Diocese of Portsmouth

    Bishop’s Council’s reorganisation plans announced

    Live | Pray | Serve
    1 Feb. 2019

    The Bishop’s Council has approved plans for an initiative designed to increase the spiritual impact of the Church of England across south-east Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

    The plan includes extra investment in parishes so that £9.65m is spent in parts of Portsmouth, Gosport, Newport and the Leigh Park estates. The aim is to inspire more people to become disciples of Christ through innovative new ways of creating congregations.

    The diocese would create new teams of ministers – clergy and lay people – who could plant new congregations, inspire discipleship, bring the good news of Jesus to those who don’t yet go to church, and ensure effective use of all our buildings in those areas – as well as maintaining traditional worship.

    The initiative also includes proposals to reorganise parishes in those areas, which would release funding to put alongside around £4.9m that our diocese hopes will come from the central Church of England.

    The original proposals have been modified since they were first unveiled in the autumn, to reflect the huge amount of feedback that our Bishop’s Council received during its informal consultation process.

    The members of our Bishop’s Council are clergy and lay people who are elected by worshippers from each area of our diocese. Since October, they have sifted through hundreds of emails, letters and petitions, hosted public meetings and held around 30 other meetings with individual clergy and PCCs.

    The Bishop’s Council delayed making a decision at its previous meeting in December, to give members time to read all the responses they had received.

    The proposals agreed at their meeting on January 28 therefore include fresh ideas, including some that have been suggested during the consultation process by those living and worshipping in our parishes.

    In Gosport, the original proposals to bring together certain parishes have been replaced by a new arrangement, suggested by members of church councils in Gosport.

    It would involve the parishes of Bridgemary, Elson and Rowner coming together in a new team ministry, with a team rector and a church-planting team vicar. It would also involve merging the parishes of Forton, Christ Church and Holy Trinity, to form another team ministry, with a team rector and a church-planting team vicar.

    The church council of St John’s, Forton, have asked if their church building could be transformed into a ‘mission hub’, which would serve the whole of Gosport. It would therefore cease to be a separate parish and regular Sunday worship would end – to enable worshippers to find new ways to share the Christian faith with residents across the whole town.

    On the Isle of Wight, the original proposals for certain parishes to work together were also altered and replaced by a new arrangement, which came out of consultations with individual churches.

    It would involve the parishes of Newport Minster, St John’s Newport, Carisbrooke and Barton forming one new team ministry, with a team rector, a team vicar, and  church-planting team vicar – those three clergy would also be responsible for the parish of Gatcombe.

    The more rural parishes of Arreton and Newchurch have been removed from the reorganisation plans, in recognition that their circumstances are different.

    And in Havant, the proposal is that the parishes of Leigh Park, Warren Park and West Leigh form a team ministry with a team rector and church-planting team vicar.

    The Bishop’s Council considered the responses from many members of the churches and community that were opposed to this idea, and also considered the responses from all three church councils. Although all three PCCs had reservations and wanted to retain their current clergy, they could see the advantages of working more closely together to reduce administration and free up time and energy.

    In Gosport, Newport and the Leigh Park estates, the new investment would involve appointing new pioneer ministers, operations managers, youth ministers and others to work alongside traditional parish clergy. It would be partly up to worshippers themselves to work out the ultimate shape of the teams in each new parish.

    If these proposals are approved, the creation of these team ministries means that the existing clergy roles would no longer exist. The current clergy in all three areas can apply for the new posts.

    Those directly affected by these proposals will now be able to give their responses during an eight-week period of formal consultation before Bishop’s Council makes its final recommendation in April. If approved, there is then another formal consultation process with the Church Commissioners, after which a final decision will be made.

    Bishop Christopher said: “The aim is to revitalise the work of the Church of England within our diocese, to inspire greater spiritual depth, ensure a bigger impact on society and to enlarge our congregations. We’ll do that through traditional parish ministry alongside more innovative ways of doing church.

    “We believe these plans will give us the foundation to do that. We’re keen to continue to work alongside individual churches to work out what kind of issues people face in those areas, and what kind of ministers we should be appointing to help local people to embrace the Christian faith. That could look very different in each place.”

    The diocese originally applied for £4.9m in Strategic Development Funding from the national Church of England, to contribute towards this £9.65m initiative to revitalise church life across the diocese.

    On the advice of the national C of E, its bid was split into two parts. This first phase, for projects in the city of Portsmouth, has already been successful. A total of £2.18m has been allocated to spend on projects in the city.

    They include:

    • the repair and refurbishment of St Margaret’s Church in Southsea, to be the base for a growing congregation planted from nearby St Jude’s Church, and a network of social enterprises;
    • the employment of two pioneer ministers at St Luke’s Church in Southsea to support its work with teenagers and young adults; and
    • the consolidation of work by Harbour Church in Portsmouth in its two new congregations, within St George’s Church, Portsea, and St Alban’s Church, Copnor.

    The second phase, which includes extra funding for these new initiatives in the Leigh Park estates, Newport and Gosport, will be submitted to the national Church of England in spring 2019.

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