The Shaws to Church Plant in San Francisco

Due to social media this news may not come as much of a shock but, just for the record, it is my joy to announce to the world, that, God willing, the Shaws will be moving to San Francisco next summer, to start a brand new church named Sanctuary Church SF.

On hearing this three questions may immediately spring to mind:

Why SF?

How will it happen?

Why the name?

Why San Francisco?

There's a long answer and a shorter one. If you want to hear the longer one here is the link to the announcement I made to Radiant Church, Visalia:

But the short answer is, we love San Francisco and we believe that God has put that love there. Over the past 18 months we have been living in Visalia and we are so grateful for the Radiant Church family and the way they have loved us and welcomed is into their lives. Whilst being in Visalia we have all adapted to living in a new culture. We have embraced new traditions and ways of doing things and been treated as ‘family’ when our family are far away. We know we will continue to love and be loved by this incredible church family as we move to San Francisco and in a very real way we are doing this ‘together’. We may not be planting a Radiant church but, as Travis Aicklen brilliantly put it, we are planting with Radiant Church.

Radiant is only 4 hours away. A community brimming with smiling, loving, big hearted and generous friends. It is our ‘home’ away from home and we know that God is going to use the links between these two cities in wonderfully exciting ways into the future. We feel God has led us not just from England to California but now from Visalia to San Francisco. To hear more about how He has led us please listen to the link above.

We currently have 13 people (8 adults & 5 kiddos) who have had the tattoos done and are definitely “in’ (that was my British dry sense of humor there btw. No tattoos have occurred).

The INs


The Shaws

Me, Poppy, Josie, Daisy and Lily (L to R)


The Atkins

Billy and Amanda


The Walkers

Sienna, Hannah, Phil and James (L to R)


The Baileys

Craig and Chrissie

The Possiblies

As word has spread, we have a fast growing number of people from across the globe, who are in the ‘Possibly’ camp (between 30-40 at present).

How will it happen?

How does a British family move to a major US city? Legally? Financially? How do they do it without being horrendously lonely? How do they have any clue about the specifics of church planting when they themselves are foreigners?

Ultimately, this has to be God.

Josie and I have never felt so aware of our human limits, weaknesses and inability to make something happen. Little David & big Goliath spring to mind. But at the same time we feel full of faith, excitement and boldness that God can and will use those who are obedient to Him.

We are also drawing great strength from knowing that we do not do this alone. We are part of a great cloud of witnesses. As well as our close relationship with Radiant Church we have been a part of the wider Newfrontiers Family of Churches for over 20 years. Globally, there are around 2,000 New Frontiers churches and we love being part of this big worldwide family. We have had the joy of supporting several church plants and we have many dear friends who 100% ‘get it’ when we talk about church planting into big, intimidating cities.

Newfrontiers is comprised of around 20 tribes within the bigger overall tribe and we have had the joy of running with the Relational Mission (RM) ‘sphere’ for many years. RM, led by Mike Betts, is an amazing family within a family that is based primarily in Europe.  However, with this big move to San Franscisco and a growing sense of a long term call to the US, we feel God has led us to begin the transition from RM, to another NF tribe/sphere: Confluence. The Confluence sphere of churches is led by Bryan Mowrey, also a long term dear friend, and is based mainly in the US.

I recently had a wonderful few days with Mike and the RM team and we all agreed it was right for the Shaws to transition to Confluence/Bryan & his team in light of the challenges and the stakes of planting into SF.

Here’s a couple of videos from both Mike and Bryan

Why the name?

I wanted the name to communicate…..

  • Stability. In a city of huge movement and change.

  • Future proof. So not trying too hard to be current.  

  • Invitational sensitivity. Bearing in mind many in SF are Uber-clever.

  • A sense of warmth. Home.

  • Not wacky. Yet not too stiff/conservative.

 1- a place of refuge or safety.
"people automatically sought a sanctuary in time of trouble"
 synonyms: refuge, haven, harbor, port in a storm, oasis, shelter, retreat, hideaway, hideout
" 2 -  holy place; a temple or church.
the inmost recess or holiest part of a temple or church.
the part of the chancel of a church containing the high altar.

So….at least 2 reasons why this name is so good:

1) We are called to take sanctuary not in drugs, position, power or wealth but in Christ. Just as the Bay was a natural sanctuary and refuge for sailors in the high seas of turmoil and chaos, so too Sanctuary Church SF is called to be a refuge for a storm-tossed city of people.

Invitation. Godly comfort. We take sanctuary in Christ and then become sanctuary for the world. Today the Bay is known as the place in 1849 where the great gold rush began. Greed dominated and still does to some degree. But the original identity of SF was one of the most incredible natural harbours for stormed tossed sailors: a harbor...refuge...a sanctuary. And we want to see this reversal of identity occur. From greed to sanctuary. From selfishness to protection. This is a picture of how God deals with us. He yearns to remove our false identity and restore us to how He originally designed us. Not greedy. But glorious.

2) But the word speaks of challenge as well. Sanctuary comes from the Latin word ‘sanctus’, meaning holy. Set apart. Different. Belonging to God. My journey has been more about this than anything. Learning not to belong to the world but to him. To be holy as my God is holy. Not religious but salty. This idea of holiness hints at authority. Hope for the poor to become holy. Challenge to the powerful to bow the knee. Oh the utter relief of holiness.

Plus, obviously SF is a “Sanctuary City" in the political, technical sense (Def - a city (or a county, or a state) that limits its cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agents in order to protect low-priority immigrants from deportation, while still turning over those who have committed serious crimes.) This is not the reason why the church is called this. We are not making a political decision. However, the broad sense behind this concept is, I believe, somewhat similar to the ‘cities of refuge’ that God called Israel to implement.

The deepest journey for me has be to not use people or need people. But to love them. This is true holiness. And if we can see a church of people who do not use people or need people then we will be like Jesus.

We want to see a people unhurried in the presence of the poor and unfazed in the presence of the powerful. A church for both the poor and the powerful.

Here’s the link to the Name Reveal at the recent Prayer and Possibly event held on Sat Dec 1st At SF Public LIbrary:

3 Ways you can Get Involved


We would be foolish if we thought that we could accomplish anything without prayer. Only through the power of God can we a thriving and healthy community established.

Please do pray, and if you want to receive a regular specific newsletter, than email me at


San Francisco is a global city and I believe God wants to pour many from many nations into this church right from word ‘Go’. We already have people expressing interest to come and be a part of this from multiple countries. If you feel a potential stirring or know of others who come to mind, reach out to me on the above email.


If you are interested in giving financially, big or small, one off or regular (if poss), please click on here:

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Recent Prayer Trip from Radiant Church

Recent Prayer Trip from Radiant Church