The districts of Harrow and Kingsbury are located in North West London, Harrow in the London Borough of Harrow and Kingsbury in the neighbouring London Borough of Brent. Once a byword for upper class privilege and luxurious living, thanks largely to the presence of Harrow School, now they are home to a vibrant and diverse community.
George Michael, Charlie Watts and Shirley Eaton all spent their early years here and the area is now a bustling and fast-moving place to live and work.
Harrow is the home of King’s Church, an evangelical and outward looking faith community. The leadership team had long had a church plant in neighbouring Kingsbury on their hearts, but while they prayed and waited on God for guidance, no one thought it would happen as soon as it did.
Giles Arnold of Church Growth Trust (CGT) had been doing some praying of his own, trying to find exactly the right church to move into Roe Green Hall, a former Brethren assembly building gifted to CGT. Although he had met with a number of local churches, none felt quite right. “At the eleventh hour, King’s Church contacted us and we set up a meeting. They weren’t planning their church plant straight away, but as soon as they looked around the building, we both knew it was right.”
The newly established church plant team is formed of three elders, Fernando de Paula, Michael Scott and Errol Breda. Once the church had agreed to take on the tenancy, the team planted a small group at the hall to start building relationships with the community and meeting regularly to pray. “We trialled a Saturday evening service, plus two life groups. At the beginning of the year, we ran an Alpha course which resulted in a baptism.”
Fernando and the church plant team have a real heart for the local youth. Roe Green Hall is next to a primary school and there is a high school just down the road. “Whilst we still need to talk and pray through any potential initiatives together as an eldership, we are interested in exploring ways to reach children and young people, for example starting up a youth club or Messy Church. Our part of Kingsbury is quite deprived and there is a fair amount of youth disaffection, drug issues and unemployment.” The team are looking to the future and trying to find ways to support the needs in their neighbourhood. Many of the parents at the primary school drop off the children in the morning and have nowhere to go to meet up. “We would love to build a coffee and play area on to the existing hall so that local families can come and relax and spend some time in a safe and welcoming space. We’re just starting to work on the idea of an extension and of course that’s something that CGT are helping us with.”
Gill Pedler, the Chartered Architect at CGT, has been discussing proposals for an extension with the team since they started their tenancy. However the team needed to settle in and get a clear idea of their vision and how the building would work, before plans could be drawn up. A year and a half later these plans have been submitted to the local Council as part of a planning application. As with any new buildings, there are challenges. Gill comments: “There is an area of grass at the front of the hall where the proposed extension would go. We’ve had to apply to the Highways Department for what’s called a Stopping Up Order, as it’s legally classified as a road! Once that comes through and our design application is approved, we’ll be able to start on the extension. The plan is for a single storey extension at the front, comprising an outside play area and a small coffee bar indoors. This will mean that local school parents can drop their children off and come and relax and enjoy a coffee and chat in the new area. In good weather, the little ones can play outside too. It will also act as a much more welcoming reception area and will be a great addition to the building.”
King’s Church Kingsbury, as the church plant is now known, is already working to meet the needs of its neighbourhood, but there is still a lot to do, as Fernando explains. “Many of the local population suffer from stress and anxiety. There are so many pressures on families and that’s something we feel led to help with, including running different courses that address this situation.”
Sadly, addiction and disaffection also play their part locally, as Fernando has observed first hand. “I watched as a police car drove down the street. As soon as it had disappeared round the corner, out came about 15 young guys who had clearly been hiding. They’re the ones we want to reach and support. The children at school are so vulnerable to the temptations of substance abuse and we want to build strong relationships with the local young people to help with this.”
Kingsbury and Harrow are two of the most ethnically diverse districts in London. This diversity is reflected in the core church plant group as Michael Scott, also an Elder and team member explains. “I’m of Afro-Caribbean heritage, Fernando is Brazilian and Erroll, another of our team, is from Zimbabwe. We are an international church and we believe that God is an international God. Our church should reflect our community and that’s what we’re trying to do with the church plant.”
The new King’s Church venue has been sharing their building with a Romanian church, which has led to a mutually supportive relationship. “It’s so good to be alongside them,” explains Fernando. “We pray for God to bless each other and, despite the language and cultural differences, we have been pleasantly surprised by the things we have in common. English is the second language for me, as it is for the Romanians, so when we speak, we are on a level playing field. We’ve found Romanian and Portuguese share some words. Both our cultures are warm and open, strongly family-based, and those similarities have given our relationship a lovely natural flow.”
The church’s relationship with Church Growth Trust is also extremely successful. “They have been absolutely fantastic,” Michael enthuses. “We had no idea how much they could give us and how great their advice would be. It’s very clear that we’re singing from the same hymn sheet with every conversation we have. We both want to see a thriving faith community impacting Kingsbury.”
Giles concurs: “As soon as we met with the guys from King’s Church, we felt that their proposal was the most likely to bear fruit and reach the local population with the gospel. Their heart is to use the building as a base to grow a local gospel-based church and that’s what we’re all about too. We can see that they have a solid basis for their vision. They are not rushing things, but prayerfully take each step. We are very excited about how things will play out in the future.”
David Straughton, Lead Elder of King’s Church Harrow, has the last word. “We are so grateful to God and Church Growth Trust for the opportunity of planting a congregation in Kingsbury. We pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to lead us “step by step” and that we would see the local community profoundly touched and transformed by the love of God as we demonstrate His kingdom and tell people about the Good News of Jesus.”
The Spirit-filled vision of King’s Church and the specialist knowledge and experience of Church Growth Trust are working together to nourish and nurture the new church plant. With God in charge, there can be no doubt that His work will be done in Kingsbury now and for years to come.