There has been a lot of talk in church circles of a ‘mixed ecology’ of church. With Greg Bakker (Portsmouth Diocese’s dean of pioneer ministry), Tina Hodgett helped create a series of webinars to help churches make this a reality. Now they are ready to tell the stories!
There are occasionally moments in pioneering when it feels as if you’re riding a wave. Doors open in front of you; there’s no sense of struggle, just of ease. The struggle and disorientation will come later, you are sure; but for now there’s just a flow to join in with and a gratitude that you don’t have to strive.
At one Greenbelt Festival some years ago, I found myself listening to the poet-priest John O’Donohue’s gentle Irish lilt under the big blue Cheltenham sky. He spoke powerfully of the river of God that was constantly in flow; we just needed to get into it.
These periods of feeling you’re riding a wave are like that. It is as if the future is mysteriously coming towards you and all you have to do is to find your balance in relation to it, and let it take you where it will.
Since Greg Bakker responded to the first Covid lockdown by approaching a colleague (me!) to put together a series of webinars in response to the challenges of the moment, Pioneering Parishes has often seemed to be graced by this kind of flow. It has been welcomed by participants from a variety of different quarters, attracted support from people of influence and gained the attention of people who are willing to volunteer their advocacy and expertise to help it grow.
Pioneering Parishes takes seriously the idea that pioneering is integral to healthy parish life. In traditional priestly terminology, it allows parish priests (and other church leaders) to extend the cure of souls to people from a wider range of backgrounds, people who are as yet unconnected with the life of faith. Pioneering Parishes: Starting Out offers lenses, postures, practices and tools to enable churches to become more pioneering and develop a mixed ecology of church.
Recently a second webinar series was piloted to complement the first. Pioneering Parishes: Next Steps facilitates a space for church leadership teams to share their experience and wisdom in enabling culture change and shifting the energy of the church outwards into the community.
September sees the launch of a third part of the Pioneering Parishes offer: Storytelling. Alongside the two webinar series this monthly gathering will aim to foster a learning community for people who want to make pioneering integral to parish life.
The first Pioneering Parishes Storytelling space will be online on Wednesday 21 September from 7.45pm to 9pm. Johnny Sertin, our first guest storyteller, will share the story of the parish where he is based in Earlsfield, London, and how it has developed a mixed ecology over a number of years. You would be most welcome to join us.
We will open this space every third Wednesday of the month from September with a different guest. If you’d like to meet fellow learners, hear from practitioners of pioneering in the parish, ask questions, share your own wisdom and help create the future with us, please email Tina.Hodgett@churchmissionsociety.org