Nurturing communities through lockdown, L-R: Natalie Burfitt, Adam Gompertz, Tammy Oliver
We sometimes describe students on the CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training as “dreamers who do”, who see ways to turn God’s dreams for our world into reality. But during lockdown, some of our pioneers found themselves reimagining again in new circumstances…
Running and Relationships
Natalie Burfitt works on a new housing development, as part of a diocesan project using sport (including fun games and wellbeing) to connect with children, families and young people. Imagining what this could look like, Natalie focused on building relationships, earning trust and piloting one or two activities. She explains, “I’m not a sports minister – I’m a minister who likes running, cycling and fitness. We want to experiment with new ways of living the Kingdom and exploring faith.”
She comments: “One of the most fruitful things I’ve tried out is a couch-to-5K (C25K) running group. The first session attracted 20 and this settled to a group of about 12. There is lots about this course that models discipleship and community. You have to run three times a week, so there’s a commitment that goes beyond the weekly group meeting. Friendships have formed and people have become running buddies, with a culture of mutuality and encouragement. Several have commented on how the accountability of the group has got them through the course.
“Chatting helps the running go by so we were getting to know each other in anatural way. I told the group at the start that I’m a vicar and that they could ask me anything about that but that it was up to them.
“C25K is a nine-week course and we went in to lockdown at week seven. We stayed in touch via WhatsApp (although the actively engaged group reduced to about six people) and kept running. We hope one day we’ll be able to run our celebratory parkrun, as planned.”
Pioneer student Tammy Oliver and her husband, Jon, help to lead Monty’s community hub in Southampton. The team imagine the whole community enjoying abundant life in a flourishing neighbourhood – and create a space for that to happen through sharing life, getting active, making friends, learning skills, offering help and having fun. The organisation has a Christian ethos and welcomes those of all faiths and none.
Under normal circumstances Monty’s would be welcoming people of all ages to groups and community events throughout the week – but this had to stop during lockdown. So Tammy and the team had to reimagine their activities.
Like much of the rest of the world, some activities moved online. Zoom connections came about – from a lunch together to keep in touch, through youth and parent support groups, to Sunday night prayers that proved more accessible online than in person for those with children at home. They also shared ideas for kids’ activities, simple low-cost recipes, reflections and well-being tips on social media.
But not everything works online – so the team got to work collecting waste food from local shops for the community fridge and to cook into ready meals, delivering supplies to local people self-isolating or shielding. They also helped keyworkers to commute safely by offering free bike repairs and half price bikes at their Bike Hub.
As summer has progressed and lockdown eased, there has been more change, with community picnics, family walks and craft afternoons outdoors. And so as autumn approaches and the school term starts, the team begin imagining once again!
Pioneer vicar Adam Gompertz developed REVS, an initiative for classic car enthusiasts, during his time studying on CMS’s pioneer programme, bringing together his passion for cars and mission. But REVS normally involves gatherings, so how does this work in lockdown?
Enter REVS Limiter, a Facebook Live virtual event to lift people’s spirits, with video content from classic car enthusiasts, interviews and input from experts. The inaugural event in May attracted more than 3,000 people – far more than expected!
The event created a space to talk about mental health issues as well as cars. Adam, known to the REVS community as “The Rev”, explained: “Car-related themes of restoration, design and creation have a natural resonance. At each event I hear stories of people whose lives have been damaged. These classic car lovers need to know that God loves them.
“While REVS Limiter was not overtly spiritual, restoration is a key theme, as people speak about their motoring restoration projects as well as their own stories of hope, trial and restoration.” The event closed with a prayer and blessing, and Adam shared plans for future events to include a chance to send prayer requests.
Next came REVS Restored in June – another success with more than 5,000 people connecting. And at the time of writing, Adam and the team are working on REVS Refuelled and Ready, to run from Bicester Heritage (where Adam is chaplain and who have supported the event with space and expertise) on 12 September.
These events have connected with the classic car community way beyond expectations. Adam comments, “It’s not just me – there are so many people getting involved and not asking for anything in return.” The events have even been nominated for the lockdown initiative category at the Historic Motoring Awards!
Jonny Baker, CMS’s director of mission education, said: “Mission pioneers have responded to the coronavirus crisis with inspiring and progressive ideas. At a time when so many people are dealing with issues of isolation and wellbeing, this innovative mission can impact lives beyond the natural reach of the church.”