Conversations Day conversations

Helen Harwood in conversation with some of the people who joined us for our Research conversations day and Harry and Chris evening event on 8 November:

Penny Stradling (finishing her postgraduate Diploma with us), Matthew Wrathall (joining us for some modules) Jane Oldfield (joined us as Year Two on the Diploma), Kathy Bland (Year One Certificate leading into Diploma), and Tracey Hallett and Idina Dunmore (both Year One ordinands) spoke to Helen about the 8 November events, study with Church Mission Society and their thoughts and prayer requests.

How long have you been studying with us, which course are you on and what have you found most important about study with us?

Penny Stradling – I’ve been studying at CMS for three years and just handed in my final portfolio for a Post-Graduate Diploma. I’ve found studying to be really helpful for a couple of reasons. Firstly it makes you stop and think about what you’re doing in your work rather than just going on instinct and good ideas. Secondly I’ve gained confidence in being a pioneer and been given language to describe that to others.

Matthew Wrathall – I have been studying with CMS for a little over a month now and from my first day being interviewed I knew it was right where God wanted me to be. I am studying two modules on the diploma and if I could take anything from my experience so far it would be one of love. CMS for me isn’t just what it says on the tin, it is more than that, much, much more!

Everyone that I have met optimises what it is to be in Christ and for Christ to be in them.

Jane Oldfield – Since September this year, studying Diploma Theology Mission and Ministry, I have found the relaxed atmosphere and the sense of acceptance wonderfully refreshing.

Kathy Bland – I have been studying with CMS since September and am doing the Diploma course.

Tracey Hallett – I started the Diploma course with CMS this September as part of the pathway into ordination training. The most important part of studying with CMS is that pioneers are well supported and understood. Our dreams, visions, hopes and aspirations are encouraged, even when the rest of the world think we are mad or our ideas are crazy, CMS provides a healthy and safe space for us to openly share ideas, learn from each other and voice our challenges.

Idina Dunmore – Since September 2016. I am taking the Diploma this year and hope to carry on to do the MA in the following two years. I am an Ordinand.

Did you enjoy the FuturePresent Conversations Day? What would you take from the day that felt significant for you?

Penny Stradling – The conversations day was great with loads of good speakers. In my work I’m planting a new church in a redevelopment area and at some point will be working out shapes and sizes of a building. The session thinking about church spaces was really helpful to think about the different ways communities use spaces and it will definitely be feeding into our planning.

Matthew Wrathall – If I had had any doubts then the conversations day definitely put paid to them. From the lady with her obvious love for her sisters to the gentlemen with his love for our planet. To add to that Ash and Ange’s love for their fellow humans irrespective of colour, creed, religion or so called social status. Not to mention how we should love ourselves and make time for God though ‘stillness’, and how we can hopefully build a better more inclusive church that also works practically for us all.

Jane Oldfield – Yes, absolutely loved it. I felt the sense of not being the only one thinking as I do, that there are lots of like-minded people engaged in God mission, just maybe not in my church!

Kathy Bland – The conversations day was fantastic. Some of the things that felt significant were:

Nicola Slee’s ideas about the implications of an Advent waiting for Christ to come as a girl. I found the images of a crucified or risen Christa to be powerful and they resonated with my own feelings around power and vulnerability. I am left pondering on our/ my need for God to become incarnate as a girl.

Anna Ruddick’s research into Eden teams and what transformation means is very exciting. I took away the idea of transformation being about the positive subverting of stories and self-beliefs. I am now chewing on that, together with the concept of Christa – the idea of God becoming incarnate as a girl having the potential to be powerful and transformational ‘story subverter’.

Transformation coming out of a relationship of mutuality and acceptance was also an important gem that I took away from Anna Ruddick’s findings.

Since coming home I have been having interesting conversations about how we arrange and use our church spaces – reflecting on Steve Collins’s Open House.

Tracey Hallett – The conversation day was great for networking, but more than that, it helped me to locate and cement all of the practical elements of being in a pioneer context, within theory, language and understanding that helps us articulate what is happening in front of our eyes. There were many light bulb moments, affirmation and realisation into why things have been challenging. The day really did provide a platform for practice and context to fuse, thus, developing deeper understanding.

