THE diocese of Portsmouth is investing in a new children’s and young people’s choir, in an effort to “use the power of music to launch a new congregation”.
St James’s, Milton, will appoint a choir leader and administrative clerk to reach out to children and families through primary schools in the parish. The aim is to build connections with the worshipping life of the church, and establish a separate church-plant based around the families of choir members.
The Master of Choristers at Portsmouth Cathedral, Dr David Price, who worked with the Priest-in-Charge of St James’s, the Revd Paul Armstead, to develop the plan, said on Tuesday that it was an opportunity to put to the test his conviction that music was “a powerful tool for evangelism” (Features, 17 November 2017).
“Cathedrals have had an amazing renaissance in the past few years in terms of their own work,” he said. “We have all started looking at how we reach out . . . but what we have not been good at is sustainability. We are good at taking music out and inspiring people, but then we go back home again. This is one way of inspiring, but also providing some longevity.”
At the cathedral, he was aware that music was “bringing people to church that might not have come in the first place” — not only those who came to listen, but also people “partaking, and their families. There is no reason why that should not be replicated in churches that we are helping. Music is a window into the church, through worship.”
Mr Armstead, who attributes his presence in the Church to his singing in a parish choir during his teens, said on Tuesday that, although they were beginning with a “blank piece of paper”, he would be “surprised” if the new group focused on Sunday mornings. It was, he emphasised, a matter at first of “going out” to meet children and the families, rather than expecting them to come to the church.
“We need to build and they need to trust us. . . I am very open to how this is going to be expressed.”
Dr Price said that cathedrals had reported “big growth” in midweek worship. He expects a singing club to be formed, and hopes that, within five years, there will be “a thriving community of singers, with their families associated and helping with it, and people who might have found a faith or a rekindled faith”.
He noted that, to date, many church-plants had been in the Charismatic Evangelical tradition. “It would be good to show that a liturgical and sacramentally based church can succeed alongside other forms of church-planting,” he said. “We know that children can be the best evangelists of their own families. Music can bring the children to church, and, modelled correctly and honestly, the parents and families may follow. . .
“The participatory nature of singing in a dynamic group can open the ‘soul to heaven’s delight’ and be the gateway so sorely needed for mission and discipleship.”
The staff appointed will be part of the cathedral’s music outreach staff, working under the guidance of Mr Armstead.