Monday, November 19, 2012

You Want Pioneers? You Can't Handle Pioneers!*

 In many places the church is saying loud and clear that we need pioneers, which is great and true and I'm sure it is genuine. Pioneers then respond and often take risks in the process. But it sometimes turns out that perhaps the church didn't quite mean what it said, or there are some big 'buts'. In other places it is clear she's not interested in pioneers at all -  some dioceses still don't recognise pioneer ministry or they suggest that everyone is a pioneer and allocate no resources while their DDOs do their best to steer people away from pioneer ministry as a vocation. We have shed tears, expressed frustration, prayed a lot, and reflected that every journey to the new in the bible - and probably elsewhere - involves going through darkness, letting go, or experiencing wilderness on the way. It's unavoidable.
It seems that the kind of pioneering understood most readily by the wider church involves an outcome that looks something like what we have already; namely a community of disciples with worship, singing, preaching and money being paid back into the centre - preferably all happening within a very short space of time.
Jonny Baker, reflecting on his time leading training for pioneer leaders in the CofE. 
It's worth reading the whole of his article, very challenging and thought provoking. It needs to be heard both by pioneers, and by everyone else in the church. I still sense that pioneer ministry is something happening in a corner, that the central structures don't know what to do with it, and that it risks, like Fresh Expressions, becoming diluted currency by being applied to too many things. I hear of Pioneer curates in settings where hardly anyone else in the parish, including the training incumbent, really understands what they are about. This work is hard enough without the church at large providing additional headwinds. 
(*for those not versed in the movie portfolio of Tom Cruise or Jack Nicholson, the title of this piece is inspired by a line from 'A Few Good Men', which I think is on TV sometime this week.)

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