As a practitioner I am naturally holistic and pastoral so Anna Ruddick’s presentation on Parabolic Relationships (where she invited us to learn from her research, which was focused on incarnational ministry in deprived urban communities and the relationships between people and Christians delivering mission) has really aided me to think about how important it is for pioneers in mission to be aware of the complexity of our own meaning system; understanding self, whilst also the culture and meaning system of the people we are journeying with.

Recognising the call into ordination and moving into a new context has taken me into a fresh season and new locality, therefore Anna inspired me to look forward to the beautiful moments that lay ahead when as a recipient of mission I become a missioner. Apparently this shapes up when you realise your own meaning system is influenced by those you are alongside and you are able to see God at work in that sharing of meaning systems whilst building relationships based on mutuality.

Idina Dunmore – Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the day. The greatest significance for me was to put words to those places where I am struggling with the mainstream culture of church and society. I found this in Michael Moynagh’s talk, highlighting characteristics of the entrepreneurial approach to mission; John Drane about church and how it can (should?) be; and Ash Barker suggesting we are a sign of hope in our community when we live for God there.

If you came to the evening event, please do tell us how you found it.

Penny Stradling – The evening was brilliant fun and great to have a mix of open mic and then Harry and Chris. Great to catch up with friends and could only have been improved if it had been longer!

Matthew Wrathall – The evening was the icing on the cake with loads of laughs and giggles. Of course the love was not missing here either as one poet’s obvious love for his father and best friend shone through despite all the mickey-taking between them. If I could ask of one prayer it would be that any ministry I may or may not be involved in encapsulates the love of Christ as much as all of theirs.

Idina Dunmore – A good time to relax with laughter and profound words creatively expressed. It was great to open the mike to students and others to enable people’s creative gifts to be heard, and also encourage us others to put our dreams into creative expression. Of course Harry and Chris were awesome – funny, gifted and at times profound. I invited a friend who lives near Oxford, and she thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere, and having conversations with others from different pioneering settings.

Anything else you wish to tell us about pioneering and the Church Mission Society course you are on?

Matthew Wrathall – And if there was one Bible passage that sums up my whole experience thus far it would be Mark 12:31 – “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

Kathy Bland – The weekend we have just spent at Newbigin House, thinking about transformation in the context of urban mission has given me a lot to think about – the Conversations Day was really interesting in the light of that and now I’m mulling over what will be relevant to my rural context and how.

Tracey Hallett – So far one of the highlights has been visiting Ash and Anj Barker at Newbigin House in Winson Green.

If anyone is considering pioneer ministry and questioning how they can make a difference I would recommend you giving CMS a go! Even if you just join us for one module make sure it is one that invites you to experience a different cultural context to your norm. CMS is a great place to step out of your comfort zone it will test, shape, help and grow you all in one whilst you journey towards a whole new destination.

Idina Dunmore – I am enjoying being in a supportive learning environment, where tutors and students are all on the journey , discerning what God is doing in our culture (wherever that is) in our time, and seeking to join in.

How can we pray for you?

Jane Oldfield – For protection. I don’t necessarily buy into this idea of spiritual warfare, some people seem to think that if they sneeze they are under attack! But seriously, since I enrolled on this course I have been bombarded with problems, huge and time consuming problems which take all my head space which is needed for reflection and study. Some of it is really bad stuff and feels truly like spiritual warfare. Please pray for peace, and that these problems will be resolved so that I can focus on what I feel God is calling me to.

Kathy Bland – I am finding it a struggle to reconcile pioneering with the current direction that the Church of England is travelling in (and how my paid diocesan role fits into that). It feels important to be a voice speaking out against the drive towards targets, quick fixes, talking about mission as if it means increasing numbers in the pews on a Sunday and trying to squash the Kingdom of God into an inherited C of E shaped box – it isn’t a voice that is being listened to!

Tracey Hallett – Please pray for me as I become increasingly aware of the challenges of formation within the ordination process and that I will find a healthy balance between study, travel, home and parish.

Idina Dunmore – I am in process of setting up a new congregation in my church for those who are not able to engage with ‘Sunday-morning’ church. There are important decisions to be made in the next weeks about funding, the leadership team and how, when and where to launch. Prayers appreciated.

Thank you to all who joined me to be interviewed. For my part (as Pioneer team administrator) I loved the conversations day, especially Rachel Griffiths. Rachel had us all speaking great truth without words, and the evening event, where we had great truth with spoken words, was equally amazing! HH

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