The Church’s presence in the area over the past decades has shifted and evolved as it, too, has struggled to keep up with the pace of change. There is no physical church space on the Wharf, although there is a multifaith prayer room and a chaplaincy, which came much later in the development (News, 18 February 2000). In a valedictory lecture three years ago, the last Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, who was Bishop of Stepney from 1992 to 1995, described how “sympathy with vulnerable local communities” had resulted in “sustained opposition to major new developments, notably Canary Wharf, where no attempt was made to establish a Christian presence”.
Could the Church have done more to secure such a presence? Bishop Newman says that, even with hindsight, the answer to that question is not clear.
“In the early days, the Church took a prophetic stance, and saw the Wharf as a threat to the local community. Was it short-sighted, or was it principled? The answer is probably both. It may be that by taking a stance we lost out on opportunities to be involved. . . Thirty years ago, the Church was in the twilight of a particular era when it may have had a bit more influence than it has now.”