Chipping Norton

In 1980, after Cote had first experienced a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we had several people who started to come to Cote from Chipping Norton, included the Miners family and Bill and Elphi Hemmings. They had been baptised in the Spirit themselves and wanted more fellowship.

We started to hold a housegroup across in Chippy. Steve Thomas, David Freeman and Len Garnham used to go across to help with this. Around the same time, David and Rosie Freeman were feeling the call to Wantage, and Witney were looking to plant out at Carterton. All these plants were to be the fulfilment of Bryn’s prohetic word – “dollops across the county”. One day, soon after Len had come out of the RAF, Steve said to us, “Why don’t you pray about being part of a new church plant?” He went off on holiday, leaving us to pray about it! By the time he returned, God had started to speak to us about Chipping Norton.

We started a Sunday meeting in an ATC hut the town with 13 adults, some of whom used to travel overwith us, and started to try to move – a year later, we were still in Bampton! However, by faith Jenny booked to have her next baby – Stephen – in Chipping Norton hospital, and eventually we found ahouse over there. Part of one of the first prophecies we had was that Chipping Norton was like a brokendown farm, with fallen fences and raided barns, everything spoiled and marred – but that God was going to restore it. We believed that God was going to do something special.

We started to grow, by addition and new birth. Our first outreach meeting was in the back room of The King’s Arms with a thin partition adjoining the bar, showing James Dobson parenting videos! We were trying to establish some kind of profile, because we were getting quite a bit of opposition from the other churches who were not happy at first about our starting up.

We used to do everything together. We even went on holiday together, caravanning and camping, and these holidays were key in building our commitment together.

We saw each other and prayed together daily: it wasn’t just a weekly thing. There was opposition in many ways, so it was a question of total commitment to see this thing happen in Chippy. We delivered the magazine CrossTalk to the every home in the town, just about a dozen of us; and then we went back and did surveys on how people had responded to it! We held open air meetings on the town hall steps. This was our lifestyle – it was hard graft, but it was exciting.

When The King’s School started in 1985, the logistics of travelling in were incredible! For example, Charles Braye used to bring the minibus in, then go to work, and then our Ital would be brought in and swapped for Charles to bring home after work; in fact, so many people had a set of keys to our car for school transport, the neighbours used to scratch their heads at the number of different people coming to pick it up! This was commitment again – and it seemed to earmark the fellowship, right in its foundations: commitment to one another, commitment to the fellowship, commitment to the vision. When we said to people, “Next Sunday we are going to have a picnic,” everyone was there. Or, “Next Wednesday, we’re going to go prayer walking,” everyone was there. What the body did, the whole body did. We really were God’s JCB – Jesus Christ’s Body – digging the foundations!

Len and Jennie Garnham were part of the Chipping Norton church for many years.