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Story 82 - Boldly Going....
Charlie and Abby Clayton, Cornwall

By Suzie Abramian in conversation with Charlie Clayton  18/02/21
 
Story82Pic1When you hear of a couple with their 2 young children moving over 250 miles across the country, during the third lockdown of the Coronavirus pandemic, to a remote fishing village in Cornwall, with no prior connections or relationships in the place but simply because they felt God calling them there, missional minded ears should immediately prick up to the likelihood that God has been working!  
 Charlie and Abby Clayton with their 2 young boys have done just that, sensing a clear call from God to leave Birmingham to move to Mevagissey, a small village of about 2,000 people near St Austell. Their current story in Cornwall is an incredibly new one as they made the move in January 2021, but as Charlie explains, there have been many years of waiting and preparation. The couple were first in ministry with the 24/7 prayer movement on Ibiza, living there with a clear focus to explore how to engage further with the communities and how to create a church community from the already well established 24/7 happenings. Charlie describes how they are accustomed to working on the outskirts of traditional church and comfortable with exploring new ways of connecting with people outside of church. He goes as far as saying that they felt quite ‘ruined’ on Ibiza by the privilege of experiencing the often sought for dream of a small faith community based around day-to-day life, genuinely sharing life together and seeing the fruits that come from that.Story82Pic2
After 5 years in Ibiza, the couple returned to the UK to Charlie’s hometown of Birmingham and where he was able to work as a business consultant. However, they were aware the move was not permanent and that their time in Birmingham was a time to rest from their previous ministry and explore what God was calling them in to next.
With no particular concern or direction about place, Charlie says that it was instead a similar expression of missional language that began to connect them to other pioneers and consequently to one geographical area. Through various conversations with Rural Ministries, Barney and Sara Barron and Carl Smethurst from the SWBA, similar thought patterns and ideas developed which led the Claytons to start exploring Cornwall. Due to the various Covid restrictions throughout 2020 this involved mini trips, usually separately due to childcare, where both Charlie and Abby had individual but similar encounters with God, confirming his direction for them. It was only on the occasion when the whole family were able to get away between lockdowns and were searching for some essential fish and chips that they came upon Mevagissey. Charlie describes the feeling they had on their first visit to the village as ‘coming home’ and that, despite the distance, there were some similarities between the little Cornish fishing port and their previous life on Ibiza, noticing the way of life based around the sea and the seasonality of work. It all seemed to fit with the journey they had been on before.
Story82Pic3Now, in the early days of arriving in a new place and under all the current pandemic restrictions, the family are engaging in a time of listening intently to God and developing new relationships in their new home whilst Charlie is also able to continue his consultancy work remotely and Abby is finishing an MA in Mission at Cliff College, Sheffield.
They have made connections, primarily all online, with the local churches, which consist of a local LEP and parish in the village, both of which have small and elderly congregations which have a heart for their community but in practice are not seeing much fruit of the gospel. They have also partnered with the Baptist Church in St Austell to be a support church to them as a family, again a relationship currently made through online communication.
Whilst this is early days, Charlie asserts that whatever comes will arise from prayer and listening, to God and the community. There is a desire to establish some sort of community rhythm, one that reflects contemplative approaches to spirituality and the distinctives of Mevagissey. Already they have identified that there doesn't appear to be much on offer for young people in the village and that with Charlie's background in youth work, he would be open to looking at engaging with that area of the community.

Story82Pic4

Furthermore, they are currently engaging with wider audiences through other online platforms such as their blog, ‘marriage, mission and mental health’ (https://www.mmandmh.co.uk ) as well as through a yearlong discipleship course they lead called ‘Askesis’ (https://www.askesis.org.uk).
Although the Claytons situation may be unique, there are many encouraging similarities between their calling and others in similar pioneering contexts. Charlie encourages those who may be considering a similar journey and to the wider church in its missional approaches that when God makes a space for something new simply, ‘be bold and be yourself…. if you hold back…then I think you might lose some of the stuff God has purposely asked you there for anyway.’

 









 
 
 
 
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