St Mary’s Parish Church


‘Imagine a Church’

Renewing the Vision

April 2014

At St Mary’s we are a people of prayer, learning and growing in faith together.  Our vision is to be a caring and welcoming church family who reach out with the love of God into our local community and world.

From the Vicar

  • What is the purpose of St Mary’s Church?
  • What do we feel God wants us to do which is unique to St Mary’s, and which will help us to make a greater impact for God’s Kingdom in our community?
  •  Where will we be in 5 years time, or in 20 years time? 
  •  Do we see our financial giving as simply to pay the bills, or are we investing in ‘the Kingdom’, the future, bringing hope and healing into our community, and seeing lives transformed?
  •  How can we achieve growth in numbers and in spiritual life?

These were among the questions the Parochial Church Council (PCC) and indeed the Church has been asking themselves and God over the past few months. We have attended conferences, received feedback from the congregation, had the help of facilitators, and now feel confident to suggest some ways forward. 

But all this depends on your help and support.  I cannot possibly do all this myself, nor can the PCC or Ministry Team.  We need you all to get behind this with your gifts and ministries, your financial giving, your love, encouragement and prayer. 

I hope that you will feel able to support us in this vision, and I look forward to working with you to achieve this in the next few years.

Ian Meredith (Vicar/Priest in Charge)


I came across a piece entitled ‘Imagine a church’.  I offer it here as a picture of how I would like to see St Mary’s.  Do you resonate with any of this?  Is this the sort of church you envisage? 

‘Imagine a church that …

reaches the broken world to bring a healing that can only come from Jesus Christ;

does not get caught up in technicalities and church politics but stays focused on the Lord;

helps me understand;

listens to the Holy Spirit;

is honest and open-minded rather than self-righteous and dogmatic; 

is loving and unafraid;

accepts people where they are in life and not just when they have achieved a level of ‘spiritualness’;

grows in the knowledge of God and His love for the world;

lifts up Jesus

redeems things like the environment, the arts and music;

prays for one another;

serves others, feeds the hungry, visits the sick and imprisoned;

lives with a diversity of thoughts, opinions, ages, worship expressions and celebrates the differences;

 is a soft place to fall; that doesn’t feel like a wall;

is the heartbeat of Christ;

that knows me and loves me anyway;

impacts the community around them so that it can be a light for Jesus in people’s lives;

sees live changed by drawing people to Christ;

will challenge our minds to learn God’s Word and support each other in our walks with God.

gets lost in worshipping Jesus and lingers in His presence.


The Challenge

We need to face up to the challenge, that although we are reaching many people and doing good things, organised Christian religion is diminishing in Portchester; St Mary’s impact is not that great, and is probably ignored by the majority of the population; our congregation is mostly in the upper age group; we have few younger people who are really committed, and unless there is a change of heart, our longer-term future is uncertain.  Please don’t say ‘we’ve been here before’. Things in the UK today are rapidly declining in terms of its religious ignorance and apathy (not to mention antagonism) in ways never imagined by our ancestors.


Some ‘broken walls’ (Nehemiah)

Many of these figures come from the 2011 National Census.

