Andrew and Emma Stewart-Darling moved with their three young daughters to south Suffolk in the summer of 2005. They had been living in West London since Andrew had finished his three-year training at London School of Theology in 1995. He was an Assistant Pastor with Riverside Vineyard Church, before joining the leadership team with an Anglican church plant in St Margaret’s Twickenham in 2000. Life was good. Andrew was near Chelsea football ground, so all was well with the world.
In Andrew’s own words…
“One day I was reading a newspaper when a small article jumped out and hit me between the eyes. ”Church attendance declines in the countryside by a third in the last 10 years”. It rocked me, not least because Christianity seemed to be doing alright in my own suburban area with a wide variety of small, medium and big churches. I heard a small voice inside of me say, “Who will go?
“At the time I thought, ‘Dunno’ and read on. But those words wouldn’t shift from my mind and no amount of retail therapy, football and red wine would dispel them. In fact, they began to irritate me, as we were quite happy in Twickenham. As we sensed there was more to them we began to explore future ministry directions. I was thrown into considering rural church planting, which as far as this West Londoner was concerned was surprising, to put it mildly.
“To cap it all, in 2005 we both had the same dream one Saturday night that they were living in a place called Sudbury. Considering I never get dreams of this nature I thought, ‘Maybe God is trying to tell us something!’
“We quickly sold up and moved by the summer of that year.
“We spent the subsequent two years praying, planning and talking to lots of people about what kind of church they might like to see. Our own vision began to quickly form: to plant and grow vibrant Christian communities in the Stour Valley area, bringing hope and healing in Jesus’ name, because God cares about ordinary lives.
“There is one verse that particularly sums up our aspirations for Stour Valley Vineyard Church. ‘To love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength; and to love our neighbours as ourselves.’ (Deuteronomy. 6:4)
“Of course, the best part of the story is still to be written and they hope you might considering being part of it.”
what’s your story?
We’d love to know what has brought you into contact with us. Whatever it is, you can be sure your story is still being written, thanks to the story of 2000 years ago of Jesus’ coming to change our beginnings and endings through his own life and sacrifice.