Prayers led to Plant
As Cornwall’s largest town, St Austell has long offered a good range of amenities to the area’s growing, and ageing, population. But, almost two years ago, two groups of Christians agreed that something was missing. Karen O’Byrne explains.
Undertaking a weekly 40-mile round trip to church in Newquay, on Cornwall’s north coast, from our home on the south coast, led to us to try, for some years, to move house. But, after much prayer and searching, the Lord firmly kept us in St Austell.
Puzzled by this situation, we wondered if the Lord had plans for our home town. Several of us from our church lived on the south coast, and, at the end of Summer 2016, our leaders suggested we hold monthly prayer meetings in St Austell over the winter to save people from travelling to Newquay.
In the same week as the meetings started, we had an email from friends attending Truro Evangelical Church. They were also travelling miles to church and were planning regular prayer meetings in St Austell. Their Pastor, Nick Fuller, was keen to look at the prospect of planting a new church.
We know that the Lord doesn’t deal in coincidences, so, although we were really busy, we decided to attend both prayer meetings over the winter.
One of 50 places
We knew that St Austell had been identified by FIEC in 2015 as one of its 50 places in most need of a new Independent evangelical church.
In October 2017, after a year of meeting locally for prayer, our groups felt led to join together to plant a church. The way the Lord led in this was very encouraging, and, after a great deal of searching for suitable premises, we were welcomed at a well-located primary school.
We found a local Christian print company to produce our flag and banners, and the Christian not-for-profit website company, Truthvine, helped us with our online presence.
We were also blessed to have supporters in other parts of Great Britain who were, and continue to be, a real encouragement to us with their prayer and regular email and telephone contact.
Having felt led to take the next step, and with everything in place, our group made plans to launch a Sunday afternoon service to the public in March 2018. Grace Church St Austell was born.
We still attended our home churches in the mornings over the Summer, and alternated our prayer meetings between our home churches and St Austell.
Both churches involved were small, so our ties needed to be cut prayerfully and gently.
With advice and support from Peter Thatcher and the central office team at FIEC, and with legal help from FIEC’s sister charity, Edward Connor Solicitors (ECS), by October 2018 we were running two weekly services.
Our new church is being led by three elders including my husband, Mark, who was an elder at Newquay Baptist Church. There is a lovely unity among us, and we all meet together for lunch between the two services.
A delightful spin-off has been that all three churches have become much closer in their relationships. We now have a quarterly joint prayer meeting, and we meet at least once a year for a day out. We also hold a tri-church lunch in the run-up to Christmas.
In March, we marked our first anniversary as a church with a service that gathered friends and supporters from across the county. Nick Fuller spoke for us, encouraging us to be useful in God’s service in spite of our ‘smallness’ and failings. He reminded us that God makes use of ‘unholy servants’.
Just a week after the service, we received notification that we were registered with the Charity Commission. This marked the end of a large amount of work, and we were very grateful to ECS for their help with this, and to FIEC for providing us with a grant towards the legal work.
The Lord has been so good to us. We now have three elders, 13 members and more than 15 regular attenders at our morning services. More than 25 people attend in the afternoons, including some people who are not believers.
We have recently begun alternating our prayer meetings between mornings and evenings to enable more people to attend.
Looking back on everything that’s happened so far, we see that the Lord has blessed us greatly. We have no doubt that his hand is upon us.
Please pray for the Lord’s continued blessing on his church here in St Austell, and for our supporting churches.
Map by Ordnance Survey, Published 1918.