“In Croydon… there is a Church.” These are the words introducing Croydon in the Doomesday Book of 1086. And today’s unity movement in Croydon has taken on this phrase as they seek to live out the reality of one united Church in the borough, seeing churches working and praying together rather than working in isolation. There are more than 240 churches in Croydon, and the Croydon Churches Forum exists to help them know what each other are doing, work together on common mission and pray together.
Increasingly churches are joining together to run projects in the Croydon community, with initiatives labelled under the Croydon Churches banner – showing that they represent the wider, united Church rather than promoting individual churches. This includes the Croydon Churches’ Floating Shelter, which sees 70 churches work together to provide a bed and hot meal for homeless people for five months of the year.
Other projects run by the Church across Croydon include Christians Against Poverty debt advice centres, food banks, Club Angels, Street Pastors and School Pastors and chaplaincy in the council, college, shopping centre and Crystal Palace football club.
Last Christmas, the joint Croydon Church hosted a carol service at Crystal Palace football stadium, remembering the famous truce of World War One. Attended by around 1,500 people, the event included a Bible reading by Palace manager Neil Warnock, drama pieces and incredible singing from various church groups. The Crystal Palace websitedescribed the event as “a profoundly moving evening”, with Prince Philip Kiril of Prussia asking for forgiveness for his great-great grandfather Kaiser Wilhelm II’s actions which had led to countless lives being lost in the war.
There are termly Croydon Church prayer gatherings attended by representatives from 23 churches, and a group of Croydon church leaders also meets weekly to build relationships and pray together. At Lent a prayer guide including 40 days of prayer for various aspects of Croydon Church’s work is produced and given out to 8,000 people – inspired by a similar booklet by the Haringey unity movement.
The Croydon Churches Forum has five convenors representing the diversity of the Church, and together they meet with the CEO and leader of Croydon council three times a year – with both the Church and the council bringing a current issue which needs addressing. The Council are aware that the Church provides approximately 80 per cent of the voluntary sector provision in Croydon, and they want to work with the Church given its voluntary capacity and its ear to the ground.
This October, the Church in Croydon is joining together for a year-long mission initiative called Transform Croydon. This will bring together 240 churches, and include a week of prayer as well as some organised events such as carol singing in the shopping centre, community festivals, Easter marches and litter picking. Churches across Croydon will also use the Transform Croydon t-shirts and banners throughout the year as they run various projects and events together in different areas.
If you’d like to hear more stories about what Church unity looks like across the south of England, come along to ourGATHERSOUTH conference on 25 November.