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The Difference We Make

There are times in our lives when we ask ourselves questions about the purpose of life, who we really are and what does it all mean. They can be tough times or exciting times and we can be drawn into cynicism or encouraged to be more hopeful and positive. Christianity often works through relationship and community, so the best way to find out about faith and prayer, to raise questions and to get help, is to meet Christians. Why not read some of the stories about how faith has changed people’s lives.

Do you have a story you’d like to share about how faith has changed your life? Please get in contact with us and share your story.


‘Who Let The Dads out’ – St Christopher’s Parish Church, Southbourne

p1030155‘Who Let The Dads out’ at St Christopher’s Church allows local fathers to come together on a Saturday morning to share bacon and sausage butties and bring their young children with them to play.

Utilising the recently modernised and extended hall, kitchen  and ‘Bridge’ facilities the newly formed team of helpers provide a fun morning for the dads and their children – with everything from crafts, parachute games, a home corner and toys – to toast, best bacon and sausage butties. ‘It was a real joy to see dads at play with their little ones,’ commented Revd Nigel Legrand. ‘We are  pleased with  the launch and the practical advice offered through the registration with ‘Who let the Dads Out’ organisation. It is so good  to compliment the Toddlers Group and the Tea Toast and Tots weekly morning sessions with something on the first Saturday of every month which is geared to Dads who are often at work during weekdays.’


Make Lunch – St Luke’s, Hedge End

Meals are at the heart of hospitality and fellowship. In summer, volunteers at St Luke’s, Hedge End (www.stlukeshedgeend.co.uk), are busy cooking for families and offering craft and other activities at Make Lunch three days a week. “Our primary aim is to share a little of God’s love and to ease the burden of financial constraint that we know many local families are feeling at this time,” says Rev’d Fiona Gibbs from St Luke’s. They plan to carry it on in future school holidays: “We are going to offer lunches for 50 children, 32 days per year.” That’s 1,600 meals and a lot of care and commitment.

Anna Chaplain to Older People – Debbie Thrower

Anna Chaplaincy to Older People began in Alton, Hampshire, and is now spreading to other parts of the UK. Team leader and Anna Chaplain, the former broadcaster, Debbie Thrower, explains more about the Anna Chaplaincy model as a timely response to the rapidly ageing population.

The ‘Anna’ name is taken from the story of Simeon and Anna in Luke’s gospel – a faithful woman in her eighties who believed God’s promises and spoke of redemption to all who would listen. So it was thought to be a good role model for this type of work alongside older people.

There are many ways Anna Chaplains can work with older people. For example, when one of our parishioners had just moved in to what’s called a ‘close care’ apartment opposite a nursing home in the town, she asked, “Would you come and bless my new home?”.  Debbie and her fellow Anna Chaplain, the Rev’d Helen Jesty, replied, “Of course!” It was an opportunity to both welcome and bless this new resident as she settles into her unfamiliar surroundings.

They gathered in her new home with one of her closest relatives to mark this important ‘rite of passage.’ The short blessing clearly meant a great deal at this time of loss, change, and the making of new friends.

The older people Anna Chaplains support remind us that our later years can be intensely fertile ones spiritually. One of the main aims of The Bible Reading Fellowship’s, new initiative The Gift of Years, is to “join up the dots;” to raise awareness of what good things are already happening, and some of the useful resources there are to help people working with older people, and those navigating the choppy waters of old age themselves.

Debbie Thrower and Jessie Hammond- permission to use obtained 2

To find out more about Anna Chaplaincy and subscribe to regular Newsletters visit www.thegiftofyears.org.uk The offering of this new, community-based, approach to ministry among older people lies at the heart of The Gift of Years. You may want to explore whether Anna Chaplaincy is for you, and your area, too?




Learning through stories – Revd Marion de Quidt

3.2 children

Children from Whitewater Church of England Primary School visited Rotherwick church and grounds to re-discover the story of the last week of Jesus’s life, with an interactive story-telling. The children walked around eight scenes which took them from the excitement of Palm Sunday, through the Last Supper, Gethsemane, betrayal, denial, and the Crucifixion, followed by the arrival at the empty tomb and the realisation that life would never be the same again.


