St Peter’s Bethnal Green sits off Warner Place, between Old Bethnal Green and Hackney Road. The vicarage is next door, the old school houses an organ works, and the church spire stands tall amidst the surrounding housing.

Now a thriving church community, this wasn’t the case five years ago when the congregation of elders approached Rev Adam Atkinson for help. “We want to see children in the church again. We don’t want St Peter’s to close after we’ve died,” was their concern.

So, in 2010, Adam and other local people gathered in support with the mantra, “Honour the past, navigate change in the present, and build for the future”.

As Adam explains, “It’s really important not to just sweep in and make changes”. He and the others prayed, talked, listened and built new relationships; the elders were open to new ideas and things began to happen.

St Peter’s has been a place of worship since 1841. Under Adam’s stewardship, the traditional way of worship has been enhanced, adding family and reflective evening services to the Sunday morning prayer, and the doors are open during the week. The small team of staff and volunteers are keen to empower local people. “The area and congregation is diverse; we work hard to involve everyone so the vision and projects is not just about one person.”

Now there are more community activities, children in the congregation, a youth group and big plans for the future. Under the footprint of the church, the crypt is now set to be transformed; they hope to have a parish nurse, linked with the local GP surgery, who will see people with non-clinical health needs, there will be space for a café and more activities for children and young people.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has committed £1.8 million to the crypt project, and Adam and his team are currently raising match funding of £2 million. “It’s an expression of new life,” says Adam, extending the role St Peter’s plays in Bethnal Green.

This article can be found in the East2 Insider’s Guide to Bethnal Green Magazine 2015. – See more at: http://issuu.com/walkeast/docs/east_2_2015_issuu_2

By Eleanor Image