This month I talked to Nicholas Cheeseman, area director of ordinands for Berkshire and Oxford in the Diocese of Oxford, who has been doing a lot to advocate for and promote pioneering within the area.
HH: Can you explain a bit about your role as area director of ordinands in the Diocese of Oxford?
NC: I work with people considering whether God might be calling them to serve as an ordained minister – a priest or a deacon – in the Church of England. In selection terms we look for people with the gifts or potential to serve in that role. Part of what we do also involves helping people to grow in how they follow Christ and serve his people.
HH: I know you have an interest in Pioneering; can you tell us where that stems from and how it affects your work, please?
NC: I love the way that we have found particular folk to be really gifted at bringing the good news of Christ to cultures and contexts that can be very different from typical church – and doing this in a way that is both true to the message of Jesus and also vivid to those who hear it. I trained (for ordination) at Mirfield and one of the things I found fascinating was inculturation – the question of how to communicate the gospel across cultural boundaries without losing any of its integrity. This is, of course, something we look for all ordained ministers to do – it’s an essential part of the role in so many ways. Each of us in ministry has things we find particularly enriching – where God’s grace seems to work in us especially well – it’s good that we’ve recognised that this is true for pioneering and the creative approach to mission that flows from it.
HH: Kevin Colyer is currently doing a Grad Dip with us, and was formerly an ordinand on our diploma course that finished this summer. I know Kevin has been doing some promotion of Pioneer work with you; could you tell us about that, please?
NC: We have a vocations evening every other month in the Berkshire archdeaconry (and events at least once a month in the diocese as a whole). It’s open to anyone to come along who’s interested in how they might be called by God – not just for folk looking at ordination. Each month we look at a different topic and we had Kevin along to tell us a bit about pioneering and get us thinking about that. Kevin’s a really good advocate for pioneering – and the evening was a great source of encouragement. People valued the evening and some have been inspired to have a go at some creative mission ideas in their own churches. At the beginning of the year we’ve been glad to have Paul Bradbury come and do a session raising awareness of pioneering with our team of Vocations Advisers, which was excellent.
HH: You’ve been heard (by me) saying some very complimentary things about pioneering at CMS, could you elaborate, please?
NC: As well as working with Kevin we have another CMS pioneer who’s a deacon in Berkshire. I have been able to visit CMS and even sit in on some of the teaching. As a parish priest, before moving to this role, one of my congregation was doing the CMS pioneer training. It’s excellent at helping people to develop their skills and confidence in creative mission – both by giving them a good and thorough theological grounding and also by helping them to grapple with some of the ‘so what’ of that – working out what it might look like to put those ideas into a practical context and live it out in mission.
HH: Are there irons on the fire for future events on Pioneering in the Diocese of Oxford?
NC: Yes…watch this space!
HH: Nicholas, how can we pray for you?
NC: Personally, more wisdom is something I could always use – to be able to recognise God’s work in others. It would be great to pray too for a greater awareness amongst God’s people of his calling. We all have spiritual gifts given to us that we can offer in his service – sometimes knowing what they are is a bit more tricky!
Pray: please pray for Nicholas and his work, for all those who are discerning a calling to serve God in the church and through ministry, ordained or otherwise.