Each scene enabled the children to reflect on the story and on their own experiences. For instance, at a scene with a model garden representing Gethsemane, the children thought of the times they had felt alone and how they had been comforted. They placed pictures and words of their feelings on wooden sticks in the garden before hearing about the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. In the scene Sharing our Sorrows, the children sat beside the Cross, set into the font and with a red robe and crown of thorns.

Revd Marion de Quidt, Priest in charge of Whitewater Benefice, explained: “The children heard again the story of the Crucifixion, and were each able to light a candle for someone they know who is sad or suffering. As we left this scene in sorrow for the pain that Jesus suffered, we began to appreciate the good news of early on Easter Sunday morning, the surprise and excitement of visitors to the garden.”



Lyndhurst Deanery Rwanda Mission – Neil Smart


In 1994, Rwanda suffered from a genocide that took more than one million lives in less than 100 days. This tragic event had enduring consequences of ongoing trauma, a depressed economy, and the high spread of HIV/AIDS. The Rwandan Church was also badly affected by the devastation of that period with some church leaders being killed, others imprisoned and many more fleeing the country preferring to serve where they took refuge. More than two decades on, Rwanda is rebuilding, and the government has implemented measures to educate its population. A recent study showed, however, that more than 85% of local church leaders are of only primary school education and the whole country has only one small accredited theological faculty. In 2006 the Kigali Anglican Theological College opened its doors with a basic infrastructure of a teaching block with six offices for administration, a large hall that serves for the library, six classrooms, one of which also served as a dormitory for students. The college currently trains 117 pastors and catechists.

KATC Library

In support of this vital work in the country, the Winchester Diocese has created a strong partnership with the Anglican Church of Rwanda. Alongside its relationship with other provincial partners across the world this link has been established and enhanced over forty years, through the work of key individuals in the Lyndhurst Deanery. At present the Lyndhurst Deanery Rwanda Mission Team has about twenty active members. Over the years it has sent a significant amount of financial support as well as benefitting from shared experiences, projects and resources. Each year a new Lyndhurst Deanery Lent Project provides crucial assistance to different parts of the church in Rwanda. In 2015, supported by the Winchester Diocese World Mission Group, it is focussed on helping the college to produce leaders able to handle the challenges of national life – including reconciliation, poverty, pandemic diseases and ignorance. The Deanery Mission Team, led by Reverend Neil Smart, is supporting the Kigali Anglican Theological College through direct financial aid and close personal ties, assisting the Rwandan Church as it helps to revive a nation which felt abandoned by the world during the dark days of the genocide in 1994.


Southampton Street Pastors – Mandy Harding

Southampton Street Pastors 8

Street Pastors has been going for around 10 years now nationally and in Southampton almost five years. Back in 2008, a group of Christians gathered to work out a Christian response to the problem of violent crime in Southampton city centre at night-time. Southampton Street Pastors began recruiting and training volunteers at the end of that year, and in early 2009, patrols went out into the city centre on Friday and Saturday nights. Now they go out all hours, day and night and have moved from our city centre to the suburbs!

The project has approximately 100 trained volunteers (aged from 20 – 84!) from over 40 different churches in Southampton (representing seven different denominations).  The project works closely with Southampton’s Safe City Partnership, licensing Link, schools, and a range of council departments. With its partners the Street Past ors programme has contributed to the falling level of violent crime in Southampton city centre at night-time.

One of its biggest successes is that since Street Pastors began operating, the partnership has seen a 22% reduction in A&E admissions. Police numbers have reduced too when street pastors are out and the project continues to grow.  The Street Pastors have been so successful that from the beginning of 2012, Southampton City Council asked street pastors to work with youth and community groups, offering the same reassurance, safety and support in schools, parks and main streets.


Poundwatchers – Geoff Knappett


It started with a throwaway line following this year’s Lent Course. What can I do to make a difference? What do I know about? Payday lenders were in the news. With contacts in credit unions could I arrange for an alternative to be offered. The blinding flash of the obvious was that would address the wrong problem. Why do people go to Payday lenders? Why don’t they save up for what they want?

