Pioneering and the benefits of a denomination

Being a part of a denomination has benefits and disadvantages for pioneers and those who don’t quite fit the mold. Others elsewhere have blogged about some of the disadvantages: that sometimes pioneer ministers are expected to do the pioneering alongside a more traditional role to which they often don’t feel called or inclined to (that’s why they’re pioneers, right!), and that there often aren’t the right sort of roles around for many pioneers when they come out of training. It seems that many Dioceses have something to learn in making the most of those whom have been called into ministry.

But when supportive dioceses make money available for full-time pioneers, the pioneer can feel very well supported by having others of the same denomination behind.

Although I didn’t train as a pioneer – I did a 3-year residential training at an established theological college followed by a curacy in a busy city-centre church – I do feel very blessed to have the support of the Diocese behind what I am doing. They thought through how to use the money and the position. For example, I am not connected to the local church, which, whilst it is supportive, would have taken much of my attention away from the pioneering on the new build development. The diocese thought through giving me a line manager to oversee my work – someone doing similar work on a more established new-build village nearby, and a mentor who has new build experience but who I am not directly accountable to. As with every ordained minister in the Church of England, I’m also part of a local clergy chapter and ministers cluster. And my local area has a fairly active and supportive Churches Together group.

The diocese also thought through giving me a budget for set up costs of ministries and events, realising that when people come to faith there is usually a lag between their faith and their giving. And I have not been given any targets for my work here – recognising that fresh expressions appear in all shapes and sizes so that one target may not fit what is best for the area. Instead I’ve been giving milestones, to ensure that I am following the right processes for engaging with a community and starting fresh expressions. In addition to that there are many other networks springing out of Fresh Expressions that I can plug into for support.

Recently, we had a good break in the USA visiting my in-laws. Whilst there, in addition to enjoying free babysitting from the grandparents, I met a church planter from the Acts 29 network who was trying to plant in the small university town of Plymouth, NH. He and his wife were currently living in Concord, NH, about an hour away and travelling up each weekend to lead a bible study for a few Christians in Plymouth. They were trying to move but the planter also needs to work full time to support his wife and family (and to make sure he has medical insurance!). Acts 29 is a network, not a denomination. They are offering him valuable support and people to talk to, but no money or help on the ground. It made me thankful that a) I live in a country with national health service, and b) that this Diocese here has thought through the roles of pioneering and has tried to put in the best possible structures in order for the pioneer to be equipped and supported.

Other Diocese’s and denominations, please come and talk to the good people in Peterborough to find out how they have done it.

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3 Responses to Pioneering and the benefits of a denomination

  1. Ordinandy says:

    It’s good to hear stories like this. I know of some others too. My fear remains that many Pioneers will not make it to the stage where they are trusted enough to pursue the kind of role that you have (and it has been encouraging to read your blog over this last year in particular). It may be that for many of those pioneers (perhaps myself included), this will be a much needed threshing process to ensure that those who are a little too wild or heretical don’t make it to a publicly approved and wider-church resourced role, but some will wilt and fade who could and should have been important ministers for God within the structures of the CofE…

    • tallandrew says:

      Agrees. It has been sad to read of your difficultues finding a suitable role and of Peter Ould’s as well (who I trained with). As you said, there may be some pioneers who have trained that maybe shouldn’t get a publicly approved role, but I can’t imagine there are too many, and shouldn’t they be filtered out at the selection stage, not after all the training!

      On leaving theological college, I remember wondering why the CofE didn’t create the right sort of curacy positions for those leaving college. They knew exactly how many were a evangelical colleges, how many anglo-catholic etc, yet the numbers of curacies didn’t translate. I was one of the last in my year to get a post, and it turned out to be a good one for me which came up at the last minute. But my DDO at the time did say that I should think about taking something outside of my tradition. For pioneers too – the heirarchy know how many are in training and will be wanting suitable posts so it shouldn’t be a surprise when they start looking for jobs!

      • Edward Green says:

        So it goes on into first post of responsibility.

        Ordinands and many clergy tend to have a stronger tradition than average parish churches. Ordinands often come from successful churches with a strong tradition. Furthermore some traditions such as Mud & Matins are not known for producing ordinands. Where I am (rural Oxfordshire) we have produced ordinands, but again they have tended to have a stronger tradition than the sending parish.

        Plenty of parishes in these parts have a history of clergy that are of a different tradition every 10 years. In some cases the clergy change tradition in parish.

        It may be nuts, but it is the CofE. If we don’t like it the only other option is find another church!

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