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CMS pioneer scoops MA mission prize

Huge congratulations go to CMS graduate Rachel Summers who has won the 2024 Churches Together in England MA Prize in mission, evangelism and church planting.

Announced earlier this month, Rachel won with her dissertation on Ethiopian Church Forests and their missional lessons for East London churchyards.

Rachel is a pioneer curate and Forest School practitioner based in Walthamstow, East London. She completed her Master’s degree with CMS Pioneer Mission Training in 2023.

She became well-known during lockdown for her inspirational tree commentaries chalked onto Walthamstow pavements.

“It is increasingly clear,” writes Rachel in the latest issue of CMS’S ANVIL journal, “that for the continuation of life on Earth and our more authentic discipleship, we must develop a theology that embraces and helps us make sense of ecological issues.”

Nevertheless, the topic of her thesis was surprising, said Dr Marina Behera from the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, one of the judges. “Church Forests in Ethiopia in dialogue with church gardens in East London wasn’t a theme I was expecting!” she told the CTE website. “Rachel’s intercultural approach, bringing together Christians from different contexts, is an important aspect of an intercultural mission theology that does not simply talk about how to reach out to others.”

This global edge was a direct result of studying with CMS, Rachel says.

“The global nature of theology that CMS has at its heart encouraged me to look outside of Western theology when looking for wisdom to engage with churches and their outside spaces.

“It is second nature at CMS to introduce students to a wide range of theologians from across the world and different cultural backgrounds.

“Having already used African theologians to reflect on my own missional context, it felt obvious to me to look wider than Western theology when constructing my thesis. This is a real strength of the theological education that CMS can offer.”

Dr James Butler, MA tutor at CMS, adds: “Congratulations to Rachel on receiving this prize. It was great to see her work recognised by the judges. It is a fascinating piece of work!”

The prize is £100 cash and the opportunity to work with the Ecclesial Futures journal of Radboud University Press in the Netherlands to have her thesis reshaped for publication in 2025.

The current issue of ANVIL journal of theology and mission features an article by Rachel based on her dissertation and you can read the whole thing in the CTE Mission Research Library, which currently has close to 130 MAs and PhDs on mission-related topics with a particular geographical focus on the UK and Ireland.

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