Southampton City Mission was formed on 1st January 1963 by churches in Southampton as a vehicle to support the work of Oscar Penhearow. Shortly before that time Oscar had been invited to work in the city as a Door to Door Evangelist by Leith Samuel and Arthur Wallis to work with Above Bar church, but it was soon realised that Oscar’s influence would be wider than that and the Mission was formed to enable his work to become city wide.
In 22 years over 100,000 doors were knocked and the influence of Oscar’s ministry is still felt to this day. Oscar retired in 1985 and the work was taken on jointly by Dave Thorpe and Dave Caplin for the next two years. After this there followed a period when the missions sole purpose was to care for and maintain the property that the retired City Missioner lived in and to care for Oscar in his retirement. In addition the trustees also waited to see if God would raise up a new ministry that might be recognised as S.C.M.
Chris and Annette Davis were working as volunteers in the Shirley parish, (St James), to build up relationships with people living in the local tower block. Over a two year period they had started a coffee morning in the block, a home group in their home, a Christian children’s after school club, a work amongst the elderly and an embryonic furniture project, (called the Dorcas Project). They were feeling that their work could be wider than just one parish and began to explore the possibility of forming their own charity to enable that to happen. During that process they were put in touch with the trustees of Southampton City Mission.
On the 23rd November 1993, Chris was appointed as the new City Missioner.
Over the next 6 years, a number of other local anti-poverty projects were established, including Basics Bank, Removals project, Paint project, and Christmas Complete (toys). In 1999, a new charitable company was formed called S.C.R.A.T.C.H. (Southampton City And Region Action to Combat Hardship) to manage and further develop the anti-poverty work. It was for this part of the work that Chris was recognised by the Queen, receiving an M.B.E. for charitable services to the City of Southampton in the 2009 New Years Honours list.
In 2009, Basics Bank came back under the wing of the Mission as part of its outreach to those in need.
The other area of work undertaken by the mission during this time has been with schools work and children. Chris has been lay chaplain to Southampton City District Scouts since 2004 which involves conducting church parades, working with individual groups, camp services and other chaplaincy tasks. Schools work is the other major part of the work which has a section all of its own.
Southampton City Mission now works in over fifty schools (approximately 10,000 children per year), with a whole range of work developed to serve staff as they deliver the R.E. curriculum, and delivers the Basics Bank project from six locations across the area, helping some of the most deprived families and individuals with very basic necessities, (food and clothing).