i'm pretty excited about this new partnership as two of my passions collide (london and pioneering!)
if you are involved in youth ministry and would like to do some training we run a certificate at cms through durham university which has a route through it for youth ministry (and one for children and family ministry). we put together a video with john who helped us shape it and teaches on it. he works with frontier youth trust and through that and the streetspace network is connected with and networking youthworkers who are working with young people beyond where the church is currently focused. in my view the church has taken it's eye off the ball of this one - there is less training around, less posts and where people do create posts it's harder to find people who are experienced to take them up. this is our small part of trying to help see that change. it's not too late to sign up for september but get in touch soon!
eight years ago i set up pioneer ministry training at cms which has been a blast. each year it's grown a bit and we have gradually added in new things. it feels like the year ahead is going to be one of growth and change which means it will be busy but exciting. but all that to say that our latest addition is that we are adding in a bundle of new modules at oxford at level 6 in university speak. what that means is degree level so you can now do a BA with us rather than a diploma. because it is in common awards. this means if you have done a diploma in durham university through another college you could come and continue to BA as long as it is within 5 years. we are waiting to hear for definite but we expect that you can also do level 6 as a stand alone award - a grad dip. or as with all modules you can simply audit any module of interest. we have deliberately added in modules that are covering new themes.
sarah clarke who leads the undergraduate programmes in oxford has blogged about what they are here. get in touch a.s.a.p. if that's of interest as we'll be kicking those off from september and of course you can still do certificate, diploma, post grad certificate, post grad diploma and MA. just doctoral work to go i guess!!!
so we're one week into our first ever kickstarter campaign to raise money for the print run of future present - a zine that has 14 contributions exploring a better world. it's going to be full colour and look and feel great. i'm excited about it. it turns out the kickstarter thing is fun, addictive and nerve racking in equal measue.
the fun part is simply seeing what happens - knowing you are putting something out there and hoping this will enable it to become something real.
the addictive part is the temptation to keep looking to see if anyone else has pledged to buy one or more - i've had to shut the page down in my browser!
the nerve racking part is whether we will make it - it's all or nothing in that if we raise the money we're good to go. if not zilch!
the good news is we are on the eight day of 30, now have over 100 backers and are more than halfway to the target which feels amazing. but we want to keep it moving forwards and need your help.
i have three hunches -
thank you if you've read this far! if you want a simple take on what future present is about it is these three steps above...
a great opportunity to hear, meet and discuss with stafan paas his ideas on church planting. his latest book is the best i have read on the subject. he writes as someone who is passionate about it but realistic and critical. the section at the end of his book on innovation i particularly liked where he uses ideas of incubator, laboratory and free haven to explore ways of thinking about creating new communities. i am going - maybe see you there?
i have been working on a side project with a few friends - future present. it's a full colour zine that seeks to imagine a different kind of world. we're running a kickstarter campaign to fund the print run through pre-orders! the simplest pledge is only £10 which preorders you a copy of the full colour zine. or there are some fairly sweet deals for 10 copies which you might like to think about especially if you are outside the uk. i have never done one of these before so looking forward to the next 30 days to see what happens. reminds me of blue peter and the totalisers if you are old enough to remember that! steve collins has done an amazing job on the design - go visit the future present kickstarter page here
a couple of years back we made a video with cathy ross who leads our MA programmes at cms. so we thought it about time to add one with sarah clarke who is now leading the undergraduate programmes and has been a great addition to the team. see here for info on courses
i am not sure if i have posted about our new prospectus for pioneer training which is remiss of me. it turns out we were on the same page with our strapline as the film i tonya - make of that what you will! it's pretty contentful but hopefully visually interesting - several of the photos are mine. there have been various arguments along the way of the text not fitting in as a design feature which i have to say i really like. but that aside, the point of the prospectus is so you can have a look at what is on offer at cms for pioneer training. we are now offering a BA, not just a diploma which is good news. and if you have done a diploma anywhere in common awards and want to do level 6 that is focused around pioneering mission you could do that with us. then we still have modules, certificate, diploma, MA, a pathway for ordination (we are focused for pioneers but actually approved to train any ordinands), pathways for youth ministry and children and family ministry. if you are interested in finding out more we have an open day next week on monday may 21 and one in june where you can find out or come and see us some other time.
