From the very beginning, mission has been a core focus of our congregation. So back when our church was established in 1908, the members led free adult literacy classes, holidays for poor families and alcohol addiction support groups. Throughout The Blitz they comforted the bereaved and supported those whose homes had been destroyed in the bombing.
Fast forward to 1998 - our church members founded a registered charity called Bonny Downs Community Association (BDCA) with a vision to regenerate derelict local spaces into facilities for the community. Over the years BDCA has transformed 4 local venues which now host a growing range of community projects: Elders, Children & Families, Youth, Food, Poverty Response and Sports. BDCA is a separate organisation from Bonny Downs Church but we work in close partnership and actively support their work. For example, many of their trustees, staff, volunteers and project users are drawn from our congregation, we collaboratively deliver a foodbank service together and we offer pastoral care and prayer support for their team members. For more information please refer to www.bonnydowns.org
Foodbank and Fuelbank
Our church was outraged by growing numbers of local residents who were being pushed into poverty after the welfare reforms and were struggling to afford the basics and even feed their families. So in June 2013, we opened a distribution centre for Newham Foodbank in our old church hall. Our church members volunteer their time and donate food and money to keep this valuable service running. Every year, our centre provides emergency food parcels and receives tonnes of donated food from local residents and businesses. We also partner with Greggs, Tesco and The Corner Shop, Silvertown, to offer a free community lunch for vulnerable local residents during the foodbank opening hours. Our work has featured in various media outlets, including the Guardian review of the year.
With many families within our community experiencing No Recourse To Public Funds and struggling to pay for basic utilities such as gas and electric, in January 2021 we launched a Fuelbank. Central to this work is asking families about their hopes and dreams for the future and seeing how we can best support them.
NEWway Night Shelter
In 2013, Bonny Downs Church members Angie, Matthew and Jonny played a key role in bringing together local Christian leaders across the borough to form the NEWway Project in response to the rising levels of homelessness in our area. By working together across denominational divides, we launched an inter church night shelter and advocacy service to support local rough sleepers throughout the coldest months of the year. Bonny Downs Church signed up to become one of the initial 7 host church venues during the pilot circuit and we have enjoyed serving as part of this project every winter since. Each year, our team of volunteers open the old church hall for one night per week and provide a safe place to sleep, a nutritious meal and friendly conversation for the 15 homeless guests.
Alongside the NEWdawn night shelter, we host and help to run the NEWday centre offering homeless and vulnerably housed people a place of purpose and belonging. For more information about the impact of this ministry or how to signpost people in need, please refer to www.newwayproject.org.
We are praying for the day when these crisis support services are no longer needed in our area but, until then, we’re glad to be playing a role in tackling local injustice and poverty.
Isolation and mental health
With isolation in a city like London being particularly acute amongst the more elderly and those who experience mental health difficulties, we launched two life groups in September 2020.
With Wednesday’s at Bonny Downs are now termed ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays', the first group aims to provide a safe space for people to share how their doing, their story, and useful coping strategies to help with things like anxiety, loneliness and grief.
Our second daytime life group meets fortnightly. Its purpose is missional, to reach out to vulnerable, socially-isolated individuals, both church members and non-members. It provides an opportunity for open, confidential conversation in a supportive atmosphere. We are using excepts from the video The Chosen as a starting point for discussion and sharing about faith, belief and personal experience. The meeting ends with prayer, both collective and individual, as needed.
Recognising the value of creativity and more embodied spiritual practices, we also run a fortnightly craft group on Monday nights.
As a church we also support a number of other charities and mission projects around the world including: Forgotten People’s Project (building schools and community facilities in rural Uganda) and Casa Haralui (a respite centre in Romania for disabled children and disadvantaged families).