This month, in our series of interviews with Pioneer students, Helen Harwood meets Katharine Crowsley, who has launched a fresh expression of church that teaches teenagers to cook.
Katharine, can I ask you how you heard about the CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training course and what made you want to join it?
How did I hear about the course? Well it’s rather a long story. I was connected to CMS through raising money for Neema Crafts by selling jewellery. Around this time I’d also started reading blogs connected with emerging church and Fresh Expressions, and I’d come across Jonny Baker’s blog along the way. As a result of these two links, the CMS connection and the blog connection I read there was a pioneer mission leadership course being planned and I thought, that sounds like me! As I found out more about what the course involved I realised that this course was teaching the things that that I wanted to learn more about, missional entrepreneurship, pioneer mission leadership skills and mission spirituality. The course would equip me for the journey I was on. And I love the picture on the front cover if the course brochure – the journey into the fog! You often feel that you don’t know quite where you’re going as a pioneer, you are venturing into the fog metaphorically. But often the fog clears and reveals a view you didn’t expect.
How long have you been involved in pioneering and how do you see pioneering as different from regular church mission?
I’ve been involved in pioneering since late 2008 when I started visioning Cook@Chapel, the fresh expression of church I’m involved in. The seeds were sown before that on my first Greenbelt visit, a really revitalising, spiritual experience. I think I realised at that point, that I wasn’t odd or strange to feel like I did about pioneering. It also gave me a language for the ideas I was dreaming about, reimagining church for people beyond the reach of traditional church. Pioneering is different from traditional church mission as it is looking at more radical concepts like “what is church?” Traditional church mission is evangelising people to the church that is now rather than the church that ‘will or may be’. I think you need both because so many people are beyond the compass of the traditional church and cannot relate to its language and customs.
Cook@Chapel – is it a real passion or is it simply a way of meeting people?
Cookery is not a particular passion or a particular talent of mine. One of my friends joked that God was laughing when he called me to a fresh expression of church involving cooking! I have learnt alongside the young people and we have been blessed with a number of volunteers who are cookery experts, and together we form a team. It was the teamwork aspect of cooking a meal together and then the fellowship element of eating together that appealed to me. Jesus spent a lot of time sharing food with people and what better example is there for building community. That has to be the essence for building church, to build community by preparing and sharing food and conversation (fellowship) together.
Is there any other pioneering work you do now or things you have been involved in?
Other pioneering work I’m involved in includes Craft@Chapel which is a form of Messy Church and teaching on a course to inspire fresh expressions of church in Milton Keynes – Mission Shaped in Milton Keynes. Also, more recently I have jointly set up a contemplative prayer group, which is generating a surprising amount of interest and involvement in our local area. I also love to walk and have combined elements of contemplation and meditation with my walking. I’m exploring the idea of trying to offer led walks to spiritual seekers and others in North Pembrokeshire where I spend a lot of time in the summer. This is a place rich with the heritage of Celtic Christianity, a thin place of beautiful countryside that offers many opportunities for spiritual journeys, pilgrimage and refreshment.
What’s next on the horizon?
Further development of the Cook@Chapel community because the young people who have become involved over the past year have developed an increasing depth to their spirituality. The use of a mixing bowl for a time of prayer has become a regular occurrence, a sort of prayer liturgy, which we now use most weeks. Cook@Chapel also want to fundraise for charities close to their own thoughts and prayers, particularly the plight of child soldiers in Africa. So we are organising a sponsored walk and cake sale (with the cakes cooked by the young people) to raise funds.
I’m really enjoying the studying, the opportunity to reflect and to learn from others and their expertise. Meeting other pioneers, being inspired by their stories, and journeys is such a valuable experience.
I believe you once said “I would like to take mission further” – has the course helped you do that? In what ways do you envisage the course continuing to help you?
The course has definitely helped me take mission further, even at this early stage of only being one year into the course. I feel it has spiritually inspired and strengthened me, and helped me learn more about prayer traditions that I know will make a difference to my day-to-day life and hopefully those of others. And through this I feel that I can be more of a pioneer for others, to help them on their pilgrim journey, which of course we are all on whether we know it or not.