back in october i gave the annual louis luzbetak lecture at catholic theological union. its focus is always in mission and culture and i chose to use an old mission book 'the primal vision' as a conversation partner to think about mission in the west. it's called 'do it from the inside' and has just been published in new theology review - it's available online for free. love to hear any reaction to it...
come and join us next tuesday for an open day if you are interested in pioneering mission. you can do modules, certificate, diploma, degree, ma. we are a really good option for ordained pioneers. we also now have a pathway for pioneer youth and children and family workers.
cms took on the hosting of anvil in 2016. it's a journal that's been around for 30 years and it seemed a great opportunity to create a space where we could reflect on issues of theology and mission in today's world. cathy ross and i are the editors and we have now produced five issues. i really love how it's going so far - people are writing amazing reflections. i have edited this new issue which follows on from a campaign cms have been running called 'mission is...' which explored peoples ideas about mission. there's an article on some of the findings. we also made it the theme of our pioneer research conversations day in 2017, and two of the articles are developed from presentations made on that day. you can read, link to, download individual articles or the whole thing (which also presents well on a phone) and there are 6 video interviews to boot of about 5 minutes each. and crucially it's free and available to anyone online. do pass on, tweet, blog, fb,whatsapp etc the links. i'll highlight one or two over the next few weeks as well. here's the spiel from the editorial
Over the last six months Church Mission Society has been interviewing people to find out what they think mission is and mission is not. Debbie James and Thomas Fowler discuss some of the findings in their article. This campaign, called Mission Is, prompted us to dedicate an issue of Anvil to reflecting more on this question. We also made it the theme of the pioneer research conversations day in 2017, and two of the articles that follow (Mike Pears and Kyama Mugambi) are developed from presentations they made on that day.
I love how mission is a way of framing, a lens to think about and practise what it means to follow Jesus in today’s world. Mission is what God is doing to reconcile all things and we are invited to participate with God in that healing and transformation as Christ’s body. Mission resists being collapsed into solely evangelism or solely social transformation and it stops the church getting overly introverted or obsessed with itself because its focus is outward towards the whole world.
The energy of the church in mission in Africa is amazing and reading Kyama Mugambi’s article, Mission is not Western, you’ll get a feel for how mission is operating in a new paradigm that involves an explosion of church planting, social transformation and global gift exchange. Mike Pears brings the subject from the global to the local, thinking about the significance of place and geography in relation to mission and Cathy Ross keeps it real with a moving article on mission and lament.
Unlike the church in Africa, the church in the UK faces the challenge of navigating a changing landscape where interest in Christianity has waned and only a small percentage of the population consider church a part of their life. It’s in this environment that innovation and pioneering in mission have been seen as a muchneeded gift to reach beyond the edges of the church and to embrace the future. It often feels as though the church is in two minds about this.
She knows she needs innovation, but she doesn’t quite know what to make of new things that can be seen as threatening to the inherited ways of thinking and practising faith. Paul Bradbury and Tina Hodgett have designed an incredibly helpful map that offers a spectrum of pioneer ministry, which we are delighted to include in this issue and which adds some real insight to mission in the new environment.
Since CMS took on the hosting of Anvil, we have introduced articles that are reflections on practice, which we hope you have enjoyed. Mission is after all about practice and not just thinking or talking! Paul Ede’s piece shows how a local community have been participating in transformation with God and with their locale in a really inspiring fashion. Their approach is very much mission ‘with’ rather than ‘to’ or ‘for’, and mission from the ground up. The CMS interviews and survey with people around the question of what mission is showed that over 90 per cent of people we asked think mission is for everyone, but half the respondents also indicated that they aren’t sure how to get involved in mission. Paul’s article offers a really good example of how a local church community can get involved in ways that are renewing for them and for the community and fun to boot.
