London School of Pioneers celebrates first graduation

It was wonderful to take part in the first annual celebration of students completing their year of training in the London School of Pioneers, writes Jonny Baker.

This is a partnership between Church Mission Society and the Diocese of London. All the students were interviewed and shared stories of what stood out for them and what they were going on to do.

Their pioneering ranges from prison visiting, setting up new monastic communities, baby days (a group reaching out to mums with new babies to explore spirituality), a Christian community growing out of a charity shop, leading a community church, setting up a prayer network across London and so on.

The graduates with the Pioneer School team

Inspired by each other

They had particularly loved the experience of training with other pioneers learning from one another, and visiting various mission projects in London on weekends to be inspired by what others were doing.

Students said they now could see differently, had learned pioneering tips for getting started, saw a much bigger picture, had been disturbed in a good way. Phil Hoyle, Mark Bishop, Idina Dunmore and Johnny Sertin, the team who led the hub, all contributed to the evening.

St Edmund the King was laid out beautifully with round tables with Christmas decorations and origami birds suspended over the space. They were a symbol of joining the murmuration of the Spirit and setting dreams to flight. Everyone added birds to the murmuration to pray for the pioneers and to join the murmuration of the Spirit.

As well as being given certificates for completing the year students were given a ceramic feather as a sign to remind them of the call to let their dreams fly.

The pioneer call

I offered a reflection on how Jesus’ ministry in Mark’s Gospel moved between different spaces – synagogue, home, crowd and margins. The last of those was with those who were at the edges as in the case with Levi the tax collector who was viewed as scum buy the religious leaders of the day (according the the NLT translation in Mark 2).

Jesus usually enabled something new to happen in their culture or home rather than expecting them to come and join in with what others were doing. So in Levi’s case he invited his (also despised) friends and Jesus ends up at the centre of the party sharing good news with the despised.

The pioneer gift or call is often to this kind of edge and spaces. But also pioneers should expect to find themselves moving between all of those spaces in the same way that Jesus did.

Bishop Ric Thorpe presented certificates and shared how delighted he was and how much the church in London needs more pioneers.

Apply for January 2020

London School of Pioneers is starting a second intake of students in mid January. All the teaching is Saturdays and evenings so that people working full time can join.

If you want to do some learning about mission and pioneering in London today and if you are involved or wanting to get involved in something new to reach out in your community in some way then see the attached flyer. Don’t be put off by cost – bursaries are available.

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