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Witnessing miracles on the Downham Estate

As team vicar for the Catford and Downham team in the Diocese of Southwark, Southeast London, Revd Nick Walsh considers himself both a traditional vicar and a pioneer. Over the six years he has worked in the area, he has seen God at work in the every day, providing in sometimes miraculous ways.

Revd Nick Walsh stands in a church service wearing his robes, arms stretched to his sides, addressing the congregation

‘The whole of my ministry has been on estates,’ says Revd Nick Walsh. ‘I just really have this passion for the Church to be present in those places that are often abandoned, forgotten, ignored, labelled as deprived, or the places that people don’t want to be. 

‘Downham is a big housing estate, about 28,000 people, built between the First and Second World Wars. The idea at the time was that if you move people from the slums to nice houses with lots of open space, it would solve poverty. And unfortunately, it didn’t and it hasn’t. 

‘I’ve been here now for six years and I very much see my role as doing things slightly differently, as being on the edge of what’s normal of experimentation. We’re now seeing relationships that I’ve invested in over the whole course of six years starting to bear fruit.

‘People remember me taking a funeral four or five years ago, and they’re thinking of baptism or coming to the church for help in crisis, because they remember the ministry that we had. 

The interior of the Downham Estate church, filled with people interacting at tables

‘It’s an exciting time and we’re seeing people who wouldn’t consider themselves Christians asking questions about the Bible and looking at prayer. We’re also seeing God providing for us financially. At the beginning we were hit by a crippling energy bill and might have had to shut down projects. But then we were awarded a grant that will help us not just to survive, but to expand and thrive. There is a lot of prayer and tears that have gone into that,’ he says.

Nick has been delighted to see new leaders emerge from the congregation:

‘Recently at our Messy Church, I couldn’t make it so asked the children’s worker to lead it for the first time. She was rather anxious, but she said yes. She’s wonderful but no one was quite sure how it would go – but we didn’t need to worry! I got messages afterward from the kids saying they loved it when she took it and could she and I do a double act! And some of the parents and kids were asking about learning how to pray.’

If you want to see the Kingdom of God at work, Nick offers a warm encouragement: 

‘If you want to see miracles, not in terms of the flashy miracles, but the miracles of life, lives changed, and patterns of poverty broken, if you want to really know what it means to trust God when life is really, really tough, join an estate church. We desperately need God’s people to fall in love with their community, to fall in love with their local church and to serve and have a chance to see Jesus at work.’

If you are inspired by the story of Downham Estate, find out more about the support CCX can offer for estates mission, including details on Become – an accessible theology and leadership course with a creative, interactive approach to teaching. Helen Shannon and Ash Chafe of the CCX Estates Mission Team would love to hear from you. Email them at

Photos: Sarah Noons