Bridget Shepherd was bored of church – and she was the vicar! Here she reflects on how studying for an MA with CMS Pioneer Mission Training has given her an alternative perspective.
In September 2022 I started the MA in Pioneer Ministry. I started it because I was feeling bored – bored of church, bored of the same old sermons, and bored of doing the same things every year. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling bored of church, but it never helps when you’re the vicar and you’re bored of your own church and bored by yourself!
I’d gone on a retreat earlier that year, and recognised that I needed some new food for thought. I struggle to make space for academic reading during my working week, and thought it would be useful to have an essay deadline to make me hit the books. I was also hoping that the course would inspire me to change my practice, and to find some new ways of doing things. What I hadn’t anticipated was that it would help me to look at my community and my ministry in a new way.
The content of the course includes a wide range of contributors and perspectives, as well as other students working in different countries and contexts. Hearing their insights has helped to challenge my own ideas as someone who is Western, white, and holds (relatively speaking!) a lot of power within the institution of the church. It’s been a breath of fresh air to be challenged, and to be made to think in new ways.
As a result of the course I’ve found myself doing some surprising things, like stopping street preachers mid-flow to talk about the power of the Holy Spirit; I’ve visited other local churches to learn about their approaches to mission; I’ve written about the spiritual power of cold water swimming; and I’m even feeling inspired by the idea of working together as a deanery. That must be God as no one ever feels inspired about deaneries…
I haven’t started any innovative new projects, but I know that I’m seeing things in a new way, and that’s shaping the way I lead the church and think about my role as vicar.
I hope that this renewed way of thinking can bring new life to an old church.