2018 has been an amazing year. I thought I'd share a few thoughts. If you're into that sort of thing read on. If not just read the bottom couple of bits!
We've obviously had quite a lot of change as a family this last year. Last December we were literally walking the streets of Sittingbourne with a group of 23 Relational Mission Kent church leaders asking God if He was calling us to do something here. It looked pragmatically good on paper but we still wanted prophetic confirmation as a family... Then God spoke, He is faithful.
Since then our lives have hit overdrive as we've each fallen in line with the call and reoriented everything possible to integrate our hands and hearts to our new home.
One of the biggest personal challenges in this journey of change was transitioning to self-employment. All my working life I've been PAYE. I've known month to month exactly what will be coming in, but now there is uncertainty, no guarantees. It's been a real emotional journey to be honest.
This change was in and amongst renegotiating our mortgage to become landlords by renting out our family home and moving our family to rented accommodation in Sittingbourne. Each of our three children secured school places (just one appeal required) and they've each gone on to make Sittingbourne their own personal home. I started Sittingbourne Run Club as a micro-business and have coached in excess of 50 clients since May 2018, it's been both fun and necessary. Natalie took on a great teaching assistants role in the nurture department of the secondary school our two boys attend. I'm also serving as a Governor there, offering a modicum of insight to their finance and premises management. I also get to review the 'PE' & 'Religion, Ethics & British values' departments - A great fit!
As a family we've welcomed over 100 people into our new home (it continues to be a massive joy!) as we've looked to gather people towards the vision of establishing a thriving New Testament church here in Sittingbourne. We've made many new friends along the way and it's starting to finally feel like all these seismic changes are settling down and our lives are finding a new 'normal' (whatever that is!).
It's not all been plain sailing tho, far from it. Social media only gets to see the very best moments from our glossy Watson highlight reel. The darkest depths of nagging doubts and crippling fear are kept just for us to enjoy with one another!
Along the way there have been disappointments, disagreements, tears and frustrated moments. Each of these situations presenting an opportunity to question our deepest motives and intentionally seek reconciliation and forgiveness either from one another or ourselves. Subsequently unity comes and a new depth of relationship, so we give thanks for the challenges and who they invite us to become - God remains faithful throughout, even when it's depressing!
The plain honest truth is that Gospel advance costs and across multiple fronts - It costs time, the reframing of relationships, energy, emotions, money and it also infringes on our selfish desires. Throughout it all God remains faithful...
We left Medway as a family of 5 (plus Merlin the dog) with lots of friends championing from afar but none called to physically journey the road to Sittingbourne with us, sad times! God in His faithfulness has provided us with new relationships for this new call. New friends for the journey to walk with and serve alongside us. New friends to laugh, cry and dream with. There is something beautiful emerging across our new Hope Church Sittingbourne community. There is an authentic intimacy inherent in its smallness - It's almost as if where two or three are gathered there Jesus is, right in the middle of it all, weaving us all together, breathing in light, life and love! He is faithful..
Despite all of the upheaval and uncertainty we've experienced incredible provision in multiple ways. Financially our outgoings have increased significantly while our income has significantly decreased, yet month to month we've had just what we need to make everything work. We've had friends local and from afar make the decision to support us financially as missionaries - Sacrificially giving of their own hard earned money so that we can release as much of our time as possible to practically preach and demonstrate the Gospel and see Hope Church Sittingbourne established - What a blessing to be in meaningful Gospel partnership together!
God truly has been faithful. Just yesterday I received a cheque for £££s from HMRC as a tax rebate. Just at a time when without that money we would have dived into the red again. The stress & uncertainty of going self-employed paid off - Blessing follows obedience - God pays for everything He orders!
We've been challenged probably more than ever before and blessed in ways we couldn't have possibly imagined. I think it's fair to say we go into this festive holiday period both tired and hopeful. It's been a frantic 8 months since our move as we've laboured together with Him and also waited for the dust to settle on all of our transitions. It feels like we now have an opportune moment to pause and breathe in this beautiful new landscape He has set before us - God has been faithful. We can physically see it and we each joyfully testify to it!
