We had been in Shrewsbury since 1989, which was now five years. Although we had made good friends there, through our involvement with Barnabas church, the local (largish) free church, lurking in the back of our minds all the time was the knowledge that unless I found a security in my job, the likelyhood was that we were going to have to move. It was difficult trying to establish friendship groups when the future was so uncertain. None the less, there were many young families in Shrewsbury and we made good friends with Richard and Elaine Jones and their two small boys, and a number of others in the church.
Barnabas church is a charismatic ‘free’ church, with a thriving social programme in the town. One of the things that I will always remember about that time is ‘The Toronto Blessing’. This was a phenomena that was sweeping the charismatic church in the western world and centred around a spiritual revival that was going on in Toronto, Canada. I was quite used to this kind of thing, having been at Roffey Place, so I didn’t feel the need, like others, to go and experience it. It had a crazy reputation and the services were quite mad, with people screaming and hollering and some reputedly barking out loud like dogs!! Quite bizarre! Anyhow, two of the elders at the church went. One happened to sport a fine beard, the other was clean shaven. When they came back, God had told one of them to shave his beard and the other to grow one! I couldn’t help feeling that it wasn’t necessary to cross the atlantic to gain this bit of spiritual direction. But what do I know?
The church family at Barnabas were lovely. Here is a clip of the church outing.
A New Job!
My first contact with CPO (Christian Publicity Organisation) in Worthing was in 1985. At that time I was a young designer, as well as a young Christian. Earlier that year I had attended a week long Christian camp, and on one particular night had answered an ‘altar call’ for anyone who felt they were being led into ‘full time’ Christian work. (Which is something of a misnomer really – the implication being one can separate the different aspects of life). Anyhow, CPO were probably the country’s leading supplier of evangelistic material, so it seemed a good place to start. At that time in their history, CPO saw themselves as a ministry to the church, and that everyone who worked there was not only ‘called’ to be there, but was as valuable to the work as the next person. This meant that if you joined the company, you were not only ‘joining the family’, but you were paid exactly the same as the rest of the staff. (The ‘equal pay’ system allowed for some increments in salary according to the number of dependents you had). As a result, Donna and I were interviewed together.
The interview had been going well until towards the end, when the interviewer (who was one of the founders of the company), drew our attention to their statement of faith, which we were expected to agree to. One of the clauses stated that the company would not work with Catholics, and this unfortunately provoked a reaction with Donna, who of course came from a catholic family. We were never given a full explanation, but I didn’t get the job!
As it turned out, the timing wasn’t right for me to work there. Subsequently we went to Bible college at Roffey Place where I ended up working as a Graphic Designer. On a number of occasions I had so much work to do, that I outsourced some of it to CPO.
I kept up the contact with them for the next nine years, anticipating that one day there may be a job going there when I needed it! The year before, in 1993, I went down to see them and they interviewed me although at the time there wasn’t a job going. My business was becoming more vulnerable everyday as I was increasingly only working for Tony Brooks, but had no security as I wasn’t employed, but freelanced. Sooner or later something would have to change, it seemed as though I had exhausted all the possible openings and opportunities in Shrewsbury, such as they were.
The call finally came from CPO, and not a day too late. I broke the news to Donna and to my mother who was staying with us – it was a very emotional moment. Having lost my father four years previously, it was a joy for my mother to have us move back down south. It was a huge relief for Donna and I to know, after three or four uncertain and difficult years, to know that we had turned a corner.
Again the church were lovely to us, and laid on a ‘goodbye’ party. They realised that we had no choice but to move, and were sorry to see us go.
Looking for a house
However, looking for a house to buy at a distance was going to be a challenge. Similarly it would be a challenge to prepare for a move, whilst simultaneously keeping my freelance contacts unaware until the last possible moment, to ensure that I had work from them right up to the move itself.
It was tiring driving all the way to Worthing on the weekend, leaving the children in the care of Donna’s parents, whilst we tried to assimilate the different areas of Worthing and where the affordable property was situated. We had returned to Shrewsbury one Sunday night, and as soon as we got back we had a phone call from my mother who said she had seen the details of the perfect house. Exhausted, I said that we would come down the following weekend, but she said “I think you need to come back tomorrow and look at it”. So Lawrence and Eileen (Donna’s parents), came back from Leeds the following day and we made the trip down south again.
37 West Avenue was for sale on a ‘blind auction’. What this meant was that sealed bids needed to be submitted on one particular date. Since we had no idea what anyone else was going to bid, if we wanted the house then we would have to offer the full asking price. Which is what we did.
As a precaution, we also put an offer in on a house in a nearby Broadwater, incase our offer on West Avenue wasn’t accepted. On the day of the auction, it was very tense, particularly as at one point the vendor selling the house in Broadwater was no contactable as his father had been taken ill. All we knew was that by the end of the day, we might have bought a house, or two houses, or no houses at all!
Fortunately our offer on West Avenue was accepted. However the elderly widow who was selling didn’t want to move just yet. So we agreed to put our furniture in storage and move the following month. During this time I stayed with my mother in hove, and commuted to Worthing, whilst Donna stayed with her parents in Leeds.
We sold 9 Garmston Road on the 22 July 1994 for £71,000 and bought 37 West Avenue in August 1994 for £89,950