The Church’s priestly charge

Picking up some thoughts on priesthood (from Sunday’s lectionary’s Hebrews passage), Graham Tomlin speaks about the priestly charge of the church, and of all Christian people:

“Christ’s priestly blessing is enacted through the church…..

Unlike most human communities, the church’s life focuses not on itself, but on those who do not belong. It is a community defined by its mission to be a means of blessing. A church that gets wrapped up in its own internal ordering is a church that has last its way. It has forgotten its identity as priestly people called the less the world. Instead, a healthy church is one that is constantly looking forward to blessing community around it…… [and] at the same time, the arena in which people grow up into Christ”

From The Widening Circle, p103-105

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Letting Go

Pioneers are not often surrounded by like-minded people. It requires a large amount of trust to let go and let others grow into leadership. For us, having to move on after five yeras is extremely painful, but we have to trust that God is at the heart of what is growing here.

These words, from Michelle and David Legumi (in Pioneers for Life, ed Dave Male, p65), sum up how we are feeling about leaving here. We are very excited about our next post, however, we have to step back and trust that, as God has called us on, he has a plan for what we leave behind here too.

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The most important step in missionary activity.

A slightly surprising one, according to Vincent Donovan (In Christianty Rediscovered) it is this:

The final missionary step as regards any nation or culture, and the most important lesson we will ever teach them – is to leave.

After all the work is done, the pioneer must move on and the gospel must be fully contextualised in the culture that the pioneering work is set. Succession needs to be planned, and local leadership must emerge. According to Goerge Lings (wiring in David Male’s edited book, Pioneers 4 Life):

It is the characteristic of pioneers that they are first in and also first out.

I can think of several notable examples where the removal of missionaries from an area, after they have sown the first seeds and established the first groups of disciples, has resulted in an unprecedented spread of the gospel after the missionaries have left. China from 1950-1990 springs mind. Perhaps God knows what he’s doing!

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Five Tips for pioneers 2: Hang Out.

friends sticomLast week I posted my five tips for new pioneers, which has come out of our first five years working here. Here they are in short:

  1. Pray a lot.
  2. Hang Out.
  3. Find a team and form alliances.
  4. Make a five year plan don’t expect to stick to it.
  5. Expect opposition.

2 Time hanging out with people (doing nothing in particular) is not time wasted. 

When we arrived here we didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t have anything in my diary apart from a few clergy meetings here and there. Where to start? The obvious thing we needed to do was to get to know some people. So we joined the groups and associations that were already running on the development, and we were intentional about getting to know others (for example, by hanging out in public spaces, and by following up initial meetings with an invitation to coffee or dinner or something), and we formed groups where people of like interests could join together.

During the first 12 months, we didn’t start anything ‘churchy’, but just sent time hanging out. I spent quite a lot of time playing at the playpark making conversation, or simply walking around or sitting in the coffee shop once it opened, getting to know people. What we found is that none of those relationships were wasted. When we did start groups, people came and we’re willing to join in, because they already knew us. And when we started worship, a few people joined us too. Others, who may not have joined us in anything, got back in touch when they wanted a wedding or baptism or something like that, and this gave us the opportunity to rekindle the relationship.

We’ve learnt that nothing happens without good relationships. Nothing was wasted and that time gave us a decent standing in the community and a good starting point with many.

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Five Tips for pioneers 1: Pray.


1. Pray a lot. We can’t do this in our own power 

Any sort of Church growth is by the Spirit of God. Using a gardening analogy, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:6

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow

Most of us, as Christians, know this, but when we get down to it we can find all sorts of excuses not to pray, thinking that if we just do the right things, growth with come. Every person who comes to faith does so by the power of God.

There is also a well-known saying in pioneering (which comes from former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams) that:

mission is finding out what God is doing and joining in.

God is already on the move as we’d do best to find out where. We can never hope to know where or how God is moving unless we pray, listen to God’s voice, and keep our eyes open looking for signs of his work.

So if you are just starting out in a pioneering situation, my advice to you is pray a lot. We prayed some, but I wish we’d prayed some more. Pray alone, pray with your team, pray at home, pray in different places!



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Five Tips for new Pioneers

quote ideas tips advice out of the box thinkingAfter being in post for five years, here are five pieces of advice to new pioneers starting out. They are not rocket science but useful to remember.

In no particular order here they are. I’ll expand on each in future blog posts.

  1.  Pray a lot. We can’t do this in our own power
  2. Time hanging out with people (doing nothing in particular) is not time wasted.
  3. Find a team and form alliances.
  4. Five year plans are useful but don’t expect to stick to them.
  5.  Expect opposition from somewhere, even from unexpected places


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Five year Update!

Berrywood church bannerIt is now nearly five years since we moved to the St Crispin’s new housing development, along with our baby boy, our young cat, and our hopes to establish a worshipping community from the residents here. We knew no-one so we had to rely on God’s grace to see who He would bring us. Five years on, our baby boy is now a school boy, he has gained a little sister, (now aged three), and the cat, who is older but no more wise, has been joined by four chickens.

More crucially, God has been answering our prayers to bring people to him. After beginning by creating community activities through which we could build relationships, a small group of us started worshipping together on a Sunday afternoon in an informal cafe-style gathering in May 2012, initially once per month. Now we meet four times per month and when there is a fifth Sunday, we do something different together. We are still relatively small – if everyone was there at the same time we’d have about 35 regulars, including 15 children. Being honest, five years ago I might have hoped for the numbers to be higher by this point, but we rejoice that of our 20 adults, about half have either come to faith, or are on the journey, and others have grown in faith immensely since they joined us. Beyond the regulars, we have a large network of people from the community with whom we have good relationships, though our community activities for mums, dads, men, and children, as well as our through our seeker-friendly groups. We constantly pray that these relationships will bear fruit too.

You may remember that this project was started with five years of funding from the Diocese and the Church Commissioners. At the end of this time, a new plan would have to be developed. As it is, many of our regulars have started giving, which means we can cover many of our weekly costs ourselves. These include charges for room hire, the salary for a part time children’s worker, as well as for resources and expenses. It was always unlikely that a church plant from scratch would be entirely self-sufficient after only five years, able to pay it’s way in the Church of England as well as covering it’s own ministries. So over the last couple of years, I’ve been working with the diocese and others to work out how to bring Berrywood Church to its next phase of life.

St Crispin’s new-build is located within the geographical parish of Duston, with it’s two churches, St. Luke’s, the ancient village church, and St Francis, a 1960’s church plant with an ageing congregation. The parish as a whole is ripe for mission. Due to retirements, this gave us an opportunity to reimagine the Anglican setup in this part of Northampton.

From the end of April 2015, Berrywood has no longer been a pioneer project working separately from the parish, but under the leadership of a new Rector (overall team leader), we have joined with the existing churches. At the same time I became Team Vicar with responsibility for Berrywood Church. The Duston Team Ministry will now have three churches, two full-time ministers and one part-time (still to be appointed), and we will be able to think missionally about the whole area.

The new Rector has experience of leading a multi-church team, and has successfully overseen the development of fresh expressions in previous parishes. She also has a heart for helping people to engage in Bible study and she longs for people to come to faith. I am confident that we can work well together to impact the whole parish. The hope is that from Berrywood, we can release some missional thinking to the rest of the parish, and that we can all benefit from resourcing mission as one team, rather than three smallish churches.

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