There are also three videos on the website edition, featuring Mike Pears, Ann Morrisy, and Kyama Mugambi who kindly agreed to be interviewed around the theme of ‘mission is’ at the pioneer conversations day, so do have a look at those too.
We welcome Isaac Frisby as the new book reviews editor. With the changeover of editor, there were no reviews in the last edition, but we are pleased to say they are back. A big thank you to Tom Wilson, who did a great job for several years as the previous book reviews editor.
this term i seem to have signed up to more speaking things than for a long time. if you are in these parts of the world do come and say hi!
headed to kendal today to join with carlisle diocesan day on fresh expressions tomorrow november 18th where richard passmore is catalysing all sorts of great new stuff around the diocese bold god for all vision.
next weekend i am in eastbourne with st elizabeth's church. there is a public event called mission is which will be cafe style with a meal exploring mission. and sunday morning i'll be speaking at st elizabeth's 10:30 morning service
and then dec 2 i am taking part in a day in brighton on curating pioneering worship along with martin poole, maggi dawn, tim watson, simon rundell, and nick haigh which will be fun and i am looking forward to catching up with those guys as well as hanging out with my mum, sister and nephew who live in brighton...
after that things ease up and it will be time to get ready for christmas!
my son joel studied at chelsea art college. i was really inspired by what i observed of the course he did - it was creative, assignments were stretching and nearly all done as teams, people from various sectors in the creative industries and arts would come and speak, students were encouraged to do real work alongside their training, and the graduate show was mind-blowingly good. i was also regretting having studied maths rather than art myself i think! he was there at the same time that i was designing training for pioneers and i remember thinking that i thought an art school or innovation school was more like what i hoped we could create than a theological seminary. of course we would teach theology, mission, ministry but the environment or air that students breathe needed to be risk taking, creative, free. so when i was last in the institute for contemporary arts bookshop in london i couldn’t resist buying the creative stance. this is a collaboration between art college teachers in london on what makes for a flourishing creative student who trains with them. through their reflection they have come up with seven behaviours and the book is laid out in a series of chapters on each behaviour with a short essay by an artist followed by a discussion on that behaviour with three lecturers often in relation to a particular course. i really loved the book. the seven behaviours are essentially a kind of formation for art students. they are:
rigour, risk, imagination, provocation, agency, resilience, and ambiguity.
i discuss these behaviours with rick lawrence on the podcast i blogged about a few posts back. but i’d like to reflect on them here thinking particularly about theological education because that was the discussion i was in this week - what’s the relationship between theological education and innovation (and by extension ministry and mission practice and innovation).
to take one behaviour, rigour has an essay by grayson perry in which he reflects on two internal characters - hobbit and punk. to be a good artist the hobbit is the character who puts in hours to develop brilliance in skill in a craft - in his case pottery. hobbit alone can make nice pots but in terms of art can be a bit boring. so he also needs punk who is the character who messes with things to make them interesting. this interplay between hobbit and punk makes for a creative approach to art that combines depth of skill with risk taking imagination and innovative practice. the essay is actually available in the latest edition of creative review and is free if you sign up. it’s totally brilliant! when asked what advice he would give to an artist student perry says - ‘turn up on time, be nice, and put in the hours’. you can see where i am going with this - this is so resonant with pioneers. i suspect they are more attracted to punk than hobbit. but in theological education (and in the church generally) i bump into a lot more hobbits than punks. but it’s a great idea to nurture both aspects.
i won’t elaborate on all the behaviours - you can get the book but here are a few quotes and ideas i jotted down that caught my attention.
curiosity is foundational. if you are not curious you’ll stay on a safe path.
Curiosity is the substrate of creativity, overlaid by an appetite for risk, necessarily followed by determination
i fear that safety is a problem in theological education and the church - we are generally risk averse which is ironic because probably the theologians and saints we admire are/were curious and risk taking. but various traditions of theology have systematised it and made it about information and right doctrine rather than a quest that is creative in response to the tradition and context and the spirit. and i think there can easily be an atmosphere of anxiety and fear about getting things right rather than one of exploration and play. art school gives people the confidence to make a dangerous decision - does theology school i wonder?
the enemy of your own and other peoples certainty. A state of optimistic dissatisfaction, of relentless questioning. A preoccupation with quality without regard for the established order.
how do you involve students in risk?
