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1949-1950: Getting it off the ground

From waste ground to holy ground: the vision begins to unfoldPrior to the war, the area in which St Barnabas' Church stands was mostly fields, orchards and woods. The western and eastern edges had been developed for housing, but in between lay a very large undeveloped area. In a period of about two years, starting in 1949, this changed dramatically: an estate of terraces, semi-detached houses, flats and maisonettes was built by London County Council.

The population was brought out from inner London - Camberwell, Bermondsey, etc. - a number of them with physical or mental health needs. When they arrived they found an area without shops, schools, churches, or any other community facilities. The Diocese of Rochester quickly realized the pressing need to provide a church, but also quickly became aware of what an enormous task that would be.

In August 1949 the Diocese of Rochester agreed to put in a Church Army Captain, Captain Leonard Goode, to work on the growing estate. It was also agreed that a site - the present site in Rushet Road - was to be purchased on which a Church Hall would be "erected immediately". (Hindsight shows that with the size of the project, "immediately" was almost never an appropriate word!)

The first services were held in January 1950, in a workmen's hut on the estate (which was still more like a building site than a town). There were two huts side by side, with a makeshift and rather dangerous stove between them to provide heating. The minister would robe in one hut and the congregation was seated on wooden benches in the other.

In September 1950, Captain Goode moved on, leaving the new church in the hands of John Sertin, at that stage curate-in-charge but later to be the first vicar.

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