TTT HOP 1by Tim Harrold

Vera and I received a warm welcome at the Redeemed Christian Church of God’s House of Praise (HOP), located in the former nightclub in the basement of the Queensgate Centre in Orsett Road, Grays, on the morning of Saturday 9 August.

Around 20 of HOP’s congregation are currently undergoing leadership training on Saturday mornings. I was invited along to talk on the subject of The Gospel In Thurrock – History and Present.

The presentation was divided into two parts: the first part was an overview of the spiritual history of the borough; and the second part was an adaption of the TT Tour content covering the borough in the present. The sessions concluded with the interactive exercise that we’ve done in most of the churches that the TT Tour has visited (see right) and a time for questions, which developed into a deep discussion of a number of issues concerning methods of outreach and current culture.

The resulting sheet of ideas that came from conversations and prophetic words can be seen below. I told them that this was a memorial not to the past, but a memorial born in the present to remember the future by. (Habakkuk 2:2.)

Here is a brief outline of the ‘History’ section of the presentation. It is an overview rather an indepth analysis of Thurrock’s spiritual history, outlining moverments of the gospel and evangelistic events that have swept through the borough.


  • The beacon at Purfleet erected in 1988 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Spanish Armada
  • Thurrock’s Coat of Arms tell the story of the borouhg and includes a Celtic cross
  • In 1588, Queen Elizabeth I visited Tilbury to rally troops ready to repel the expected invasion
  • The Armada never arrived owing to a huge storm out at sea – “God blew his winds and the enemy was scattered”
  • On the post it says, “Fire over England”
    • (The Coat of Arms has been changed since this photo was taken)

Neolithic / Pre-Roman Thurrock

  • A ritual worship landscape
  • Causewayed enclosures and other archeological findings in the area east of Chadwell to Mucking show a relgious centre as significant as Canterbury Cathedral is now and as important a settlement to the region as London is
  • Travellers from Europe would have seen temple and dwellings’ fires on hills above Thames as they entered from the east
  • Thurrock is therefore a significant place owing to its geography, which informs its history, which informs its spirituality

Celtic Thurrock

  • St Cedd led Celtic Christian mission to the East Saxons
  • Sent from Lindisfarne (Holy Island) off Northumbria
  • Arrived at Bradwell, Essex, in 653
  • Planted monastic community at what is now East Tilbury (also a Thames crossing point)
  • Influence felt along Thames Gateway region

Danelaw Thurrock

  • Viking invasions in 800s drove Saxons westwards
  • Alfred the Great made treaty with Guthrun who converted
  • River Lea tmade he southern border (up to Chester) between Wessex and The Danelaw
  • Alfred established Common Law based on Bible
  • Vikings find Jesus

Pilgrimage Thurrock

  • Many of the borough’s Anglican churches built by Normans (1100s-ish)
  • Pilgrims Way connects Thurrock with Brentwood where there was a shrine to Thomas a Becket
  • Pilgrims going to and from Canterbury, Walsingham, Europe crossed Thames here
  • Churches where pilgrims stopped:
  • Corringham (St Mary’s)
  • East Tilbury (St Catherine’s)
  • Little Thurrock (St Mary the Virgin)
  • Grays (SS Peter & Paul)
  • West Thurrock (St Clement’s)

Loollard Thurrock

  • John Ball (St Albans / Colchester) was a radical preacher who confronted feudal system and church institution
  • Connected to Lollards who used Wycliffe’s English translation of the Bible
  • The word ‘Lollard’ may mean ‘to mumble’ with implication that they spoke in tongues
  • Lollards persecuted by established church
  • Egalitarian message based on Genesis: “When Adam dug and Eve span, Who then was the gentleman?”
  • Greatly influenced Thomas Baker of Fobbing
  • 30 May 1381: Fobbing refused to pay poll taxes
  • With Corringham and Stanford-le-Hope joined Peasants’ Revolt
  • (See Melvyn Bragg’s Radical Lives documentary about John Ball on BBC iPlayer – Fobbing is mentioned)

Wesleyan Thurrock

  • John Wesley preached in Thurrock
  • Purfleet on 20 January 1785 – “… and on Thursday 20th, peached to a lovely congregation at Purfleet…” (from Selections from the Journal of John Wesley ed. Hugh Martin, SCM Press 1955)
  • Purfleet on 5 December 1787 – Matthew 8:2, “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.”
  • Rainham on 6 December 1787 – Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”

