On Easter Sunday, Dagenham Parish Church (DPC) launched Becontree Church, a church plant led by Mike and Debbie Reith, based at London City Mission’s (LCM) Dawson Centre.
LCM’s work in Dagenham has won deep respect in the area over many years, and Bill Deane is the latest in a line of able missionaries. When Bill arrived, DPC and LCM were considering the idea of a plant, but no decision had been made.
"God's hand was on the plant."
God intervened, however, to set up a partnership at a local level. A Sri Lankan family in Harlesden (where Bill had worked before Dagenham) were in crisis. The young mum, facing eviction, came to see Bill and Christine Deane at the same time that Mike and Debbie Reith had arranged to see them about the plant. To cut a long story short, the Sri Lankans moved in with Mike and Debbie the following week (for over a year!).
One result was that the Deanes and Reiths became close friends, praying together. Bill saw in this development a sign that God’s hand was on the plant. Best of all, the Sri Lankans saw Jesus as glorious, and his Spirit opened their hearts to follow him. It made sense for Mike and Debbie to lead the plant. Mike was in his twentieth year as the vicar of DPC, and it seemed after twenty years of leading door-to-door evangelism that God had been training them for this role.
The Becontree Estate, with twenty thousand people, is a hotchpotch of races and ages, burdened by debt, racial strife and relational tensions within families. It was ripe for an experience of God’s compassionate love for sinners, expressed through his Son’s friendship with them and his rescuing death on the cross.
A focus on door-to-door ministry
A core team was drawn together to launch the new church, and God spoke to them through Ezra to strengthen them for this initiative. On Easter Sunday, Graham Miller went to DPC and commissioned that team. They left the service to start knocking on doors that afternoon, and the first service was held that evening. Thirteen people were at that service, including Bill and Christine, visiting from their own church to welcome and encourage.
The whole church always does door-to-door work before it meets for a service. They go out on Sunday afternoon to a chosen street, to get to know locals and chat through the gospel. Mike then handwrites a thank-you card to all who are friendly – with a bit more of the gospel ‘stitched in’ to the particular circumstances of that individual. The cards are hand-delivered the following evening. On the Wednesday, the team go out to re-visit those who were out. Each house gets visited twice each week, so friendships are formed.
Team members of the church plant are now involved in the LCM toddler group, and in LCM children’s ministry. Bill and Christine could not be more enthusiastic in their support.
Adapted from an article first published in Changing London, Autumn 2014