Jenny Bourne completed the undergraduate certificate course in 2021. I caught up with her to hear about her experience with CMS and how her pioneer story is unfolding.
HH: You graduated last December, 2021, after spending two years doing the undergraduate certificate with us. Can you say a bit about your context and where you were when you started and ended study.
JB: I work for the Ark which is a pioneering initiative and we are part of the Methodist Church in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire Circuit. I have been with the Ark since the beginning, 10 years ago.
When I spoke to you about the course, a while ago, you said that the course helped you to feel rooted. Can you say more about that?
I have felt for a long time a bit like an imposter as I came from a youth and community background and have had not theological training. I suppose how I saw God and the church was a little at odds with the ‘establishment’ and so have often felt a bit out of step. The course helped me to feel a little more courageous as I found a language to communicate what I was seeing and feeling. I also feel more like me, if that makes any sense. This journey that we are on both as a pioneer and when at CMS enables each of us to look at ourselves and discover some more of who we are becoming. It is transformative.
Great, I know you enjoyed the course. What were the most significant things you learnt in study with us?
I loved the mission and evangelism module, it all just made sense in my brain and liberated God from buildings and into the world – hooray! The reflective theology module helped me to realise that you do not have to be able to quote the Bible word for word in order to ‘do theology’ – who knew it I had been doing theology all along in context. I found all the modules interesting and challenging, but some of them I felt that I needed more time. The introduction to the Bible was fascinating but I felt often out of my depth – but that is because I just wanted to know more or know why. I needed an introduction to the introduction.
Most significantly, despite the challenges I learnt so much and gained enormously from the support of the staff team. Jonny helped me on so many occasions to settle my brain and structure my sometimes jumbled thoughts. The whole staff team were just amazing, supportive and kind. To be in an environment that enabled each person to be more fully themselves was a unique experience so thank you.
We have talked about making the pioneer people in churches visible, can you tell us more about that?
In my context I have been talking about the need for pioneering to be central to our calling and our work. For too long the work of a pioneer has kind of been an afterthought or something that has been funded for a few years. We know now that to do this well, takes time and real intentionality. Pioneering is a calling in the same way as other forms of ministry and it is vital at this time. The world is changing so much and it feels so rapidly, that we need people who can work in community, form relationships and work out where God is in that context. We need people who are adaptable and creative and so in Bristol and South Gloucestershire we spend a great deal of time searching for those who have pioneering tendencies. I hope and trust that pioneering enables those within our current church structures to glimpse what the future looks like and those with whom we spend time within community that God is already there in their lives rooting for them. I believe that all these endeavours are just the next bit of the story.
What’s next for you, Jenny, how do you think your work will develop?
I have come to appreciate how totally I have to lean into my faith and trust that even though I do not see the whole picture, sometimes not even the next step, that everything that we do is all leading to something. I think that I have come to accept that the work of the Ark may just be a step along the route and act as part of the disruption required to the established Church structure and a bit of a search engine for what may be possible. God continually surprises me. In addition to all things Ark, I feel that God is calling me out to new adventures so I am starting a new challenge working for a youth organisation in the Stroud and Cotswold area. It’s a short term contract but I am excited to see what possibilities are out there in this role.
How can we pray for you?
For continued strength, enthusiasm and courage. Sometimes being on the edge is hard going. Also, for my wonderful team and all the communities where we are based.