BY HILARY AND HOSTEN GARRAWAY
The first pioneering course at St Cedd’s Centre for Pioneer Mission (in the Diocese of Chelmsford) is drawing to a close and as part of this course we had a resource weekend away together. This was an opportunity to get to know some pioneers in a different context and to learn about their work and experiences.
The weekend was in Hull and centred round a pioneering community that live in and around Matt’s House. We soon discovered that no one who lived there was actually called Matt but it was named after St Matthew and the house used to be the vicarage for the nearby St Matthew’s church (for more information about the work see these profiles of Church Mission Society’s Anna and Chris Hembury and Hull YFC.
Working in partnership was a key theme and Matt’s House was set up in partnership with Youth for Christ and CMS and is linked with various Christian networks in Hull. There was also evidence of developing things in partnership with those in the local community so that there was shared ownership of projects with both Christians and those who don’t identify themselves as Christians working together.
This was very evident when we visited Tricia Wick, a former CMS mission partner who is now a pioneering vicar on an estate in East Hull. She shared her life journey and also the story of the centre she now oversees. She showed us round the facilities including a cafe, chapel, the local authority library based there and the hall, where the previous church used to meet. However, she encourages people to see the whole building as “church”. We were interested to hear how she started the work there by going door to door asking people what they would want the building to be used for and what they thought church should look like. From these conversations she gathered ideas but also key people to build different teams of volunteers, working together to build church in their community.
Another thread which ran through the weekend was freedom. There was a sense of things being fluid rather than structured at Matt’s House, creating a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere and that sense of freedom tied in with a poem read in the Sunday worship. This poem talked about the Spirit of God being caged and then set free. The challenge was for us not to control what God is wanting to do but let things grow naturally even if in unexpected directions.
Freedom is also a key theme for Hull itself, which was the home of William Wilberforce. Some of us visited his home, now a museum, and learned about his successful mission to help end the slave trade of his time. Hull’s journey has been from a wealthy port to a depressed city losing its fish industry to becoming City of Culture 2017. There was a sense of this city being freed from its past which was portrayed in a powerful, prophetic song from one of the community in the Sunday worship, which we enjoyed outside in their sunny garden.
The community brought some colour, creativity and fun to Hull through their “Carnival of Love” as part of the City of Culture celebrations. Bringing colour and creativity was also seen at an arts project which is provided specifically for vulnerable women. We saw that the project was not only creating beautiful things that could be sold at craft fairs but was also creating something valuable in the lives of those who attended.
This weekend gave us the opportunity to reflect on our own pioneering journeys as we had time to talk to each other and to listen and observe pioneering in action in a different context. It also gave us the opportunity to enjoy beautiful views of the stately Humber Bridge in the sunshine and to enjoy tasty fish and chips!