Hearts on fire – Graduation day 2018

Group photo of graduating students and new lay pioneers in front of the Christmas tree

Twenty-one pioneering students graduated from CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training on Tuesday at the course’s fifth-ever graduation service.

Twelve undergraduate and nine graduate or postgraduate certificates diplomas or degrees were handed out – including one to Mark Price, who received his diploma in theology, mission and ministry from Durham University via a transatlantic Skype call in the middle of the service.

Jonny Baker, course leader, congratulated the graduates – emphasising what a challenge two or three years of part time study is.

He highlighted that this year has also seen the first graduates in the CMS Certificate from the Pioneer Hub at St Cedd’s Centre in the Diocese of Chelmsford. A new School of Pioneers in partnership with London diocese had also been announced, as well as a new upcoming Pioneer Hub in partnership with the Diocese of Bath and Wells. With more hubs and centres in the pipeline, Jonny calculated that in five years’ time there will a network of 1,000 pioneers who have been through a CMS training programme.

In addition, the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, who is the episcopal visitor of the CMS community, welcomed five new Lay Pioneers – three who were admitted to the order of lay worker, two who were already readers in the Church of England. Bishop Christopher anointed them with oil and prayed for them as they were welcomed into the CMS community.

The gathering also celebrated the ordination as deacons in the Church of England and Church in Wales of six students.

The screen shows one of the unique tiles the graduates were presented with, designed on the theme of “making a way where there is no way”.

Beautifully decorated pine cones were offered as mementos for all those gathered, as well as reminders of what seeds of hope were hidden in all of us.

The graduation service, coordinated by course tutor and CMS mission partner Andrea Campanale, was themed on fire – exploring how God kindles fire of hope, passion and creativity in us.

The centrepiece was a Christmas tree decorated with hand-painted pine cones with a potentially threatening pile of firewood and kindling at its base.

As a prayer activity, those gathered were invited to place a stick of kindling under the tree as they prayed for the pioneers graduating, and to take a pine cone – whose seeds are released when burnt up in a forest fire, re-seeding the scorched earth – as a reminder “not to become overwhelmed by all the signs of destruction and distress we see both in us and all around us. Rather, ask the Holy Spirit to help us find ways to disperse seeds of peace and hope that might, in the fullness of time, give birth to a harvest of righteousness.”

Offering a reflection, current student Modupe Adefala, took Isaiah 64 as her starting point as she expanded on the theme of kindling the fire, speaking of pioneering as an adventure of the imagination that could introduce people to a God they couldn’t have imagined (Isaiah 64:4, The Message).

She reflected on how the sparks of pioneers could set others on fire and how pioneering was exhilarating but demands considerable dedication. It required not only a great deal of work, as demonstrated in the study the graduates had pursued, but also the ability to confront adversity and accept rejection.

“Could it be the disaffection with the way things are that God will use? When the ink has dried there is a fire in you that cannot be put out.”

Describing CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training as “an adventure that prepares us for greater adventures”, Modupe closed by quoting an apt piece of liturgy by course leader Jonny Baker:

“The journey begins
Our hearts are full of hope, joy and thanks
Our spirits are full of wonder and offering”

Huge congratulations to all who graduated. May your fires burn brightly.

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