I recently met up with Edward Collier who is Vicar at the Copleston Church. We met at the church building in the Copleston Centre, the first thing he did was offer me a cup of tea which spoilt my plan to say ‘more tea vicar’ which I had always wanted to say to someone!
Edward first sought ordination in 1988 and was initially turned down as he was gay. He trained as a solicitor which gave him other career options. A ‘way through’ was found and he was ordained in 1994. He worked at St. John the Evangelist on Goose Green for 3 years, in 1977 he became Priest in Charge at Charterhouse Southwark followed and in 2003 Edward became Goldsmiths Chaplain. He went on to volunteer at the Copleston in 2011, and then become it’s vicar.
The church is part of a long-established partnership between the Anglican and United Reformed churches. Edward said he liked working in this way as, despite differences, it gave freedom and flexibility in worship. He also liked the URC leadership structures where minister and elders shared leadership. Summing up what was attractive about the church was it role in building and contributing to communities, as well as supporting the most vulnerable people.I asked Edward to explain how the church and centre linked. The church offers the building for the centre. Income from the centre is essential for the church. The church provides half the centre’s Trustees and church members are encouraged to get involved in the centre.
Edward said the centre had five main strands.
1. A series of activities to support mental health and wellbeing. It offers counselling, art therapy,
an art cafe and mindfulness courses.
2. Activities for older adults within the Silver Linings Project.
3. Toddlers' Group and Scouts for ages 6-14 - I discovered during the meeting that scouting was no longer gender-segregated!
4. On a Tuesday it is Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers.
5. It also provides winter night shelter for the homeless once a week as well.
Edward said he thinks Peckham is a place people are proud of, especially the connections people have to each other. I asked him what changes he would like to see. He said more affordable housing was needed. He also mentioned that Peckham had 50+ churches (not all meeting in traditional buildings) and a sizable Muslim population with a number of mosques. He wished the different faith groups could work together more. He said that following the 2019 Easter Day attacks on churches in Sri Lanka, the mosques and churches had done a few joint things and he would like to see that continued.