Sue Martyr is pioneering in Worcester and is one of our Pioneer Mission Leadership Training Course first year students. Helen Harwood found out more.
Sue, it has been great to meet and get to know you more. Can you tell us something about yourself and your life in Worcester?
I basically live and ‘be’ in the local community, a social housing area of Worcester. My family and have lived here for about 12 years and have attended the local church, Christ Church. It is here that I grew personally and my connection with the Church of England has developed. It was here in Christ Church that, despite my stuttering, I was allowed to read out loud in a non-judgmental atmosphere, study the Bible with others, again in a non-judgmental environment. I grew to appreciate the Communion service and I developed, I suppose, in an unorthodox manner, a prayerful way of life. This has led me to explore Ordination in the Church of England.
What form does your pioneering mission take?
At the moment I am engaged in the following things:
- I lead a non-Eucharist service at Christ Church, once a month.
- I lead a prayer session about once a month which supports the Tolladine Mission.
- I am on the PCC (Parochial Church Council) of St Barnabas with Christ Church.
- I am on the team taking ‘Open the Book’ once a week to a local school.
- I am on the Tolladine mission support group, which has directed and continues to direct how the mission develops.
- I also work as an NHS Health Trainer in the community, trying to lessen the health inequalities between those with less and those with more. Even though this is not directly associated with the Church, they have financially supported a gym session that I have started with clients in the area.
- On occasions I instigate workshops in copper wire forging i.e. banging with a hammer and anvil!
It sounds like you are really involved in a lot of things. What do you think is your philosophy of mission, and can you tell me more about the church and your work there?
Really, I exist in the community where I live, I walk and cycle and so I am quite a presence around the area. I talk to people and listen to their concerns, and I suppose that I try to give hope to people. Sometimes I offer to pray for them, suggest practical things, like telling them about lunch groups, things going on in the community and perhaps in the local churches.
I am involved, along with my husband, Guy, in Christ Church, which is my local church and is Church of England. There are about five regular attendees with an unknown amount of children/youth coming in, without parents, to join us. Numbers vary between three and 16. We have a Eucharistic Sunday service weekly, except for once a month when I do a non-Eucharistic service. We are trying to devise a service that is compatible with the existing congregation, which I must say are people on the edge of society themselves, and don’t necessarily fit into a regular church service. We are really a bunch of people that Jesus might have been friends with!
Quite a varied situation, have there been any real breakthroughs?
Yes, the situation changed when we set up a breakdancing drop in session on Sunday afternoons, which was attended by up to 25 under-16 year olds. Since then relationships have grown and four children/youth have been confirmed. We had an open door policy, literally, and children were allowed in who were often banned from other activities. The breakdancing no longer happens. In a way the breakdancing was a catalyst to the Tolladine mission project.
Realising the church in the area could do greater things, the Tolladine Mission Project was developed. The project has received funding from the Church of England Commissioners. It is early days but the plan is to eat, pray, and work together to further the Kingdom of God in Tolladine. At the moment a Church Army officer is in the main mission house and another house is being set up. We hope to show God’s love to people in the area by being hospitable, in a way this is an extension of what we also hope to do in Christ Church. CMS have been really supportive in their prayers and experience on this matter; they are always there to offer support and advice and they have been invaluable to the project so far.
Can you give me a flavour of a Sunday at Christ Church?
Over the past four months people who are able to meet have been meeting regularly, trying to sort out new ways of doing the services but keeping an inherited Church of England formula. The services have been shortened, more actions involved, prayers are always provided on spec by the congregation and there is bread and grapes for the children.
I come from an art/design background and I value the importance of engaging mind and action as an integral part of being a human being. In services that I lead I try to do an action in some way. For example I scattered sacks full of leaves over the church floor at harvest and got everyone to pack them up into black plastic bags for leaf mould. Once we made an ark out of the church chairs and did the service from there. I think that if we do action we are more likely to remember the stories and messages of Jesus. It also helps us relate to situations more fully than just cerebral thinking.
Also, by doing action in church we are starting to relate to each other more and we understand each others’ lives more, so things outside church are being brought in and hopefully things that happen in church are being related to lives outside church.
How do you see your role, Sue, as well as being a ‘do-er’, what is the wider picture?
I suppose that I see my role within the church as one that pushes the boundaries of what church is, for those in the church and to keep the doors of communication open to those on the outside of church. Spirituality is not a church-owned subject.
I often tread a fine line of acceptance within my own situation, how far do I push the boundaries within the church? In the PCC I have often felt alienated by my opinions and hurt by responses to ideas. However, over the years of showing my faithfulness to the church and by actually showing positive results I have been accepted more and more; even to the point that they have supported me financially, allowing me to travel to ReSource weekends and to Oxford for a CMS pioneer leadership module.
How does the CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training course support you?
Since doing the Pioneer modules, I have found out that I am not alone in my thinking, and that other people have been undergoing similar things in their lives too. It has been great to go to Oxford for the past few months and to know that there are others who also feel a bit on the edge. It is good to know that I don’t pioneer alone. I have been able to clarify thoughts and ideas in a trusting environment. And I have been given the opportunity to focus and think in a more theological manner without being too academic. My DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands) has struggled to see how I would fit into a traditional learning programme, so this course has hopefully filled the gap. I would like to continue with the course but that depends on funding.
Tell me a bit more about your plans for raising support.
I think that the main support for anyone in my position is to change the structures at the top. It has been great that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has been such an advocate of pushing the boundaries of ‘church’. And I know that the Pioneers team have been doing a lot of work promoting Pioneers. On the ground level, in some areas, pioneers aren’t really being seen as a crucial part of mission, and I don’t think that their potential is really being explored. So I suppose, a bit more experimentation, and faith by the people that hold onto power would go a long way! But I would say this, being of the pioneering nature!