New Bishop issues call

THE new Bishop of Chelmsford has called on churches to open their doors and hearts to meet the needs of a rapidly growing Essex population.The Rt Revd John Gladwin was speaking at the first of two welcome services in North Essex at St John's Church, Colchester.

THE new Bishop of Chelmsford has called on churches to open their doors and hearts to meet the needs of a rapidly growing Essex population.

The Rt Revd John Gladwin was speaking at the first of two welcome services in North Essex at St John's Church, Colchester.

He challenged congregations across the county to dig deep to knock financial matters off PCC agendas, rethink the use of church buildings and get on with looking after their neighbours.

Preaching on the biblical text on the 'Feeding of the 5,000', the Bishop warned a large congregation that the developments around the Thames Gateway and Stansted Airport "were moving London east into Essex and presenting a challenge to churches".

Bishop John added: "The population of the Diocese of Chelmsford is already 2.7 million and there is a distinct possibility of it being 3 million before too long with all the developments that are going on.

"In Colchester alone, the Government is demanding 10,000 houses must be built in the immediate future. How are we going to feed all of these people?

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"People around us are searching for meaningful spirituality. Bookshops are filled with ranks of new books but there is not a ghost of a link to the Christian message."

The Bishop, who is the national chairman of Christian Aid, said the church must be on the lookout to help mend broken lives and relationships and stop being focused on buildings and finance.

"Short of money?" questioned the Bishop. "I don't believe the church is short of money. I believe we have reached a point where we can stimulate the generosity and confidence of people so we don't have finance on the agendas of PCCs."

The Bishop said that this would liberate the church people tied up with fund raising to meet the real needs of the people, citing examples where Anglicans and Methodists had merged congregations to create a new Christian wealth by selling redundant church buildings and creating human resources.

"We need to be liberating people for ministry," added the Bishop.

"God has been wonderfully generous to us in terms of people, places and wealth with a free society that lives in peace.

"These are wonderful gifts to be given and people in many nations would die to get a fraction of what we have.

"God has placed us at a moment of opportunity. Do we hold on to what we have got and hope the future does not catch up with us or do we hand it over and become witnesses to wonderful things happening in our communities?

"We need to build a community in Essex and East London which contributes to the future well-being of our neighbours."

The Bishop will be preaching again at a second welcome service at St Mary's Parish Church, Dunmow, next Thursday at 8pm aimed at people who live in the western area of the Archdeaconry of Colchester.

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