the publisher scm gave cms permission to publish the foreword i wrote to the go between god by john taylor - fire in the bones
last update on the kickstarter - we have reached our stretch target - so grateful to everyone. the design is now finished bar a view tweaks. you can get a sneak preview on the latest update from jon here. the kickstarter finishes on sunday - do pre-order if you haven't and the offers inspire a friend and network catalyst are better than you'll get after the kickstarter!
i blogged about gather, a virtual festival-in-a-day celebrating and exploring pioneering mission practice. it can be hard to imagine what exactly that looks like. so if you are wondering here is an update which has been added to the booking page but it should help you imagine what to expect. we are really looking forward to it. the image above is one of the venue entrances.
Spaces and Venues
- Goodmakers - a venue hosted by Cathers from Goodmakers Society exploring all things pioneering related to making good in the world. If you have an idea and want to know how to work with it to make it real, this is the venue for you.
- Toolshed - hosted by Richard Passmore and Gavin Mart this workshop space will showcase and explore tools that help with pioneer practice on the ground. A tool helps you do something better, more easily or quickly than you could without it.
- Story - hosted by Sarah Clarke and Luke Larner. A storytelling tent to hear and share stories of pioneer practice.
- Starfish networking space - hosted by Andrea Campanale with the starfish team. Meet others that share your passion for pioneering around a related theme. Just drop in.
- Panels - hosted by Jonny Baker, Shannon Hopkins and Harvey Kwiyani. Four panels creating lively conversation on themes related to pioneer practice.
- Mind The Gap - hosted by Tina Hodgett and Paul Bradbury. A venue for reimagining church and missional community.
- Breathe Prayer Space - a space to get away and slow down and pray. It includes the wonderful St Paul’s millennium labyrinth respun by Grace for gather.town. Close by will be some one to one spiritual direction sessions.
- Wild Wood - hosted by Johnny Sertin, Rachel Summers and Gillian Traverse. There is an outdoor woodland ‘The Glade’ and the funky ‘Treehouse’ where you can dive into pioneer practice, biospirituality and the outdoors. Rewild your soul!
- Research lounge - hosted by Cathy Ross and James Butler. Grab a sofa and hear from students and researchers exploring the contours of pioneer practice.
- The Oratory - a programme of talks and presentations to inspire and reflect on pioneer practice.
As if that wasn’t enough there are some social spaces to explore. As well as the main site which is a greenspace, there is a beach, a garden, and the moon where you can go and hang out.
We are organising the programme by inviting hosts to create programmes in the ten spaces above. There will be slots running for about 45 minutes at 11, 12, 2, and 3.
At the start and end of the day there will be a choice of 4 worship slots ranging from maranatha yoga to creative liturgy.
After a break where you get away from screen or hang out with friends in gather.town there is an evening programme as follows:
- Quiz designed and led by Harry Baker.
- Performance cafe - a mix of music, spoken word and artistry compered and curated by Katy Partridge and Tim Watson.
- Cocktail lounge with tunes from DJ Steve Leach.
- Campfire in the Wild Wood to hang out and share songs and stories.
We will add details of the programme ahead of time and send to everyone who has booked so you can plan ahead.
one week in and the pioneer practice kickstarter is nearly there. it's going to happen! thank you to everyone who has backed it, pre-ordered, and cheered us on. watching the kickstarter total ticking over turns out to be a new kind of addiction.
it's also been a really fun week for us as jon has got cracking with the design. every day he has done several spreads and sent them over to me to look through and edit and send back and day by day it's coming to life. we are loving it so far! to give you a flavour of what to expect here's a few spreads
the rewards of inspire a friend and network catalyst have proved popular and rightly so because they are a good deal that won't be available after the kickstarter. if you are one of the no doubt hundreds who thought to themselves 'o yes i like the sound of that must back it' but hasn't yet then go for it - now is the time.
i have been working on pioneer practice for a year and am self publishing it. i have set up a kickstarter which runs until easter to raise the money through pre-sales and other rewards for the cost of printing and design. please have a look and i'd love you to back it. it's a full colour book meets magazine - one of those chunky coffee table ones. and i am working with friend jon birch who is doing the design. thank you in advance!
