Time to look at the bigger picture and make changes

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The Venerable Dr Joanne Grenfell, Archdeacon of Portsdown talks about the church’s challenges

I often drive along the top of Portsdown Hill, and look out to the sea across Portsmouth city, with its dense rows of houses and striking landmarks.

I then head up into Crookhorn and Waterlooville, to drop my children at school and then across towards Havant and Emsworth, where the sea comes back into view again.

As an archdeacon, I have responsibility for supporting and encouraging Christians in churches across this area.

I feel a sense of pride and hope for all that is going on in churches and local communities from Idsworth to Southsea, from Purbrook to Leigh Park.

With a new year coming, it’s time to gain some perspective, to take the longer view. We’re going to be trying some new things in 2016, to better reach and serve communities that we find it hard at the moment to connect with.

We’ve appointed pioneer ministers for the north Havant area, for the new housing at Berewood, especially for children and young families in Wymering and Cosham. They are all particularly skilled at connecting faith with everyday life, and living a life of faith themselves in the community.

We know in the Church of England that we have often been too churchy in the past, too much inclined to become a club for people who already belong.

There are already churches which are reaching out – up to a hundred come to Emsworth’s monthly Breakfast Church. But looking at the bigger picture, I know that we have to do much more of this: we have to change.

Did you know that many adults with mental health challenges rely on the Breakthru project at St Simon’s Southsea, which gives people the opportunity to learn new skills, to cook, do art and craft, and receive advice and support?

Or that the same church’s Sunday Suppers have fed, for many years, anyone who is in need of a hot meal and some company?

This New Year, I’m grateful to God for all that is good, but also looking forward to the challenge of helping churches to serve their communities in fresh ways.