Taking the Plunge: Re-Visiting Portsmouth Cathedral

Pool covers bring a worshipper home to Portsmouth.

As Nelson Mandelda once said:

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

My job takes me all over the country, but in all my years as a delivery man for a swimming pool supplier I’d never had to return to Portsmouth. My relationship with this place was not what you’d describe as ‘chequered’, but I’d nonetheless made a silent pledge with myself to not return, that was until it popped up on my delivery schedule. The kinds of memories that I have of Portsmouth are the kind of primal recollections that linger in the head free of definition or any kind of context. They were embedded so early in my life that they have become almost unattainable in their vagueness.

Do you remember the first time you entered a church or a cathedral? Do you remember the first time you were held by your grandmother? Can you recall the first time you encountered the soothing scent of lavender?

It was a delivery of swimming pool covers that took me back to the city of Portsmouth, a place that I’d never planned on returning to.

The name didn’t register in my mind when I saw it appear on my docket for the day. The name after all, so utterly utilitarian in its plain-faced description, doesn’t conjure up any kind of fanciful English ideals. Just like its name, the city itself had left no lasting impression on my mind. No street names triggered any memories as I trundled through Portsmouth’s streets with my payload and before I knew it I’d delivered the swimming pool covers with time to spare.

Having no other jobs to complete that day and with a wilful intent to uncover the source of my frustratingly nagging memories, I dove into my phone to look for what had stopped me returning to this otherwise featureless place. When scanning through a list of attractions an interior photo of a church caught my eye; plain white, blindingly bright and pure, it stopped me in my tracks. I set my navigation and made a beeline for Portsmouth Cathedral.

The smell of lavender was the first thing that I noticed. How had I forgotten? Soothing and clearing my mind, I walked slowly towards the building’s entrance. Churches, cathedrals, chapels: these are all things that I tend to ignore when driving around the country. Like coffee shops and supermarkets my brain had long ago told me to not pay attention to their details. This felt like the first time that I was looking at a Cathedral since, well, since the first time I looked at a Cathedral.

I was a child again. Four years old and tiny, I now remembered looking up at the building staggered by its immensity and yet comforted by the embrace of my Grandmother. Lavender.

She had worn lavender perfume that day and although I had not returned there with her again, it was a memory that I am glad I reclaimed for myself.

Summer Events in Portsmouth Churches

Looking for a Christian event to head to this summer?

With so many active churches in Portsmouth, there’s always something to do here!

Messy Church @ Church of the Resurrection, Drayton

Every 3rd Saturday of the month 2pm-4pm (excluding August)

Like many other churches around the city, Church of the Restoration holds a regular ‘Messy Church’ day to provide a welcome couple of hours reprieve for parents who are looking to sit back and let their kids keep themselves entertained. Unlike the overly serious Sunday Schools of yore, Messy Church days loosely focus around a religious theme of some sort. Mums and Dads are welcomed into the church with Tea or Coffee whilst the kids get stuck in with crafting activities and games. Simple prayers and a celebration of the children’s work is followed by a meal and drinks.

Chalk Pits & Cream Tea @ St. Mary’s Church, Buriton

Sunday 12th August 2018

Scene Christian Social are a completely non-profit group of Christians who hold a number of events throughout the year. Less a society and more a wide social group of friends, Scene Christian Social offers Christian singles or couples the opportunity to meet like minded people and make new friends whilst taking part in a wide variety of interesting activities. This month they will be meeting for a walk through Buriton’s Chalk Pits Nature Reserve which will be followed by a Cream Tea at St. Mary’s Church.

Night of Prayer @ The Redeemed Christian Church of God Discipleship Centre

Every Friday night at 9pm

With over 3 million members worldwide, The Redeemed Church of God is a fast growing denomination that is unscrupulous in its open, welcoming nature. Presided over by the venerable Odunayo A. Fatunwase, their regular Night of Prayer is a perfect opportunity for newcomers to take part in some reflection, as well as more vocal prayers. Each session is well attended by a good number of people so you’re bound to make a few friends whilst you’re there.

