A PORT minister is practising what he preaches by launching an anti-poverty push on his doorstep and turning his church a community facility.

Reverend William Boyle, of Port Glasgow New Parish Church, is supporting the national Challenging Poverty campaign in conjunction with Poverty Alliance.

William, who became minister in March, says he is looking at the best way the church can serve its community.

He said: "I walk the town, especially as the church is closed on a regular basis, meeting people, stopping to chat to people, getting to know them and listening to them.

"It's a good way of being a presence, people stop you and talk to you.

"Since lockdown people have been concerned about loneliness and mental health is a huge concern.

"We don't want to be known as a big building in the centre of town, only open one hour a week - but a church open to all who have faith and who have no faith at all.

"I want to make this a place they feel helped and supported and one where they feel they belong right throughout the week."

William believes the church has an increasingly important role to play in the community as many services have been lost in the town over the years, the latest blow being the announcement that the TSB branch will shut next year.

He was inspired by a recent visit to a church in Paisley which acts as a drop-in centre providing everything from drugs and alcohol support to family contact for vulnerable children.

Rev Boyle said: "I think this is the ideal vision for the future.

"We can use our facilities as we have so many rooms and halls and we are right at the heart of the community.

"There is a big opportunity for us to try to serve the people here and meet their needs.

"I have noticed that a lot of the services in Port Glasgow have been centralised to Greenock - our police office and job centre have gone and another bank is about to leave.

"When I try to find mental health, alcohol and drug support for locals, the services in the main are based in Greenock.

"The bank closure is quite disheartening - I know the argument is people are using online banking, but I've always seen people queuing up outside it and it wasn't underused as far as I could see."

While Rev Boyle is acutely aware of the loss of amenities and growing poverty in the town he says there is also a real generosity of spirit.

He said: "Local people recently donated 90 bags of food to the foodbank.

"There is need in this area but it is a great place to live and I love living here and the people who live here.

"They are very proud of their town."