As a Portsmouth student you may have noticed Harbour Coffee House on your travels around the city. As it’s positioned next to Sprinkles Gelato bar, it’s kind-of unmissable if you have a sweet tooth like me. The squidgy brown armchairs and reading stools, as well as the warm air tinged with the smell of fresh baking, will be enough to anchor you in off the street for a closer look. Though I am now a fond regular of the cafe, my interest peaked more so when I learned that the Harbour logo also represented another venture taking place in Portsmouth.
Above the cafe, after ascending a flight of stairs with a length of blue lights stretched across the banister, you will find Harbour Church. Now my mental snapshot of a traditional church may be something similar to yours. A vast space with hard wooden benches and glass windows glimmering with streaks of colour, the heavy clang of bells reverberating from every wall.
This image was flawed in every way when I first glimpsed at what Harbour Church is like. The room is decorated with sketches of comic book worthy images, bright lights wreathed into words along the walls and different items of clothing emblazoned with the Harbour logo hanging from rails. I had never seen a place that could have so many identities.
The bar at the far end of the room was serving ample amounts of mulled wine and cakes from the café downstairs, pool and ping pong tables lined the opposite end of the room and in the centre was a space set up for a band. Wires attached to electronic guitars and sound boxes snaked around the stage and TV screens brightly illuminated words of encouragement.
Any preconceptions I had about a church being a shell of silence were immediately suspended. The service was packed with dynamic singing from the band, motivational talks from the young pastors and a silent disco to cap off the evening. It is truly a bizarre and wonderful blend of sights. What’s more, the room was bulging with spectators both young and old, students and pensioners, religious and non-religious. It is a place where all are welcome to bask in the warmth of a welcoming crowd. It is normal to have shaken at least five new hands within the first few minutes of entering Harbour Church as people want to extend their friendship as widely as they can.
The student in me was instantly magnetised to the crowd, feeling as though I was entering a nightclub rather than the churches I had seen before. Whether you are religious or not, Harbour Church is a place where all are welcome to share stories and enjoy the company of other people.