Portsmouth diocese reveals £9.1m plan to help those in need and grow its churches

The Right Reverend Christopher Foster
The Right Reverend Christopher Foster
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MILLIONS of pounds are set to be spent on reaching out to those in need as part of a Diocese of Portsmouth expansion plan.

The church body is on a mission to grow its Christian ministry and break new ground in Portsmouth, Havant, Gosport and on the Isle of Wight.

As much as £9.1m will be spent over the next five years to build relationships with groups with previously ‘poor engagement’, including students, families and residents of new-build developments and urban areas, including Paulsgrove and Leigh Park.

The diocese will plant new churches, appoint a network of 'innovative’ ministers and provide local debt counselling, school outreach and family support. 

Bosses say the scheme will be paid for by a £3.75m re-allocation of existing resources, £450,000 from their reserves and, if approved, £4.9m from the Church of England. 

‘These are ambitious plans and have been developed from a number of detailed studies that we have undertaken,’ said the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Right Reverend Christopher Foster.

‘These are ambitious plans and have been developed from a number of detailed studies that we have undertaken,’ said the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Right Reverend Christopher Foster.

‘This isn’t about saving money or reducing what we do, we are increasing our investment in all of these areas and we want to make sure we have the biggest impact with the resources that we already have.

‘We are aware of the faithful, committed work of many of our clergy and parishes over decades and centuries, and thank God for it.

‘Equally, we know that our church services, activities and events are often only reaching a small percentage of the local community and we need to find better ways to reach the vast majority of people living in these places.’

In a £3m plan for Portsmouth, the diocese will build new infrastructure for the growing Harbour Church in the city centre and St Margaret’s Church in Eastney – while appointing community-based ‘pioneer ministers’ in Paulsgrove and the inner city.

Havant will see its Leigh Park, Warren Park and West Leigh parishes merged and updated, in a £1.5m plan set to benefit worshippers and the community which uses their facilities. 

Finally in Gosport, where nearly £2m will be spent, the Rowner and Bridgemary parishes will become one – while Elson, Forton, Christ Church and Holy Trinity will also merge. 

The Rt Rev Foster said: ‘We’ll invest resources and employ new staff in these areas to create brand new congregations, and to meet local needs for support with families, debt counselling, engagement with schools – and lots more.

‘Exactly what we offer will actually depend on what these local communities want.

‘We’re engaged in a process of listening over the next few months, to find out what those on the ground really want from their local churches.’

He added: ‘We want to end up with a mix of existing church services and activities for those who value that, plus more innovative ideas that will appeal to those who haven’t so far been involved with the Christian faith.’

The diocese’s plans are part of its Live Pray Serve strategy and it will know whether it has secured the reported £4.9m from the central church by Christmas.