i have written an opinion piece for fresh expressions that is published today entitled jesus is my bulldozer! which is a reflection on mission and african christianity in the west...
george lings and ali dorey have just published a report on pioneers who are ordained and how they might be supported in in initial training post. this has come out of a gathering of pioneers and their training supervisors in the context. i admit this might sound a bit niche so i realise you might take persuading but it is fantastic. the research these guys have produced continues to be so helpful and insightful. i am so thankful for what they are doing. if you are someone who is in training as an OPM download and read it, if you are a DDO read it, if you are someone who is a training incumbent read it, if you are a bishop read it, if you work with fresh expressions read it, if you are a missioner in a diocese read it. you might think this is all good common sense but trust me this sense is not currently common in the wider church. although the church of england has had 30 years or so of new forms of church bubbling up around its edges and ten years of officially saying it wants this mixed economy, and about 8 years of creating the designation of ordained pioneers as a much needed gift in the church there are huge challenges. there is anxiety, fear, lack of understanding, a risk averse culture, a culture of hierarchy and control etc etc - i won't spell these challenges out though i meet them almost every week with people training with us or who get in contact but this is certainly an invaluable piece of research laced with practical wisdom. i have actually just agreed to be an external supervisor for an ordained pioneer and we will definitely be talking this through.
thank you george and ali!
milestones keep coming on the cms pioneer training. this week’s was having the first MA dissertation handed in – congrats kim! it is now 5 years since we launched - five years has whizzed by! i am looking forward to this year’s end of year celebration where we will celebrate 4 people graduating, 4 people completing (they have done a series of modules or years with us but not accredited), 8 people finishing (they have finished attending all modules but yet to hand in final work), 5 people getting ordained, 5 people being admitted as lay pioneers into cms and thereby the church of england. info here if you want to come along
we have an open day next week on tuesday for the cms pioneer training - it's not too late to book in and come and have a look at what we are doing. we offer a series of modules and university awards (through durham university) - certificate, diploma, MA. they are all focused through the lens of mission. this last year we have had around 50 new people sign up and do at least a module with us and about 20 who have signed up for something substantial (a university award). it's designed for on the job training - our teaching days are tuesdays.
do you have to be a pioneer? and indeed what is a pioneer? we are focused around people who want to do something mission focused, usually seeing something beyond the edge of business as usual in the church. but having said that it is a metaphor that is ambiguous and can be opened up in many ways. so if you are into mission but not sure about being 'a pioneer' that's fine - come along!
on the subject of youth ministry and pioneering there is a day at cms jointly hosted by cym, streetspace and cms reflecting on how you can sustain your faith and life when it can be tough and challenging and lonely at times. it's actually a day that will be suitable for anyone asking that question, not just if you are working with young people. it's a bargain as the price includes lunch… you can book here
More is up for negotiation than we might at first think, and unless we cultivate innovation we risk getting stuck and ultimately extinct. In every group there are always those who see the world differently and dream of new possibilities. They need to be celebrated and encouraged to dream their dreams. They do not need taming and sapping by a tired culture of risk-averse pastors, desperately claiming against all the evidence that fluency in their archaic practice is essential for ministry in the 21st Century. If in their pursuit of Jesus’ vision for his bride and kingdom your dreamers are perpetually scrutinised by defensive guardians of the status quo who perceive them as a threat, the chances are they won’t be around for long.
i was blown away when I read the first issue of a new journal missio africanus this morning. it's available free online as a download and the articles are so interesting. and don't think it's only relevant if you are african or working with africans. it will spark your imagination about mission regardless. there are so many interesting explorations going on around theology, post colonialism, migration, leadership, who jesus is. these are questions every church should be reflecting on to move beyond their own cultural ways of doing and being. harvey kwiyani is the editor. he has become a good friend in the last year and has joined in teaching at CMS on the pioneer course. anyway download and have a read…
if you follow the blog you'll know i enthuse regularly about the missional entrepreneurship course that has grown out the pioneer training we are running at cms. lots of people opt into this particular module which stands alone well. due to popularity we ran a second week - sadly i couldn't be there but sounds like it was a great week. i love the way that people come with an idea that can just be a thought they've had that's been percolating that can get worked on in the week and before you know it can then be made to happen. here's one of the ideas people brought this last time...
it was great to get an email from tallskinnykiwi and catch up with his wanderings - now across europe. he has written a really brilliant reflection being human being present. he says he is interested in chasing down the stories behind the stories of what has and is happening in mission. in doing so he unearths something from max warren in 1958 - max warren was a cms general secretary so great to see a pice of cms treasure being dug up with some nice prophetic challenge in it...
it was great to catch up with spencer burke recently. our paths crossed back in early emerging church conversations. he is in la dreaming up a new learning community hatchery which sounds really interesting and creative. he interviewed me over skype and that is up as a podcast here - it's about 30 minutes...
we have added a second week's course on missional entrepreneurship from april 19-24 this year due to its popularity. details are here - book now as it's starting to fill up!
