Welcome to this edition of Anvil which has a theme of pioneering on estates and new housing developments.
It has emerged out of an event of the same name that was held at Church Mission Society in Oxford on 18 July.
Over 100 practitioners gathered to listen and respond to 13 contributors who spoke for seven minutes each on one of four topics – estate culture, estate power, estate wisdom and estate networks. As the speakers only had sufficient time to introduce their reflections, it made sense to give some of them a further opportunity to expand and unpack their thinking by writing an article. This is the result.
Pioneering on estates and new housing developments is a rapidly expanding area of pioneer ministry and one in which the church is willing to invest people and resources in order to do something new and create fresh expressions of church.
I wonder if this is because it’s easier to understand what pioneer mission is seeking to achieve when there are geographical boundaries and the end result resembles a parish.
Or, perhaps, it’s just that the desperate need for millions of additional new homes is well documented and we’re frequently confronted with the disruption caused as developers seek to meet the overwhelming demand for additional properties. The recent tragedy at Grenfell Tower in West London has forced the diverse composition and lack of investment in existing social housing stock onto the news agenda, literally overnight.
I’ve very much enjoyed reading the submissions that are included in this publication. There are a number of common threads and repeated appeals to the biblical motifs of incarnation, the importance of the equality and value of all human beings as made in the image of God and the desire to secure justice for the stranger, the alien and the outcast. There’s also a concern for empowerment and giving a voice to those that have been disregarded and dispossessed.
A move from ‘doing for’ to ‘being with’ in community engagement and transformation is very much in evidence. It’s clear particularly in Al Barrett’s exploration of what he calls ‘flipping the christological axis’ from ‘what would Jesus do?’ to ‘what would Zaccheus do?’ and in Cathy and John Wheatley’s experience of starting with a base, but finding a home on the Bournville estate. Ali Boulton draws on her practice to articulate the radical shift from being Christians primarily defined by belief to those seeking to ‘enflesh the Word’. Bart Woodhouse addresses the manipulation of house builders and planners in presenting a vision of ‘ideal community’ that is unreal and cleansed of conflict, difference and difficulty in order to serve the interests of capitalism. Penny Stradling wonders what the implications of gentrification will be for residents whose homes are earmarked for demolition as they resist relocation to a mixed new development with luxury apartments. Lastly, Chris Baker considers authenticity, which is an unspoken yet underlying concern for all our pioneer ministers in their varying contexts.
I hope that whatever your engagement in mission, you will find ideas to stimulate deeper theological reflection and inspire more meaningful engagement with the ‘other’ whether you’re located on an established housing estate, brand new development, rural idyll or market town.
Andrea Campanale is a lay pioneer in the Diocese of Southwark and does mission to spiritual seekers and steam punks, as well as leading a missional community called Sacred Space Kingston. She has recently completed an MA in Theology, Ministry and Mission. She is also employed part-time by Church Mission Society to animate the network of pioneers that have been through its Pioneer Mission Leadership Training and to deliver the learning in new hubs for pioneers in locations around the UK.