Diocese of Portsmouth

    Kairos revolution starts right here

    22 Sept. 2004
    Neil Pugmire

    IT will be the largest survey of its kind – and it should herald a revolution in the role of the Church in south-east Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.


    Churchgoers in the Anglican diocese of Portsmouth started a comprehensive audit of the physical, social and spiritual needs of those living in their communities in July. The statistical picture they build over the six months until January 2005 will help them as they work out what more they can do to help improve the lives of those living in their neighbourhoods.


    It’s all part of the Bishop of Portsmouth’s ‘Kairos’ initiative, which aims to find new models for the Church to minister to those outside its doors and new ways of engaging with the wider community. ‘Kairos’ is a Biblical word meaning ‘an opportune time’ or ‘God’s moment’, and the bishop’s Kairos process was launched across the whole Anglican diocese in February. It’s not specifically aimed at getting more people coming to church services – it’s more about helping churchgoers get involved more effectively in their communities.


    Firstly, churchgoers heard about both the problems and opportunities faced by the Church in a Kairos roadshow led by the bishop, which toured the diocese during Lent. Secondly, they studied the theology behind the Kairos process in sermons and small groups in their parishes between Easter and July. This – the research phase - is the next part of the process.


    Churchgoers will work together in clusters of parishes, looking at the results of the 2001 census, local authority data and national statistics on deprivation to build a statistical picture of their own community. They may meet with councillors and MPs, education, health and social service professionals and others who have local expertise. They will then look at what Anglican and other churches, local authorities and secular agencies are already doing to help. And they will examine their own churches’ human, physical and financial resources to see what they can do to help meet the needs of others.


    This research phase will prepare churchgoers for the next phase of the process, when they will be asked to put together formal, five-year plans for their parishes to serve the social and spiritual needs of their communities more effectively. That phase will start in January 2005. The final phase will be the implementation of those plans from summer 2005.


    The chairman of the Kairos executive group, the Ven Chris Lowson, said: “After discussing what problems and opportunities we had, and then studying the theology behind Kairos, this research phase is really the nuts and bolts of the whole process.


    “Of course, many parishes may know a lot about their own communities already, but it is unlikely that many have conducted an audit on this scale. There may be surprises – parishes may discover a section of their community that no Christians are engaging with at all. That’s the kind of information that will be vital for the planning phase.”


    And the Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Kenneth Stevenson, said: “The Kairos initiative is not a leap in the dark, nor is it just the latest diocesan campaign. The research phase, vital for next year’s planning, is about carefully gathering local information, in order to provide the kind of evidence we need for us to travel together for the next stage in our common life as a pilgrim Church in this diocese.”