i got to interview steve bevans at our cms conversations day on mission spirituality and here is the first part. steve has such wisdom about mission - it's always a privilege to hear him sharing it. this is posted at the cms pioneer blog. if you want to hear more about the pioneer training come along to an open day on march 3. good news is that we have just heard that we will be publishing a follow up book to the pioneer gift on the theme of pioneering spirituality - out autumn 2015 - which will have a chapter from steve.
every organisation, institution, business has to negotiate change. the rapid changes in the wider culture and perhaps especially in technology in the last 30 years make it feel as though change is the new constant. i happen to quite like change and newness but i realise not everyone does. it can certainly generate anxiety and fear in good measure. and in many places there is a very real sense of pressure. the new environment seems to call for flexibility, adaptability and improvisation. however when the pressure is on there is always the opposite instinct at play - defence of what already is, the status quo, at all costs and resistance to change.
in the next few days the church of england governing body general synod is receiving several reports. they were published a couple of weeks ago - on discipleship, simplification, resourcing the future and resourcing ministerial education. they have a focus on mission, growth and investing better in those at the margins which in itself is encouraging (though i realise 'growth' is a complicated word that has had a backlash from those who see it tied to measures of success and effectivenes making the church sound like a business). the church of england is full of surprises! i realise a blog post about some church reports might not sound that interesting but in their own way they are putting before the church questions about the inevitable incoming future and whether the church of england will act on the basis of courage or fear. without question she has to change!
i won't go through all the reports here but the one of most interest to me personally and the pioneer leadership training at cms is the resourcing ministerial education one which stresses the need to train people for adaptibility and flexibility for the future. it is also the most far reaching in its proposals. in my view by far the most interesting and long overdue proposal is to rapidly develop lay ministries and increase numbers and to that end developing a stream of funding for lay ministry training especially to resource the future. this will be funding training in a similar way to ordinands. my own take on the various streams that have brought challenge and renewal at the edges of the church in the last thirty years is that they have been largely lay led - in many cases unpaid, untrained and not licensed as well! the majority of pioneers training at cms are in this category. this is genuinely exciting news. it will be for ministry that is licensed but at cms last year we admitted 8 people as lay workers in the church of england which we can do because we are a religious community of the church - i am one myself. i'm slightly pinching myself on this as it's as though we have set something up that has anticipated this future. if this goes through it looks as though people in the church of england could train with us to pioneer and get fees paid for.
there is also recognition that training that is on the job or in-context produces good results and they are trying to encourage development of more pathways like this that are within reach of people who are training whilst working which is a good model and will generate innovation especially if the matched funding proposed is agreed to. this is causing great anxiety amongst providers of residential training who will no doubt be on the defensive at synod. both have their place and as far as i can see a mixed economy of provision is envisaged but for pioneers, on the job training is both recommended and the only way i would ever be interested in training pioneers. it's also so much better value - i know people hate discussions around money but money is a real issue in pretty much every diocese. there will be opportunity for innovation here for colleges who have almost exclusively focused on training ordinands because that is where the money has been. the proposal on money is that there will be a standard grant allocation that a diocese will decide how to spend on approved providers.
the report proposes increasing ordination numbers especially younger and i hope that pioneer numbers will get back on the up - we'll see. dioceses will have more say about the training pathways. they want to review and streamline selection process, presumably for pioneers too so it is done in a year. individuals pathways for training will be more flexible. they are proposing tough limits on age by making dioceses pay for over 50s. there will be money available for leadership development beyond the first phase of training.
in other words it's proposing something of a sea change. i think it's exciting, challenging, and hopeful. it's not without its problems and more work needs to be done. for example i think the critique of business approaches and language is welcome. i liked linda woodhead's challenge in the church times and on tv to not collapse the church into a congregational paradigm or a clerical paradigm but to retain a vision of church in society and public life. decisions won't be made on details - i think it will be a discussion and then voting to give permission for the reports to be taken forward. the key issue for me is imagination. i have in my mind arbuckle's phrase 'culture eats strategies for breakfast' and hope that the culture of the church doesn't eat these up but has the imagination to see ahead. don't be afraid synod!
i was very excited this week when mission on the road to emmaus came through the post. it's a book exploring the idea of prophetic dialogue in mission through a range of themes such as migration, identity, ecclesiology, creation... i think it's a fabulous book (having proof read an advance copy). it's edited by the amazing cathy ross and stephen bevans.
i have a chapter in it exploring prophetic dialogue and contemporary culture. i feel both excited and privileged to be in a book with people in missiology who i look up to and have learned so much from. it feels slightly odd to reflect on network theory and a massive attack concert but it's all an arena for mission! i think this is a very fresh mission text and find the notion of prophetic dialogue opens up mission themes in interesting ways.
just back from a weekend in birmingham with cms pioneers reflecting on mission and crossing cultures. it included a visit to a mosque and a ghanaian pentecostal church. it's so interesting to get these insights into life in britain. a bundle of photographs and a blog post are over at the pioneer blog here.
