Faith in the Future project “a great blessing for Romford”

After over 25 years of planning and dreaming, the beautiful, newly finished Narthex and Parish Centre at St Edward the Confessor, Romford were blessed by Bishop Alan on Friday 31 May. In his homily the Bishop drew attention to the wonderful balance in the buildings; the sacred space complemented by the social space, which is also a great hub for the charitable work of the parish.

The church dedicated to St Edward the Confessor was built in 1856 to serve just a handful of local families. It is Grade II listed, and the Narthex has been built with exceptional attention to blending the stonework and interior with the existing church. The parish school was built in 1889 and it now serves as the Parish Centre; the recently completed building works saw the 1889 building fully refurbished – and in the process the original roof beams were uncovered, and now form a striking feature within the interior. The Parish Centre has also been extended, with a meeting room dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes; the main hall is dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham.

The church was packed with parishioners for the blessing; many have been involved with the parish for decades, and the evening was full of warmth, joy and faith, celebrating this latest milestone in a church which is very precious not only to Catholics, but to the wider community. Three local councillors were present, as well as members of Churches Together in Romford, along with the current MP, Andrew Rosindell. After the Mass, everyone was treated to a sumptuous array of cakes provided by parishioners.

Richard Burman from Forest Gate Construction, who carried out the building work, was present, along with key advisors to the project: Historic Churches Committee Secretary Chris Fanning, and Diocesan Trustee Peter Johnson. Salvatore Genco, from LAP Architects, managed the project, and this professional team have delivered a set of buildings of immense quality.

Amongst the clergy present were Mgr Kevin Hale, who served as Parish Priest in Romford in the late 1990s, when the first plans were put forward. Canon Stewart Foster represented the Historic Churches Committee, and Fr Mark Reilly and Fr Gerald Gostling represented Deanery clergy.  Canon John Harvey, now Dean of the Cathedral, was once a pupil at the original school (though not, he hastens to say, in 1889!). Fr Gary Dench also has Romford connections, and served as MC for the Mass.

The project was funded through the sale of land owned by the parish, grants and parish donations. Since the completion of the buildings, many local residents have commented on what a stunningly beautiful addition they are to the Romford skyline. The Parish Centre is already serving the community with groups including cubs, scouts and brownies, the Golden Club for those over 55, Knit’n’Natter, the parish St Vincent de Paul Society, the Shining Starz Pre-School,  a parent and toddler group, drama and art classes for children, the parish Legion of Mary and central Romford’s Alcoholics Anonymous group.

The parish has a varied calendar of social events and the building is in use almost every day from 7.30am – 10pm. Fr Dominic Howarth, the Parish Priest, reflected what Bishop Alan had said about the balance in the buildings: “Through these amazing new and refurbished spaces, we are delighted to be serving the people of Romford sacramentally, socially and through charitable action.” He added: “We hope that we become ever more a powerhouse of grace in and for the town, and we are delighted to welcome everyone who wants to be part of anything on offer here – or suggest new ways in which we can help and serve.”

For a full set of photos from the Mass on 31 May please go to: where you will also find a lot more information about the building project.