Diocese of Portsmouth

    Archbishop worships with three different congregations

    15 Oct. 2023

    IT was the craziest church that Archbishop Justin had been to for some time.

    That was his verdict on ‘The Four’, the innovative family service at Christ Church, Gosport, which mixes energetic worship with craft, bubbles and a sit-down meal. And on this occasion it also featured children asking the Archbishop of Canterbury questions.

    It was one of three very different congregations that Archbishop Justin was part of on the final day of his three-day visit to our diocese. He helped St Wilfrid’s in Cowplain celebrate its centenary in the morning, and was part of Evensong at St Peter’s, Petersfield in the evening.

    And he left with real encouragement for our diocese as it aims to reach those of all ages with the transforming love of Jesus. The Archbishop believes that the churches, chaplaincies and church schools in this diocese are on the right track.

    “The Diocese of Portsmouth is doing superbly,” he said. “I’m impressed by the depth of its spiritual life and the call for others to be part of that, the sense of focus without being bossy and the love shown without being cloying. There’s also the wisdom in appointments so that wonderful people are doing the key jobs that makes my heart sing. 

    “What you are doing with Anna Chaplaincy is phenomenal, and the outreach is amazing in places like The Four at Christ Church, Gosport. We should be filled with hope about the future of the Church of England in this diocese.”

    The Rev Chris Spencer, Archbishop Justin and Bishop Peter Hancock worship at St Wilfrid's, Cowplain
    Archbishop Justin with the Rev Chris Spencer and Bishop Peter Hancock at St Wilfrid's Church, Cowplain
    Archbishop Justin with (back) churchwarden Steve Day, former vicars Paul Moore & Ian Snares and churchwarden Jan Smith; (front): Bishop Jonathan, vicar Chris Spencer and former vicar Peter Hancock
    Archbishop Justin with old friend Valerie German, whose floor he slept on in Kenya in the 1970s

    Archbishop Justin began his final day in our diocese with a celebration of 100 years of St Wilfrid’s Church, Cowplain. Former vicars Bishop Peter Hancock, the Ven Paul Moore and the Rev Ian Snares returned to take part in the service, and former curates were also dotted around the congregation. Bishop Peter preached, Paul and Ian both read lessons, while Lucy Moore led intercessions ahead of the celebration of the Eucharist by the Archbishop.

    Current and former members of the congregation also shared their memories of their time at the church. Neil Eastwood, whose father was vicar in the 1950s, told a hilarious story about stealing marriage certificates from his father’s study and ‘marrying’ classmates at school for a small fee. Others talked about the development of the church plant at Westbrook Church, and recent efforts to bless the local community.

    Among the congregation was Valerie German, now 83, who was a missionary in Kenya in 1974 when a young Justin Welby arrived as part of a cohort of young people spending a gap year working there, and ended up sleeping on Valerie’s floor. It was in Kenya that he first started reading the Bible, which led to his commitment to Christ in Cambridge in 1975. Valerie is a regular at St Wilfrid’s, and the Archbishop made a point of seeking her out to offer her Communion.

    “It was Justin’s friend Robin who first gave him a Bible in Kenya, which he thought was a bit weird,” she said. “But he read it, and I think that led him towards faith. It was great that he brought Communion to me on this special day for St Wilfrid’s.”

    Members of Christ Church, Gosport, pray for the Archbishop before their family service
    Families at 'The Four' in Christ Church, Gosport
    The Archbishop with children from 'The Four' at Christ Church, Gosport

    The Archbishop was given the chance to experience the high-octane fun at Christ Church, Gosport, where they now host a service called ‘The Four’ on a Sunday afternoon. Families queue up outside the church before the doors open at 4pm and walk in through a stream of bubbles and a blast of music. They then get the chance to dance and sing high-energy worship songs, prepare some craft and play games before they sit down for a shared meal together.

    On this occasion, the children were able to quiz Archbishop Justin with questions they’d prepared, including what an archbishop is and what it’s like to crown a King. The Archbishop prayed for Christ Church and two eight-year-old children, Levi Smith and Ruby Kemp prayed for him.

    Kyle and Courtney Gray bring their six-year-old niece Isabella to Christ Church as often as they can, and have been part of the congregation for two years. They now help with Alpha and have encouraged other members of their family to come along.

    “Our lives have been totally transformed by this church,” said Kyle. ”I came from a background that’s not religious, but I felt really welcomed here and it’s had a huge impact on me. We’ve got baptised and I cook the food for the Alpha Courses. We’re also running a Connect group on a Thursday for people who have addictions or who are struggling and need some healing.

    “It was great to meet the Archbishop. He was interested in our work and what we do. It’s really good he's been able to come here.”

    Archbishop Justin meets Anna Chaplains at St Peter's Petersfield
    Archbishop Justin worships during Evensong at St Peter's Petersfield with Bishop Jonathan
    Anna Chaplain founder Debbie Thrower interviews the Archbishop during Evensong at St Peter's, Petersfield

    The Archbishop completed his three-day visit to our diocese with Evensong at St Peter’s Church, Petersfield. He met dozens of our Anna Chaplains, who offer ministry to the elderly in care homes and their communities – they’d been taking part in a ‘Messy Vintage’ session in the church earlier in the day.

    A specially-formed choir including worshippers from St Peter’s and All Saints, Botley, sang Evensong, and two Anna Chaplains read the lessons before ex-broadcaster and Anna Chaplaincy founder Debbie Thrower interviewed the Archbishop. They talked about the tragedy unfolding in Israel and Gaza, about the role of Anna Chaplains in the Church, and about the UK’s social care system. They also touched on the Archbishop's Commission on Reimagining Care, which reported in January this year and drew on Christian theology and tradition to re-examine our care system.

    And he was full of praise for our 41 Anna Chaplains who have been recruited and trained to work in our parishes in a very short space of time, in line with Bishop Jonathan’s vision that people of all ages should be able to experience the transforming love of Jesus for themselves.

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