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Pioneers of Faith

Newness is in the air.  New initiatives, new forms of church, fresh expressions of Christian community, missional approaches, pioneering ministries.  And it was some pioneers in mission whom I met on a recent visit to the West of England Baptist Association.

Dan and Beth Doherty, together with their toddler Pippa, have recently moved to a Somerset coastal town.  The association is paying the rent and Dan is working part-time at a nearby shopping mall and they are both reaching out into the community and forming relationships.  Beth, with a background in nursery teaching has developed a strong link with a local wetland trust and is leading nature trails for young children and their parents and carers.  Both are exploring what it means to be missional in a new context, perhaps eventually with a new form of church.

I had lunch at the home of Phil and Alice Lawrence on the Knowle West estate in Bristol.  The Cairn is a former Anglican vicarage which they have bought as a missional resource and as the beginnings of an intentional Christian community, alongside other Christians who have moved into this challenging area.  Already they asking ‘What next?’

And then tea with Ali Boulton and members of the Stowe church in south Swindon.  Ali and her family arrived on a new estate in 2009 as the first houses were being built.  Mission has had a community development face here, partnerships and trust have developed alongside people coming to faith.  Empowerment courses for women offer new forms of discipleship, pamper evenings show foot washing in a new context and offer Kingdom affirmation.  Already, the new church is asking how it needs to change in the light of a changing context.  Mission earthed in the reality of people’s lives, yet flexible and responsive to changing opportunities.

This visit was a kind of missional Safari Supper.  Not in terms of food, (though there was great hospitality) but, where possible, in the course of the day each of the pioneers, as well as the regional ministers, met with each other and visited each other’s place of witness.  So my visit as BUGB President became an opportunity for each group of people to reflect together on each other’s situation in context and offer suggestions, support and prayer.  Perhaps here is a model of networking support that will energise others.

You will see that I came away inspired – excited by the ability and desire to think and witness in new ways, moved by the sacrifice that pioneers often have to make when they minister outside traditional church structures, and determined to pray for them and for others who are called to act and trust ‘outside the box’.  ‘Pioneer’, I guess, means not only trail blazer, but person of faith – and what better witness is there than that?
Chris Ellis
If you want to think more about worship with Chris, then visit Let's Talk about Worship where you will find a series of interviews with Chris and some great linked resources for small group study in your church.
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