we are hosting an online festival for pioneers in gather.town. it's on april 21 and tickets are £9 for students or £19
gather.town is an online environment in which you have an avatar and can wander round and go into venues and chat with people in close proximity. it’s like zoom meets minecraft or something! it’s fun and dynamic. we have designed a whole festival site which includes a beach, treehouse, wild wood, even the moon and around a dozen venues in which a varied programme of story telling, talks, conversations, workshops and panels will take place. there are loads of spaces you can hang out and chat with people - that’s often one of the best things at gatherings like this. in the evening there will be a range of entertainment - quiz, spoken word, performance and so on.
the overarching theme is pioneer practice - and we are designing the programme so that there will be things suitable if you are interested in particular kinds of pioneer practice, tools to help you, and things if you are just starting out or if you have loads of experience. there will plenty of sharing stories and conversation.
we hope it will be a huge celebration of pioneering, an inspiring and encouraging gathering and a brilliant day.
we’d love you to come if you can. we’ve kept the price as low as possible. do spread the word. because it is online, as long as you can make the timezone work you can come from anywhere in the world. We are not recording the content so you have to come to experience it.
the time sounds long but there are loads of gaps and you can turn your camera and sound off and come and go as you please. so don’t for a moment imagine being online attending things for 12 hours solid! see the booking page for more detail on the timings.
we have also been working on a book called pioneer practice which you will hear about in early march as we are running a kickstarter for that. that is a full colour practice focused book. the first 25 people to buy a full price ticket will get a free copy of the book when it is published in april. this year at cms we are celebrating 10 years of pioneer training - we haven’t been able to meet in person for a party but this event is one of our ways of celebrating. the book and theme have been picked and written to share practical wisdom that has been gleaned over that decade.
i really hope you can make the day.
proost is still going strong i am pleased to say hosted as it is now by space to breathe. there are two recent books that are available as free downloads or you can buy as printed books
the first is a collection of liturgies collated by heather cracknell for fresh expression called opening the doors. mark berry, ruth wells, tim watson and dorothy woods are the contributors so i am sure it is good. i gave printed copies to a couple of people at christmas.
the second is the long promised return? by tim watson, a set of poems and prayers written in the latest lockdown. i have just downloaded it.
i also noticed future present is currently in the free downloads section so if you have never got yourself a copy of that it's definitely worth getting hold of.
i got a copy in the post of missio dei in a digital age edited by jonas kurlberg and peter phillips. i attended a conference back in april 2019 on the theme and presented a paper there which i called mission: an adventure of the (digital) imagination. all those have been worked up into this volume. at the time no one knew that reflecting on mission in relation to digital communication and connection and community would be such a big thing come 2020.
in my chapter i explore how the currency of mission is imagination in relation to culture. the wisdom gleaned from intercultural work is a great resource to reflect on in relation to digital spaces. in a section called imagination, seeing and inventiveness i look at examples from winson green and nomad podcast. my chapter is also a dialogue or riff on pete ward's liquid ecclesiology. love to know what you think if you read it!
it's the kind of book you can dive in where you like and where your interests lie - i found it a really interesting read and think my takeaway was katherine schmidt's down to earth suggestion that "most Christians should be in digital spaces as themselves witnessing to God's mercy through relationships".
that's me done for a while on books i have contributed to (apart from the one i am working on right now of course!)
this book is simply brilliant. you have to get it! one of our students put me on to it last week and i ordered it straight away and it does not disappoint. if you want to get a feel for it and indeed access lots of the liturgies for free head to reimagingworship.com . these are liturgies in the context of empire written from its margins in places of oppression, poverty, injustice. it's a project of the council of world mission.
