This post has taken a while to write … the blog has been quiet as I have thought hard and done stuff ‘behind the scenes’ about the immediate way forward and even more so on how to communicate that to friends who regularly read this blog.
It probably will not come as a surprise to many of you that read here that I am still convinced of my calling as a pioneer; to work with but outside the church and beyond in a way that enables me to meet with people outside the walls of the church. I believe in th church, but also believe the church needs to be working differently to reach and support different groups of people. I think that’s called ‘one size does not fit all’.
A few years ago, after Mission Shaped Church report was published I responded to what I believe was a call from God to consider ordination with a view to being a pioneer minister rather than the more traditional route of parish priest. Being creative, working with people in fresh ways to investigate more about faith and to look for opportunities of how to work together and journey together rather than avoid each other … these are things that I have realise energise and excite me.
As a pioneer, my desire has not been so much to share my faith, although that has happened, or to try and convince people of my faith, although that seems to have happened as well, but more to try and be a positive influence, to give opportunities for questions, and to be a blessing to those that I have come across. I have a great desire to be good news in my community, to encourage and to support when its been possible. In short, I have tried to be a friend to people.
I now seems like ages ago that I started doing this ‘pioneering stuff’ with some trepidation as I knew no one. Four years down the line I find that I have made some good friends in the Rochester High Street area. I have learned lots from these people and have grown to love and respect them as the good bunch of people they are – but now is not the time to talk about that stuff …. that will come later in September when I move on from Rochester.
In September it will be with some sadness that I leave Rochester and the cathedral as my curacy comes to an end. Curacies in the Church of England are always a maximum of 4 years … and I have let this run its full course. My last Sunday at the cathedral will be on 2nd September, while my last day as pioneer curate in Rochester will be on Wednesday 5th September. That still sounds a little way off but I guess this will come quickly as between now and then I have a 3 week Olympic chaplaincy and a 10 day holiday in the diary.
My role as a pioneer in Rochester was to develop a new way of being church for people that don’t currently go to church. the gathering is a group of people who are traveling together and exploring faith together. I believe we are some form of new monastic community and we consider how we live our lives. We are at an early stage in our life together as we move towards becoming a ‘church’. Over the last 3 or so years we have met in various places and learned lots together about journeying and faith and inclusivity. This group is slowly growing as we pick up others on the way who are asking the same sorts of questions that we are …. those being more about how we live out faith rather than what each individual believes in detail. This means the community holds together people that don’t agree on some issues … and that is a good thing.
As we started to talk about what happens next after my curacy it soon became clear that the diocese only really has the resources to offer me parish ministry next. (I think a number of dioceses are in the same position). The diocese looked at parishes which would suit a pioneer and we considered some, and the opportunities were quite exciting. After much prayer and discussion, though, we felt we could only move to a parish if we could move the gathering there as well. This has not been possible due to distances involved away from Medway.
So … as we feel God is calling us to carry on what we have started and continue travelling with the gathering we (me/my family/the bishop) have made the decision that I will become an SSM (self supporting minister) pioneer minister / priest missioner in Gillingham from September and accountable to local people. Obviously it is a risk to give up a whole salary, but I guess this is what ‘living by faith’ and ‘following your convictions’ is all about.
I won’t pretend all things are hunk dory … I’m excited by a new start (as any pioneer would be), but I will be sad at missing some great people and I don’t mind admitting that I’m pretty scared as well about starting again and trusting God with our finances. Even as I write it I sound like some religious fanatic … but yes I really do believe God will provide …. and if I’m honest I hope I will still be able to say the same in December!
If you are the praying type, maybe you could pray for us. As you pray maybe you could consider as well if you could support us. I am currently looking for people to support us both in money and prayer. If you wish to consider supporting in that way and want to know more detail please read the letter here and we can go from there.
So … that’s my update …. its a time for me to look ahead and start to dream what might be … hopefully I will keep bumping into some of you … so, that’s my update … see you around!