Congratulations to the 23 people who yesterday celebrated their graduation from CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training, in the first ever – and we hope the last – Zoom-based graduation service.
It featured contributions from students as well as leading thinkers and tutors on the course, including Professor Steve Bevans from Chicago Theological Union, Berdine van den Toren-Lekkerkerker, CMS mission partner and lecturer, Dr Harvey Kwiyani, lecturer in African Christianity and Theology at Liverpool Hope University and Rev Dr Chan Nam Chen, executive director of Asia-CMS.
Harry Baker performed a poem specially written for the occasion and the Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, bishop of Truro, admitted five people into the CMS community and to the order of lay worker in the Church of England as CMS Pioneers. Bishop Philip said this was “not to control you but to license you to subvert the church”.
Harvey Kwiyani reminded students that their qualification was not just for them: “God has given you this qualification to help shape God’s community in the world.” Steve Bevans congratulated the graduates, saying they had participated in “one of the most interesting and creative programmes of theological education in the world and I hope you are proud of what you have achieved.”
He admitted that ministry today was difficult – with the Holy Spirit providing “tough grace” to call us to real repentance over ecological, racial and other injustice, but also “collateral grace” – signs of hope being expressed creatively by all sorts of people.
Nam Chen encouraged the new graduates that when the human need is greatest, that is when God will actively seek to meet his creation and its people at the point of their need, while Berdine reflected on the event’s theme of shifting sands using the wisdom of a real desert guide who advised: keep your eyes on the horizon to stay on course, but also pay close attention to what’s around you – to spot the green patches that tell you where fresh water is – and also, never to travel alone.
Students James Fox-Robinson and Crystal McAllister reflected on the course from the student’s point of view. James reflected on how the teaching had equipped him for life in general – with family and friends – as well as his “official” ministry.
Crystal, now a pioneer curate in Leicester diocese, shared how CMS had put flesh on the bones of her pioneering practice, giving her a language and the confidence to “play with the big kids”.
“Some of it was really tough but it was worth it in the end,” said Crystal, as she told her fellow students she planned to come back for more study.
“My time with CMS was like being part of a family. You prepared me well to go out and build God’s kingdom in a radical and exciting way and because of that I am able to support new and existing pioneers in my curacy role.”