Lay Pioneers

On Saturday 14 September, at the Croydon Lay Conference, Bishop Christopher will be commissioning our first three Lay Pioneers for the Diocese of Southwark. Lay Pioneers are an exiting new ministry that will sit alongside other lay ministries in the Diocese and will help us in encouraging new ways to reach new people with the good news of Jesus Christ. As the Church of England helpfully says:

Pioneers are people called by God who are the first to see and creatively respond to the Holy Spirit’s initiatives with those outside the church; gathering others around them as they seek to establish new contextual Christian community.

As the work of the new Pioneering Ministry and Fresh Expressions department develops within the Diocese of Southwark we have started looking at this whole exciting area of Lay Pioneers and these first three are, we hope and pray, the first of many more.

Lay Pioneers will play a significant role in helping the Church to experiment and to take risks in reaching others with the love of Christ. Their primary focus will be to reach those outside of the Church. Their pioneering spirit often leads them to work with those most in need and in deprived communities. Of the three being commissioned this time round one is working with an estate community in Redhill; one is working with Japanese people who have had little or no contact with Christians and one is working with those who see themselves as being spiritual but not religious.

With the setting up of the Diocesan Lay Council this autumn we hope to create a range of options for lay people to explore in regards to Pioneer selection and training. As a first step we now have available the opportunity to explore the calling to a Commissioned Lay Pioneer. This is suitable for those who wish to explore a calling to Pioneering but may not yet have much experience or they may be part of a fresh expression of Church in their local context and would like some more training, support and recognition. Over time we hope that we will also be able to recognise those who may have been leading a fresh expression of Church for a period of time (or who lead more than one) and would like to go deeper with their exploration into fresh expressions and pioneering. We hope that to these people we will be able to offer the role of Licensed Lay Pioneer.

We already have a wide range of fresh expressions of Church in the Diocese from new monastic communities to cafe church and messy church through to communities who regard themselves as Spiritual and not Religious. We hope and pray that with an increase in lay pioneers we can see this range grow and deepen and the mission and evangelistic impact of the Church grow within the Diocese.

If you, or someone you know, believes that they may have a calling to pioneering within the Diocese then we would love to hear from you. You can either have an informal chat with Will Cookson, Dean of Fresh Expressions and Director of Pioneering Ministry or book into a Vocations Fair –

Fresh Expressions Update

It has been an exciting time for Fresh Expressions over the past year in Southwark Diocese. We have seen a significant change in tempo in regard to them and we now have a good feel for how many fresh expressions of Church we have across the Diocese and some great initiatives to encourage more.

When we had the Church Army do a survey in 2015 as to the number of fresh expressions of Church we found that we had 39 across the Diocese. As more churches have been exploring new ways of reaching more people with the Good news of Christ we have seen more initiatives across the Diocese.

Fig 1: Growth in fresh expressions in Southwark Diocese

What is encouraging about the above diagramme is not only that the number of fresh expressions of Church has grown to 99 from 39 but that there are many other initiatives which are incredibly valuable (a “Bridge” is a ministry that aims to feed into existing services, an “Internal ministry” is a ministry of care for existing members and the “Not yet fxc” has the possibility of becoming a fresh expression but it may not meet regularly enough or is still exploring how it might become missional).

In addition we have seen a wide range of types of fresh expressions – everything from church grafts and church plants through to Messy Church, New Monastic Communities etc

Lastly, it has been wonderful to see fresh expressions adopted across the wide range of traditions in the Diocese of Southwark. Of course, this means (as it should) that each tradition brings its own insights into their fresh expressions. This is important as fresh expressions are meant to be imaginative and to draw on the roots of each of our traditions and not to create clones.

One of the key areas that we have been focussed on is building a platform from which churches across the Diocese and the different traditions can grow fresh expressions in their context. This has taken a variety of approaches to enable us to do this.

The first is through using the Pioneer Spectrum to help us in looking at what God is calling us to in this particular time and place and with these conditions and people and resources available. This has given us a top level view of what it is that is being attempted. It is a useful tool to enable churches to have a shared vision of what they wish to achieve.

The second area is through the increasing use of Pioneers in the Diocese. This is a multi-pronged approach. In the first phase we have focussed on ordained Pioneers with the appointment of our first Pioneer Curate (and a further two per year) and the use of Strategic Fund money from the Church Commissioners. We are also looking how this can be expanded further. The second phase, which we very much hope will be coming shortly, will be looking at Lay Pioneers who we expect in the long term to be vital for Pioneering within the Diocese.

The third area is through the increasing use of Action Learning Groups. These are groups of practitioners focussed on a particular area (e.g. Estates or Missional Communities) who commit to try new things, to be open and accountable to one another. Over time we hope that more and more will be formed and that they will share their learning with others around the Diocese. We already have two that are about to happen – one about ministry on estates – Sowing in Concrete on the 21st March and one looking at disabilities – Dementia Friendly Church on the 28th March. Both are free and click the links to see and book to come.

Lastly, we continue to offer our baseline Mission Shaped Ministry course to help churches to begin to grapple with how they can make a difference in their community.