Labels don’t really come into the equation: interview with Lindy Cameron

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Sensory worship

Lindy Cameron has been developing expressions of church with students and adults, with and without additional needs, in Wareham, Dorset. She has so far done one module on the CMS Pioneer course and has become a CMS Lay Pioneer, an order of lay workers in the Church of England. Helen Harwood asks the questions.

HH: Hi Lindy, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the Pioneer Friends email update I know you joined us for one module, fairly recently and are now a CMS lay pioneer, could you start by telling us how you heard about the CMS pioneer course modules and about CMS Lay Pioneers?

LC: I was exploring vocation with the Diocese of Salisbury and Charlie Allen, the diocesan director of ordinands, introduced me to the CMS Lay Pioneers. I spent some time praying and reading about you all and then felt it right to come and visit. I had a wonderful day in Oxford and felt instantly at home. Later we discussed me completing a module with the current CMS pioneers in training and being admitted as a lay pioneer; which I was in July 2015.

I know a number of children with autistic tendencies or on the autistic spectrum and so was very interested to hear that you take an expression of church to your special needs boarding school for those on the ASD spectrum with behavioural difficulties. Please can you tell us more about this?

It’s a wonderful privilege to go into school and share faith and life with them. Originally a friend and his wife (staff members) ran a Sunday School at the school. When they laid this down I was requested to develop something for the school. As I had been staff and had completed their training this was a viable option for the school. My friend’s wife, Anja, decided to join me, which was fantastic. I have developed a structured programme in which we share faith in an informal way, valuing each student and the contribution they bring. I have learnt so much about God and his immense love from sharing with these guys. It’s a little chaotic at times but involves for example non verbal led worship, being invited to join in worshipping through a treasured sensory toy, dancing, loud Amens; they join in with and add a special dynamic to the teaching, and often do the final blessing. We even have a go at quiet time to focus. A countdown screen helps!

Many of these students would find it difficult to access other church services although a few do, but they are as much part of our church as any other person. I work closely with the school and staff who are always with us to make this a valid expression of worship. It is certainly one that has had a profound effect on my life.

You mentioned ‘Emerging Something’ at Not Just Sundaes community cafe in Wareham, and that this has emerged from being with your customers who are on the margins and some with SEN. Can you say how this ties into the work with children on the autistic spectrum, if it does, and if any lessons learned in either area are useful, please?

Actually this is a separate thing. But yes of course my experiences are an advantage. The people who come are just amazing so labels don’t really come into the equation. Our ‘Emerging Something’ really is very special and Hilary Bond and I found that our discussions and just being with people in the cafe set up has led to deep friendships emerging. We have the most thought provoking and deep discussions at times both together and in our one to one conversations. We also have a lot of really hilarious ones!

The picture I saw was of a ball of unravelled wool all in a messy pile it was all bright colours no ends in sight. As we discussed this Hilary and I both felt that the ‘messiness’ was just how it should be at present and that to straighten out the pile and order it and sort it out was not what God was asking of us but to continue to allow people to come and join us and nurture its natural evolution!

Everything is underpinned in prayer, laughter and tears. And yes we believe Jesus enjoys joining us every Thursday afternoon for coffee. As for people’s faith journeys, well, come and ask them some time!

I know you are working with students from the secondary school and have written a course for self esteem (and managing behaviour within that). Can you explain how this is run out of the community cafe and the aims of ‘extravagant hospitality’ and ‘good course material’?

The venue is very important. I use the community cafe, which has good quality food, drink, service and modern decor. It means people are coming in and sharing lunch or coffee with you. Ours is an ice-cream parlour too, which goes down well! It’s not school grounds, counselling premises or even the local youth club, it’s neutral territory. I always say, “The course has two arms, good quality course material and extravagant hospitality.”

It hardly seems possible that you would have any extra time but I know you also go on overseas mission trips with SOMA UK where you teach, preach and have delivered parts of your course to large groups of young people under the trees! You’ve mentioned Kenya, South Sudan and Pakistan. Can you say more about these exciting areas and where you see difference and similarities with work in the UK?

So far most of my time has been spent with the youth and youth leaders of these countries. Those who have come on the conferences are mostly those who want to make a difference in their culture and share the gospel with their peers. There are obvious differences due to poverty and different cultures but young people still all face a lot of the same issues and the area of self esteem is certainly one of them. Their life experiences may be quite different but the course meets the needs so far wherever I’ve used it whether that be with young people one to one, large groups or the adults who have chosen to complete it after they have seen the young people join me in the cafe!

You’re right, these are very exciting areas but with that comes great sadness at times at the circumstances you are coming alongside people in. I’m looking forward to which country God will call me to next.

Can I ask you how the module you did with us was helpful and what you have gained from your involvement with CMS and becoming a lay pioneer?

The module was excellent. A week learning from John Drane opened my eyes to new innovative ways of looking at things and I’ve found myself using the teaching in many areas of my work and life in general.

I don’t think I’ve scratched the surface yet with CMS but I’m looking forward to a growing involvement in the future.

Lastly I know you are involved (again, I am not sure how you have the time) with pioneering projects with your church too. How can we pray for these aspects of your work, your travel and everything else, and, of course, not forgetting you and your needs!

Well I’ve also just been licensed as the first Lay Pioneer in my diocese so no pressure there!

No, really, I’d love to be upheld in prayer for the many things above but most of all:

  • for the discernment to know what to pick up and what to lay down
  • as I continue my studies for there to be a practical outworking for what I learn
  • for my family and close friends and church, who endeavour to support me.

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