You show them things that they probably haven’t thought about before and that aren’t necessarily part of that central canon.
the authors suggest that art schools should be creating the kind of graduates that can rock boats rather than row boats, that question and push. and they lament that the curriculum is currently too related to industry because of pressures. has play been ruined because it has to be turned to money? we might say the same of ministry students who are under pressure from industry a.k.a. church growth. the authors suggest that playfulness should be applied to everything and every moment you’re alive… a way of being.
ambiguity is fascinating i think. it requires doubt and where there is doubt there is great space for imagination. art students need to learn to transgress rules and fixed boundaries and conventions forging new paths where no one has trodden before. this sounds like a mantra for pioneers and cross cultural mission. but i have not seen this in much theological education i have visited so far.
for a world that is changing and in need of change creatives need flexibility, adaptability, openness, vulnerability, resourcefulness, avoidance of monocultures (which are fragile rather than resilient). the church needs the same - it really does.
and i found it interesting that the exact same challenge i described in the last post of people who remake the world in order to create solutions is nurtured in arts students. they
reshape the world to contain the artwork you make, to create a new reality - because it’s never been enough just to make the art
(substitute the word theology for art)
there is a lovely section where a lecturer from chelsea art college ponders the percentage of students who go on to be artists and make a life in it which is quite small. but he then lists what they do go on to do in a wonderful list of enterprises, community development, change agents, educators and so on. in other words a creative education enables them to have agency out of who they are to participate in making the world a better place.
anyway you get the point. when you look at a formation that nurtures a creative stance there is so much for theological and mission education to learn. but the contrast with what is valued and in the air in theological colleges is stark. if we want innovation maybe we need students to breathe different air, art school air?!
this reminded me too of will gompertz's book think like an artist which i have blogged about before. in that he has a whole section on education generally and why it should be like art school which i loved. he says
Art school or not students need to leave education as independently minded, intellectually curious, self confident and resourceful - prepared for and excited by the future and what they might be able to contribute to it. The future depends on us taking a different approach.
i couldn’t agree more.
(thanks to the baptist theological educators forum who invited me to reflect on formation and theological education with them earlier this year that enabled me to develop this particular sideways strain of thought)
if you are as old as me you may remember the stereo mcs? the title of the session i spoke at yesterday at new parish was a nod to their track of the same name...
anyway all that to say that i thought it might be worth adding some of the references i mentioned in the talk for anyone interested. unsurprisingly people at the conference are focused on getting stuck into good in their local neighbourhoods and seeing them transformed. i think that's wonderful. in my session i used a four bits of network theory to suggest that networking can add an incredible amount of richness to the local. they were as follows:
1. small world theory - i have blogged about this before and in fact say more there probably than i did yesterday. but the thing to pay attention to here is the huge benefit of people who are connectors - they take the time to connect elsewhere and through them all sorts of riches flow into the locale. the example i used was clean for good and how the connections made by the person whose idea it was enabled so much richness to be added in to enable that dream to become real.
