The Diocese of London’s specially designed barge, Genesis, is now up for sale, ending hopes that the vessel might be a means of reaching out to the communities of East London.
Genesis, was commissioned in 2019 and delivered to its home on the River Lee alongside the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in October 2020.
Genesis was developed by Denizen Works with Turks Shipyard and naval architect Tony Tucker in response to a competition held by the Diocese of London to establish new congregations in the capital.
The barge, which is up for sale for £650,000, takes cues from church organ bellows and Volkswagen camper vans, and was designed to draw attention to the venue.
The design of the barge included a kinetic roof inspired by organ bellows, and made from concertina-ed, translucent sailcloth, allowed the boat to pass under bridges when lowered. With the roof raised, it offered a meeting space to seat up to 40 people.
The faithful hoped that it would serve the parishes of St Paul’s, Old Ford and St Mary of Eton and the growing communities around the canal in East London, in Hackney Wick, Sweetwater, Eastwick and Here East.
Due to the pandemic, people were unable to worship on it because of restrictions. After Covid restrictions were eased, worship services resumed on board the barge for about a year, until the mission’s leading vicar, Rev David Pilkington, left to take up a new post in the Carlisle diocese.
A Diocese of London spokesperson told the Church Times: “Due to the restrictions in place caused by the pandemic, the new worshipping community was unable to meet aboard Genesis for the first 12 months of its being in situ, and instead relocated and grew in premises provided by local churches.
“Following the departure of the key lead, and having offered the use of the vessel elsewhere in the diocese, the decision was made to look to sell Genesis so that the funds could be redeployed to promote the growth of new worshipping communities elsewhere.”
The Diocese said the project had nevertheless been a success in terms of achieving spiritual growth: “The missional objectives of the project succeeded, and growing discipleship amongst the growing canal community around London remains part of the diocese’s missional strategy.”
As well as providing a venue for Christian worship, the boat was designed to provide a place of learning and well-being, and was available for hire for community development programmes and interfaith celebrations, among other activities.
The Diocese of London says it will consider offers for the barge.
Despite the failure of the Genesis project, one floating church mission continues to thrive in Canary Wharf, where two clerics head up St Peter’s Barge.
(Picture Courtesy: Diocese of London)