It’s all change in Kent Thameside and in particular, Ebbsfleet! The swathe of land sandwiched between the River Thames and the A2 trunk-road running between London and Dover is one of Europe’s largest regeneration projects. The focus of our outreach is on the area now designated the ‘Ebbsfleet Garden City’. This is the first garden city in England for 100 years and is set to be home to thousands of people.
With the Bluewater shopping centre and the new Ebbsfleet International rail station (offering both a direct service to the continent and a high-speed link to the capital) the area is receiving a huge boost. Not only this, but many new businesses are moving into Ebbsfleet, there will also be new schools, community facilities, new parks and all serving the 15,000 homes to be built. Plans for a world class theme park in the area are also part of this huge vision.
All of this brings tremendous opportunities to Christians who are keen to see relevant and lively expressions of church birthed as these new developments emerge. The call of God to the Christians and churches already in the area is to prepare in advance for the huge influx of people who will come, and help them as they settle in to have the opportunity to discover who Jesus is and what He can do for them.
We have 2 pioneer ministers leading our response to this huge missional opportunity. Penny Marsh lives in Ebbsfleet and is heading up the ministry in these new housing areas; Dawn Wellbelove leads the outreach work in Northfleet North which is an existing area with much social deprivation and is adjacent to the new housing in Ebbsfleet. Dawn lives in Northfleet North. These different projects complement one another in location and ministry and demonstrate the breadth of the Kingdom of God.
There is a growing team working with Penny. They are seeking to build relationships with new residents, show God’s love and create opportunities for people to know Him better.
Ebbsfleet Garden City was designated a ‘Healthy New Town’ a few years ago. The team explored this idea and inspired by John 10:10, Christ’s offer of life in all its fullness, they started ‘Sunday Active’. All-ages join on a Sunday morning and choose whether to join a walk, the run group, a HiiT fitness session or simply have a coffee and make new friends. During the morning everyone joins back together for breakfast followed by a 20-minute interactive presentation on an aspect of spiritual health from a Christian perspective. This is proving a great way to build a church community and most of those who are coming along would not usually be in church on Sunday. ‘Sunday Active – Extra’ takes place afterwards and provides an opportunity for further growth as Christian disciples.
Other activities include prayer, a weekly coffee morning, a couch to 5km running group, extra HiiT sessions, special community events and enquirer’s courses.
During the recent lockdown most of our activities moved online using Facebook live and zoom. We intend to move to a hybrid of online and ‘in person’ meetings going forward.
Dawn's work in the existing area of Northfleet North has taken many twists and turns over the years, constantly trying to find where God is working within this deprived community. This has transformed it from an area where the population were apathetic towards God into somewhere that God is spoken about openly.
Currently she runs a well-attended work club helping the residents find work, especially after the COVID pandemic. She is also set to launch a new online community called NU Tribe that talks about spiritual issues in common understandable language using Christianity as its framework.
Alongside this work she is involved with deliverance ministry, and she has attended several homes where there have been spiritual disturbances and been able to restore calm in the mighty name of Christ.
There are several other strands to Dawn's ministry including forging strong relationships with the local primary school via a gardening project and serving the community by street cleaning, making her well known and respected with many of the residents.