Helen Harwood speaks to Des Yarde-Martin, a former student working in north-west London.
HH: Can you tell us something about the location you are in now and how long you have been there, please?
DYM: My family and I have lived in Mill Hill, North West London, since 1991 and we joined Mill Hill East Church (MHEC) in 1995. The church, local shops and infant and junior schools huddle together around a T-junction on the 221 bus route – a real community centre in an area that is mainly residential. MHEC’s contribution to the community is the Coffee Bar which opens Monday to Saturday and caters for schoolchildren and parents, school staff, passers by, local residents and people attending activities in the church building.
The church is also part of the Collective Youth Initiative, which was set up in collaboration with the Anglican parish church and the local branch of Urban Saints. CYI works with children in the churches and Urban Saints groups reach out into the community. Nearby there is a new estate still in development that has a new church infant and junior school and the weekly Urban Saints group that meets there in term time is currently attracting up to 70 young people.
You are someone who studied with us for a while and we would love to hear what kind of things you studied and what impact this course has had on you?
One of the main things I wanted from the course was formal theological grounding and I looked forward to the modules on the Bible, but I was also excited by the Mission Story of the Church and how Christianity spread and changed as different cultures embraced it. Mission Entrepreneurship was a definite highlight, spending a week together focusing on making mission new and relevant and exciting.
What do you think is the added value of the CMS pioneer course (aside from the academic study)?
Because so many of the people you meet on the course are pioneering, all their stories are different – so many different ways to live the gospel. The ReSource weekends were excellent in this regard too – being able to see how new life can come in different ways to different people in different places.
Can you tell us of some of the practical applications of the things you learnt on the course?
That’s a hard one. What I learned on the course has certainly helped me in what I am doing, but I’m struggling to think of a practical example. I attempted to launch the community choir that I planned during the Missional Entrepreneurship week and it struggled through a couple of months before folding. However, there is another community choir in Mill Hill which I’m getting involved with – another chance to apply what I have learned on the course.
What do you think the future holds for you, Des?
Our new church leader currently lives on the estate which I mentioned above – in one of the last houses to be demolished to make way for the development. So he is already in the area and feels called to the area. For some years we have been working in an area of social housing that is part of this estate (the only part of the old that will survive) – barbecues and fun events; I hope that will develop. At the same time it’s also important to continue building community in the area around our church. I hope the fellowship will grow so that there are more people to join in the work. This is all quite traditional, isn’t it? But I hope that the traditional will happen in a ‘pioneer-y’ sort of way!
How can we pray for you?
Our new church leader, Josh, will be inducted on 16 January – please pray for him and us as we prepare for that occasion and for the church as we embark on a new chapter in our story. Pray for me as I then re-evaluate my role in the church.