September seems to roll along so quickly, and with it the excitement for us as a church of our students returning to us after the long summer break. We're excited because the students that come to our church are not simply term time visitors, but our friends who we miss when they are not in Southampton. Looking forward to catching up and having them back worshipping with us is all part of being their family in Southampton.

September also brings the anticipation of meeting the many Southampton freshers starting at Solent and Southampton who begin searching for a church to make their own while at university. We get ready to welcome visiting students because we want you to feel at home with us whether you come once, or for three years, whether you have gone to church your whole life, or are stepping foot through church doors for the first time ever.

At Portswood we are a diverse community of different ages, backgrounds, family make up and so on and we want to enable our students to be a part of that. Our prayer is that everyone at the church will know that they belong with us because this is God's community where everyone is welcome. So we invite students to join with us at our services on Sunday mornings as a minimum. You're also welcome to join a home group or attend our Thursday Open Door Cafe for the local community - just two examples of how you can get to know lots of people outside of the student world. We encourage you to serve in our church and grow in using your gifts, and we want to support and pray for you if you choose to serve God with the uni Christian Union or in other ways.

This year we're also launching The Lounge, a new Sunday evening group for students and 20s/30s. We'll eat a meal together and help each other grow as followers of Jesus who live for him in the places that he has put each of us. Come and join us right at the start of this new venture which we are praying for God to bless and grow.

Basically, we pray that students who join us will flourish in faith, grow in using their gifts and feel very much part of a big family. Just last week I was hearing from one church member of how much he and his family have loved getting to know a student who has been linked with them through our Adopt a Student scheme. She pops over for coffee, plays with their kids and shares life with them. Over the summer, another student joined with a team from the church on a trip to Indonesia. This month we've welcomed a recent graduate onto our staff team as an apprentice. She spent four years with us as a student and it's great to continue journeying with her as she takes this next step with us. We waved goodbye to two international students as they left for their home overseas, but we sent them with excitement as they hope to find a church back home and keep in touch with us. We love our students and sharing in their lives and all that God does in and through them. You're a blessing to us, and we pray we can be a blessing to you.