We're moving back to the UK from the US where we've been living for nearly 5 years. We have a great church here - part of the evangelical free church of america, very good bible-based teaching, great worship, and the church really are our family. The church focus is on the community/small groups and there are also classes on theology, women's groups etc. We're thinking of moving to the Southampton area, as it's fairly close to family (one of the reasons for moving back), and Southampton has a couple of likely employers for me. My dh works at home (self employed) and I'll be a sahm for a year or so. We have a ds (2) and dd due in a few weeks. I've been looking for likely places to live - preferably smallish town or large village, within relatively easy access of shops and facilities of large town. As both dh and I will be at home we realised that, as with here, our church is really going to be our community, so I don't want to have a long drive to church if it means that no one else in the church lives close to us and we're a bit worried about feeling isolated, but I don't really want to live in Southampton itself - too big. My perception is that smaller villages in the UK tend to have churches that aren't quite so thriving, with older congregations etc. Does anyone know of any good churches in the area (we'd prefer to be north/west of Southampton rather than east) or am I resigned to having to go to church in Southampton to find what I'm looking for? One of the reasons for having Romsey as a possible was that I remember visiting a church there (about 15 years ago!!) that seemed pretty thriving. Sorry for long post!
You could try Romsey Abbey which has loads of history as well as engagement in the community. Not in Southampton but with a lot of stuff for families is Burseldon. The biggest evangelical C of E Church in mid Hampshire would be Christchurch Winchester. Hopefully someone will be along soon to tell you all about the independent churches.
If you want an evangelical free church, then you probably want to look at Above Bar, City Life or New Community Church are the obvious options. If you want to look at C of E churches, there are lots that you can consider depending on what sort of area you would like to live in. The larger evangelical ones on the west side of Southampton are Highfield and Shirley Parish. Both are excellent options and are in an area that would give you an easy commute in to Southampton.
Choosing a church is a very personal thing and every church has different priorities and a different demographic. It really depends on what you are looking for as to which church would be best for you.
I'm not sure Romsey Abbey would be to your taste, bit the baptist church there may be. North Baddesley has an evangelical church that meets in the school - I think it's the true life Christian fellowship or something - that I know of through its community work.
Ah but Romsey Abbey is worth a visit just for its history and the rector Revd Tim Sledge is a very good preacher.
I think what you are describing in the OP is a bigger than average church for the UK so it will be in one of the towns rather than in the villages although there are exceptions. In the UK 'very good bible-based teaching' is code for conservative evangelical and usually means no women in leadership. However if you are comfortable with women leading then you could look for a New Wine or Vineyard affiliated church as their worship is usually very good. The conservative evangelical networks that I'm aware of that are opposed to women's leadership are Reform and a group called NewFontiers. If you googled any of these networks with Hampshire in it you would get churches in your search area I think.
Thanks for the recommendations. I realise church choice is very personal but nice to have a few places to go to visit.
greenheart our church here is actually not very big, but I realise things are different in the UK. Personally the lack of women leadership is one of the few things I don't like about our current church but have learnt to accept that for the moment, so am happy to find somewhere slightly less conservative in the UK. I'll check out New Wine and Vineyard too.
We move back end of August, so I think September will be church visiting and on that basis trying to decide where to live!