i write and curate liturgies and love that in grace the community i am part of that is part of what we do rather than just take worship off some centralised shelf. as i have reflected on why that is impotant i have come over the years to think of liturgy as world making. we live in a world and indeed church that is run on particular logics and imaginaries. where do we find spaces where the world gets unmade and remade? where dominant narratives get subverted and resisted? one place is the arts. but another should be the church. this collection is most definitely world making. as sudipta singh says in the preface
the book is an invitation to resist the temptation to be co-opted by the empire and to find the nerve to come out of the empire creating counter imperial alternatives
honestly this book is so refreshing. so much worship and liturgy can frankly be vacuous. this is anything but.
i submitted my communion prayer on jesus and the powers and it has been accepted on the web site which i am pretty chuffed about too. it feels an honour to contribute to such a project.
one thing that is intriguing is that there are two covers and subtitles - one is praying with people at the ends of the world and the other is prayers in defiance of empire. i love both but the one that arrived for me has the former - does that mean that the uk and usa can't cope with the second title? i have no idea...
thank you to claudio carvalhaes who is the artful curator of this collection and project.
church mission society magazine is called the call. the current issue focuses on pioneer mission celebrating 10 years of pioneer training. we were actually 10 back in september in case it is ringing a bell. but i think we can celebrate all year. i don't know where 10 years went! there are four feature articles and they will all appear online.
i did a bit of counting as you do for some stats. it made me realise that if i count this year (i.e. the eleventh year intake) we have had 500 pioneers do at least one module in oxford or in a hub. there is quite a network now with 6 hubs across the country as well.
for the issue i was asked to reflect on 5 lessons learned and 5 challenges looking ahead. here's a link to the piece looking forward looking back.
these are the things i settled on
5 lessons learned:
and 5 challenges ahead:
it reminded me of writing a piece in 2012 two years in to the course on 5 Things I Have Learned which was on the fresh expressions web site back in the day but the link is now broken so i have uploaded the word document i have of that article here so i have a record of it. the first point is the same which made me smile which is that pioneering is a wonderful gift.
i'm hugely grateful to cms for putting up with me for that long and it's been a great community in which to host pioneers because of the experience in mission across cultures and the nous about mission, imagination and culture.
i found the blog post i wrote on the day we began with a newsletter and this image
i always mean to blog about brilliant books i read. i add them to a list of ideas for blog posts but it seems to take an age to get onto that with everything else there is to do! but i finally have written a review of anna ruddick's wonderful book reimagining mission from urban places on what she calls missional pastoral care for the latest edition of anvil journal. you have to download the whole thing to get to book reviews so i am posting the review here.
Reimagining Mission From Urban Places by Anna Ruddick
Anna Ruddick was part of the Eden network who, motivated by their faith, moved into urban estates to share the gospel. It was a movement of young adults whose energy and motivation grew out of evangelical festivals and parachurch organisations. Over several years Anna pursued practical theology research to reflect on that movement and mission practice through a blend of ethnographic research, interviews and doing practical theology. Practical theology is paying attention through the research to the lived experience and putting that in conversation with scripture and resources of theology and other disciplines to discern what God is doing or where God is at work. Through that process she develops a framework for mission she names ‘missional pastoral care’ which is intentional missional living shared by seven elements - being among people who are different, living locally, being available, taking practical action, log term commitment, consistency and love. The interviews are with members of the teams and those they got to know.
At the core of her work is the exploration of the gap between the rhetoric of mission that she went with from the evangelical community that sent the teams with its accompanying expectations of what results might look like, and the reality of what actually happened on the ground. All sorts of good things took place which led to flourishing and genuine transformation but those that went on mission found that both mission and their evangelicalism were changed in the process.
If you are a practitioner or pioneer in a context like this this book will be invaluable. The approach makes so much sense. And it’s a relief because there is an honesty about the reality of what mission is like perhaps summed up in one of the chapter titles “If it’s messy, slow and complicated you’re probably doing something right.”. Through her interviews and reflections on them Anna pays attention to how lives change in slow and messy ways. The changes are real and blend shifts in perspective and meaning making alongside or within an environment that loves and affirms people for who they are over the long term. It’s an approach that chimes well with Sam Wells discussion of being with rather than fixing people. And I really liked the way the whole was framed with mission as what God is doing in the world which we join in with.
