It was really wonderful to celebrate the commissioning of 16 lay pioneers for the St Cedd Centre for pioneering mission. This is the second cohort of pioneers in that pioneer hub who have done six modules on the CMS Certificate. There were several things that I was struck by:
The first was that Belinda who was in the first cohort smashed it with a talk. I have taken some quotes from it and put them with images from the day and the full text is below. She summarises what pioneer mission is succinctly and brilliantly. She is now doing some more training with us in Oxford. I felt super proud of her and I loved it that the diocese had lay people doing the talks rather than clergy and bishops.
The second was that Chelmsford Diocese are celebrating lay ministry really well. They commission all their groups of lay ministers together – pastoral assistants, lay funeral ministers, evangelists, spiritual companions, readers and lay pioneers in one celebration at the cathedral.
The third was that by far the biggest group were lay pioneers with sixteen. I realise it’s not a competition but I was really excited to see that.
Then fourthly St Cedd have done really well to not hide the lay pioneers away but get them commissioned. Of course you can pioneer without being authorised but this seems a good way to let others in the diocese know about them and also to affirm and encourage the pioneers.
Any diocese could do this! And it’s great to see the partnership between St Cedd and CMS bearing fruit through the pioneer hub.
Here’s Belinda Ngugi’s talk from the celebration:
My name is Belinda and I’m a lay pioneer. This year is the second cohort of lay pioneers being authorised here at the cathedral, I was lucky to be one of the pilot group trained by St Cedd’s Centre for Pioneer Mission last year. I feel grateful that the diocese is recognising my gifts and calling as for years I’ve felt that I haven’t fit into the traditional church and vocational roles being provided.
I think that pioneers live with a seed of holy discontent for the status quo, they’re agents of change dwelling out in the community sharing God’s love and hope to his people. We see the world as sacred, not just within the four walls of the church building, we listen and discern where God is already at work in the community and join in with what he’s already doing. Jesus incarnated and lived his life amongst the people, and as he walked and observed he was moved to do something.
As a pioneer I feel most at home in the community. My time is spent with pregnant and new mums in East London. I engage with women of varied backgrounds and cultures, many who have found themselves pregnant or with a new baby through unthinkable ways. In an area where only 17% of people are white British and with over 130 different languages love speaks louder than words. The women I work with are marginalised, living in temporary accommodation or safe homes and have no recourse to maternity care in the UK. But the Holy Spirit always equips and guides me and helps me to reimagine what church looks like for these women. What would Jesus do?
Working in my context I feel my ministry is an important one of listening. As the Holy Spirit teaches me what it truly means to listen without judgement and provide a safe space of hope and love for a woman that doesn’t see beyond her current distress. I provide baby and maternity essentials and signpost to local organisations. I pray and discern and try hard to be intentionally obedient to God’s agenda and not my own, all the women have never had someone acknowledge their story or spend time to sit and honour them, they feel hopeless and shame. Church to them is currently experiencing God’s grace, love and mercy through me as they become aware of a caring and faithful God they’d not yet met.
Pioneers see the world through the lens of mission. A mission of receiving God’s love and then responding and offering that love that has been given to us. Reaching out, seeing and imagining the possibilities of new forms of church beyond the four walls.
My fellow pioneers are also engaging with their communities in many different contexts. One has created a boxing club as the men start to explore and encounter God in community through keeping fit, one lady has setup an ethical fashion brand working with women through a fairtrade partnership in India and another is engaging with families through connecting with the wonders of nature through forest school.
I mentioned that I think pioneers live with a seed of holy discontent for the status quo, and after much prayer, frustration and reflection I think it’s an intense longing for seeing God’s kingdom come, and his will being done on earth as it is in heaven, just the way it ought to be.