The population of Portchester is 14,500

Age Profile: 0-4    –    4%

                    5-15  – 11%

                   16-64 – 61%

                   65+    – 24%

  • The proportion of people in Portchester describing themselves as ‘Christian’ decreased from 78% of the population in 2001 to 63% (11,350 people) in 2011.
  • The number of these connected to St Mary’s Church (Electoral Roll (237), Attenders not on Roll (50), Children (46) Mary’s Lambs (15 parents + 15 children), Tea & Company, Alpha Groups, etc. is probably around 350 at the very most, or 2.41% of the population of Portchester.
  • The proportion of claiming ‘no religion’ has doubled in the past 10 years
  • Half of all funerals at Portchester Crematorium are now conducted by Civil or Humanist Celebrants with no religious content.  This proportion is increasing.  It estimated that in 20 years time there will be very few funerals conducted by ministers.
  • Only 11% of age 5-15 described themselves as ‘Christian’ in 2011
  • The largest demographic age group in Portchester (45-59) is not representative of the largest demographic group of St Mary’s. The congregation is mainly at the older end.
  • Out of a population of 14,500 residents in Portchester, it is estimated that only 500 have any regular connection/attendance to a church.  This is 3.44% of the population (which is just over half of the national average of 6% of the UK’s population who attend church).
  • Between those who attend the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Free Church and churches outside Portchester, it would appear that most committed Christians in Portchester do not attend their parish church.
  • Unless there is an increase in financial giving (of between 30% – 50%) of the current offerings, St Mary’s will be in financial difficulty in about 3 years time. 50% of our regular giving is given by 20 people!
  • There is a lack of leadership, especially among men, who can teach, lead groups, lead youth, disciple and mentor.
  • The members of St Mary’s who attend most Sunday mornings,  attend evening services, house groups, PCC, and are more involved, tend to be the older age group.  The younger age group (under 50s) don’t seem to be so interested.
  • Almost 20% of families in Portchester are ‘single parent’.
  • 8% of children are living in poverty.
  • There are 2,000 children in Portchester under the age of 15, but probably no more than 50 who attend St Mary’s (Lambs, Junior Church, crèche age). 



Jesus said, ‘Go … and make disciples of all nations …and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always…. (Matthew 28:19-20)

‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.’ (Acts 2:42)

The Five marks of mission (Anglican Consultative Council, 1990)

  1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  2. To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  3. To respond to human need by loving service
  4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.
  5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth


The three main marks of a healthy church

(Renewing the Vision  Conference 2013)

  • Small groups
  • Children
  • Worship


Goals and objectives for St Mary’s

  1. Discipleship and learning
  2. A greater and more visible presence in the village and community
  3. Outreach and encouragement to younger people and families
  • Increase the size of the congregation
  • Be the ‘parish’ church for Portchester
  • Ideally every member, but certainly a lot more people, discovering their gifts, and involved in ministry.


So what is to be done?

We can either be like the camel who keeps his head in the sand, and hope that things might get better; or hope that we are not around when the church goes into melt-down; or we can begin to do something now to reverse the decline and make inroads into the community as well as build up our church fellowship in faith and love.

🙂  These are things we are already doing, but could we do them better?

😕 These are new projects we are planning (if we can get the people and financial resources)



Imagine our people developing their relationship with God through regular prayer times at home, and prayer being the life blood of all we do at St Mary’s.

  🙂 Morning Prayer at church each day at 9.00am; Prayer chain (where you just make one phone call and within a few hours several people are praying for you); Prayer Diary (each day we remember people, ministries and situations); Days of Prayer (probably about 4-6 per year when we gather to intercede for special needs); Prayer ministry during the 10.00am service;

  😕 A monthly world mission prayer group; Developing a prayer corner with resources in the church chancel; Regular pattern of Retreats, Quiet Days and the development of spirituality; encouraging a greater use of daily devotional guides (Examples: Every Day with Jesus, United Christian Broadcasters). 



Imagine most members of St Mary’s meeting regularly in small groups for leaning and growing in faith together, mutual support and fellowship, as well as the development of teaching and leadership gifts. Imagine an ever-expanding network of small groups equipped and led by gifted and trained leaders.

🙂 Currently we have around 50 people meeting in 6 small groups

🙂 We have a Men’s Fellowship and a Women’s Fellowship


😕 To increase this to 100 people meeting in at least 10 groups to include teaching and discussing the practical life applications of our teaching and preaching.

😕 To enable our groups to become communities of prayer, loving friendship and pastoral care.

😕 To have a range of small groups on offer for every member, some even specialising in areas of interest and service. 



Imagine our services being opportunities where people encounter the living God through welcome, worship and preaching; imagine people visiting us and being attracted and come back regularly and be part of the church.

