Rev Annie McCabe is Rev of St Luke’s Church, Somerstown. Here she talks about giving a warm welcome to new neighbours.
WHAT do you do when more than 200 people turn up for lunch?
It helps if you can offer great food, good company, the right music and a sunny afternoon to relax.
Thankfully all of those things were in plentiful supply when the people of St Luke’s Church hosted a free community barbecue recently.
It took place on the weekend when more than 1,200 students moved into new accommodation in the city centre, opposite our 19th century church.
We wanted to give a warm welcome to our new neighbours and to give them a way to meet those of us who live here already and know Portsmouth well.
What made the day so special was the mix of people who came – students new to the city mixed with local families, residents from Portsmouth Foyer, and older members of the community.
We were very aware there is the potential for future tension between different groups living so close to each other.
We’re keen for the church to be the open place where everyone feels at home.
So why did we do it? Love your neighbour as yourself is the simple but profound command Jesus gave to those who follow Him.
Our small, but growing, congregation are under no illusions that being a real neighbour to those around us involves much more than an invitation to a free barbecue.
It involves a sense of permanence – the idea that church is here for you is something that people value in Somerstown.
As someone said to me, ‘It’s funny, I realised I have 300 friends on Facebook, but all my real mates are at church.’
Building relationships that matter takes time.
That’s one reason why St Luke’s has launched a new Sunday brunch café open now, every Sunday from 11.30am.
Our pioneer minister Susie Templeton is behind the new initiative.
Working with University of Portsmouth students from the schools of architecture and interior design, they have created a pop-up café space with eclectic features and great food.
It’s a laid back space to connect, recover and prepare for the week ahead that is open to everyone of all or no faith at all.
St Luke’s is also now open through the week.
For more information, search for St Luke and St Pete, Southsea on Facebook.
You can find us in Greetham Street, Somerstown.
Please also visit us at stlukeandstpeter.org.uk.