However it is not just a book for practitioners. Anna’s discussion over two chapters of what good news is and of evangelicals’ tribe and identity and how it could respond to the mission challenges and context we are in is so good and so important. I fear it may not get the audience it deserves because it’s tucked in what looks like a book for practitioners. She writes as an insider to the tribe which is important to say so it’s written in a tone of careful consideration and appeal to that community. She unpacks the evangelical mission narrative and says that there is a mismatch between that and the realities of mission engagement on the ground. This arises because there is a rejection of context. She then develops an alternative mission narrative which I found compelling framed as it is with the discovery that God is present and at work in the world with people in the community who are made in God’s image. She then unpacks evangelical identity and where it has come from and suggests it could evolve in four ways - firstly revisiting epistemology in response to our time and place (rather the time and place from which it arose); secondly relaxing a concern for protecting evangelical identity and aligning with the incoming kingdom of God in the world; thirdly good-newsness in mission impulse and passionate piety; and lastly a bigger story reframing the doctrinal priorities of evangelical theology. There is not space to elaborate on these here but I really commend that section of the book and hope it gets picked up for wider conversation. There has always been a strain of evangelicalism with which that would all resonate - CMS at its best has been in that flow in my opinion. There were a couple of points where Anna’s writing reminded me of John Taylor’s writing for example.
Lastly just to state the obvious, this is a UK book on mission. This is significant because it chimes with the UK context really well in ways that say American books on mission (of which there are many more) simply don’t. It is gritty and missiologically brilliant. It’s also a very welcome counter voice to the results driven approach that seems to be dominating for example the Church of England’s investment in mission through the Church Commissioners monies. I think Anna is a wonderful practical theologian and this is exactly the sort of thinking that the church needs right now.
a new issue of anvil journal has landed exploring mission and the arts. the articles, reflections and video interviews all came out of the pioneer conversations day last year. it was the first one i have missed as i was in new zealand (a good excuse!) so it's great to be able to catch up on it. it's edited by sarah clarke who put the day together. as you'll know if you follow my blog or just if you know me, the arts and creativity are something i am passionate about. there are lots of really interesting articles and video interviews.
unusually for me i started with the videos and really enjoyed the video interview with david benjamin blower which i have embedded above where he explores the connection between artists and prophets. i love his article as well - artists in a time of challenge and collapse where he explores the importance of artists freedom from serving an institutions structures and aims. he has a four track album apocalyptic lockdown blues that really catches the moment we are in too that you might want to check out.
i am delighted to say that a new edition of the go between god by john taylor is out this weekend. it is a magnificent book on the holy spirit in mission. this is john taylor's best known book and scm have decided to re-issue it in the wake of imagining mission drawing attention to his work.
i have written the foreword to this edition which i was so happy to be asked to do. i confess i have never written a foreword before and found it quite a daunting thing to write for such a beautiful book. i hope i have done it justice but in the end who remembers a foreword anyway so i think i can relax - the task is to point to the book itself! do have a read if you have not come across it. here's one short excerpt from my foreword which highlights taylor's thinking about little congregations being a forerunner to fresh expressions perhaps?
In an extraordinary passage that foresees the fresh expressions movement, Taylor goes on to suggest that expressions of church should be as close to the life of people as possible. The ideal shape of church is that which provides the least possible withdrawal of Christians from life in the world. He envisages little congregations that are small enough for mutual awareness and large enough to embody the kingdom in their fellowship. These should not be seen collectively as a halfway house to draw people back into proper church or as an interim structure ‒ they are church. It is also the perfect place to share bread and wine round a coffee table without religiosity, the normal way the majority of Christians can make communion central to their lives. And with a sense of urgency he says he is not talking about twenty years’ time, but now. The Spirit is on the move at the growing edges, and the church should recognize it and make it easy for people by taking away red tape. Too many people view these little congregations as peripheral or subnormal, he says. He imagines the parish like a cathedral or a minster, gathering the varied smaller units so they are not too ingrown. But for him small is normative if the church is to respond to the life of the Spirit in the world. It is a truly remarkable chapter both in its imagining of what has come to pass and of the way the church has continued to struggle with the ‘sin of rigidity’, and we are fifty years on.
