TEN years ago there were just 200 people a week using a beautiful Edwardian church in the heart of Portsmouth.
But today more than 2,000 people a week visit St Cuthbert’s Church in Copnor – and worship is just a small part of that.
The Grade II-listed church in Hayling Avenue has undergone a £4m revamp and the building now includes a doctor’s surgery, a pre-school, an education area used by Portsmouth College, a Sure Start centre, an area for elderly people’s luncheon clubs and a conference room.
The 12-year project is coming to an end, with the finishing touches being made to the worship hall – which now covers a third of the original church space.
This will be the first Christmas in eight years that the congregation holds midnight communion on December 24.
With all the building work, they have had to use nearby Langstone Junior School and the church’s new conference room on the third floor.
The vicar of the church the Rev David Power said it was an extraordinary transformation for the church, which was built in 1914 at a cost of £11,000.
Rev Power said: ‘I arrived here in 1997 and we had a big cavernous space and it became obvious we were not making use of the space.
‘It was only in use for about six hours a week. It was only used for church services and was locked up most of the time.
‘This doesn’t mean getting smaller – I know the place of worship is smaller, but we can still get 250 people in.’
The church now has its own lift, wi-fi access and underfloor heating.
Rev Power said the church’s transformation – paid for with a variety of grants, donations and even a parishioner who donated money from the sale of their house – was an example of could be done with huge spaces.
He said: ‘It’s multi-purpose and wanting to be a place where the community comes and can derive some benefit from being here.
‘Our faith was the motivating factor that energised this. We said “How can we make our building serve the people living around us?”.
‘It’s been a lot of hard work and this is the biggest voluntary-sector-led project in Portsmouth, with the possible exception of the Salvation Army Haven Centre. There’s never been one like this.’
The building work is set to be finished by February and will include a new entrance. A carols by candelight service is to take place on Sunday at 6.30pm.