I found it very moving to give God thanks for so many young children in all our Grace Church sites this Sunday. (16 children, if my count was right – and we do this every year!) It is a wonderful thing to celebrate new life together.
So, it seemed quite fitting that we also celebrated a new start for Grace Church: the launch of our fourth site. From Sunday 18th March we will begin meeting in Warblington School in Havant. More importantly, we are now a local church in Havant for the people of Havant.
When I look back at the prophetic words spoken over Grace Church in our early years, it is clear that we have been a multisite church since we began in 2006, even if we didn’t realise it during the years when we all met in one place! It was five years ago that we became a multisite church proper. We already had two Sunday morning services, so we made one of those the ‘Bognor service’, and then the 70 or so people who lived in Bognor started meeting in Bognor. We began immediately to make a gospel impact within the Bognor community and have since grown to around 120 each Sunday. A local church in Bognor for the people of Bognor.
Three years ago we started our Midhurst site. We had a Life Group meeting in a home in Midhurst, full of around 20 people who loved Grace Church and also loved Midhurst. There is no other contemporary evangelical church in the town and it is great to be there. We currently number around 50 people on a Sunday. A local church in Midhurst for the people of Midhurst.
We celebrated the start of our Havant site in all our existing sites this Sunday (with prayer and cake!) In fact, every site is sending at least one person to be part of Havant so it is relevant in that way. But even if they weren’t, this would still be an occasion to celebrate in all our sites. This marks a new beginning for all of us. We were a three-site church, and now we are a four-site church!
Of course, we are sending most people from our Chichester site. There were well over 200 people in the room this Sunday. It was great to get everyone up the front. I counted 25 people, and all together we expect to start with around 40 in Warblington School next Sunday. We sent them out by praying that the Holy Spirit will anoint them as they go, just like the church in Antioch sent out Saul and Barnabas in Acts 13. Then, all the Havant people prayed for everyone in our Chichester site. This also marks a new beginning for our Chichester site. We will miss friends who we will no longer see each Sunday, but it is a new opportunity go again with our mission in Chichester. We are a local church in Chichester for the people of Chichester.
It says in Acts 17 that God has determined the days of our lives and the places that we live. (Well, it actually says that he has determined the boundaries between nations, but I think we can apply that to our own towns too.) Grace Church is an amazing church to be a part of: full of grace-filled, servant-hearted, mission-minded people. By organising church into our four sites, we get to have the biggest possible impact in the communities where God has placed us.
We get to love the place we live.
See, it's not so far from our Chichester site to our Havant site! Do the drive in 20 seconds!