By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas
GOSPORT’S Christ Church is being formally relaunched as a more family-centred place of worship – though retaining some traditional services – as the Church of England’s reorganisation of Gosport parishes is nearing completion.
The Diocese of Portsmouth’s ‘mission and ministry’ initiative began in 2018 as it sought to, “stimulate spiritual and numerical growth and to help worshippers to engage better with their local communities”, in Portsmouth, Newport on the Isle of Wight, Leigh Park, Havant, as well as in Gosport.
‘Different ‘shades’ of the Church of England’
One of the results has been a new ‘South Gosport’ parish comprising Holy Trinity, St John’s Forton, and Christ Church in Stoke Road but with each offering what the new team vicar, the Rev Ray Driscoll, described as, “different ‘shades’ of the Church of England.”
Holy Trinity will continue more traditional services which will be led by the Rev Godfrey Chigumira when he arrives in the autumn, while St John’s is being developed into an alternative music venue, and Christ Church has been refurbished for its role of focussing on families.
Mr Driscoll comes to Gosport from St Peter’s Church in the Guildford Diocese, and before being ordained he was for 15 years a paid youth worker with churches in that area.
He said: “It’s all about stripping away the barriers people feel about attending church – for instance, parents worry that their children will make too much noise, but that’s no problem for us.
“We want to be a church that local people will find attractive and want to be part of. And we don’t want to be a clone of anywhere else – we want to be a vibrant community that is exactly right for those who live in Gosport. That also means we want to hear more from Gosport people about what they want to see here.”
To facilitate this approach, Christ Church now has a barista-style coffee bar, new comfy chairs, a stage, and technical equipment to allow the livestreaming of worship and project videos.
Though Mr Driscoll told The Globe he recognises, “there is a traditional congregation at Christ Church who have been faithful members for many years… [and so] on Sundays there will be an earlier traditional service and then the doors will be open for the family-type service.”
‘Investment of £2.76 million spread over five years’
The launch events at Christ Church begin at 1.30pm on Wednesday, September 8, with a show for local schoolchildren and that will be followed on the Friday with a civic reception at 6pm and then at 7pm a gig night with locally brewed beer, and on Saturday (the 11th) there will be a family fun day between noon and 4pm.
Meanwhile the plans for St John’s Forton are coming together and include working with Quay West Studios Limited to arrange monthly live music as well employing a community arts officer to enable the church to be a base for other creative arts.
In April 2020, the parishes of Bridgemary, Elson and Rowner were merged to form the parish of ‘North Gosport’ led by the team rector, the Rev Richard England.
The parishes of Alverstoke and Lee-on-the-Solent were not included in the ‘mission and ministry’ initiative.
Originally, the Portsmouth Diocese had budgeted £1.9 million to complete the changes in Gosport but that has now risen to an expected investment of £2.76 million spread over five years – including the salaries of the clergy and lay staff to be employed and some capital costs on refurbishment of buildings.
A diocesan official confirmed that while the Church of England had agreed and provided some of the funding for the changes in Gosport and Newport, it had rejected the plans for the parish of St Francis Church in Leigh Park, Havant.
Photo (above): The Rev Ray Driscoll at Christ Church, Stoke Road, Gosport. Reproduced with permission