcome, and afterwards treated everyone to a generous breakfast.

This recently planted church* is in the centre of Grays in the former Mecca bingo hall opposite the police station in Quarry Hill. Some older readers will remember this building as being the Ritz cinema which closed back in the 1970s, possibly.

The little brother of The State cinema in George Street, the interior of the former Ritz – which HOP are obliged to retain and maintain – is a fine example TLP 14917 3of the art deco architectural style that had its heyday in the 1920s and 30s. It has benefitted from its repurposing in the 80s.

The State of The State

Meanwhile, The State has been bought by Wetherspoons and is supposedly going to be turned into a gastro pub. While the idea of a pub just off Grays High Street may alarm some people, Wetherspoons’ success in an era of pub closures is owed in part to their intolerance of anti-social behaviour and concentration on providing safe places to eat and drink responsibly.

To make a positive spin, if this project ever becomes a reality, it is a sign of regeneration in Grays – the state of The State, which closed in 1989, has TLP 14917 2been a sign of waste and decay, lack of vision and investment, and an eyesore and constant reminder of the impoverishment and depression of a once thriving and prosperous community (the coming of Basildon New Town and then Lakeside are the likely suspects in the decline of smaller towns and villages in the region).

Of course, if The State gets refurbished, there could be opportunities for the local church… Back in 1987, Reinhard Bonnke preached there to 2000 people. In 1989, there was a week’s worth of Billy Graham meetings streamed onto the big screen (the very big screen!) via satellite, with 2000 people hearing the gospel each night. Get praying for the new thing God is doing, for fresh opportunities to reach our community!