What does a church in mission look like and how will we recognise it? We’ll learn about the mission-shaped church report, how the idea of Fresh Expressions grew from that and hear the stories of new Christian communities that have been birthed and shaped by these initiatives. You will discuss what makes something ‘church’, go on the ‘Fresh Expressions journey’ and think about how we might evaluate the success and authenticity of new church plants or fresh expressions of church. There will also be an opportunity to explore what worship, discipleship and developing different people’s ministry giftings might look like in the new ways there are of being a missional church.
Here is a summary of the Missional Church weekend by Revd Tracey Hallett, Bath and Wells Holy Rumpus course animator 2019/2020;
A window into a weekend of inspiring opportunity to hear how pioneers from Bath and Wells live to tell the story!
The fifth weekend in the Certificate for Pioneer Mission course took place around Tone Deanery: as pilgrims on a journey we started in St John’s, Wellington, spending the day talking about what it means to be church: one, holy, apostolic, and catholic. We heard stories of new forms of church that are structured around these necessary features. At the end of the day we journeyed to St Martin’s, Wiveliscombe for their usual generous hospitality and our delicious evening meal cooked by two of the course members. Some of us were staying locally with members of Tone Deanery churches and after dinner we sat out under the stars with hot chocolate in Helene Stainer’s garden (she’s the Area Dean and holds a meditation in her garden every fourth Sunday). Huge thanks to those who put us up (my overnight stay was amazing – a joy! – with self-giving, interesting hosts). On Sunday morning it was off to Bishop’s Lydeard’s Upper Room for worship and talk about monastic communities in 21st century mode, and a beautiful imaginative agape meal playing in the metaphor of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Read on for more detail… stories of Lindsay Smith and The Garden, the agape, the Pioneer Spectrum and Decumen Bear.
I am called to be muddy!!!!
Lindsay Smith shared her story of how God is calling her to be an ordained pioneer minister. It was inspirational to learn of an ecumenical blessing which began with Lindsay having “various unconnected reasons to meet” another Lindsay (Lindsay C), who is a Baptist Regional Minster seeking to bless Portishead. Interestingly, Lindsay C had been in conversation with the local GP surgery where the Practice Manager had explained that the partners wanted to use land belonging to the surgery for a community garden.
The hope is that the garden will offer a space for social prescribing where health professionals refer people to non-clinical services in community, activities like walking, gardening, meditation, community cafes – as these will help in some cases much more than medication. The aim of The Garden is to “improve the health and wellbeing of many, including but not restricted to older people, those who are lonely and those struggling with mental or emotional health issues”. Lindsay explained that the surgery had no-one who could cultivate such a garden or be a regular presence within it so, Lindsay C was asked whether she could help.
Lindsay C went away to ponder and pray. As we listened to Tina asking Lindsay S about her experience, goosebumps and the tingle of hairs on the back of our necks standing on edge, we sensed the mission of God – the Missio-dei at work. We heard how over a pot of tea the two Lindsays were getting to know each other. Lindsay S had shared with Lindsay C how she was feeling called to ordained pioneer ministry, but to also stay within Portishead, she mentioned how she it loved gardening and was horticulturally trained. Shortly after this Lindsay S, who is becoming known as the person who has a calling to be muddy (!) received wonderful news that she had been selected to train for ordained pioneer ministry.
And so, although currently in its early stages, The Garden is beginning to be birthed and it is hoped that this will become a contextual training placement for Lindsay. It is fabulous that Lindsay C, who has a specialism in pioneering new forms of Church will supervise Lindsay S in this part of her training. The two Lindsays’ vision is wider than social prescribing. Lindsay S says, ‘We want The Garden to be a place where anyone can come, knowing that it is a place where it’s ok not to be ok, and also somewhere that anyone is welcome to wander, enjoy the garden, the space, or simply “be” – and hopefully one day get a cuppa and a bit of cake!’
What a beautiful vision this is and as the two Lindsays continue to dream and pray, Lindsay S says, ‘The garden project will be an imperfect community garden with Jesus at its centre. A place of Shalom offering peace, wholeness and harmonious growth.’ Watch this space as the story unfolds!
The adventures of Decuman Bear
Our friend Decuman is learning how to pioneer as he travels into new land with his fellow pilgrim Donna Marsden! By creating a diary, Decuman is helping Donna’s Church community at St Decuman’s understand her pioneer adventures. During the Missional Church module, Decuman helped Donna become aware that her Little Saints toddler group is on the Fresh Expression of Church journey. Decuman and Donna shared a lightbulb moment when they recognised their experience with Little Saints involves listening, loving, community, sharing Jesus and as such is an expression of Church. Decuman particularly enjoyed the various styles of worship that punctuated our weekend together. He engaged in morning worship and experience the effectiveness of using the 4A’s: Await, Allow, Accept and Attend. These words and associated actions offered an awakening yet contemplative prayer experience.
The Pioneer Spectrum
The weekend, as always with the CMS pioneer certificate course, had a holistic wholesomeness about it. There is trust and mutuality across the group and each of us were able to be vulnerable with each other as we considered what it is to be Missional Church in contextually appropriate expressions of pioneer ministry. As we shared our stories of joy, pain, frustrations and success, the Pioneer Spectrum was music to many ears! Not all pioneers are alike or have the same call or vision or personality or understanding of what God is up to in the world.
Being able to place ourselves on a spectrum really enabled a sense of affirmation for those who had previously been concerned that even when feeling they do not fit into certain models of Church; they were also doubting themselves as being able to qualify as a pioneer. There is always a huge sense of relief as people begin to understand where they could locate themselves within the spectrum. This was a gift to experience! You can find out more about the spectrum of ways of pioneering here:
Alice in Wonderland and Apt Liturgy
There was such awe and wonder within the whole group when Kathryn introduced an Alice in Wonderland agape meal with specially adapted liturgy. We were all taken by surprise as she had created a special service that connected with each of us in the moment: it met us individually and corporately in our need, it hit right at the heart of our humanity! I am sure I am not alone in saying that the agape we shared and the liturgy we heard was full of the divinity of God.
Sharing in the intimacy of this agape offered each of us some space and time to draw closer to God and each other, as we accepted the most awesome invitation to experience the transcendence of God with us in community.
To conclude: when considering the essence of this weekend, one of the pioneers said “The agape was a real highlight for me; a beautiful way of sharing together with some very thought provoking liturgy. I have always struggled with communion not being open to everyone to share, meaning that you have to be confirmed first. Sharing an agape meal like this was a beautiful way to keep reverence and meaning yet enable full inclusivity”.