Called to the Mountains
Swapping the bright lights of the city for a life in the mountains wasn’t Kenny Rogan’s dream, so why did he and his family move from London to the Scottish Highlands?
Don’t get me wrong, I like the countryside. I’m originally from Scotland’s Black Isle (which is actually a peninsular), known for its farms, woodlands and rolling hills. Its coastline is a good place from which to spot dolphins.
But, despite my upbringing in a small town within reach of some beautiful wild spots, I’ve never considered myself an outdoors kind of guy. And I’m definitely not a hiker or a skier!
That’s probably why my wife, Lesley, and I have spent so much time in large cities. For many years we lived in Glasgow, where I used to work as an accountant, and then we moved to London so I could attend Bible college.
After completing my theology studies, we stayed on in the capital and I became Assistant Pastor at Twynholm Baptist Church in Fulham.
Life in London was pretty fast-paced. We loved the diversity of our church, which brought together more than 20 nationalities! Our congregation also drew people from a wide variety of social and economic backgrounds.
Lesley and I always felt that we’d like to return to Glasgow one day to help to save souls there, and, several years ago, our yearning to go back began to grow.
In spring 2017, I attended an FIEC Mission Forum at Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh where, among many others, I met Erik Thomson. Erik told me about the need for a new gospel church in Aviemore, where he and his wife, Emma, (former OMF missionaries) were living.
A small group of pastors from the Avery Church Network, North Carolina, USA, were also at the Mission Forum and were interested in supporting church planting in Scotland.
I found Erik’s desire to see a new church open in Aviemore very interesting, but, at that time, it didn’t strike me that I’d be able to get involved. To be honest, the prospect of moving from a big city to one of Scotland’s premier outdoor resorts didn’t seem like the right thing for me, Lesley and our young children.
On returning home to London, Lesley and I prayed about the plant and about our own future. We felt strongly that we should put our trust in God, so we asked him to lead us.
Around Christmas 2017, I was invited to Aviemore to chat with Erik and others from the plant planning team, which included FIEC Scotland Director Andy Hunter. I looked round the town and could sense the need for a new church.
Aviemore is a really interesting place. As the UK’s top ski resort, it attracts more than a million visitors each year and is one of Scotland’s fastest growing towns.
With Aviemore’s economy centred on tourism, many of the properties are either holiday lets or private holiday homes. This means that many of the workers live outside of the town where property is more affordable.
During my first visit, it felt like Aviemore didn’t have much of a community spirit. In fact, it was hard to see who the community was.
Further discussions in the following months between myself and the church plant planning team led to me being offered the role of Aviemore planter/pastor in March 2018.
Lesley and I visited the Highlands together a few weeks later to help us in our decision-making. It felt strange to be contemplating a life outside of the big cities we were used to, but we felt that God wanted us to serve him in Aviemore.
With financial contributions being made to the project by many churches across Scotland (including a good number that are by no means wealthy), preparations for our move to the Highlands began.
But, because of the nature of the Aviemore housing market (where many properties are holiday homes, and those that come onto the market are in high demand), the planning team found it impossible to find suitable long-term housing for us.
Eventually, short-term rented accommodation was found about a 20-minute drive from the town, so we moved up to the area from London in June 2018.
We’ve since been working hard to make connections, and I’m leading regular church plant prayer and planning meetings in a lounge at Erik and Emma’s guesthouse. We’re currently focusing on Mark’s Gospel, and on strengthening our relationships with one another.
We plan to launch Hope Church to the public next year. Some folks have already asked us for a date, but that will depend on when our core group is ready. We’ll also need to take the tourist season into account.
Lesley and I really love people, so, while learning to live in a very different environment to the one we’re used to is challenging, we’re excited about being called to Aviemore. We’re convinced that the place where God wants us – here in the Highlands – is the best place for us.
Being able to move into a long-term home for our family in Aviemore would help us tremendously (not least because it would dramatically reduce our travel time and fuel costs), so please pray that a suitable property will become available, along with the funds to purchase it.
More information about Hope Church Aviemore can be found on their website.