2. lifecycles of emergence - margaret wheatley's article lifecycles explains how she thinks networks change the world through a fourfold process - name- connect- nourish - illuminate. this is so helpful. i felt described by it when i came across it. i also combined it with margaret wheatley and deborah frieze's wonderful work in walk out walk on. this video gives a pretty short summary of how it works. the example i used was peter dearman's incredible dearman engine. in thinking about how to shift from oil dependency he has invented an engine that runs on liquid nitrogen. to get this brilliant idea developed required walking out of usual solutions and walking on to new ones and finding others to journey with him and of course facing huge challenge on the way but it's happening. the story is told in the incredible book we do things differently
3. thick networks - when i read george monbiot's article on changing society through developing thick networks of participation i thought this is exactly what church at its best should be doing and participating in. i have since read his book out of the wreckage which is totally brilliant and i cannot recommend it highly enough. it's worth it for the chapter including thick networks alone. in community transformation someone starts something light touch, easy to get involved in that connects people together and produces good relationally, in health and wellbeing - a running club, or a local allotment. then another initiative starts which connects to another and another. invariably some of it will involve food and eating together, making and doing. it’s important that plenty of initiatives are easy access, and include those with low resource and social confidence. transition towns starts, a local energy company, a local veg box scheme, a friendship lunch for lonely people. what monbiot says is that gradually a thick network develops, a dense participatory culture that is attractive and relevant to everyone. If you can get that to 10-15% participation in a community you reach a tipping point. lambeth researched how they develop - lean and live projects (don’t cost much, trial and error, opportunities for micro participation, developed by collaboration). out of these can generate business, social enterprise, hybrids, and he reckons you can get to that in around 3 years. the other resource i mentioned in this area is the amazing stir magazine. i have now read the last three issues and been wowed by it - if you are interested in changing your community and especially reimagining the economy it's a must read. the example i thought about was ealing and the number of ways i can see this beginning to happen.
4. sods and mods - this is a bit of network theory from the missions world which i have written about and made links to here - the point is that if you are a pioneer as well as being involved in your local pioneering get connected to a sodal network or community who gets and supports what you are about. the example i used for this is cms and its network of support for those in pioneering mission.
this thinking about networks can be applied both within the locale - i.e. networking with others locally, and more widely to make connections in networks beyond the local that can enable gifts to flow in.
the last few years we have hosted a day reflecting on a theme related to pioneering mission. as a result of the first two we published a couple of books - the pioneer gift and pioneering spirituality. reflections from the missional entrepreneurship conversation went to an edition of anvil journal and we are working on a zine from last year's futurepresent still which will be available next year. there's been a real buzz at all the days. this year we decided to almost bring it full circle and focus on mission. this is party because cms have been running a campaign called 'mission is' which has involved interviewing hundreds of people over the summer about how they perceive mission. because we now have a hub in romford at st cedds centre for pioneering mission there is a day in both locations.
i have not yet spoken at one so am making my debut as one of the keynotes. i'll be sharing the thoughts i prepared for the louis luzbatek lecture in chicago at both - called 'do it from the inside'. ann morrisy who is wonderful is the other keynote in oxford with another 9 workshops to choose from which include among others mike pears (whose work i have been really inspired by), cate williams, cathy ross. and mark berry is the other keynote in romford along with 6 workshops i think - details are on the pages linked to below. the day is great value at £20 including lunch.
there are only around 10 places left for oxford which is next tuesday november 7, there's definitely still spaces in romford which is on sat november 11 but book your place a.s.a.p.
i was at the opening of home community cafe in earlsfield last night. it was wonderfully done and such a joyful celebration. this idea has been 3 years in the making. i got to share in the story because meg whose dream it has been and whose work has made it happen trained with us at cms on the pioneer course for a year. she brought this idea to make good, a module we run on missional entrepreneurship, 3 years ago. so it was wonderful to see this dream realised and it will be a great hub for community gathering and transformation i am sure. it was actually the same week that clean for good was brought to as an idea so it's been so exciting this month to have the joy of going to two launches of projects we have seen develop from idea to reality. well done meg!
we run that week in november and april each year so if you have an idea to work up come along - it's an amazing week.
i am just back from a week in chicago where i was giving the annual louis luzbetak lecture at catholic theological union. it was an honour to be invited and i really enjoyed reflecting on mission. i called my lecture 'do it from the inside' and used john taylor's wonderful book the primal vision from the 1960s as a conversation partner to discuss mission in western contexts. it was a sort of john talylor meets pioneer ministry meets insider movements. it will at some stage be published in a journal i think.
it also meant jenny and i got to hang out in chicago for a few days which was great - i have posted some photos here - chicago 2017
i took this photo at the museum of contemporary art where an exhibition was being set up which is nothing to do with fragility but the alignment of words caught my attention...
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