Pastor who is one of five generations to live in East Ham writes book about community
PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 January 2019
A pastor from Newham who’s had five generations of her family live in four streets in East Ham, has written a book about her community.
Sally Mann, 48, is the fourth generation of her family to have lived in the area around Flanders Road.
After being told how unusual that was, the Bonny Downs Community Church pastor decided to write a book about the people she’s met from 25 years of ministering.
“The book came into being because I met up with a group of people interested in unusual churches,” Sally said.
“I hadn’t realised that it was a big deal that five generations of my family had lived in the same four streets – because it was my family’s story it hadn’t struck me as particularly unusual.”
Sally’s great grandmother was the first to move into the area, in what used to be Bonny Downs Road, and is now Darwell Close. Although her great grandfather worked at the gas works, the family, with 16 children, was extremely poor.
Pastor Charles Howe, who set up Bonny Downs Mission in 1908, met Sally’s great grandparents, offering to care for her grandmother, Rose, who was the fourth of the 16 children.
Rose became a Christian and dedicated herself to Bonny Downs Church, and the tradition has remained, with Sally and her children still heavily involved with the church.
“For generations we have all been drawn to the story and heart of this church,” she said.
“I can’t really put into words what’s so special about this area. I love the diversity of Newham, but it’s important communities have people that stay and are stable during so much change.
“I love Newham, but it’s a stupid, crazy form of love.”
Looking for Lydia, which Sally wrote over three days in a caravan in Norfolk in summer, tells the story of people Sally’s met in Newham, by comparing them to characters from the Bible.
In the Bible, disciple Paul travelled to Europe to spread the word of Christianity. He thought he’d be converting devout Jewish people, but he meets Lydia, a businesswoman, who helps him establish the first European church.
“We were looking back on our story and how our church developed,” Sally said.
“I ended up looking at the story of Paul, realising we’ve met really similar people, who you wouldn’t expect at church.
“The church here is very unusual, because it’s very inclusive and it believes the community should be at the heart of it. It’s continued to be a place that really welcomes others who come from difficult and different backgrounds.”