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BCP . . . or GP?

17 October 2014

The congregation at St Cuthbert's, in Portsmouth, shares its building with a GP surgery operated by Christian doctors. Rebecca Paveley hears how it works

Holistic care: Dr David Rogers with a patient at Baffins Surgery, in Portsmouth

Holistic care: Dr David Rogers with a patient at Baffins Surgery, in Portsmouth

"BEING in a church building has given us a much more explicit identity; patients who come to us assume that we have a spiritual base," Dr David Rogers, one of the partners at the Baffins Surgery, Portsmouth, says.

The practice is housed in one end of what was once a cavernous church - and it still looks like one on the outside. On the inside, however, it is now home to a medical practice, conference facilities, and an education centre hosting a pre-school and a worship space.

The vision to transform St Cuthbert's was sketched out by its Vicar, Canon David Power, on the back of a concert programme in 1999 during a concert in the church. The congregation had to relocate while building work was going on, but moved back in a few years ago.

St Cuthbert's won a design award last year from the Portsmouth Society for the best re-use of a building. And, at the award ceremony last December, Canon Power spoke about the original vision for the church: when it was built almost 100 years ago, the vision was that it should be a place of worship and service to the community.

"So, although St Cuthbert's is being given the award for the 'Best Re-use of a Building', the development is, in fact, a fresh expression of the initial vision for which it was constructed," Canon Power said. "The place of worship, in particular, was designed to say with great clarity: 'This may be a historic listed building, but our faith is a faith for today.'"

Dr Rogers says that the worship space, which was the space to be redeveloped, was "the last piece of the jigsaw" for the other users of the church building.

At Baffins, all the partners and salaried doctors in the practice are Christian. Before they moved into St Cuthbert's, they operated from a semi-detached house. Before the redevelopment of St Cuthbert's, they visited the Bromley by Bow Centre as inspiration for their integrated approach.

"Faith is the basis for the partnership," Dr Rogers says. "Our vision is to serve in a holistic way. We minister to people's needs, whether mental, physical, or spiritual. We have a strong pastoral concern for patients; we hope our Christian values impact positively on our care."

The practice used to have a prayer clinic at the end of surgery, but now staff and patients attend the prayer group in the worship space. He says that it is not unusual for patients to ask for prayer. There are also Bibles freely available in the practice.

The church congregation has been enormously supportive of the practice, to the extent of raising thousands of pounds towards the building work.

Dr Rogers, who has been a partner at Baffins for 29 years, said: "It's been a massive boon for us: it's increased effectiveness, and increased services that we can provide."

Health visitors and midwives also operate from the church, and each autumn, as the new flu-jab clinics open for patients, members of the congregation come in and serve refreshments.

"At a Saturday-morning flu clinic, 500 people come through the doors. It's an outreach for the church. The church is at the hub of the centre: it's not just a worship space, but it is more holistic in its approach.

"And people coming in are coming not just for church, but for their health and education needs. We'd love to see even more links between the practice and the church."

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