Hillcrest Primary School
Revd Chris Kinch
Knowle, Bristol South
Following the strapline of the Diocesan strategy – “creating communities of wholeness with Christ at the centre” – the congregation’s turning outward necessarily involved the school in the parish. The long-standing relationship with Hillcrest grew after the church building was opened up as belonging to those it served – the whole parish.
Despite the perception of outreach of being about beyond the church building, Father Chris has found that the ministry of welcome – within the church – has been one of the most effective ways of building links with the school and the wider community. Morning and Evening Prayer are said with the doors wide open and spontaneous visitors – not church-goers – come in to light a candle or say a prayer.
The church hall is used by uniformed organisations for a nominal fee (members of which attend the school) and they have been successfully encouraged to attend services at Remembrance, Harvest and Mothering Sunday. The church itself was opened up to host the part of the local arts trail where children’s work was displayed, again nurturing their sense of ownership of the church.
One of the greatest ways the church’s mission to the community has engaged with the schools has been hosting the after-school club which meets every day in term-time and all day in the holidays. This way Father Chris meets kids outside of school (where he is involved in collective worship, RE and citizenship, as well as serving as a governor) and affirms Christian ministry as being part of the community’s ‘centre’.
In 2011 the church was offered to the school as a place to hold a carol service for pupils, parents and staff. 400 turned up, cramming the place with the school choir in the gallery and the church organist pulling out all the stops. Links with the school have been a catalyst for life in the church and the congregation’s understanding of what it is to be a parish church. The building itself has blessed beyond the church-going community, both practically and spiritually.