How we started

Beacon Church Whitchurch 

                                         “Touching heaven, changing earth.” 

The birth of Beacon church could possibly be traced back to that moment when John Matthias had a vision for a church plant in Whitchurch, shared that with Martin Charlesworth and they began to pray.  In April 2004 Andrew Pattison began to prepare the Snelling family and the Muir family to launch a midweek group in Whitchurch.  

In September 2004 we had our first midweek meeting in Whitchurch.   In January 2005 we received a letter from the leadership of Whitchurch Christian Fellowship (WCF) informing us that “the fellowship are looking into handing over leadership to New Frontiers.”  

Then followed years of ground work, prayer and preparation including running a joint Alpha course with WCF in 2006 before our first Sunday meeting on Easter Sunday 2008 and our official launch on 27th April 2008, with Jamie and Joanne Muir and John and Ali Snelling from Barnabas, and Ken and Ann Holland from WCF forming the initial leadership team.

Over the last twelve years it has been quite incredible to have witnessed God’s absurd grace though the various stages of Beacon’s existence.  

Over the years we have faced some particular challenges:

  1. We have no paid staff working for Beacon. 
  2. We are a town with a population of less than 10,000
  3. We are the only non-denominational church in our area  … we therefore do not attract those seeking to be part of a “neocharismatic apostolic network of evangelical, charismatic churches.”    No.  We attract anyone who is not a Catholic, Methodist or Anglican.

So how have we evolved under these occasionally stretching circumstances?

  1. Staff.  
    God has always – and continues to - supply us with both the workers and the leadership team that we need.   Several years after the departure of John and Ali Snelling in May 2011, God has supplied Dave and Su Williams – Dave was appointed an elder on the 30th April 2017.  More recently Glyn and Linda Chapman have joined the team with Glyn taking up eldership on 15th September 2019.
    Almost all of the initial core of folk who started out with us in 2008 are still there – working like Trojans – determined to see God’s grace powerfully break into lives.  Faithfully praying, faithfully discipling, faithfully counselling, faithfully giving,  faithfully sowing in season and out of season – refusing discouragement and opposition and pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:14).
    Others have joined this original core. It is fascinating to note the 400 men who gathered to David mentioned in 1 Sam 22:2 “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented”supplied the 37 mighty men of valour identified in 
    2 Samuel 23:8–38. 

    A desperate unbelieving alcoholic who happened to wander down to our first service at the Whitchurch Canal Boat Rally was soon to become our worship leader.   A woman who had been sexually abused for years by her overbearing father is now running a pioneering conference for “Broken” people.  A physically disabled man who came to faith at our first Alpha in Sept 2006 married a lady he met on that Alpha and now runs one of our social action projects…  the list goes on and on.  
  2. Why are we in this small town in some obscure, little known corner of Shropshire? 

We believe that in the providence and plan of God Whitchurch is important to Him.  Part of our vision was to be a “Beacon” of light connecting Shropshire to Cheshire, England to Wales.   Isaiah 9:2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.  Matthew Henry the Bible Commentator grew up here when his father moved to Whitchurch in 1667, and in the 1790’s Reginald Heber the great Bishop and writer of the hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" was educated at Whitchurch Grammar School.  God has chosen to use this unlikely corner of the county before – and we trust, we KNOW, He will do so again!  

Prophetically we have had awesome and exciting words spoken over us from regional and apostolic prophets – notably Harold Wilmshurst’s prophecy of September 2015, and we believe that we are divinely placed for a strategic purpose.  Watch this space….. 

  1. How have we coped with being so diverse in our theological background? 

Many will be aware of Smith Wigglesworth’s 1947 prophecy concerning “the next few decades” bringing in a charismatic renewal and a wave of church planting followed by this:

“When the new church phase is on the wane, there will be evidence in the churches of something that has not been seen before: a coming together of those with an emphasis on the word and those with an emphasis on the Spirit. When the word and the Spirit come together, there will be the biggest move of the Holy Spirit that the nation, and indeed, the world has ever seen.”

Whilst initially Beacon wanted to identify strongly with the charismatic movement, we now see that God was making us a place where “the word and the Spirit come together.”  This has not always been glamorous or easy.  Sometimes some of us feel impatient whilst others of us feel scared or suspicious.  We walk that fragile line between freedom in the Spirit, and a constant call to love and unity.. with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, and with diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit …. until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:3 & 13) 

But there is the great news: we all are unified by this overwhelming desire to see the  “biggest move of the Holy Spirit that the nation, and indeed, the world has ever seen.”

Testimonies of grace:

So from this unique place, what have we been up to over the past years? Well some of the highlights that shine out: 

In our opening year – on Sunday 27th June 2008 God healed a lady in her 90’s of blindness – incredibly this hit the local press with articles in the Whitchurch Herald and Shropshire Star. 

We have seen three young men converted and now working in Cambodia and China and India. Jonathan who first went to Cambodia was followed by his parents, then his sister and brother-in-law.  

We have seen young men and women raised up and sent out to become vicars at HTB church plants, join the “Worship Central” team, work in London with XLP, others are now training to write worship music and others serving God in lively churches across the nation.  Something about the Pioneering nature of a church plant seems to have bred an ensuing generation of Pioneers. 

We have seen our local school go from being a ‘failing school’ which shunned Christian groups to becoming a success story with exceptional A level results and now with a Christian Union lead by one of our Beacon Youth group. During the last week of the Winter term 2019, 500 pupils attended the “G-sus Live” presentation at SJT, with glowing reports from students and staff. 

We have seen a Churches Together Foodbank project launched in 2013 grow from tenuous beginnings to become a dominant influence in the culture of our town with 40 volunteers receiving over 70 tonnes of food and reaching 5200 individuals with much needed food in that six year period. 

We have seen a steady influx of souls through our twice-yearly Alpha courses. 

Year by year we have seen hundreds come to our Christmas “Saltmine” production and our family fun day - “Easter Extravaganza”.  We also have an annual “Service in the Park” and this year have the Whitchurch Town band playing at our Carol Service with 150 people in attendance.  

Through “Churches Together” we have linked arms with other churches in Whitchurch and worked with them on projects as diverse as the Memorial Day celebrations, Easter March of Witness, Party in the Park, and the town’s autumn “Blackberry Fair” festival. 

Bit by bit we have seen Whitchurch changed from a rather dilapidated and forgotten place, to being a place of hope, growth and blessing.

We have left out great swathes of our story, some good and some plain discouraging. Yes it has been a roller–coaster.  Church planting is not for the faint hearted or the easily discouraged.  Persistence, a thick skin, patience and forbearance are essential pre-requisites.  But we have a quiet inner assurance that the rain of the Spirit is on it’s way, the “Ruach” breath of God is coming and our God who answers by fire, has been hearing our prayers and is answering in a myriad of ways which will only be seen in the light of eternity. 

December 2019.   Jamie, Ken, Glyn and Dave – elders of the Beacon Church.