Funding boost for projects to reach those who don't go to church
PLANS to create a brand new church and appoint pioneering ministers to reach those who don’t come to church have been given a funding boost.
The Church Commissioners announced today (July 11) that it would give our diocese £929,000 towards its £2.4m strategy to engage with the wider community. Ours is one of nine dioceses to share a £7.8m cash injection.
The strategy includes appointing new ‘pioneer ministers’ to try to reach people beyond the traditional model of church in key areas. Three of the six posts have already been filled – the Rev Tim Watson is already working in the Leesland area of Gosport, Nicky Pybus has started in the Cosham and Wymering area, and the Revs Barney and Sara Barron are sharing the job of pioneer minister to the PO9 area of Havant. Three more will be appointed in other areas of the diocese.
They have been given permission to dream up new ways of how the Church of England could work in different ways to reach those who don’t engage with traditional models of church.
They have joined a team of pioneer ministers which also includes the Dean of Pioneer Ministry, Canon Peter Hall; the Rev Connie Sherman, vicar of St John's, Purbrook, who has also been licensed as pioneer minister for the new Berewood development; the Rev Philippa Mills, who is pioneering as part of her role as vicar of Whiteley Church; the Rev Andrew Goy, who is a pioneer curate in Crookhorn; and Susie Templeton, who is a pioneer ordinand based at St Luke's Church, Portsmouth.
Our £2.4m strategy also includes the creation of a brand new church in central Portsmouth, designed to appeal specifically to young people and students. A team of 30 young people from St Peter’s Church in Brighton are moving to Portsmouth, finding work here or becoming university students. They will form a new congregation called ‘Harbour Church’ from September.
And it also involves providing extra training for C of E worshippers across Portsmouth diocese. They will be encouraged to experiment with pioneering ways to reach those who don’t go to church in their own parish.
The Archdeacon of Portsdown, the Ven Joanne Grenfell, who made the bid to the Church Commissioners on behalf of the diocese, said: “We were already committed to creating Harbour Church and to appointing these pioneer ministers, whether our bid for funding was successful or not. So we are delighted that the Church Commissioners have recognised the value of what we are doing.
“The exciting thing about pioneer ministers is that each of them starts with a blank sheet of paper, and has to work out how best to engage with people in their area. What works in Leesland may be very different to what works in Cosham. It is specifically not about asking people to come to church on Sundays. It is about the church coming to where people already meet, and finding ways to make their lives better.
“And the great thing about welcoming a brand new congregation from Brighton is that young people and students are the best people to reach out to other young people and students in this area.”
Nicky Pybus, who is currently our only lay pioneer minister, began working in Cosham and Wymering in April. She has already linked up with community groups, schools and Highbury College, and organised a community fun day to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday.
She plans to launch a weekly after-school Lego Club at Highbury Primary School from September. She also wants to launch a monthly Café Church in St Philip’s, Cosham, from September, including multi-sensory creative prayer and worship activities, video, discussion and participation, as well as coffee and cake.
And she’s also planning a monthly pop-up cinema project, which will involve family films shown in church during Saturday afternoons and thought-provoking films for adults later in the evenings.
“It’s a community that is bordered by the motorway and railway line, so easy to define and we want St Philip’s to act as the ‘hub’ of the Highbury community to bring people together,” she said.
“One thing already helping to build community is the use of social media, which means people can share what’s going on effectively. We’ve also renamed the church’s magazine to reflect our new identity as ‘Highbury Hub’, and we’ll transform it into a community publication which will be delivered to all 2,000 homes.”
Meanwhile, the Rev Tim Watson has been building relationships and exploring the community around Leesland. He is organising a regular Trash Café at St Faith’s Church, which involves cooking with food at the end of its shelf life and allowing people to pay what they want for it.
He is now a governor at Leesland Infant and Junior Schools and will be at the weekly after-school drop-in for parents. He is exploring the idea of creating prayer spaces in school.
And Barney and Sara Barron launched their pioneer ministry with a Picnic in the Park at Park Community School, which included facepainting, inflatables, and entertainment from local talent.
Meanwhile, worshippers from the new Harbour Church have been arriving in Portsmouth over the summer as they secure jobs or university courses. They are meeting to pray and worship over the summer before their first Sunday service at the start of September. They will meet above the Sprinkles ice cream parlour in Commercial Road.
It will be led by the Rev Alex Wood, who was curate at St Peter’s, Brighton. St Peter’s was itself a church plant from Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, in London, the home of the Alpha Course. St Peter’s Church started five years ago with 30 people and is now 800-strong.
Alex and his wife Liz have moved to Portsmouth with their daughter Annie. They have now been joined by the Rev Ben Bryant, who was ordained at Portsmouth Cathedral on July 2 to be the new curate at Harbour Church.
“We love the city and it’s an exciting place to be. It was an exciting adventure to watch St Peter’s grow, and it has given us a great vision of how powerful the local church can be, said Alex. “The bishop has invited us to work particularly with students and young adults. We’re also keen to work with the poor and marginalised.”
The £7.8m awarded by the Church Commissioners to the nine dioceses is part of its Strategic Development Funding. It aims to make a significant difference to helping dioceses with their mission, by supporting plans for major growth. Thirteen bids were submitted and only nine chosen.