Group shot 1999
Street Urchins

Tonight saw the end of an era. Despite the damage I've done to my back, I dragged myself along to the Shaftesbury Christian Centre in Deptford, for the last ever church management meeting there.

The church isn't closing, mind, it's merging with another local chuch, The Bear, but tonight's meeting marked the beginning of the end for a particular thread in its history. You see, unlike most churches, it wasn't founded for worship in the conventional sense. No, it was founded in 1844 as a mission - a Ragged School to educate, feed and clothe the poor of Deptford, in a era long before there was state support of any kind for them.

Over 162 years ago, eight men came together to establish the work on the site. Tonight, seven men and women formally wound up the management of it and passed it onto a different body.

While it's sad to see the church in its current form pass away, perhaps the time is right. The church had long passed its original purpose with the advent of state schools and social security and, in many ways, the Bear has taken on many of the social outreach roles the Shaftesbury used to fulfil.

There's only three more services planned for the current building on Frankham street, before the merger is complete and the site is redeveloped sometime next year.