we just heard that imagining mission has been selected one of the top ten books of 2020 for mission studies, intercultural studies and world christianity by international bulletin of missionary research. a few smart alecs have asked me whether there are more than ten books published in a year in that area - i think there are! we're pretty chuffed about it - it means something in our small world at least. i can't actually link to the article because it's on a password protected journal. post writing a book is a weird journey of banging on about yourself - sorry if you have had enough of me mentioning john taylor and the book! one of his books is being reissued at the end of the month for which i have written the foreword so i am afraid there will be more to come!!!
i enjoyed playing around with quotes from john taylor in imagining mission with john taylor, the book i wrote last year with cathy ross, and combining them with my photos. we posted a number of those last year with some short reflections. and i have posted the whole set as a photo album which you are welcome to use.
i like physical objects and thought a card set would be fun. i can imagine using it in teaching about mission or as a personal prompt for ideas or reflection. i have printed with moo cards before which worked fine for a business card type thing but they work out expensive to make sets. after some investigating i found a company who produced decks of cards for games or educational tools and ordered some. when i asked in some of the posts we wrote whether anyone would like a set i began to collect names of people who said they wanted some. all that to say 128 card sets arrived last week. they have printed really well and been posted out to people who wanted a set this weekend. they went much quicker than expected and the whole lot have gone! (if anyone else wants one i could add your name to a list and do another run but it's really only worth it if i do a run of 100 or so...).
i am adding this as a worship trick as i have shown the sequence of images a few times with a music track and they have gone down well. i think i first did that at the book launch along to calle f by mala. thank you to out of the box cards for letting me use their site to manage the orders! and thanks to everyone who joined in this spontaneous side project. hope you like the cards!
time whizzes by! it feels like we have only just got started in the northern centre with the cms certificate of pioneer mission. but we are already thinking towards the second year which will start in september.
if you are in the north anywhere then do come and find out more about it next tuesday. this year has included people from cumbria, sheffiled, scotland,northumbria so it's definitely pan northern. info and book in here
the third in the just imagine webinar series is on thursday evening. we're exploring creativity in a chat show style with 3 guests each week. i am absolutely loving it - last week was honestly so much fun and the guests were brilliant! it's going to be a hard act to follow but i am getting excited about this week with some more amazing guests and some really fun exercises. i have got slightly carried away myself over the weekend coming up with ideas for them.
it keeps selling out and we keep adding places so we have once again added a load more places. i am not 100% sure if the person running that has added all the extra places yet so if you go there and it says sold out come back tomorrow evening. it is a series but each one stands alone so don't worry if you have missed some. and if you register you will get links afterwards.
register here is the crucial thing you need to know. hope to see you there.
i loved this anthony gormley exhibition event horizon of figures around the hayward gallery in london back in 2007 which is where the photo is from. this phrase probably seems more evident now but when john taylor was writing it was probably a newer idea because mission was something that happened overseas. i have pretty much oriented what i do around this idea for the last 30 or so years!
cathy chose this quote to post this week and this is what she says about it
We are learning that the missionary frontier is on our doorstep – literally. Another apt John Taylor saying! At the beginning of lockdown I met daily with my neighbours in our physically distanced meet-up over coffee. We now meet weekly and sometimes more often. We have discussed so many things and shared a lot together. It has been a real gift to get to know one another so deeply. It has been a wake-up call for me to find connection and friendship in the neighbourhood. And it has taken a pandemic to get us there. I think we are waking up to much during this pandemic which is unmasking powers, fragilities and false gods. The missionary frontier is always on our doorstep. What is yours?
imagining mission is for sale here and there is a chapter in it in which we explore mission.
we had cms pioneer graduation on zoom this year. it's tough for students not being able to gather but the group that had planned it did an amazing job and i thought it was a wonderful occasion. this is cathy and i talking to the screen! there's a write up on the pioneer blog here
every year we give those graduating a gift to remember the pioneer journey. iain cotton who is a sculptor has makes a set of tiles which each represents a new pathway across a landscape. it also looks like a script, a new language. every year he gives it a different twist. the theme of this year's celebration was shifting sands and this is what he says about this year's design...
