Always unity – interview with Liz Matthews

“Our primary focus is always unity in the Body of Christ,” says Liz Matthews of her work gathering women of all backgrounds for prayer in Derby. I asked Liz about her work and her experience studying with CMS in Oxford, where she recently finished a Certificate in Theology, Ministry and Mission.

HH: Can you tell me what first brought you to join the Pioneer study with us here at CMS in Oxford?

LM: Among other things I am a volunteer school chaplain at a local primary school. I had been talking to my pastoral supervisor and expressing my frustration about the lack of success I’d had in seeking support and supervision through the diocese for a pioneering prayer ministry I’d started some years before. She enthusiastically suggested I apply for the CMS pioneer course. Although I was reluctant, as I had no interest in embarking on academic study I decided to apply and accept the challenge.

HH: What has your journey of study with CMS in Oxford been like over the last two years, please?

LM: The first module, Practical Theology and Theological Reflection, was the hardest for me as it was over 35 years since I’d written an essay. On top of that I struggled with the whole concept of theology but with encouragement and help from my tutors I managed it.

The next module, Mission and Evangelism, included a residential weekend. I began to relax as I got to know the other students. I also enjoyed the practical content of this module – visiting a place of another culture and surprised myself by how much I wanted to read on the subject. The further modules were equally stimulating each offering something of particular interest to me. While I didn’t welcome writing them, the assignments were essential for me in consolidating learning and I am grateful to God for the opportunity that the course has given me to do this.

HH: After this journey, where are your dreams and hopes for mission and pioneering going now?

LM: For me, this is now the big question. Before lockdown my husband, Dave, who recently retired, and I left the Anglican church we’d been members of for the past 12 years but without knowing the next step. One of the reasons for this was that we wanted to be in a place where prayer and mission is a priority. During lockdown we joined online worship services at a church with a strong missional vision. As a result of sharing their vision and passion we decided to become members. We have yet to discover what this will mean for us in terms of mission here or elsewhere.

HH: Can you tell me a bit about the Derby Christian Women’s Network and the work you have been doing there?

LM: In July 2013 I and a local Baptist minister held a Women’s Prayer Day with the specific intention to attract Christian women from any denomination, nationality or background to unite together to pray for our city and nation.

Over the years I had become increasingly concerned by the lack of black church representation at regular city-wide ‘united’ events. Since that first prayer day seven years ago, we have held three prayer days a year with women attending from many different local congregations including some of the smaller lesser known BAME churches. It has been such a blessing to see women excited about meeting together in unity. In addition Derby Christian Women’s Network now has a Facebook group with a following of over 300 women. There are five of us on the leadership and planning team, each from different traditions but all with a passion for Jesus. While each prayer day has had a particular focus, our primary focus is always unity in the Body of Christ, a call which seems all the more pertinent in light of the abuses of power illuminated by the Black Lives Matter movement.

HH: So Liz, what does the future hold for you, or at least what are you hoping for?

LM: This is undoubtedly a time of uncertainty and change and I am open to what God has for me in the future. I remain passionate about unity in the body of Christ. Through Derby Christian Women’s Network I have journeyed through various Christian cross-cultural issues. I hope that I will be able to share something of these experiences to further encourage unity both here in Derby and elsewhere.

It has been a pleasure to be a chaplain over the past few years and while I would like to continue in this ministry I think there might be something completely different on the horizon.

HH: Finally, Liz, how can we pray for you?

LM: Please pray that I will go deeper with God in this season so that I may be ready to follow His lead for whatever He has for me in the future.

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