You can read part 1 here. Part 2 begins with me in my car driving down to meet Tim Blaber, Pastor of ChristCentral Church in Portsmouth, to discuss planting a Church in Fareham.
Portsmouth & Fareham – A Gospel Conviction
The first time we went for coffee Tim and I bonded over a love of John Calvin and being reformed charismatics, but it was our second meeting where God really spoke to me. I met Tim for lunch and he talked about the people in his Church who lived in Fareham, but drove to Portsmouth for church on Sunday. He also spoke about the churches already in existence in Fareham. It certainly felt there was room for a Bible-believing and preaching Church.
We prayed together for Fareham and Tim prayed that God would in His power and wisdom move in Fareham to plant a church that would see many people saved, all God had ordained to salvation. Tim’s words reminded my Psalm 44:4, where the sons of Korah pray “You are my King, O God: ordain salvation for Jacob!” That verse has powerfully shaped my journey to Fareham in two ways. Firstly, I always wanted to submit to God as King. It was His will for my life that mattered and what He asked of me, I would do. Secondly, the second part of the verse has become a regular prayer of mine – “ordain salvation for Fareham”. I hope and pray there would such a move of God in this place and so many people coming to a saving faith in Jesus Christ that people might be able to say “Salvation was ordained for Fareham!”
After lunch, I walked round Fareham for a few hours. I was trying to get a feel for the place, what churches were already here, where might I live if I moved, what would life be like. All the while, I was praying and asking God for His guidance for my life, but also just generally calling on Him to save people on the streets I walked. It was a miserable day and light drizzle, turned into heavy downpour. I was walking in the park alongside the quay, when it really did bucket down. The already muddy path became softer and softer and my shoes, socks and ankles were caked in mud. I decided to call it a day, trudged to my car, wet and miserable.
As I drove home, I knew two things. Firstly, there was a need in Fareham. Someone needed to plant a church there – thousands of people were living without God and someone needed to preach to them the Gospel. Secondly, I thought I didn’t want to be the one to do it. Not only had I had a miserable time walking round the town, but it was also on the South Coast, about as far away from Rachael, my girlfriend, who was living in York at the time, as I could get. Unfortunately, God was about to reveal His will clearly and plainly.
The next day I spoke to a man called Peter Wiles – a wise man from my Church in Watford. I wanted to speak to Peter because I knew he had passionately tried to persuade other young leaders to stay rather than go. Essentially, Peter had been unafraid to tell people “You’re leaving because you want to, not because there is a need or because God has asked you to.” There was quite a big part of me that wanted Peter to say the same to me. Instead, Peter seemed very positive about Fareham, saying there really is a need for someone to go and he thought I’d be great.
A few days later I walked into Church on Sunday, heavy-laden with the question of whether God was calling me to Fareham. Peter’s wife, Gill, spoke to me and said “I had a picture for you”. It was of a bird first staying in a cage, even though the door had been opened and then finally taking flight, leaving the cage and shining brightly with more colour and joy than before. She said “You’re reluctant to leave, but God has already opened the door.” Gill is wonderful woman of God, so I took the picture seriously, but I also thought she knows about my conversation with Peter. As I took my seat, a lady called Jane came and spoke to me. She said “Duncan, I was praying for you earlier in the week. I saw your feet covered in mud, right up to the ankles, but you were wearing a royal robe and God gave me an encouragement – your muddy feet are beautiful because they are bringing the good news.” Jane didn’t know about Fareham at the time and she certainly didn’t know about my muddy experience just days earlier alongside Fareham Creek. Two days later at Home group another lady called Georgina said she saw me on the South Coast of England looking over the sea towards Europe and then I had a dream where I had to leave Watford urgently. The dream was memorable for three reasons. Firstly, I never remember my dreams when I wake up. Secondly, I was dressed in my old school uniform at Watford Grammar School for Boys the whole time for no reason at all. And thirdly, I had asked my best friend, Alex Steed, to come with me and he said “no”. I completely forgot this part of the dream until months later, when I did in fact ask Alex to consider coming with me and he said “He felt it was important to stay in Watford and that was what God had for him.”
I have received impactful prophecies in the past, but this was overwhelming. I told the elders what was going on – I had kept them in the loop the whole way through the process – and they agreed that although they were sad to see me go it was clear God had spoken.
Tim Blaber was really pleased when I rang him to say I felt God was calling me to this church plant.
What about Rachael?
Although I was sure God had spoken to me, I was also gutted. I was leaving Watford, where friends, family and Church were and I was pretty sure this was going to end my relationship with Rachael. I genuinely cried about this praying to God asking Him why He had called me even further away from my long distance girlfriend. My relationship with Rachael had always been wonderful when we spent time together, but hugely difficult and rocky when we considered our future together. I was madly in love with her, but she had always said she didn’t want to be a pastor’s wife and she didn’t want to move to the South. She had maybe just about come to terms with the idea that I was called to be a Church Pastor, but was not on board with Fareham at all. Rachael is also an only child and her parents live in Runcorn, near Liverpool, so I was asking her to move a long way from home.
When I asked if she would marry me and come to Fareham she said she wasn’t sure, edging towards ending it. I had to ring Tim and say that I didn’t think Rachael would be coming with me, but I was so sure God had called me that I still wanted to come. I hated having those conversations with Rachael. It’s hard communicating with someone that you love them, but that you had to submit to God’s will for your life, even though that probably meant the end of the relationship.
Rachael persevered with the relationship and prayed. She’s always been a slow decision-maker, but whole-hearted once a decision is made. So, I knew one day she would say either “No, the relationship is over” or “Yes” and would throw herself whole-hearted into marrying me, moving to Fareham and helping with the Church plant.Months went by, before Rachael said she wanted to get the train down to see me. As we walked round some National Trust gardens she told me that if I proposed, she would say “Yes” and move to Fareham with me. I genuinely have tears of joy, even writing that sentence and remembering. She said she still wasn’t sure she wanted to be a pastor’s wife or church plant or move to Fareham, but she was sure she wanted to marry me, and so she supposed God was asking her to do all those others things as well, because of how He had spoken to me.
In July 2016, I moved to Fareham and joined ChristCentral Portsmouth to start meeting and building a Church planting team. In January 2017, Rachael and I got married and she joined me down South. We gave ourselves plenty of time to settle into marriage and targeted September 2018 as a launch date. I love Fareham, it’s a fantastic town and we’ve made brilliant friends. Rachael is still a Northerner at heart, but secretlyloves Fareham even more than me and the people we’ve met.