Transcending barriers – and I found a home! Interview with Jerry Marshall

Jerry Marshall with Burundian leaders on a 'training the trainers' course on enterprise solutions to poverty

Helen Harwood talks to entrepreneur and MA student Jerry Marshall about his wide-ranging business activity and the contribution studying at CMS has made to this.

HH: Jerry, I know you were a last minute student, what was it that caught your attention about the course and led you to sign up?

JM: A friend recently completed the undergraduate programme and was very positive about it. I explored this as an alternative to my diocese’s standard LLM training. But when I called, you wisely suggested I consider the MA. I thought the syllabus was particularly relevant to me and the work load seemed more doable in a busy schedule.

Glad to be of assistance! I know the Pioneer MA module on anthropology and mission led you to a “Participant Observation” assignment with your church toddlers’ group. How did that help you? 

I thought anthropology was about studying tribes in Borneo but our toddlers’ group was the next best thing. My church saw this thriving group as a funnel to our new Café Church and to Alpha. The “Participant Observation” exercise taught me a lot about how toddler group parents / grandparents saw church and how best to break down barriers and encourage next steps in faith. I also now approach new groups with a “Participant Observation” mindset and enjoy trying to see what is really going on under the surface.

I believe the assignment also helped you think through approaches to mission in Palestine, where you have a business venture. Can you tell us more about your business venture and how the assignment helped you?

In 2012 I set up an “impact business” in Bethlehem with a Christian Palestinian. It’s a contact centre called Transcend which aims to transcend barriers, provide jobs even in a curfew or lockdown, model integrity and gender equality, and bring hope. For one assignment, I chose to review the Palestinian / Israeli film Five Broken Cameras, which is in effect an “autoethnographic” study [analysing a culture through personal experience – for more, see Anvil Journal vol 36 issue 1]. This gave me an inside understanding of the Palestinian village culture, from which I was able to identify appropriate missional strategies.

I am so glad to hear that you are working to transcend barriers, we need much more of that in the world. How do you plan to use the forthcoming Mission assignment to develop a resource?

I’ve been invited to deliver a session at Cliff College for an Arthur Rank Centre programme on creative and entrepreneurial church leadership. I love translating entrepreneurship into a church context and I’m now looking forward to using this assignment to develop a properly documented resource on entrepreneurial mission, building in learning I’ve picked up in the current module.

That sounds great. Don’t forget CMS’s Make Good mission entrepreneurship module in the Autumn! It’s an undergraduate module but can be studied on a standalone basis.

I understand you recently spent two days training church leaders in Burundi on the theology and practice of enterprise solutions to poverty. In what ways did studying for the MA help?

My work in Africa was another reason for doing the MA. It is certainly giving me a better understanding of different approaches to mission and a greater cultural awareness. Equally important, it helps banish the “imposter syndrome”: I know about starting and helping others start businesses in Africa but as a lay person I can now speak more confidently on theological issues around enterprise and entrepreneurship.

It sounds like you are transcending barriers in your own life too! Any other reflections?

It was the right decision. It’s great to meet others and I like the way they challenge my thinking. CMS do hybrid really well so I can attend in person or online (I do a bit of both). I like that we connect with those doing the African Christianity MA. Overall, I feel I have found a home, pioneering seems to cover all the slightly weird things I get up to.

With all that is going on, how can we pray for you?

Thanks. Please pray for the CEO and Board of the business in Bethlehem. Transcend has struggled for the last two years and the number of staff has halved to around 70. We were turning a corner but the current situation makes life very hard in the West Bank. Pray too for an event I’ve set up in London, “From Handouts to Handshakes”, that the right delegates come and costs are covered!

Leave a comment

Cookie Configuration

We use cookies on our website to ensure you have the best browsing experience. Read our Privacy Policy for more information.

These cookies are necessary for the function of the website and cannot be disabled. They are used to save your preferences as you interact with our website, such as your cookie settings.

These cookies allow us to measure traffic on our website. They help us to know which pages are popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous.

These cookies are required for some of the core functionality of the website. They are set by third party content providers, such as video players and maps. If disabled, these content providers will not be loaded.


We use cookies on our website to ensure you have the best browsing experience. Read our Privacy Policy for more information.

Configure Cookies Accept