Research suggested that in my parish there was not a problem but through a Messy Money event (an initiative from Newbury Building Society to help families play through loosely money related activities) we were approached by a neighbouring parish (in a different Deanery) to explore ways we could work with a specific community. Working with Anna Robinson, from St Paul’s Church and Community Centre, Poundwatchers was born. Ten families each commit to save £5 a week for six weeks. This will give them enough to pay for their Christmas Dinner. They attend a meeting each week at the Church to pay in their £5 and to work with Anna, my colleague Trudi and me on money saving ideas sufficient to afford the following week’s £5. After the six weeks, in addition to their own saving they will each receive between £5 and £30 extra from the Building Society. This will make a real difference to these 10 families. I hope it will change behaviours. I hope they will become advocates among their friends and neighbours . I hope we can run another programme for Easter.

Poundwatchers has touched the volunteers from Newbury Building Society who happily give their time to look after children while the parents enjoy the activity. It has brought me into contact with people outside of my Parish silo who, although less than 10 miles away, could have been in a different world. It has been a values based link between my business life and personal faith that is appropriate and acceptable to all parties. And it may make a difference to Christmas dinner for ten deserving families close to home.


Southampton City Chaplain – Rev Erica Roberts

Erica Roberts City ChaplainErica Roberts 2

The newly created post of City Chaplain for Older People in Southampton is an exciting example of pioneering ministry, which is already providing missional opportunities to impact older people in our city. I passionately believe we can all flourish and continue to be resourceful in our older years.

Ron is no exception. At the age of 90 he was baptised by full immersion in the sea at Calshot! He now encourages others by sharing his faith journey with those around him. Ron regularly attends a local art class, which ‘stops him from going insane’ and is currently engaged in some historical research for an acrylic project. It is clearly never too late to develop new skills and interests. As the Psalmist says, ‘In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap’


Messy Church Leader – Rhiannon Wilmott

Messy Great Outdoors 8

Messy Church as a concept has been expanding for a while, and in October Messy Church Great outdoors was held at Fairthorne Manor near Botley. The promise had been made that it would happen whatever the weather, and was made good when it poured with rain during set up and for the first half of the service.

The ‘welcome’ segment featured an activity which everyone would come back to later before families drifted off towards muddier activities with varying levels of enthusiasm. The activities may have looked random at first sight and selected purely for levels of fun (and mess potential) but each one provided an opportunity to chat with adults and children around the theme of the day. Despite appearing hazardous (lighting fires) or gross (making faces with mud, including worms) most people got stuck in and enjoyed everything.

The overall theme of ‘story’ was revealed around the camp fire., reminding us all of the role that stories play in our faith, how they shape who we are and how they transmit our values. The specific story of the day was Exodus, and was shared by three amazingly gifted storytellers who engaged everyone, adult and child in the nail biting drama of the escape from Egypt, the survival in the desert and the receiving of the Ten Commandments. It’s a story we’ve all heard so much, but in the setting of the Messy Great Outdoors it was like hearing it with new ears.


St Mary Bourne Youth Group visit to Mityana, Uganda – Ollie and Paddy


In February a group of students from St Mary Bourne Youth Group in Andover visited their link town Mityana in Uganda with Rev Dodie Marsden, Chris Rowe and Sarah Romaine.

Ollie writes: “As the bus pulled up to every school we visited the children would begin to shout and scream, pour out of the classrooms and surround the bus, clapping and dancing as we climbed out. I loved the way they all creased with laughter when we were introduced in an assembly and we told them our age.”

Paddy writes: “The thing that made a deep impression was that everybody was so kind and friendly no matter how much they had. Every time you waved at somebody they would always wave back. They were so proud of what they had. At some school they called their football pitch – their stadium. It was like we were so privileged to be able to play on their ‘stadium’! It made me think how much we take for granted.”


St Mary Bourne Youth Group visit to Mityana, Uganda – Lizzie


In February a group of students from St Mary Bourne Youth Group in Andover visited their link town Mityana in Uganda with Rev Dodie Marsden, Chris Rowe and Sarah Romaine.

Lizzie writes: “My special moment was and still is the deaf school which was astonishing. It was round the corner from the hotel. It was a single dark classroom with very few tables and chairs. They were so happy to see us. And although they couldn’t hear what we had to say or speak to us they engaged with us so well and became friends with us almost instantly. We all got on so well. They were so happy even though they had so little and were treatedas outcasts because they couldn’t hear. It was a truly magical time we had there. They gave us all a sign name, (mostly to do with our hair, faces and height), they taught us to sign “When you are happy and you know it” they sang and danced even though they couldn’t hear.”