This years awards take on this theme of shifting sands.The stones themselves are cut from Capton Red Sandstone. Ancient compressed desert. Carved into tough landscapes with shifting dune topographies. These stones are traversed by gilded texts; fragments of an ancient prayer of the Church that seems a good fit for these strange days. Kyrie Eleison. Kyrie Eleison. Kyrie eleison.
there were video messages from friends round the world, some lovely montages, the graduation itself and the planning group had commissioned harry baker to write a poem on the theme which was poignant as ever...
Shifting Sands [by Harry Baker]
The ground beneath our feet is unfamiliar
That is not to say we’ve not been here before
Our frames of reference may have shifted,
Or indeed still be shifting But may you bring us in to land on the un-shore
May we not mourn for what is lost but find new form from what it was
Not see before as something gone but something we can springboard from,
What if we saw this new terrain as new training ground
What if it’s not the way we came so much the way we‘re changed that counts
It’s not how we got here but how we get from here that takes us now
May we embrace that close relationship of faith and doubt
When every single one of us has come from the unknown
As we re-enter may we sense that we’ve come home
What if instead of investing in the specifics of the route
We could remember what we did and how we felt that got us through
What if the measure wasn’t what we knew but what we chose to do
What if the limit wasn’t if we could but if we wanted to
When the ground moves beneath us, may it not be beneath us to be moved
May all that is contained in you make you able to continue
The fact this is unsettling is barely worth a mention
Since when has settling been the intention?
Though it is tempting to attempt to shape things how they were before
May we be brave enough to crave for something more
When every single one of us has come from the unknown
As we re-enter may we sense that we’ve come home
i have become more and more fascinated by processes of creativity and imagination. when we sent in the first draft of imagining mission we had some push back from the editor asking for some examples of how what we were describing played out. i actually like it when editors push back and think they should do so more to be honest. but i think we felt that wasn't the kind of book we were trying to write or at least some examples might limit the possibility of how peoples own thinking was provoked. but what it did lead to was us thinking that quite often church leaders feel pressure to be creative but don't necessarily know how to do that if they are not used to it or are not in environments where it is encouraged. so the change we did make was to write a section at the end of each chapter on exercising creativity taking a particular idea and then giving some exercises. i really love those parts and think they work as a standalone too.
as a sort of follow up to that and to celebrate the book i am running a series of free webinars in january just imagine one evening a week for an hour. in those i will have three different guests each time and we'll pick a theme for exercising creativity and play with it. go here to find out more and sign up. there are 500 places i think so hopefully room for everybody! now i need to think what do in the sessions!
when you publish a book it's quite common to invite respected writers and thinkers to read a copy and make a comment. it's weird pushing a book as it feels like showing off or something! but i am going to be very unenglish and say this. stephen bevans made a comment that is on the back of the book. he is one of my heroes and i am happy to say has become a good friend. his writing and thinking in contextual theology and mission is amazing. this is what he said about the book
This is one of the most significant books I have ever read. Cathy and Jonny have tapped into a source that can revolutionise our understanding of church, and the mission that calls church forth. Tylor's creativity and imagination and Cathy and Jonny's as well can stir up the creativity and imagination that is latent in us all to leap over the wall. [Stephen Bevans]
when i read that i thought i could retire as i probably can't top it - so kind!
the good news for those of you who expressed interest in the cards of quotes is that i have now ordered decks of cards. they will be delivered to me in early january and i'll be in touch as to how you can get them. there will be a few extras if you missed out but essentially it is a limited edition - i am quite excited about it! this is the top of the box. i have made a slide set of the cards on flickr which anyone is welcome to use - if you do please mention john taylor as the quotes are his and ideally the book that they are from - imagining mission. thanks!