Parish twinning in Essex and east London

Author: Andy Walton

Date: 01 March 2011


1. To promote friendship and improve mutual understanding between a small rural North Essex market town Parish and an urban, multi-ethnic and multi-faith East London Parish, both within the Diocese of Chelmsford.

2. To develop a training resource as a ‘good practice’ model in the wider diocese.

1. To provide an opportunity for Emmanuel parishioners to enjoy hospitality, refreshment and friendship in a rural context.

2. To provide an opportunity for St Peter’s parishioners to enjoy hospitality, and friendship in an urban context.

3. To provide St Peter’s parishioners with an opportunity to learn about what it is like to be a Christian in a multi-faith setting.

4. To provide Emmanuel parishioners with an opportunity to see the challenges for the church in a semi-rural environment, where transport, services and other facilities can be a difficulty.

5. To provide St Peter’s parishioners with a Saturday programme to explore places of worship in Forest Gate and to meet people of other faiths.

6. To provide Emmanuel parishioners with a day programme to explore a rural Essex market town, to see something of its history and the ways in which the
church contributes to community life today.

7. To give both churches an opportunity to reflect upon how to proclaim the Good News in today’s world effectively and to engage in dialogue with people of other faiths and none.

8. To continue to seek ways of establishing friendship and mutual support between the two parishes for the future. 

This project grew out of the friendship between the incumbents of two parishes and a lay member of St Peter’s. They reached a point where they wanted to move beyond just chatting about the contrasts between their respective ministries and the two parishes. One or two other key members of each church joined them to plan how twinning might work.

Whilst people at Emmanuel had neighbours all around of different faiths they did not necessarily engage with them. Indeed some brought, from other parts of the globe, experience of real animosity or even persecution by another faith. For St Peter’s the main experience of other faiths came via the media. Providing hospitality and an experience of the multi-faith character of E7 to their visitors from Coggeshall gave Emmanuel an added ‘push’ to overcome some of their own fears and suspicions. For some of St Peter’s there is the opportunity to explore their East End roots.

A planning group of the clergy and three or four of the laity of each parish arrange two main visits and two smaller exchanges each year. The main visit to E7 will include a visit to a (non Christian) place of worship and in Coggeshall the opportunity to enjoy rural hospitality. On the smaller exchanges there might be a pulpit swap or the opportunities for the visitors read the lessons, lead intercessions and administer the chalice. Care has always been taken to maintain the sense of this being an equal partnership.

The project continues even though some of the instigators have moved on. With regular doses of information and requests for help with catering it has been possible to enthuse new folk to become involved as other’s interest wanes.

From initial awareness building the project continues to broaden minds and develop listening skills.