The Four BBQ @ Harbour

Sunday 19th August 2018

Fashionable, young and modern are not often words that hear associated with a church, but Harbour Church in Portsmouth has done just that. Vicar Alex Wood is in charge here and he’s done a great job in setting up a church that has proved to be immensely popular with young people and students. Their Instagram-ready appeal is just the surface level of why they’re so popular, it’s the meaningful events, like their annual BBQ, which makes this such a special community to be a part of.



Church Communities That Give Back

Looking for a congregation to join in Portsmouth?

These churches in Portsmouth are doing their bit for the community.

St. Luke and St. Peter, Southsea

The Church of St. Luke and St. Peter is a vibrant one offering a safe, welcoming space to those with or without faith. Since early 2018 the building has been going through a series of redevelopments in order to bring the structure up to date for a new age of worshippers. The congregation is currently focused on raising money that should transform the shape of the building and how it’s used by the community. A bright entrance is being planned to welcome newcomers in addition to a new cafe and co-working space that should serve to make the church a more popular venue for local people in the neighbourhood.

St. John’s Cathedral

Built in 1882, St. John’s has been the home for an ever growing number of Catholics in and around Portsmouth ever since, although at one point it seemed like there would’t even be a chapel! Before 1791 English Catholics had not been allowed to have chapels within towns or cities, but that soon changed with the Second Catholic Relief Act of 1791. Reverend John Cahill was the first appointed Catholic priest in Porstmouth who opened a chapel in a private home. It wasn’t until 1882 that the Cathedral as we know it today was dedicated, since then the building has been adapted and renovated several times.

St. Jude, Southsea

Around 300 people of different ages and races congregate at St. Jude’s to celebrate and praise God. Made up of a dedicated team of individuals, St. Jude has a strong interpersonal structure that has made it an integral part of the community. A number of informal groups meet here each week spanning a wide range of ages. Young families can bring the kids along to children’s groups suitable from the youngest of toddlers to teenagers, there are also meetings for students, men women and older people. Check out their website for more details on these groups.

St. Simon, Southsea

Located just a few minutes from the seafront, St. Simon’s is an Anglican church that prides itself on its thrilling services and engaging talks. Bob Mason is the man in charge here and he’s supported by a team of passionate Anglicans who come from all over England. St. Simon is notable for taking part in a number of forward thinking schemes such as the Open Church project which aimed to give those affected by homelessness a place to stay over night, as well as a hot meal throughout February. After the success of this project they will be repeating and extending Open Church in early 2019.

Baptist Churches in Portsmouth

A strong Baptist community exists to this day in the city

New to the city and looking for a Baptist church to join?

Take a look at these vibrant, open communities that ready to welcome you to your new family…

Cosham Baptist Church

Simon is the Minister here at Cosham Baptist Church, an inclusive institution with a robust schedule of events for all ages. With the help of his wife Vanessa, Simon gets involved with all aspects of Church life including scheduling the roster of events. Their morning service is on every Sunday at 10:15, a Seniors Service (followed by tea) starts at 3pm on the third Sunday of each month and there are regular evening sessions held to focus on missions around the world.

North End Baptist Church

The congregation at the North End Baptist Church see each and every sermon as a journey. Together as one, the people at this church move forward in their embrace of God whilst making this journey the centre of their being. Modelling their faith in three directions, the people at North End look upwards to their God, outward to their neighbours and inward to themselves. Through worship, work within the community and deep reflection they aim to become better Christians.

Salem Strict and Particular Baptist Church

Don’t let the name deceive you, the folks at Salem are far from a severe bunch. Henry Sant has served as the Pastor here since 1996, following in a long line of Baptist pastors that goes back to 1814. The original Chapel was built a year after the formation of the church but was destroyed 100 years later during World War I. It wasn’t until 1959 that a new chapel was built which stands to this very day. Although their home and pastor has changed over the years their message remains the same: “For promoting the Christian religion as it is professed by Protestant Dissenters of the Denomination of Particular Baptists.”

City Life Church

The church family at City Life Church (formally Tangier Road Baptist Church) goes back an astonishing 375 years. Starting in 1640, a small group of believers would gather in a cottage in Old Portsmouth. Since then their numbers have grown immensely. Today City Life is one of the largest church communities in the city who share in God’s word and celebrate their relationship with Jesus together. People of all ages and backgrounds come to their services on Sunday at 10:30am, with evening services starting at 6pm.