Murray Watkinson’s journey with God began on Good Friday of Easter 1975, when he encountered God supernaturally in a way that changed the course of his life and that of his family irrevocably.
It was just a year later, in 1976, that Murray felt the call to ministry. He sold the family home and a successful carpet business in Wellington, New Zealand, to enrol in Nazarene Bible College in Brisbane, Australia.
Nancy and Murray Watkinson
Murray and Nancy returned to New Zealand in 1984, and become senior pastors of a small church of the Nazarene in Christchurch’s eastern suburbs. The church experienced a sovereign move of God in 1987 and quickly became the largest and fastest growing Nazarene church in New Zealand. It became obvious that before long, a new church building would be required.
Nazarene Church As the church continued to grow, it moved to the Feltex Carpet factory. In those days it was considered radical to have church in a factory, but the church continued to grow, prosper, and experience supernatural encounters and sovereign moves of God.
Murray served as a senior associate pastor in Melbourne, Pasadena upon graduating in 1980, and later became the senior pastor of a small church in MacKay, North Queensland, Australia. Right from the beginning, the inherent Nazarene values of holiness, integrity and sacrifice became some of the guiding principles of Murray and Nancy’s ministry.
Celebration Centre
Murray was never one to fit into a mould. He’s been described as a revolutionary radical, non-conformist and a shrewd businessman. The church’s new sanctuary, secured in 1988, was a roller skating rink. It operated as a church facility on Sundays and as a roller skating business during the week, in order to finance the vision to establish the growing church and outreach in the community. It was at this time that the church left the Nazarene movement, and became known as Celebration Centre – its facilities were a place for the church to meet and celebrate Jesus Christ.
In 1991 the church purchased its first property; the 3437m2 Stephens Chemical factory situated on 2 hectares of land. This building became home to the Celebration Centre congregation. At first, it was difficult to imagine how the run-down concrete facility could ever resemble a church building. But the pioneers of those days put their hand to the plough, and the building was gradually transformed into a cutting-edge church facility - The Jesus Factory.
Stephen's Chemical Factory
Murray asked the Lord how to shepherd the large number of people coming through the doors, and how to make the church personal and accessible for everyone. So in 1996, Celebration Centre transitioned from a programme-based church into one based on small groups that met weekly in homes throughout the city and surrounding areas for the purpose of discipleship and evangelism. Celebration Centre is now home to more than 150 cell groups. Large congregation meetings are still held weekly on a Sunday.
It was during this time that the church experienced a three-year, sovereign move of the Holy Spirit where the presence of God literally seemed to reside on the premises, and thousands of people came to seek the face God.
With the home congregation of Celebration Centre established, Murray and Nancy stepped out into their apostolic leadership and began to church plant, as well as take other congregations who joined the Celebration Centre movement under their leadership. Celebration Centre movement is now represented by churches throughout New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, America, and Africa.