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Sittingbourne Methodist Church minister Robert Zachar on settling into town

By Ellis Stephenson

Adjusting to life in Sittingbourne has been like moving to a big city, according to one of the town's most recent arrivals.

Minister for Sittingbourne Methodist Church in the High Street, Robert Zachar, said the surroundings of the town are different to his native Slovakian village of Sered.

The 49-year-old has been living in Eden Village with wife Rachel and his four children since September 2018.

Robert Zachar outside Sittingbourne Methodist Church. Picture: Phil Lee
Robert Zachar outside Sittingbourne Methodist Church. Picture: Phil Lee

He became a methodist aged 23 before travelling to study theology at Cliff College in Calver, Derbyshire.

There he met Rachel before marrying and moving to Slovakia's capital city, Bratislava, and other areas in the country for 15 years, where he became an assistant minister.

In 2013 they decided to move to Horncastle in Lincolnshire to be closer to his wife's family.

For five years he spent time getting used to British way of life working as a carer in a home for adults with special needs and working on a farm.

They moved again when a vacancy came up at Sittingbourne Methodist Church.

"If my presence here meant it was a comfort to people and I can help them understand what they're here for, that will be fulfilling" - Robert Zachar

Mr Zachar said: "I was a minister in Slovakia for more than 15 years so that was what I was doing before.

"I was working in Slovakia on National Service after school for two years and coming back from that I was a farm manager.

"I never used to be a believer. I became a Christian by conversion at 23 and I joined the church, grew up spiritually and felt like I wanted to share what I believe in and what God is doing in my life.

"As methodist ministers, we normally move around every five years. I'm more helping the people to find their calling, it's a mission and I like to see people following a purpose.

"I'm a preacher and a minister so I'm not going to change the town. If my presence here meant it was a comfort to people and I can help them understand what they're here for, that will be fulfilling."

Turning his attention to issues affecting the town, Mr Zachar said he finds it hard how a modern country struggles to help people in need.

"Sittingbourne needs to do something with people on the street," he said.

"That's an area of challenge, especially with people using foodbanks. It's sad to see people starving and sleeping on the streets in a country like this.

"That's a problem for all of us, not just the church," he added.

Sittingbourne Methodist Church minister Robert Zachar with wife Rachel. Picture: Phil Lee
Sittingbourne Methodist Church minister Robert Zachar with wife Rachel. Picture: Phil Lee

"To me it's like moving to London, it's a big place to me because when we move to England we moved to Lincolnshire and a rural area so when I was called to start in Sittingbourne.

"It was a massive change - like moving to a big city. It's a different social lifestyle and different challenges in the ministry but it's going well.

"I'm really, really feeling tremendous support from the congregation. They're ever so friendly and supportive. As someone speaking with a foreign accent and learning the culture it's going well and I'm making new friends.

"With the ministry it's pretty much the same, the spiritual side of our lives and challenges. People experience grief, fear and love.

"It's something new for me but the way of thinking is different and that's the challenge.

"It's a challenge moving around with the family, it includes blessings but say goodbye to friends and relationships is always hard."

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