It’s been almost five years since launch of the first CMS pioneer hub – the St Cedd Centre for Pioneer Mission – in partnership with the Diocese of Chelmsford. David Hague, vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Romford, where St Cedd’s has been incubated, reflects on what we’ve learned.
It was All Saints’ Day 2015, when the St Cedd Centre for Pioneer Mission was launched at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Romford. Something symbiotic was going on. The Diocese of Chelmsford was wanting to develop lay pioneer ministry and the Church Mission Society had a vision to develop pioneer hubs away from Oxford. As such a partnership was born.
Since then two cohorts of lay pioneers have been through the formation with 26 authorised by the bishop. What have we been learning? Many of the learning points begin with a ‘C’, which fits well with Cedd, CMS and Chelmsford!
Our students have come from a wide variety of local settings across the diocese, from multi-faith inner East London parishes to Essex towns, large and small. Practice has covered the pioneer spectrum from adapters to innovators and activists: messy church given space to be a place of faith enquiry; reaching marginalised women from different faith backgrounds; the launch of an ethical fashion brand.
Not a term I like – but recognising that Christians have a variety of perspectives on the faith. The good news has been that a broad range of traditions have been attracted to the pioneer programme. The desire to pioneer has been the determining factor. Looking through the lens of mission brings new revelation about God to all. Joining in God’s mission actually enhances unity.
Church paradigm shift
It can take the full period of the formation period (so far this has been over 18 months) for most participants to ‘undo’ their inherited understanding of church, even for many who would consider themselves to be passionate to take the Good News beyond the walls of the church and Sunday services. It has been great to see folk integrate the knowledge and for it to drop into their spirit.
St Cedd’s is more than a course. it is an evolving learning community. Educational experience is often geared towards gaining knowledge and passing exams with a good mark. This has required a re-think by the pioneers to realise that they each bring something to the table and learn from one another. The shift has been from an assignment mentality to reflective practice as a prime way of learning.
Commitment – and clash of time
Life has become incredibly busy for many of us. With so many things to do, it makes commitment a challenge. Over the period of each course the value and joy of coming together became apparent. Each cohort became less of a collection of individuals, and more a coherent gathering. Pioneering requires time. We now ask, what will you put down in order to pioneer?
We have established the St Cedd Community as a network of belonging for our pioneers. Currently we are having a pause in recruiting a third cohort, in order to establish a strong foundation for ongoing support and continuing learning and development of the pioneers who have already been authorised. A light-touch rule of life is being established to steward the pioneer energy. A central principle for pioneer practice in the community is ‘curate – create – evaluate’. We hope our next cohort of pioneers will join the community from the very beginning.
In order to establish new, sustainable and growing Christian communities we are learning that a team approach is required. Pioneer ministry does not replace other ministries, but complements them. How best can we develop the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to collaborate in the five-fold gifting of Ephesians 4:11?
Calling to more shapes of pioneer ministry
The St Cedd programme has provided a channel through which God’s voice is being heard, with two pioneers being selected for ordained pioneer ministry and another doing the full diploma at CMS Oxford. Of course hearing the Lord and responding is central to pioneer ministry of all shapes. Perhaps we can input more on discerning the Holy Spirit. Related to this could be material on the spiritual conflict that occurs as we push the boundaries for the extension of God’s coming Kingdom.
Creation of more hubs
We are delighted that our partnership with CMS pioneered the way with CMS establishing hubs in more dioceses. We are seeing organic growth locally too, by observing that some of our pioneers live in geographic clusters. Can these be developed as local learning communities in line with an emerging diocesan vision to establish a pioneer hub in each of our seven archdeaconries under the banner of a diocesan College of Pioneers?
It had to feature! Our first virtual St Cedd Community meeting worked really well, with a great attendance and participation. Should we do more of this when the pandemic is over, or will we have had enough ‘zooming’? What might be the best blend and balance of virtual and face to face learning?
At the St Cedd Centre we are so grateful to the Lord for all he continues to teach us and our hope is we have made a small contribution to the growing pioneer scene nationally.