Our role is keeping up with God – Interview with Jackie Maw

Second year MA student Jackie Maw is pioneering on a new housing development in Aldershot where nearly 4,000 homes will be built over the next 10 years.

HH: Jackie, tell us about you and your current setting.

We have established a small missional community called Wellspring. We meet weekly for worship in various locations: local cafes, parks and our home as well. Our activities are focused on community engagement. Working with local residents, we welcome new residents, organise events from street parties, quizzes, family activities, ceramics courses and most recently a small Incredible Edible project and a weekly community cafe drop-in.

We are developing good relationships with the new primary school which has opened with a small reception class where I volunteer as a lunchtime supervisor, as well as supporting RE.

We also have a good relationship with Grainger, the developer, who value the work we do. Our long term aim is to establish a permanent community craft cafe run for the community by the community.

Nearly three years into the project we are embarking on Mark Scandrette’s Ninefold Path with some of our friends and neighbours to explore the question of how we can live well together in this world.

HH: Please tell me more about your ice cream ministry! You have also told me: “Looking back on that [ice cream ministry] and other situations I can see that I was involved in pioneering mission long before I even knew it existed. And “Studying with CMS has helped me think more critically and strategically about the Pioneering that I do today.” Can you say more about this, please?

JM: The combination of safe cycling and well run ice cream parlours in Germany were the drivers for what emerged as Ice Cream Ministry. On Sunday afternoon a group of us would cycle to a local ice cream parlour and simply talk about life, work, family, God and of course eat ice cream! We began to invite friends and neighbours to join us and the conversations naturally led to the big questions of life, to struggles and to prayer.

In Germany ice cream parlours are open from mid-morning to late at night. During the Iraq War it was a good alternative to meeting in pubs in the evening, particularly if we were feeling anxious about husbands and friends fighting far away.

HH: I know you enjoy studying with people who understand the pioneering gift, ‘the gift of not fitting in’. Was this what first brought you to CMS?

JM: I wanted to study alongside people who are also exploring and thinking missionally about the changing context that Christians now inhabit. People who are willing to think differently and, while willing to be informed by Christian traditions, are not constrained by them; people who are willing to take risks in following Jesus’ call to make disciples.

HH: I’m delighted to hear you say: “The standard and quality of teaching is high and it’s hard work, but so rewarding. CMS has a wealth of experience in cross cultural mission and relationships with highly respected academics and practitioners in their fields and we get to benefit from their experience and wisdom. So much learning also takes place within the conversations between students during sessions but also over lunch and coffee. I have made some lifelong friends and mission partners while I’ve been at CMS.” Can you say a bit more about how you are bringing the teaching into your practice?

JM: Oh there is so much. But one particular example is a shift in my thinking about how we communicate the gospel. Much of our mission and evangelism has focused on belief, but the question many are asking is “How shall we live?”

In the module on ecclesiology and mission we thought about how Christian practice informs and shapes our experiences, beliefs and understanding of church. I wanted to find out if starting with Christian practice could be a way to help people explore the radical teachings of Jesus for themselves and in the process encounter him for themselves. We have just started the Ninefold Path with some of our friends and neighbours and will use their experience as the basis for my dissertation.

HH: You told me, “I work on the basis that God is already at work in his world.”

JM: God’s church falters from exhaustion because Christians erroneously think that God has given them a mission to perform in the world. Rather, the God of mission has given his church to the world. It is not the church of God that has a mission in the world, but the God of mission who has a church in the world. The church’s involvement in mission is its privileged participation in the actions of the triune God.

Our role is keeping up with God and being open to the ways that the Spirit is leading us, trusting that people in the world around us are already responding to the Spirit, providing we are willing to listen cross-culturally and to see the new thing that God is doing.

Life doesn’t stop just because you’re studying. I’m in full time ministry which is busy enough, but there are times when we may face additional challenges, for example health issues and bereavement. I have experienced both while I’ve been studying at CMS. I found that the support and understanding of tutors and staff and fellow students has enabled me to continue my MA.

I couldn’t say that I have a favourite module, although the module on Theologies on Global Perspectives did help me to recognise how much we privilege Western theology over theologies from the wider world and how much we have to learn from them. But each time we move on to a different aspect of mission I find I’m engaged and interested and applying what I’m learning to the work I’m doing as a pioneer.

My big questions are all about the difference between being and doing. What does it mean to be the church rather than do church? What does it mean to be missional rather than simply do mission? My two years of study with CMS have been significant in helping me shape these questions, grow in understanding of the issues and at time, express these is academic terms. However, it’s always good to remind oneself that any study has to be in the service of our essential and primary vocation – that of being in Christ from which everything else springs. For me that is an ongoing project, and I’m glad that CMS is part of that.

HH: How can we pray for you Jackie?

JM: As well as our exploration of the Beatitudes (with the Ninefold Path resource), please pray for our longer term project to establish a community cafe on the development as premises are proving difficult to find. Also for creativity in creating a social enterprise that will sustain the mission into the future. Personally: for continued good health and maintaining a healthy rhythm of life that will sustain and nourish my own spiritual life.

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