Hailsham is a rapidly changing town. A thousand years ago it was on the coast and was a small market town. Today it is 10 miles inland, due north of its better-known neighbour Eastbourne, and has a population of just over 20,000. In the next few years, however, the population will rise above 30,000 as houses are being built all over the town. Most people would tend to think that Sussex is an affluent county but Hailsham is far from `posh’. There is real social depravation in our community.

ChristChurch Hailsham began as Hailsham Christian Fellowship in 1981. The Holy Spirit began to move in the local Methodist Church; people got born again, baptised in water and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Methodist minister embraced what God was doing and the church began to grow. However, when a new minister arrived he did not see things the same way, and a group of 50 or so were in effect forced out of the church. A new church began led by Ray Bodkin, who 34 years later is still a fruitful and much loved member of the congregation.

Janet and I moved from Eastbourne to Hailsham early in 2006 to lead the church at a time when Matt Partridge was encouraging the church to believe God for a better future. The church had been through some difficult times and had shrunk in faith and vision. At that point the church was effectively replanted, renamed and re-launched.

If you ask me what ChristChurch is here for it is for three things:

To be a family. The God we know and worship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is fundamentally relational in Himself, His character and nature and His outlook on the world. We want to express God’s love across the generations and to demonstrate that love to the needy community of which we are a part.
To serve the poor. Hailsham is a town with considerable social need. God has spoken to us prophetically that we should view our building not as a warehouse but much more like one of Joseph’s store houses from which he fed and cared for those experiencing famine. God is calling us to be a church that both preaches and demonstrates the gospel.
Mission. Our relationship with Martyn Dunsford has been instrumental in helping us as a church to connect into apostolic mission. We are particularly involved in working in the Balkans and have built great friendships with a group of churches in in north-west Bulgaria. There are probably 30 or more of our church who have been to Bulgaria on mission and we feel very connected with the churches there.
2007 was a particular turning point for us. We began to get excited about the plans God had for us as a church in influencing and shaping our community. As a group of 70 or so adults we took in September 2007 what was the first of many gift day offerings for a building. At that point the idea of having a building of our own was just a pipe dream but that morning we raised £87,000. 8 years later on 14 December we will be holding our first meeting – a baptism service – in our new church building. It is a warehouse built in 2007 but because of economic recession never used for its original purpose – a wonderful blank canvas right on the main road into Hailsham, just a few hundred yards from the town centre. We are very conscious as a church of God’s goodness, grace and favour towards us, and we see our new building as a huge opportunity to serve our community.

By Andy Johnston

Andy leads both the South-East Hub team and the team at Kings Community Church, Southampton. He met his wife Janet at University in Southampton and has three grown up children and two grandchildren. Andy has a longstanding interest in Church History and has published a number of books on the Reformation. He also oversees training on behalf of the Catalyst Strategy Team and has a passion to see next generation leaders released to their full potential.