this is the first of a series of short reflections celebrating twenty years at cms
the reason I came to cms was to steal the gold! at that point i was working in london with young people. in youth work i had found stories of cross cultural mission sparked my imagination (ht pete ward). i think it was the realisation that the gospel always seemed to make most sense to people when it was discovered and expressed in ways and forms that were as close as possible to their culture rather than foreign. there was then an at-homeness about it, about christ, about faith. that made perfect sense when going to another country or culture but it was very exciting to think the same might apply in our own context in britain with young people for whom the culture of church was often foreign. what would it look like to go with them on an adventure to develop new forms of faith and church that were inside their culture(s), where they felt at home? that was the stuff we were playing with at the time and had been for maybe a decade.
i had the same question and experimentation going on with my adult friends who were finding themselves at home in the emerging postmodern landscape but not relating to church forms well or at all really - church seemed to be tied to either victorian constructs or the 1970s (forgive my over simplification but you know what i mean). i was very taken with and part of the then alternative worship movement that was opening up inspiring new vistas drawing on this same thinking about gospel and (postmodern) culture.
when cms rang me up inviting me to talk to them about a job I followed it up because I thought these might be the people that had the gold - that nous about cross cultural imagination and mission practice which i was hungry to learn more about. i had finished an ma at kings with pete ward a couple of years earlier and this was all the sort of thing i was exploring. it actually took me a while to find the gold once i started at cms. it's not on display! you have to dig for it through talking with people, traveling, reading, sifting. but over time i found a lot of treasure.
i still think that's the gold and am still discovering more of it. initially i think i was interested in the gold around the process and skills and imagination and theology of crossing a culture which still does interest me but over time i have realised that the real gold is when those on the inside of a culture begin to shape faith and theologise and articulate and nurture faith and so on for themselves freed from the foreign trappings which are so easily stumbling blocks - they do it from the inside as john taylor would have said. then the mutual exchange and learning across and between cultures is so valuable.