“The mission has always been about giving the power back”: Interview with Sue Martyr

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SueHelen Harwood catches up with Sue Martyr, a student with CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership training, about her ongoing work with the Tolladine Mission in Worcester.

HH: Hi Sue and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed again. My knowledge of you goes back quite a way, you’ve been around our Pioneer course from fairly near the start and I remember our wonderful Christmas party with you showing us all how to make jewellery. For readers not so well acquainted with you, could you tell us your pioneer setting, and give us an idea of how long you have been there?

SM: I have lived in this area of Worcester Tolladine for 16 years. It wasn’t by choice, as my family ended up here after being made homeless. Tolladine is a great place to be, with a community feel, with a sense of real life; it feels like a very Jesus place. In the centre of Tolladine is the community centre/CofE church, Christ Church. The church is rather small but has the luxury of a small Sunday congregation who have little expectation. We try to make church a place of welcome with unaccompanied children popping in and out. We have hands on activities instead of a sermon, we share stories of our week, have discussions about the Bible stories and ask questions. One week, over communion of bread and grapes we were talking about the FA cup and one eleven year old asked ‘Why are you talking about football in church?’ This led to discussion about church and where God is. It is from the church that we formed the Tolladine mission; when we decided that a group was to live overtly missionally in the area. I also do paid work in Tolladine as health trainer meaning that I support and motivate people in making their own health changes. The mission is also about empowering people so my job is intermingled with my missional work. One key element to the mission is to develop new ways of doing church that are grown out of the community without a hierarchical structure. Church, mission, living and my job all get mixed up which is great!

It’s Lent! What are you doing for Lent, Sue?

Lent is traditionally a time of extra study, prayer and fasting. For the study bit I am reading Exiles, by Michael Frost; this is a book that we have been recommended to read on the course. It is very motivating and gives me encouragement in what I do as a pioneer. As for the prayer bit, I am leading some Lent walks ‘walking in the present moment’ which are done in silence. I am concentrating on how your body moves, feels, the rhythm of walking and how this connects with the movement of creation and the creator. These walks have been inspired by the Forest Church CMS ReSource weekend that I wrote about some time back in one of these interviews. As for fasting, I am trying not to smoke the two cigarettes that I smoke in the evenings but the temptation is proving too great. Perhaps by the end of Lent I may have got there, but I do know that by the end of Lent I will have found out more about Jesus and myself.

You’ve told me, tantalisingly, “We have T@Tolly on Sunday” Can you tell us more, please, about that means?

T@Tolly is a four weekly event that the Tolladine mission puts on in the Tolly centre, the community centre. It runs from 4.30-6pm on a Sunday. We have food, the favourite at the moment is curry and rice, we have crafts/art and play games, mostly, hiding around the building! It is a drop in for anyone, so we can expect anything to happen! The age range is from three to 70 so I get rather anxious before each one, not knowing what might happen. Before we open up the helpers gather and say a prayer, some of the helpers are local people and didn’t join in the prayer at first but now they do and some call T@Tolly “church”.

I know you are trying to see what is the way forward you go after the church commissioners funding has ended in 2016 for the Tolladine Mission. Can you tell us a tiny bit about the history of this and how you are currently thinking you may move forward with it?

The Tolladine Mission has had a full time missioner. After 2016 the funding ends for this so we are trying to find sustainable ways of making sure that we have the manpower in the area to carry on what we do. The mission has always been about giving the power back to Tolladine people, however, this is proving to need a much longer time scale. There are a group of us that pray and meet together weekly; this forms the heart of the mission. We also have a support group that meets regularly to help shape it.

Can you share with us how the course has impacted your thinking and action and how it supports you?

The course is great! Before I came on the course I acted on intuition, and I was always being asked to back up my actions, which I couldn’t do that easily. Now I have more of a language to talk about what I do. I am able to look at what I do in practice, look at academic thinking and mix it together which then in turns enhances what I do. I have also begun to clarify my thinking in areas which I was unsure of, like different sorts of evangelism. I am much more confident of who I am now, especially with such a good support network of like-minded people.

Lastly, how can we pray for you, your work and mission, and anything else?

Well, to pray for the people of Tolladine, that they may know the love of God. Pray that as a mission we really open ourselves up to listen to God enabling us to bring the story of Jesus into the area. And lastly, to pray for my family and myself to find a place for our creativity in the kingdom of God. Thanks and thanks for reading.

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