Minister’s Letter

I attended a talk last night given by Jonny Baker, who is employed by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) to facilitate pioneer ministry within the church. It was an interesting overview of Pioneer Ministry although there wasn’t anything particularly new that I learnt. That said,
it was good to meet with 35 other people who were interested in the topic. We actually met in the new building on the edge of Heavitree Park known as Parklife. One of the revelations of the evening was the discovery that Parklife started as an embryo of an idea back in 2007. Someone recognised that a park remains a meeting place for people, a place to pause and converse beyond a brief “hello”. The idea came from one individual reading a book. The book sparked an idea, the idea generated an action in facilitating community. Initially that showed itself in providing free coffee and cake to those that gathered in the park. They then had the idea of purchasing an ice cream van, to be a focal point for conversation. Yet the more the initial idea was talked about the more traction it had. The community needed a place to meet, to exercise and just be together. The culmination of this was during Lockdown etc., Parklife started to emerge in the corner of the park. Funders, councils and other interested bodies all bought into this concept, yet it was started with one Christian reading a book and making the idea that was formed to be real for his community.

In the very room where we met we had a perfect example of what Pioneering is all about. It doesn’t have to be as grandiose as that. Helen Fry who is a member of Tedburn St Mary Methodist Church has been on the Pioneer Pathway since just before lockdown began. There isn’t any intention to build a new facility in Tedburn but her pioneering takes her outside the church to the meeting points of the community such that she is a beacon of light and hope to the whole of the village.

Historically the model of church that we have adopted or defaulted into is the attractional model, where we do everything to the best of our ability, and in time people will find us and come. Yet one well publicized statistic of Fresh Expressions of church is that it doesn’t matter how well we present ourselves, 85% of the population will never attend our understanding of church. If we get everything right then at best we will reach just 15% of the population. The various initiatives started by the Connexional church endeavour to kick start connecting with the 85% that are currently missing. That investment takes time, and the evidence is that from the first idea to a sustainable experience on average it takes about ten years.

It could be that you have read a book recently that has sparked an idea. Or there may be a dissatisfaction within you that will not go away. You may not wish to call yourself a Pioneer but that thought may be of God and it needs to be explored and tested. I will be very happy to talk to you about such thoughts. Just to conclude, the individual

who was the catalyst of Parklife came up against countless hurdles, and plenty of people saying it couldn’t be done, but a comment towards the end of the evening was telling, for he said, “After the final “no” there’s always a yes”!

Happy Pioneering!