Community Outreach and Care
At St Mary’s we have inherited a great tradition of serving our community.
Almost 900 years ago, a group of monks came over from Normandy and established ‘The Priory of Our Lady of Portchester’, better known as St Mary’s Priory (a small monastery).
They provided Portchester’s education, hospital, music, the arts, and ministered to the poor and sick.
We see one of the purposes of the Church as continuing the ministry of Jesus in a friendship-based, non-judgmental and compassionate way.
Here are several ways in which we seek to reach out to our community with the love of God and with a message of hope….
The Tea Room is not just a money-making project, it also provides Christian fellowship and hospitality. Some people who turn up have various needs and issues, and often our volunteers will offer a listening ear. There is always helpful Christian literature around. There are times when they will even offer to take people into the church and pray with them. Quite a few people have joined the church and come to faith through this ministry. We also offer free child lunches to those in need over school holidays.
We conduct around 100 funerals each year, and these give a unique opportunity to visit people at home and share with them at a difficult time in their lives. People cope with bereavement in different ways, and for some it is not something they get over quickly or easily. Once a month we have a Tea & Company group which meets in the Parish Hall on the third Sunday of the month at 2.00pm. We have a bereavement care team. Several of our members have also done courses on bereavement care and we are able to offer home visits for one-to-one support.
Supporting people with mental health issues
With more and more people, especially the young, suffering from mental health issues (or is it just that we are talking about it more?) St Mary’s does what it can to support people who suffer in this way. On Monday afternoons (1.00pm – 2.30pm) at Portchester Library we sponsor and support a self help recovery group. This is run by the Richmond Fellowship, a non-religious mental health charity. They provide support workers, and we help provide volunteers. The Monday group is based around ‘creativity’ with an emphasis on self-help through things like writing, poetry, photography, model making and just general chit chat. Anyone is welcome to come along, but if you want to be part of the group, you have to register.
Recovery from drugs and alcoholism
A couple of years ago we ran a Tuesday evening group to support people in recovery from drugs and alcohol. It was based on the “Twelve Step Programme” and was a great resource. However, due to lack of trained leadership, the group folded, but some of those involved still offer ‘one-to-one’ support, please contact us for more information if you need help.
We have a ministry to the two nursing homes in the parish. At Woodlands Court we hold a service of Holy Communion on the first Wednesday of the month, and at Carleen Care Home we hold a service on the third Wednesday. After the services we also spend time chatting with the staff and residents. At Carleen our Vicar acts as an unofficial ‘chaplain’ and is often called in to minister at the end of resident’s lives, and also supports the families at this time and also in bereavement.
A Different Day
One two or three days each year we offer ‘a different day’ for people who are housebound, dementia sufferers or people on their own who would value a day which is different to the routine. We provide arts and crafts, card making, table games, prize bingo, community sing-along, tea and cake and a fish and chip lunch. We ask for about £5 for this, mainly to cover the lunch. Transport can be provided,
Christmas Day Lunch
For the past three years we have provided a full Christmas dinner with wine and all the trimmings for anyone who might have otherwise have been on their own, this also includes couples. Our numbers are growing and we have recently provided 70/80 meals. We are grateful to local business and individuals who donate food and drink, and to the volunteers from the church and the wider community who help. This is held at the Parish Hall and transport can also be provided. We start to take bookings at the end of November.
The Alpha Course
The Alpha course is open to everyone interested in discovering what Christianity is about. It’s a place where people can come and relax, eat, share thoughts and explore the meaning of life. There is no charge to attend the Alpha course, although guests are free to make a contribution toward food if they wish.
Alpha is for everyone! The course is particularly suitable for:
- People interested in investigating the claims of Christianity
- Newcomers to the church
- Those who wish to ‘brush up’ on the basics
- Those preparing for Confirmation.
Portchester has an open air market in the shopping precinct every Wednesday. St Mary’s Church has a stall there from May to September between 10.00am and 12noon. It gives us an opportunity to meet our many friends and contacts and to catch up with life. We have an exhibition board featuring various events and services, as well as a table with free literature. Many good conversations have been had which has led to some joining the church and finding or rediscovering their faith.
We want to be a loving and supportive fellowship to our members, particularly the housebound and elderly. We have a team of around 8 trained Pastoral Assistants who visit on behalf of the church, and bring Holy Communion to people at home if they require it. The team meets about every 6 weeks and we try and keep an eye on the whole church, being aware of people who are going through a difficult time and perhaps in need of a bit more support and encouragement.