In 2012, as part of a precursor to our re-launch on Kings Hill, we asked the Bishop of Rochester for permission to take a name.
Every square inch of land in this country resides within a parish and, if you live in a particular parish, it means you have a call on the time of your Vicar and your church regardless of whether you come to church a lot, a little or not at all. So we decided it was only fair to allow the people of Kings Hill to let us decide.
The choice of a name for a congregation and a community is something that may outlast us all. For example, St Mary’s Church in West Malling has been St Mary’s Church for nearly 1,000 years. It was a big moment and it was only right that the most number of people got a chance to have their say.
We held a public vote and the winner from a short-list of three options was St Gabriel.
St Gabriel had been short-listed because of Kings Hill’s history as an airfield. We had wondered about various names that point us to the skies. In that sense, the angels offered some interesting options and Gabriel (meaning God is my strength) is often God’s messenger bringing good news in the Bible to human beings. He appears to Daniel, Zechariah and famously (known from nativity plays everywhere) Gabriel was the messenger who told Mary she was to have a baby, Jesus.
He is also an important figure in the other Abrahamic faiths of Judaism and Islam. His feast date is shared with the other well-known angel, St Michael, on 29 September. Sometimes known as ‘Michaelmas’.
For all those reasons, we were delighted to adopt St Gabriel’s as our new church name and on 17 March 2013, the Bishop of Rochester joined us for a special service to inaugurate our new church community.