i appreciate that this blog is currently something of a slow burn, such is my busy life! but a massive thank you to those of you who still patiently hop onto the flow whether via a feed, twitter, facebook or the occasional digital drop in. i hope as you look back on 2014 you have some consoling thoughts and find hope for the year ahead even if it is against the odds.
a while back i posted a tale of two bookshops in which purchased four books at the ICA bookshop. i have enthused about two of them so far - feral (my book of the year i think and george monbiot is the person i would most like to be put in charge of running the country), and exploring everything.
well the third of the four is radical imagination. i bought this because i can't resist anything about imagination - one of the most underrated and undervalued aspects of what it is to be human. but i didn't read the small print - it turns out it's a book about social research amongst activist movements. but i ended up loving it and learning a load. there is a web site related to it that aims to study, broadcast and celebrate the intelligence, passion and creativity of social movements. of course the church is a social movement (though of course it is curiously part of the establishment in places too!). this book has lots to say to those of us interested in the transformation of society especially seeking to imagine a different kind of society and world that does not have to be the way it is now, and as part of that those of us seeking to effect change in and through following in the way of jesus christ (one heck of an activist!).
the single idea that has stuck with me the most and anyone who knows me well will have been subjected to it over a meal conversation or a work discussion is prefigurative research. what the authors mean by this is to design the present on the basis of an imagined future that is not already here. in their case they are based in universities and don't like the way the academic world is configured so they imagine how the university might be and design research on the basis of that - i.e. it prefigures it rather than settling for the current status quo. brilliant eh?
so on the first day of the year what kind of world, society, economy, neighbourhood, community, business, or church do you imagine might be possible? and how can you live in the present in a way that flows from that radical imagination? i feel challenged about the training of pioneers i lead at cms - have we done enough imaginative work of what is possible out of which to design our training? we do love imagination but i am stirred up to do some more. i am sick the culture of greed in the wider powers that be and the systematic grinding down of the poor and it seems to me that here more than anywhere we need this radical kind of approach.
i also like the positive and yet honest way that haven and khasnabish talk about social movements. it's interesting to overlay this with whatever networks or movements yoiu have been or are part of such as transition towns, emerging church, pioineering mission or whatever. here's a few notes and quotes i jotted down for myself when i read it...
Take social movements seriously as fecund ecologies ripe with possibility
Movements can be alternative spaces of social reproduction, places where individuals and communities can re-create themselves and find support for doing so.
Social movements are driven by and co-create the radical imagination: shared landscapes of possibility and contestation that confront and contradict the reigning imaginaries of capital and power.... It is not something individuals have but is something networks, groups, movements do. It emerges from and guides collective doing...
Hope is important to balance struggle - fun, joy, celebration, acceptance, humour...
it reminded me just how important communities are in which conversation is happening about the world and change. three things i do that this has helped me continue to value are meet with friends over a meal most weeks one evening to linger at the table, talk, share life, dream and pray; a couple of times a year through the team i work with host a 24 hour dreaming space in which we go away and take on a theme or idea and explore it; and connect/network with others who share similar vision and passion around transformation. this is all part i guess of building infrastructures of dissent as they are described on the web site (i love that phrase - reminds me of the great mission thinker john taylor's notion of cells of dissent).
the book is also a reminder of how valuable research is. they see research as part of how movements are carried forward and propose the idea of a solidarity research strategy that opens up a commions for the imagination through community and participation. so their research involves facilitating focus groups, hosting events, and even a radical imagination festival. one of the issues for activists and i suspect a lot of us in many walks of life is that you get bogged down in the day to day task. one thing research does is pull people together to reflect and talk about what is going on with others. it opens time and spaces in a cycle of imagination, strategy and tactics. the kinds of questions researchers facilitate conversation about are
i have changed politics to pioneering in the questions above to see how it crosses over into mission. i should have said that the project is grounded in the particular - in hamilton canada - so it's not just an abstract set of ideas. it really is involved in a movement for change.
so go prefigure! hopeful new year :)
it seems slightly crazy to be thinking about next september already having just got under way with tons of fantastic new pioneer students at cms but we have an open day ecah term and this one's is next tuesday november 4. do come along if you'd like to find out what we are up to - andy has blogged about it here .
last year we had a wonderful day of conversations, research and reflections on pioneer mission at cms. the things presented were so interestng that we ended up publishing them as the pioneer gift (which i hope by ow you have got and read?!).
well this year's is coming up on october 14 - am particularly pleased that steve bevans is able to be with us from chicago and we have a host of other things lined up - see here for details and how to book - it's all focused on pioneering spirituality.
but it's just got better as we have now added in an evening curry with spoken word and music - making the most of gav mart and martin daws being on tour. and they will be joined for a guest appearance by none other than harry baker... looking forward to it.
thanks to sally for the first review of the pioneer gift which she suggests is both innovative and important with plenty of theology. she actually goes through each chapter so if you want a map to let you see how the book flows and the themes explored it's a good place to look.
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