I'm looking forward to spending some quality time this Christmas with my wife, our children and some of our friends and family. We're privileged to have a clear 10 days over Christmas and New Year with few distractions. We will unashamedly prioritise and invest in one another, all the while remembering the One who called our family here for His purposes.
If you've been praying for us then thank you for your thoughts and care. It has been a lonely run at times. Each occasional message, text, call and email offering encouragement and support is a genuine lifeline during moments when things seem overwhelmingly impossible. Through it all God has remained faithful.
We wish you and yours a most amazing Christmas and hope that your 2019 is one of personal growth and encouragement.
May peace, joy, hope and love be with you - God is faithful.
Q1. When are you moving?
We're just waiting for the final date but looks like either week of 30th April or 7th May 2018 - Pretty soon!
Q2. Where in Sittingbourne will the church be located?
We believe that the church is wherever Christians gather around Jesus. We're planning on gathering in local homes across Sittingbourne at first (like the church in Acts) until we've laid some healthy foundations together in mission & community.
Q3. Where will you meet Sundays?
We’ll connect with our nearest Relational Mission neighbours Faversham Community Church bi-weekly over the summer. We'll also visit local Sittingbourne churches & worship in our homes as well as the occasional trip to share news and updates with Cornerstone City Church. We'll eventually hire a local space for Sunday gatherings when the time seems right.
Q4. What part of Sittingbourne will you be moving to?
The Watson family will be moving to the southern part of Sittingbourne (ME10 1SL), approx 1 mile from the High Street. We believe God has called us to prioritise all of Sittingbourne & it’s surrounding areas in our missional engagement.
Q5. Who is part of the pioneering team?
There are a number of local Christians waiting to join up with us once we’ve moved to Sittingbourne who want to explore their involvement with Hope Church Sittingbourne. Once we live locally the plant should begin to form quite quickly as we gather with other like-minded people and begin to outwork local mission.
Q6. Is Hope Church Sittingbourne a site or extension of Cornerstone City Church?
Basically no & yes. We are being sent & supported by CCC, they are our parent church & we'll always be very closely linked relationally and geographically. We carry the DNA of CCC & Relational Mission but we expect something unique to emerge & establish in Sittingbourne as we plant that DNA into the soil of the local context.
Q7. Who is leading Hope Church Sittingbourne?
Gordon & Natalie Watson have been part of CCC since 2006 & are being sent with the support & endorsement of their local eldership team (of which Gordon has been part of for several years) as well as the encouragement of Relational Mission.
A team made up of Adam Voke, Martyn Gibson, David King and Carl Maidment who all lead within Relational Mission Kent churches will act as a support group offering friendship, wisdom, encouragement & accountability to the plant - We believe we can do far more together than we can apart!
Q8. What is the unique mission of Hope Church Sittingbourne?
We believe God has called us to be a people that bring the hope of Jesus into hopeless situations. We live in a broken world & Jesus, our living hope, is the one who can bring healing & wholeness into every sphere of life & society. We believe in new starts, second chances and having fun!
Our mission is to see Jesus honoured, disciples made and nations reached. However we believe it will be our values which set us apart and will ultimately shape how we outwork our faith, both individually and as a community together. You can read these aspirational values here: www.hopesittingbourne.org/…/hope_sittingbourne_value…
Q9. Who are Relational Mission & Newfrontiers?
Relational Mission are a family of churches led by Mike Betts and are part of the Newfrontiers apostolic network of churches. You can find out more via:
Q10. How can I find out more or get involved?
That's a great question!
You can visit www.hopesittingbourne.org for more info or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. We’re also on Facebook, Instagram & YouTube - Just search for Hope Church Sittingbourne.
We'd genuinely love to hear from you!