Church on the Corner: an Oasis in the Blur of urban life

“Jesus did not write a book but formed a community” Lesslie Newbigin

Just under twenty years ago, I borrowed my mum’s car to visit my mate Giles who had moved to King’s Cross.  When I got to his flat, he said ‘Sit down and listen to this’ and he played me Wonderwall from Oasis’ recently released album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory.

The realisation that I was listening to a great song was rudely interrupted when I remembered that I had left my wallet on the passenger seat of my mum’s car.

We legged it down the stairwell of the flats – but were too late. Some local kids had just broken in to the car, nicked the wallet and we saw them running off.  Later I would find out they used my bank card to spend the rather modest amount of £34  in ‘Caledonian Food and Wine’.

It was my first experience of this slice of North London. The year before, Giles and a small group of Christians, had planted a new church into a former pub building in between Angel and King’s Cross in Islington. It was called Church on the Corner and a few years later it became my church too.

Doing life together

Last weekend, Church on the Corner celebrated its 20th anniversary with a party and a church service (see photo).  It was brilliant to see how the church is flourishing now and it made me reflect on how much being part of that community truly enriched my life.

The best thing about being part of Church on the Corner was the sense of doing life together with others – sharing the ups, downs and realities of life as a community of people committed to following Jesus.

The church engaged in the local community in many different ways. Plays were held in the park opposite, art competitions were organised and we ran a football team. We set up a little community project to help vulnerable people called Decorating and Gardening. It was known as D&G so we nicked the Dolce & Gabanna logo.  We never heard from their lawyers.

A place of grace

But more than anything else the Church on the Corner taught me about grace. Grace was taught and grace was lived.  The Church took the Bible seriously but it also took being a community seriously.  Grace was not an abstract doctrine but a principle to be lived out.

At that time I lived in a flat on the Marquess estate on the Essex Rd.  One day the flat got completely flooded by someone breaking in to the empty flat above and and turning on the taps. A couple in the church, Tim and Justine, came over soon after and insisted I move in with them.  I stayed for over two months.

And when I moved into a flat in King’s Cross which needed loads of work, people from the church came over every night for 2 weeks to help me decorate.

Amazing grace and true community.

Go to Church

It is easy to knock church and downplay its importance.  But beliefs never become real faith unless they are expressed within community. We need others.

Charles Marsh, in his brilliant book on the role of faith in the Civil Rights movement, The Beloved Community, writes in his conclusion:

“Go to church…Go to church where God is celebrated as the creator and lord of life, where the good news of God’s overwhelming love permeates the congregation’s understanding of itself and the world. It does not matter whether the preacher is a liberal or an evangelical, a Protestant or a Catholic, an orator or a rock-and-roller, educated or uneducated, as long as the hearts and minds are opened to the peace that passes all understanding. Go to church and let the beloved world of God slowly transform your life in compassion, mercy and grace.”

This is what I found in Church on the Corner.

A place where I learnt more about the grace of the One whom (in the immortal words of Noel Gallagher)

“Just maybe, is gonna be the one that saves me”.

Church on the Corner website

2 thoughts on “Church on the Corner: an Oasis in the Blur of urban life”

  1. Thanks for your wonderful and evocative post, Jon. I so wanted to be with you all last week to celebrate the last 20 years, but other responsibilities prevented it. I remember when the Barnsbury team bought the pub, just after Jeanie and I started as youth workers in the parish, and the first experiment was trying to run a non-alcoholic bar there. That failed for various reasons, but led eventually to the idea to plant a new church, and a few of us prayer through the place in every room. There had apparently been some very “dark” activities there in the past – we wanted the light to flood in. Anyway – your post brought the memories flooding back. Thanks.


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