🙂 A range of worship styles appropriate and accessible to the ages, traditions and nationalities represented in the church family.

😕 Developing alternative worship to the Sunday morning services, including greater use of the parish hall and other venues.

😕 Encouraging a variety of musical gifts and various instruments.

😕 Encourage newer people to join the rota of readers and intercessors.

😕 Developing new preaching gifts and creativity in worship by encouraging more people in the planning of and participation in services.



Imagine our members understanding their faith better, growing in knowledge; being able to articulate their beliefs and share the gospel in conversations. 

😕 Occasional teaching series which might also have an appeal to non church members, such as the ‘Does God Exist? series.

😕 Use of Sunday evening services and house groups for teaching.

😕 A regular cycle of courses for enquirers and new Christians such as ‘Alpha’ and ‘Christianity Explored’

😕 It might be a vision to use Highslopes Community Centre every Thursday and have a rolling programme of basics courses; series of talks; discussion; speakers.

(This need not take away from house groups as many months would be for basics courses)

😕 A teaching element to Baptism and Marriage preparation.

😕 A short introduction to the Christian faith for Baptism families who wish to explore more, or for parents who have not been baptised.

😕 Mentoring, one-to-one discipleship; soul friends



Imagine our church as a welcoming safe place where members respond to the needs of other in timely, practical and prayerful ways.  Imagine everyone at our church feeling loved and cared for.  Imagine us having a growing team equipped to meet all kinds of pastoral needs.

🙂 Pastoral Assistants Team (needs re-structuring)

🙂 Woodlands Court, monthly service

🙂 Carleen Nursing Home monthly service

🙂 Tea and Company on the First Sunday of the month


😕 To encourage pastoral care through small groups

😕 To create a larger and trained team of Pastoral Assistants

😕 To grow the number of people having home communions

😕 To make sure that all our elderly members and those in care homes continue to feel valued as part of St Mary’s.

😕 Developing our ministry to bereaved families through the many contacts we make through funerals.

😕 The welcome and integration of newcomers.



Imagine lots of children feeling that St Mary’s is a good, safe and positive church to belong to, where lots of them make a personal commitment to follow Jesus; where families are attracted because their children enjoy being with us. 

🙂 Mary’s Lambs on Wednesday mornings

🙂 Junior Church on Sundays

🙂 Summer holiday club

🙂 Christingle & Nativity Services

🙂 Easter/Good Friday activity

🙂 Schools Team

🙂 All age services


😕 ‘Messy Church’ at possible Castle Street Day Centre

😕 Work with teenagers / Portchester Community School

😕 Crèche on Sunday mornings

😕 Schools project at St Mary’s on ‘Monasticism’

😕 Encouraging our present teens through Sunday morning teaching at the parish hall and in the all age service.

😕 Encouraging more teenagers to be part of the church and become followers of Jesus.

😕 A course for pre-Confirmation children who wish to receive Communion

😕 Chaplaincy to local uniformed youth organisations



Imagine us having buildings which are warm, comfortable, and adaptable; having more space to further our ministry to people and using other buildings in the village centre.

😕 A new, brighter and welcoming entry porch at St Mary’s to include toilets

😕 Restoration of gallery above it to create extra seating

😕 A new organ

😕 Good notice board with posters and free literature

😕 Developing the tourist/historical potential of St Mary’s – literature etc in Tourist Information centres

😕 Seeing if anything can be done to extend the New Room to include another meeting room

😕 Developing the church office to extend the hours and employ extra staff and volunteers.

😕 To look for a possible venue in the village as a church hall/meeting room/centre.



Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals bring us into pastoral contact with hundreds of people each year, who are reasonably sympathetic to the church.  Imagine us being able to minister to them effectively as a means of evangelism leading to Christian commitment and discipleship.

 😕 Renewing our procedure for Baptisms, including folder and leaflets to make this a more effective opportunity.

