After twelve years at Christ Church London, God is calling our family onto something new. Later this week, we will be leaving London and relocating to Oxford.
We announced the news to our church on Sunday. You can watch a short interview at the bottom of this post, which we recorded for our online services, and we were also interviewed live in Stockwell and Bethnal Green, which were emotional experiences! We have really appreciated the encouragements, kind words and prayers that people have shared with us, and we will definitely draw strength and courage from them over the coming weeks.
Although we move on Friday, I will continue working for Christ Church until the end of July, which will both give us an opportunity to work out what is next, and help the church make plans for how to cover my responsibilities. So although we are moving very quickly, this isn’t quite goodbye!
If you’re interested, here’s a bit of the story that has led us to this point:
Back in Summer 2019, we wondered whether God was speaking to us about moving. We assumed that would be within London and closer to one of our services, so we could be more involved in community, and better positioned to serve the church. We began talking, thinking, and praying about this, and at the start of 2020 we were all good to go.
Our plan had been to put our house on the market on Friday 7th Feb, but then we got a last-minute opportunity to go to Glasgow, to receive a prophetic check up from a team at the Glasgow Prophetic Centre. This was on Tuesday 4th, and it felt like a timely opportunity to receive some external input about what our next season would be about.
So we flew up to Glasgow and stayed over on the Monday. That night I had a dream. In the dream, I received a phone call from the people we were due to meet the next day, and they explained that they were unable to meet us in Glasgow as planned, but they would come and meet us wherever we were in the country. For some reason in the dream we were in Oxford. I think I may have been preaching at a church, and there were some friends from our past there. So the Glasgow guys ended the call by saying: “We’ll come and meet you in Oxford, wait for us there.”
I woke up the next morning and told Helen about the dream. At this point I didn’t think anything of it. It was just an odd dream, and I had no reason to think it was from God.
We went to our appointment, where for about an hour these people who knew nothing about us or our situation prayed for us and shared what they believed God wanted to say. The first 20 minutes or so were really encouraging; about each of us as individuals, about Helen, and about us together as a couple. And then they said this:
‘God says, “It is time to question everything, and it’s time to ask me about everything, because I have a different answer to some of your questions this time around… It’s time to ask me about your geography… Get everything out on a table – church, work, family, home, where you live, etc – bring it all before me and allow me to speak to you about each area. Ask me about all of your life because I’ve got something to say about it all.”
And then came the curveball, as they said:
‘God says “The city of Oxford is open to you.”’
We were stunned. We didn’t say anything, and they continued sharing all sorts of things about our future and what God wanted to do through us in Oxford. It was quite overwhelming, and I’ve often thought since that if I hadn’t had the dream the previous night, I probably wouldn’t have been able to receive what they said. But I was so glad I had mentioned the dream to Helen – I rarely do that! It had prepared us for what God was about to say.
At the end of the session, they told us that some of what they had shared would work out soon, and some over years, and we needed to pray and work out which was which. So we came away from Glasgow stunned and confused. We didn’t put our house on the market as planned, and then shortly after that lockdown hit, which meant we couldn’t progress things anyway. That bought us some time!
Over the next few months we spoke with a couple of trusted friends, and we prayed a lot, and felt like we heard nothing from God. So we came to the conclusion that maybe Oxford was 5 or 10 years down the road for us, and we should press ahead with our previous plans, unless God made it clear that we should do otherwise.
So as things began to open up again, we prepared once more to put our house on the market, and then the first week of May I received a message from a friend who knew none of this, asking if we were planning to leave London, because she’d had a dream that we suddenly moved to Oxford! That was a shock. In fact, she then text the next day saying she’d had the same dream again. If the first message wasn’t enough to get our attention, the second certainly was. In Genesis 41, Pharaoh had two dreams, which Joseph interpreted. And Joseph said this:
‘The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.’Genesis 41:32
We felt that this two-fold dream, following on from everything else, was a prompt not to put this off into the distant future. It had been decided by God, and God would do it soon.
