New Romford Priest embraces church’s role at centre of community for half a century
�A new priest is looking to celebrate the past as her church prepares to mark its 150th anniversary.
The Rev Lara Dose, 41, who became the priest-in-charge at St Andrew’s Church, in St Andrews Road, Romford, in July, is eagerly anticipating the festivities that will mark the milestone.
“I am very, very excited indeed. We’ve got a lot planned,” she said.
A flower festival, in which the entire church will be decorated in flora, takes place on October 6, a special choir festival on October 20 and a large commemorative service will be conducted on St Andrew’s Day on November 30.
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Despite not long in the job, Ms Dose already has an appreciation for the area and the church’s heritage.
She said: “The place is amazing. I’ve enjoyed my time here immensely so far. The parishioners have all been very warm and welcoming.
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“The church is a beautiful building and its history really ties in with Romford’s own.”
Built in 1862 on the site of a former barracks, St Andrew’s construction was financed by the Romford brewery Ind Coope to provide a church for their local workforce.
The church came to service the people of the nearby Cottage Estate, the first built in Romford as the town became industrialised.
During the Second World War tragedy struck as St Andrew’s suffered bomb damage. The large east-side window was blown out after a huge incendiary dropped in Cotton’s Park, killing six.
In 1996, a stained-glass window showing the transfiguration was installed to permanently replace the old one, and has since won several accolades and featured in a church art guide last year.
As part of the anniversary celebrations the church’s reredos – a decorative screen behind the altar, damaged during the war – will be uncovered for the first time since the war.
The church is not just consigned to history, however.
Ms Dose is determined to make St Andrew’s a modern place of worship, noting that the congregation range from six week old newborns to octogenarians and is multi-ethnic.
She said: “Here at St Andrew’s we are an inclusive church, which is unique.
“Anyone is welcome. It doesn’t matter what race, age, gender or sexuality you are.”
Ms Dose believes that with its forward-thinking attitude the church can still have as much impact in Romford as ever.
She added: “St Andrew’s is more important now than when it was first built.
“Obviously things have changed but the church still stands as a centre point in the community.”