A NEW church has opened in Gosport, Hampshire, meeting on Sunday afternoons to serve those who have never been to church before.
Leesland Neighbourhood Church is the first new church to be opened by a Pioneer Minister, the Revd Tim Watson, who was appointed a year ago with a brief to create new church communities in the diocese of Portsmouth.
Parts of Gosport are some of the most deprived areas in the country.
Mr Watson said: “About half of the people who come have never been to church before, or haven’t been to church for years. Some of them have links with Leesland schools, or they have family members who attend church, or they just live locally.
“Hopefully, what we can offer is something that builds up the local community and gives them a chance to think about spiritual issues. We also want to join in with what local people are already doing to help build up the community of Leesland.”
Members of the new congregation eat together and then join in a shared activity. They meet in St Faith’s, and have also launched a toddler group, Leesland Bumblebees.
Becky Knight, who attends with her daughter, Eve, said: “I’m not that churchy, but it’s good for Eve to hear about what Easter is, and so on, and it’s good for us to be involved with something in the local community. It’s also nice to eat with other people.”
The diocese has appointed three pioneer ministers to nurture new worshipping communities.
A further new congregation is being launched in Milton, Portsmouth, using a choir for children and young people as the core of the new church. The launch of these new congregations is part of the diocese’s “Live, pray, serve” strategy.
Harbour Church, a resource church which opened its doors in a former department store in Portsmouth two years ago (News, 2 September 2016), has already outgrown its premises: about 320 worshippers attend each week. Their average age is 26.
Harbour Church will also use St George’s, opposite Gunwharf Quays, with a view to merging the congregations in future. It is also setting up a new family service in St Alban’s, Copnor.