Hundreds of pioneer Christian leaders from around the world are this week preparing for Gather, a ground-breaking virtual conference, being hosted by Church Mission Society on Wednesday 21 April 2021.
The event, a fusion of conference, festival and online experience, features workshops, interactive prayer spaces, storytelling and music venues, a beach and a woodland, packaged into a single virtual event.
Forced by the ongoing coronavirus restrictions to reconsider its annual Conversations Day, organisers developed Gather around the theme of “pioneer practice” and aim to provide people with an informative learning opportunity alongside an “authentic” festival experience. The day has drawn pioneer leaders from a variety of backgrounds and levels of experience, and offers practical tools, stimulating panel discussions and opportunities to share experiences, culminating with a relaxing programme of evening entertainment.
Headline speakers include Steve Bevans – author of Models of Contextual Theology; Melody Wachsmuth – a mission and community researcher based in Croatia; Lusa Nsenga-Ngoy – the Diocese of Leicester’s BAME enabler, and Jonny Baker, director of mission education at CMS who will present a mix of findings from new research, reflections and anecdotes.
The conference promises to be one of the largest ever (virtual) gatherings of pioneer mission leaders with pioneers signing in from Germany, Switzerland, America, Peru, and South Korea. On logging in, people will be greeted with a rich offering of workshops and venues, including Goodmakers, hosted by the Goodmakers Society, exploring how pioneering can contribute to a flourishing world; Toolshed, hosted by Richard Passmore and Gavin Mart, a workshop space dedicated to providing practical advice and tools to help implement pioneer practice on the ground; Mind The Gap, a venue for reimagining church and missional community; and Breathe Prayer Space, a venue to get away, slow down and pray.
Jonny Baker, director of mission education at CMS, said, “It’s an experiment. We have designed a whole festival site which includes a beach, treehouse, wild wood, and around a dozen venues in which a varied programme of storytelling, talks, conversations, workshops and panels will take place. There are spaces where you can hang out and chat with people, which is often one of the best things at gatherings like this. Come the evening there will be a range of entertainment – quizzes, spoken word, live performances and music.”
This year represents a milestone for CMS as it celebrates 10 years of pioneer mission training. Alongside the Gather event, CMS is launching a book titled Pioneer Practice, which captures much of the key learning and practical tips the team have gleaned over the decade.
Gather takes place 9.30am to 10pm on Wednesday 21 April 2021.