The adventure of church planting can take you anywhere in the world, that was certainly Dave and Laura’s experience. In 2015 they began to feel God calling them into something new but had no idea what the next six years would look like, nor would they know that they would be planting a church in the midst of a global pandemic. We chatted to Dave and Laura to find out some of their story!
How did you end up at Ashford Vineyard?
Our story starts in Dover, but we didn’t know it would take us full circle. One Wednesday we were driving around, starting to explore whether there was a need for a church in the areas surrounding where we lived in Kent. We popped into Sainsburys in Ashford and noticed a sign saying that Ashford Vineyard was Sainsbury’s charity of the year. We didn’t know that there was a Vineyard in Ashford, so we drove over to explore further.
We arrived at Ashford Vineyard’s building, and Liz, the administrator, was outside watering plants. We explained that we were just out looking to see what was around, and considering the possibility of planting a church. Liz stood there dead in her tracks and said, “Do you know Nic and Chris Kimmance?” We’d not heard of them. She explained that they were the Senior Pastors and it was on their hearts to train people to plant churches.
At that moment, our jaws were on the floor. We didn’t know there were people out there that did that, least of all near us! After finding out a bit more about Ashford Vineyard, we felt like this would be a great place for us to explore the adventure of church planting that we thought might be on our lives, and so in 2016, we moved 25 miles from Dover to Ashford.
Tell us about your time in Ashford
As we arrived in Ashford, we knew we needed to take some time to learn and be trained, to see what this church planting thing was all about. As for the location of our future plant, there were loads of different places we could go on to plant a church… Scotland sounded like one pretty great option, but we would go anywhere.
We spent 4 years in Ashford – for the first couple of years we were leading the kids ministry (we were totally thrown in at the deep end!) It was a great opportunity to learn what it was to work together in church leadership, because we’d never done that before and this was all part of our training.
Whilst living in Ashford, we had the most incredible experience of being about to see other people doing what we were dreaming about doing. We saw their highs and their lows, and it was such a deep, rich experience for us.
You thought you were moving to Scotland…how did you end up back in Dover?
Relatively early on in our experience in Ashford, we started to think that it was actually Dover we were going to be heading back to. As time went on, whenever we had a day off, or we were wanting some time out away from Ashford we’d end up at Dover seafront, with a coffee in our hand – it was just so good for the soul!
We began to realise that we really deeply loved Dover. Dover is a place that needs to be loved. There’s so much history and beauty about the place we live, but there’s also a real hopelessness about it. We’ve found that lots of people around here seem to lack joy – there’s lots of poverty and schools are struggling.
God burdened us with a heart for this city and for the people here, which was entirely unexpected and not really what we wanted. In many ways, we’d quite prefer to be somewhere else! We wanted to plant a church that was outwardly focussed. To come back to Dover and do that here was definitely a God thing that he developed in both of us.
What are your dreams for Dover?
We long to see people in Dover come to know Jesus, and to know what love looks like and not be afraid of it! There’s such a need for people here to know what full life looks like. Our dream is to build a community that doesn’t just have a heart for ‘good church’ but a heart for our city – that isn’t just meetings based but active and full. We’ve found that this is brand new for most people who are gathering with us.
We can see that God is already working here, and we just want to invite people onto that journey. Lots of people that we have gathered are coming to understand that this is an invitation for everyone – everyone has a part to play, and we’re all invited onto the adventure! It scares us, but we recognise that we can only do it in God’s strength and power.
What has church looked like during the pandemic?
We’d only just started to gather together before the pandemic hit, and so lots of Dover Vineyard has happened over Zoom this past year! However, every Sunday morning we do meet in-person to take bacon butties to the homeless guys in Dover. It’s a great opportunity to chat with and pray for them, and to build relationships, and it involves everyone – including our kids and young people. We have 6 boys, all aged 11 and under, who just love coming out on the streets with us. They give out food, pick up litter, and have had opportunities to pray with the homeless guys. They’re getting involved with bringing the Kingdom in a very real way!
We recognise it’s been an especially tough time for young people. We’ve connected with other church planters in the Vineyard and it’s a great community to try to glean ideas off one another! Our Whatsapp conversations are always asking each other about what works – as we all look for avenues for connection other than Zoom.
As we emerge from the pandemic, we’re working out how we gently regather. A few people who are part of Dover Vineyard want to be baptised, which is really exciting, and we’re looking forward to making that happen! There’s also lots of new buds of new life emerging across Dover. We’re looking to partner with the Council as they build a new creative quarter in the city. Lots of people in Dover have started to get to know us because of the work we do with people who are struggling, and it’s exciting to see that their trust with us is building too. It’s such an adventure and we are so thrilled God has invited us to partner with Him in bringing the Kingdom and seeing transformation to our incredible city.