We had no idea what to do with this, though! It felt a far bigger thing than we were used to weighing. So we prayed, and then spoke to a couple of close friends and our Leadership Team. One of the parts of the Glasgow prophecy had said,
‘The Lord says, “I am smoothing the discussions with your leadership, and the discussions with those that you even work with closely at Christ Church… I’m going to make your relationships easy. They will transition well… I’m smoothing out even those discussions that lots of people dread. I’m smoothing out the conversations and the meetings that make people nervous. I’m smoothing them out and this will be an easy move.”’
So we chose to trust that would be the case! And it has been. We were given space to work through this strange and unusual set of circumstances, with support and prayer. And as we came into the Autumn, we felt that God was leading us to test the waters by putting our house on the market. We had received a word from a prophet called Julian Adams in 2019 about God releasing passive finance for a move, which we had thought related to a move within London. It occurred to us that the Stamp Duty Holiday may well have been that provision. So we started the process of selling our flat, accepted an offer on it just before Christmas, and started the sale process with no idea how it was going to work out.
As we came into the New Year, very little was coming on the market which we could afford. Getting to view places in Oxford during a lockdown, with schools closed, was quite a challenge! But then on 6th Feb – a year to the week we had been to Glasgow – we saw a house that we loved, but was out of our price range. We knew there was no way we would get it, (and I felt it was too nice for us… I still have a lot to learn about God’s generosity!) but we put in an offer and were outbid. But then to our surprise, the sellers decided to go with us, because the sale of our flat had already been progressing for a few months, so they decided we were in the best place to complete quickly! This felt like an enormous blessing! And by and large, everything has progressed smoothly and quickly from then on.
So here we are, two months later. We exchanged contracts on Friday and move this Friday! It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, and it’s not over yet.
We feel a strange mixture of emotions. Excitement, faith, expectancy… but also nervousness and uncertainty. I will continue working for Christ Church until the end of July, and Helen for a while longer than that. But beyond that we don’t know what we’re going to do. So this feels like a big step of faith. We also feel that the speed at which it’s happened means that we’ve not yet processed the sadness of leaving a city that we love, and a church that we love. Some of those emotions have started to come out as we’ve told people the story, but I suspect there is some more grieving to come.
God has been good to us. We are learning so much about the life of faith. And it’s a joy to be sharing this adventure with our four-year old daughter, and seeing her grow in excitement as we pray and see God answer our prayers. My prayer is that this will help her to learn about trusting God and experiencing His faithfulness and provision from a young age.
One of my favourite responses has been an eagerness to hear God more clearly, and trust Him more courageously. A few people have responded by saying how starved they have felt of stories of faith and courage over this past year or so, and how hearing our story has encouraged them to pursue God more, and trust Him for new things. That warms my heart! And my prayer is that God will not only continue to lead us, but also use our story to encourage others as well.
If you do feel like praying for us, we would be very grateful. Particularly we would love prayer for the following:
- For our daughter’s new school. She is in Reception and has had a tumultuous first year of education. We hadn’t been able to apply for school places until we had exchanged contracts, so we’ve not been able to prepare her as much as we would have liked. We will arrive in Oxford on Friday, and the new term starts on Monday. So we are praying for a great school, for her to make friends quickly, and for a smooth transition for her.
- For jobs! We’re clear that God has called us to Oxford, but we’re not sure why, or what He has in store for us. I have some thoughts, hopes and dreams, but I’m open-minded about what I end up doing at least initially, knowing that many of the ministry things we feel called to don’t have to be tied to our employment. But some certainty over jobs and income would be really helpful.
- For us as we find a new church and settle into community. This is an unusual time to try and make new friends with all the social restrictions, but we’re excited to build deep community for the next phase of our lives.
- For Helen’s health. She has had Chronic Fatigue (ME) for years, and the stress of this season has taken a toll on her energy levels.
- For Christ Church London. My prayer is that this move will make space for CCL to thrive and flourish in new ways, and I know the Leadership Team would love prayer for wisdom as they work out some of the implications.
And as always, if you hear anything from God for our family, we would love you to share it with us!