We moved to Newton Abbot, south Devon, in early August 2010 having been called by SWBA to church plant in the community. We moved from a place called Mersea Island in Essex where Sarah and I both grew up. I had previously worked as an oyster fisherman for my father as well as working part time for my local church as a evangelist. My wife Sarah was expecting our second daughter Lizzie at the time of moving which turned out to be perfect timing in terms of helping us get to know people, taking our minds off the reality of what we are doing, and giving our eldest daughter Grace something really positive to look forward to.
The Baptist church in Newton Abbot had closed at the beginning of 2009 and had left an unsuitable building and a manse. The association sold the old building and with the money generated funding for me to be full time for three years. They also refurbished the manse and created a family home that has been a powerful witness to various people about how the Church can love and care for its ministers and families. This home has been an amazing base for us that has helped my wife Sarah feel loved and settled in this new adventure that God has called us into.
The first year in Newton Abbot I devoted myself to prayer walking and through that to listen to God about where he was calling me to go. Not only that but I felt that the foundations of the church needed to be built well and so I understood that prayer must be the main thing that I do and continue to do as long as we are here.
As a result of this I came into contact with all kinds of people from all walks of life, people that I have been able to build solid and growing relationships with. Further to this were the openings into community groups, pubs and schools that have been nothing short of miraculous. Once a month we run something for families in the local community centre and we are seeing around sixty parents and children coming along. I am now involved with two schools in the community, a charity for homeless people, a charity for disabled people, the local council regeneration group and various local people who have a voice into the community. This has all been amazing and has helped me to discern where the community is at as well as giving me valuable time with people, because at the end of the day all of this is about people who are loved by God.
After nearly a year Sarah and I were both very aware of our desire for regular fellowship. Church planting as a couple from scratch is so exciting and rewarding, but moving to a new area with a young family and new baby, and not knowing anyone was really tough. Sarah misses her family like crazy and when the baby was crying in the middle of the night we really felt the loss of family and friends. So in the summer we really prayed that God would provide Christians who would commit to the church plant and join us. Within a week a couple with a young family got in touch and met with us. So at the beginning of October we launched the church here in Newton Abbot. Ten of us met, broke bread, shared a meal, explored prayer and looked at the Scriptures. We will meet every Saturday afternoon from November 12th. We will be meeting in homes to begin with and see where the Wind of the Spirit blows and how things develop. Four new families and a few other people have been in touch and are interested in coming along and exploring the church, and so those who have shown an interest and have voiced that they want to be involved are half Christians and half not yet Christians.
We are moving into an exciting, challenging and daunting time and I am only too aware of my own sense of inadequacy. I am amazed at the speed at which things have happened and am keen to stay aware of my own limitations and time. But I am very hopeful about the coming twelve months and the future that God has in store for the work here.
A church has begun and is just beginning to breathe. Please pray for us as we begin to find our breath and walk the road God has marked out for us.