The Parish of The Divine Compassion is named after the first Franciscan brothers in the Anglican Church. The brothers arrived in Plaistow in January 1894,to look after the mission church of St.Philip and St.James. Throughout the 1800s, the area had been transformed from a rural district, renowned for its rhubarb and potatoes, into a place of heavy industry around the Royal Docks – the very hub of the British Empire. With a hugely expanded population, and extreme poverty, the church was at the forefront of social provision, as well as spiritual growth. St.Andrew’s Plaistow, then the parish church, had a school attached, and a staff of priests and religious sisters. The mission of St.Philip’s was varied. The brothers were eager to honour the dignity of labour, and founded a clock shop, and a printing press. Father Andrew was an accomplished writer and dramatist, so the congregation was involved regularly in staging street theatre, and more professional productions in the Public Hall.
During the Second World War St.Philip’s was destroyed by bombing. Soon after the war, the Society of The Divine Compassion, growing elderly and dwindling in number, invited the Society of St.Francis, founded in Dorset during the 1920s, to continue the work. St.Philip’s was rebuilt, with the adjoining halls for community use. In 1970
St. Andrew’s closed as a parish church, and St.Philip’s became the new parish church, staffed by secular clergy. St.Martin’s, a daughter church of St.Andrew’s, continued as a place of Anglican worship. A little later, the Victorian buildings of St.Mary’s and St.Matthias were demolished, and smaller centres of worship rebuilt. So evolved the current configuration of the parish, completed when St.Cedd’s Church was made redundant and sold. It is now used by another Christian Church.
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