I have been blown away – interview with Joanna Criscenti

group seated in circle around a circular raised bed under a large gazebo

"The communion service with Rev Cath on the allotment was such a welcoming, affirming space"

This month I talked to Joanna Criscenti, a pioneer ordinand and first year MA student, about her experience of learning at CMS and a rather special MA course weekend away.

HH: Can you tell me a bit about your context, please?

Portrait of Joanna Criscenti
“I absolutely love everything about CMS.” – Joanna Criscenti

JC: I am a full-time context-based ordinand for the Church of England and my benefice is called Avon Valley Churches; it is a group of 7 churches in the New Forest in Hampshire. I have been there since July 2018 and before training I was the Youth, Children and Families development worker.

How did you come to join CMS as a pioneer ordinand MA student?

I applied to do the DTh at Roehampton because I had finished doing an MA with Moorlands College in Applied Theology. It was suggested that I take the MA programme which would leave me freer during my curacy. When I attended the open day, I saw the first slide – ‘Fitting in is overrated’ – and I knew this was the place for me.

And how are you finding your time with, us what are you learning so far?

I absolutely love everything about CMS. The staff, other students and of course, my study programme. I feel so blessed to be able to connect with the voices of the global church and to hear how things can be replicated to the glory of God in completely different areas.

I have been humbled by hearing real life stories of how God has moved in the face of colonization and globalization and how we can, as pioneers, give God an opportunity in the contexts we find ourselves in.

By taking part in God’s mission using context and people to inspire us, we learn to use the blessings of our every day when training for ministry rather than using pre-existing structures to teach us the way to go.

I have been blown away by the exciting approach to the teaching and learning experience that CMS offers.

I was recently in a pastoral situation where I was chatting to someone which enabled them to describe their ancestry and how proud they were of it. I know this would not have been possible, were it not for being at CMS and developing skills of listening and responding to actually hear what this person said. It is a privilege to enable others to celebrate themselves and the joy of who they are in contexts which can prevent them from doing so.

You just went on the MA weekend, a free weekend open to all MA students. Can you tell us what you did and how you found it?

We went to Derby for a weekend and I enjoyed it all. I have never been to Christian camps, youth camps, or any organised events of this kind and I loved the opportunity to connect with Christians who operate mainly outside of a church building.

Smiling group pose, some in fancy dress
“Saturday breakfast. The helpers were dressed up as princes and princesses, which we would have loved to do as well(!). The atmosphere was lovely.” Jo (second from left) with hosts on the MA weekend away

The communion service with Rev Cath on the allotment [main picture] was such a welcoming, affirming space where I had the joy of sharing communion with an amazing group of people and enjoying hot dogs and doughnuts! Seeing people join together in an outside space to share worship gave me an experience of what it must have been like for the early church, meeting together in a variety of places with the same goal, to share Jesus with people they loved. It reminded me of the Bible verse from John 13:35 – “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

I was also in awe of the true sense of radical hospitality I witnessed on that weekend. One of our leaders was ill and another former student from CMS opened their home to welcome us instead. We saw how churches were used to share Jesus’ love as well as how this could be done on an allotment, in a garden, in a mission house. As pioneers, we are shaped by our desire to bring God’s communities back to life.

What was your highlight of the weekend?

Apart from all our planned visits, which were amazing, I loved being with the other MA students. Their passion and enthusiasm for mission as well as their deep-rooted faith and the mind-blowing projects they are all involved in as pioneers inspires me every day. It was a joy and privilege to share my weekend listening to their stories and receiving their encouragement.

Finally, Jo, how can we pray for you?

I have struggled in believing my own calling to ministry. It has taken me a long time to believe it. I would love you to pray for my final year of training and for my family who are supporting me, and for my teenagers who will be taking GCSEs and A-levels.

Next year is going to be busy and very exciting at the same time!

If you are interested in studying with us for a pioneer qualification, whether a certificate, degree, or doctoral programme – or perhaps just to try out a module – then please do get in touch at pioneer@churchmissionsociety.org 

It’s not too late to start in September!

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ANVIL journal of theology and mission

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