A DERELICT former department store in central Portsmouth is to re-open this weekend as an Anglican church, after a hundreds of thousands of pounds of renovation, funded by the Church Commissioners.
Harbour Church, a partnership between the diocese of Portsmouth and Holy Trinity, Brompton (HTB), in London, is one of the new resource churches being set up in cities around the country.
The church is over three refurbished floors of a block in Commercial Road, in the centre of the city, in a parish that is one of the most deprived in the country.
Its Vicar, the Revd Alex Wood, was previously an assistant curate at St Peter’s, Brighton, and Chaplain to the University of Sussex. Moving with him to Portsmouth are about 30 worshippers from his former church — which was itself a church-plant from HTB (News, 22 May 2009) — to help set up the new church community.
He said: “The building was an old military department store, but it had been empty for a long time and was pretty derelict. It has been a lot of work to renovate it. The worship space will be on the first floor, and on the ground floor we are setting up a coffee shop, which we will run as a social enterprise.
“We have been asked by the Bishop of Portsmouth to have a particular focus on young people and students. Students come back to the city in a couple of weeks, and we will have a special evening-service launch for them in October.
“It’s not often that a brand new C of E church is launched; so this is a wonderful opportunity for us to create something fresh. We believe we can offer a church community that will particularly appeal to young people and students, but of course anyone is welcome.”
He said the existing Anglican churches in Portsmouth had been “incredibly welcoming and kind to us”.
The new Harbour Church is part of a wider strategy from the diocese of Portsmouth to develop new worshipping communities alongside traditional churches. It has already recruited pioneer ministers to create new communities in Gosport, Havant, Cosham, and Wymering. It seeks to recruit another three paid pioneer ministers in other parts of south-east Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, said: “I am a fervent believer in the importance of traditional parish ministry and chaplaincy. There are some fantastic examples in our diocese of congregations that are vibrant and often growing because they are sharing God’s love effectively with others.
“But I also know that we have to find new ways to create disciples among those we have often found hardest to reach, such as inner-city estates, new areas of housing, and with younger people.
“A key part of our strategy is pioneering ministry and fresh expressions of worship — finding ways of reaching out to those who simply aren’t interested in our traditional models of church. That involves committing ourselves to appointing those with vision for new ways to engage with the communities they serve.
“I am delighted that the Church Commissioners have recognised our commitment by awarding us £929,000 towards our £2.4-million project over the next five years.”