Peculiar Thurrock

  • The Peculiar People were a Christian stream that emerged in Rochford, Essex in the latter half of the 19th century
  • Their radical preaching and belief in healing in the name of Jesus drew persecution and controversy
  • The movement was mainly found in South Essex, East London and North Kent
  • In Thurrock there were three Peculiar chapels:
    • Corringham – now Corringham Evangelical Church
    • Stanford-le-Hope – Victoria Road Chapel (now Fresh Hope Community, part of St Margaret’s)
    • Grays – later this became Salisbury Road Baptist Church and is now Grace Church
  • Divisions appeared between Peculiars who believed in divine healing which resulted in a few deaths and Peculiars who came to believe that God also worked through doctors
  • The Peculiar People later merged in to the Pentecostal movement or became the Evangelical church
    • (Corringham Evangelical Church are holding a Peculiar-style service as part of their 100-year anniversary celebrations in Octover 2014)

Pentecostal Thurrock

  • The Assemblies of God (AOG) were the main denomination to plant churches in Thurrock
  • The AOG planted five churches in the borough (in Aveley, Stanford-le-Hope, Corirngham and two in Grays)
  • Elim planted one (in Tilbury)
  • Grays Pentecostal Church (GPC) began in the 1920s as a corrugated iron shed at the back of Salmons’ shop in Clarence Road, Grays
  • Smith Wigglesworth preached at GPC’s building in Bridge Road in the 1930s

TTT HOP sheetEvangelism and Mission in Thurrock

  • Reinhard Bonnke of Christ For All Nations, The State, Grays, May 1987
  • Billy Graham and Mission England, relayed by satellite to The State, Grays, July 1989
  • JIM Challenge – outreach by the AOG and Elim churches in 1994
  • Cellchurch – emerged in the late 90s and taken up by a few churches in Thurrock
  • 24-7 Prayer with a misisonal thrust arrived in the borough in February 2002 – some 35 weeks of continuous cross-denominational prayer took place over the next 5 years with many churches participating
  • Thurrock’s Boiler Room in Stanford-le-Hope was founded in2007 as a community buily on prayer, mission, justice, hospitality and creativity (there’s now another in Corringham)
  • Mission Shaped Communities, where church is embedded in the community, emerged in 2010
  • Schools and youth work 1985-present:
    • Rendezvous – inter-church, held in various locations
    • x*plode – held at GPC 1997-2000
    • PURE – inter-church, held in various locations 2004-2008
    • UNITE 30/31 – inter-church, held in various locations 2011-13
    • WAY 4WD – school-based discipleship hubs 2011-present (formed out of LZ7 event below)
    • GSUS Live – an inter-church outreach to schools using lorry trailer with computerised classroom showing interactive presentation 2002, 2005, 2008, 2012 (pencilled in for Autumn 2016)
    • Bar’N’Bus – a bus with a coffee bar for youth on the borough’s streets started in 2005, with inter-church teams at Blackshots, Chafford Hundred, Corrigham Town Centre and Grays Beach
    • Rock Thurrock with Will Graham and bands – three evangelistic events at the Civic Hall, Grays, September 2011
    • GSUS Live After Party with LZ7 – one-off evangelistic event at the Civic Hall, Grays, September 2012
  • Misison Britian and Newforms Resources provided training in making disciples in 2013
  • My Hope UK: The Cross DVD with Billy Graham – November 2014 onwards

Transformation Thurrock

  • Website launched in 2008
  • Transformation Thurrock Tour takes presentation to 17 churches of all kinds – February to August 2014

Other threads of spiritual history not included here are:

  • The Reformation’s effects in Thurrock
  • The effect on the borough of the Great Awakening of the late 19th Century (evangelists DL Moody, Sankey etc.)
  • The Roman Catholic mission across Thurrock
  • Grays dubbed the ‘Holy City’ c. 1890-1910 (owing to so many churches there and businesses run by Christians)
  • The Essex Five – Baptists active in evangelism in the 1940s-1950s

What next?
Watch this space!

Vera and I would would like to thank Wale Adeyemi and everyone who was there at HOP on Saturday morning for their generous hospitality, encouragement and enthusiasm.