The R&D arm of the church

Excited about research: Dr Cathy Ross, pictured here at our 2019 pioneer research conversations day.

Dr Cathy Ross on hunches, dreams and leaps of the imagination. If that doesn’t sound like doctoral research, think again!

Tuesday 15 October 2019 was an exciting day for me.  It was the first teaching day of our doctoral programme in collaboration with the University of Roehampton.

After years of dreaming we have our first doctoral cohort researching pioneering mission.

Perhaps you think this is all too academic for people involved in mission who are usually activists and just want to get on with it. Well, that is partly the point – our CMS doctoral students are all engaged in mission in a context and are bringing their experience and context into their research. The best research is particular; it departs from experience and then interrogates this experience before returning to it transformatively.

So we have students who are researching what faith communities might look like on new housing estates. Does this have something to offer to the wider church regarding effecting positive change in communities and birthing new contextually relevant communities of faith with those beyond the church?

Another is looking at renewal movements and wondering if pioneering could be considered as such. And if so, how it can constructively dialogue with the rest of the church?

Mission to pagan contexts using St Brigid of Kildare as a possible way in is another topic.

Another is researching the theology behind social entrepreneurship and how this could be helpful to the church.

Another student believes that the church in our generation is being invited by God to play. She intends to explore this idea to see if it is a prophetic message that can be grounded in scripture through the theological metaphor of our adoption as the children of God and the metaphor of the body of Christ. So you can see that we have a range of fascinating topics which all have the aim of transforming our world in various ways.

Essentially research is about dreaming – having hunches, ideas, dreams, leaps of imagination and following them up. I see our pioneers as the Research and Development (R&D) arm of the church.

Last year Amazon spent $22 billion and Google $16 billion on R&D. Obviously, we do not have that kind of money but we do have amazing students with ideas, faith and commitment.

We know in CMS that it is not all about money anyway. One of CMS’s founding principles is to put money in second place.

Rather it is about depending on God’s creative and life-giving Spirit to inspire our students in their research, to enlighten and enliven their imaginations, to encourage them in the long and hard days of research and writing.

And for us all to rejoice when new and innovative ideas are developed that will help to change the world.

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