This summer the St Albans pioneer training hub celebrated its first graduation. Charles Porter was among those receiving his CMS Certificate in Pioneer Mission, and here he reflects on his experience of studying online and what the training has given him.
My name is Charles Porter, I am a licensed Reader for All Saints Church Leavesden in the Diocese of St Albans. I ran services in the Leavesden Green community centre for 25 years but due to closure of the centre the services stopped and returned to the parish church.
When the community centre was refurbished under the new owners (Watford Community Housing Trust) I wanted to restart something in that corner of the parish. So after discussions with the housing trust I now I currently run a morning coffee session called the Lighthouse Cafe, which is a joint project between All Saints Church Leavesden and the Watford Community Housing Trust.
The cafe runs every Monday morning from 10am to 12 noon during term time. Although this is a secular community project the volunteers are from the parish church and we hold a short service after we have completed the setup. We make no secret of this and often are still conducting our short service when the general public arrive. This is done deliberately as we cannot advertise the service because of the funding and aim of the project.
I decided to embark on the Pioneer training course to get new ideas and find new ways of doing things, so as I could expand our outreach in this particular corner of the parish and find ways to steer the Lighthouse Cafe into a more God-centred gathering, without breaching the agreement we have with our sponsors.
The Pioneer course was the first to be run in the St Albans diocese and because of the Covid-19 pandemic it was run completely online except for the final celebratory weekend.
I was a bit apprehensive of the course as an older man of 67, also I was worried about whether I would be out of place on the course as an established reader. However, I need not have worried as everyone was so friendly and although it was online we soon got to know each other. As I was used to writing essays my biggest challenge was coming up with new/radical ideas for each module’s demonstration of learning. This was a very enriching experience and broadened my horizons as to new ways of presenting things and engaging people. The course has helped me to put the things I do into their cultural context and be led by those attending.
One of the new ways I have introduced since being on the course is to restructure the worship at the beginning. Instead of using the standard Morning Prayer I have written a new short service which is more flexible and contributions from those taking part can be dynamically added, such as poems and choruses.
I would thoroughly recommend the course to anyone as not only have I refreshed my existing knowledge but I have learnt a lot. I have also gained a new network of people to share and swap ideas with.