Graduate Ali Middleton talks to UCB Media about the course:
Church Mission Society graduation signals growth in numbers choosing pioneer ministry route to ordination
The Church Mission Society’s Pioneer Mission Leadership Training programme has again seen an increase in numbers, and this year’s graduation ceremony, which took place on Tuesday 11 July at CMS House in Oxford, marked another step forward as 24 students received Durham University awards signifying the completion of their studies in theology, ministry and mission.
The Bishop of Reading, the Rt Rev Andrew Proud, officiated at the ceremony. He said, “Pioneer leaders have an exciting, pivotal role to play in helping us communicate the love of God to an often confused, hurting and divided world. The growth of the CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training programme shows how many people are choosing a pioneer route to ordination and stands as real testament to the quality of CMS’s training programme.”
The pioneers included some being ordained into the Church of England as Deacons or admitted to the order of Lay Pioneers. The group represented an eclectic mix of missionaries, drawn together by a common desire to share Jesus with all parts of society and see lives changed.
The Pioneer Mission Leadership programme, which was first established in 2010, is a creative way of equipping and mobilising Christians for ground-breaking, transformational and sustainable mission. Jonny Baker, director of mission education at CMS, explained how the programme has been designed to provide a diverse approach to training pioneers. “The course gives pioneers, who often display ‘the gift of not fitting in’, a supportive learning community – a place to belong, as well as equipping and empowering them to initiate and follow through with mission projects that have a wider impact on the church and society.”
Janice Hamilton, who graduated with a Diploma in Theology, Ministry and Mission, is currently involved in a community regeneration project in Sedbury, Gloucestershire, to re-model and refurbish a disused youth club that organisers hope will draw the local community together and provide access to local services and expertise. Overall, the project will cost £55,000 and the team have launched a crowdfunding initiative, as well as seeking funding from local sources.
Pioneer Libby Hawkness-Smith lives in Oxfordshire and heads up Journey On,a community for people with learning difficulties such as autism and anxiety. Libby said, “Like so much of society the church can be unintentionally patronising for people with autism, but a lot of people want to be challenged, they just need someone to help them build up to a challenge.”
Claire Elwood, another Theology, Ministry and Mission Diploma graduate, is involved in Tea and Toast, an outreach initiative to students in Nottingham’s city centre. Every Friday night after the clubs have shut, the team offers revellers hot drinks, friendship and support to those in distress, and if the situation allows it, they take the opportunity to share their faith.
The Church of England has recognised that pioneers are vital for the future of the church and Church Mission Society’s Pioneer Mission Leadership Training programme provides a designated pathway for ordination as an ordained pioneer minister (OPM) – alongside the more traditional routes for teachers and pastors.
Throughout the training programme, students complete a range of modules including mission in contemporary society, cross cultural engagement, leadership, pastoral care and entrepreneurship in mission. Students are encouraged to enlist the support of a mentor, and to supplement what they learn in the classroom by attending an annual retreat, starting additional projects and visiting existing pioneer community projects.
Jonny Baker concluded: “Mission pioneers are giving the church a glimpse of the future, where mission will not be delivered solely by large para-church organisations, but increasingly through agile, innovative and creative pioneers, witnessing love in action.”
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Find out more about CMS’s Pioneer Mission Leadership Training programme
Updated 17 July 2017 to add the audio interview with Ali Middleton.