😕 The creation of a team of visitors who would visit families at home

😕 The publication of new leaflets for baptisms, wedding and funerals

😕 A wedding Fayre at St Mary’s in 2015

😕 Having a St Mary’s stall at local Wedding Fayres, e.g. Cams Hall & Hotels, which would be manned by a new team of welcomers.

😕 A Pastoral Team to follow up bereaved relatives

😕 Lay ministers trained to take funerals



Imagine the members of St Mary’s being able to share their faith passionately, humbly, confidence; imagine many people in Portchester and beyond coming into a living faith in Jesus Christ.

😕 An attractive leaflet about St Mary’s for every home in Portchester

😕 A stall in at the Wednesday market during the warmer months (May-September)

😕 Develop training and opportunities for personal evangelism/faith sharing



Imagine most people in Portchester being aware of the presence of St Mary’s, what events and services are on; what we believe and who they could contact for help.  Imagine most of our members also knowing what is on.

🙂 Church website

🙂 ‘Keeping in Touch’ (monthly newsletter)

🙂 Weekly notice sheet

🙂 Notice boards

🙂 Posters and leaflets advertising events


😕 Communications audit by Diocesan Communications Officer in 2014

😕 New notice board at the parish hall

😕 Greater use of Fareham Council notice boards for A5 posters

😕 Possible Parish Magazine for whole of Portchester

😕 Office having a higher profile in the community



Imagine St Mary’s as being a place of fun and laughter where members enjoy being together; where non church people can be invited to social events as a way into the church, and where newcomers can be made to feel welcome and meet new friends.

🙂 Series of evening and summer lunch time concerts

🙂 Christmas Fayre

🙂 Welcome to newcomers meals and social events

🙂 Taking part in community events such as the Gala (with stalls)

 😕 The formation of a social events team

😕 An international evening with food from different countries



Imagine St Mary’s not just being an inward-looking fellowship, but feeling part of and being enriched by the worldwide church and international community. Imagine people from a diversity of countries finding a spiritual home at St Mary’s.

😕 Monthly world missions prayer group

😕 Missionary speakers and exhibition boards

😕 Higher profile of ministries where we give part of our church tithe to.

😕 International social events

😕 Strengthening links through IDWAL and other mission interests.



Imagine being so flexible and open to the Spirit, that we are willing to abandon things which are no longer producing life; imagine being open to new people coming among us who have gifts we do not have, and encouraging them to use these gifts in creating new ministries we had not planned for.  Imagine being open to new opportunities not envisaged in this document!


Imagine every member becoming mature in Christ and equipped by the gifts of the Holy Spirit to exercise their ministry and find their place in the Body of Christ. Where older people also feel valued and where their gifts can also be used.

Part of a Stewardship Campaign beginning in May 2014

😕 Questionnaire ‘Discovering your basic gift

😕 Opportunities in small groups, larger gathering and outreach for gifts to be used

😕 Encouraging vocations to Reader and ordained ministry



Imagine St Mary’s members being so committed to Christ and his Kingdom that giving is simply the spontaneous overflow of a generous heart; imagine having enough money to pay all our bills, maintain the building and develop outreach; imagine not having to rely on fund-raising for the day to day ministry; but using fund raising for building projects; and overseas missions and charity.

😕 The creation of a stewardship team

😕 The launch of a stewardship campaign in May/June 2014.

😕 A mutual respect and a healthy balance between: giving money, saving money and making money.


How will you respond to all of this?

  • Having read this, will you now file it away, or put it in the bin?
  • Will you think that all this is about other people: ‘them’,  and not you?
  • Will you think that all this is what we pay the Vicar to do (and kill him off in the process!)
  • Use it as a ‘stick’ in a few months to complain about how far short we have fallen of these ideas and ideals.


Or will you….

  • Keep this close by and pray regularly for God’s blessing and the success of all these ideas.
  • Stop criticising others who are doing their best, and start encouraging them a bit more.
  • Pray about what your gifts are and offer them in order to implement these projects
  • Increase your giving, if possible; review and increasing your standing order; give generously for God’s work to be resourced.