This morning at church the announcement was made - I have been appointed as the first Lay Pioneer Minister in the Diocese of Oxford. This is my letter going in the church newsletter to expand on the announcement.
Thank you for all your well wishes on the announcement that I have been appointed as a Lay Pioneer Minister. It is a really exciting time and I am so pleased to be able to share it with you. I have had a few people ask for a bit more explanation as to what it really means; so I hope this helps.
What is a lay pioneer?
The Church of England defines a pioneer minister as "someone who has the ability to envision, form and lead new forms of church appropriate to a particular culture (often called fresh expressions)". A lay pioneer is a minister who feels called to lead as a lay person.
Why lay pioneer ministry?
Right from the start of my calling I have felt God want to use me as I walk alongside people in their every day lives, as one of them, and I feel blessed to be able to fulfill my ministry in this way. Until recently I couldn't define this ministry as anything other than a "hanging around" ministry. But in the last few years pioneer ministry has become better known and it's become clear to me and others that this is the ministry I'm called into.
What does my pioneer ministry look like now?
At St Nicolas we have two fabulous fresh expression services for families who would otherwise not come into a church. We have our monthly People, Prayer and Potatoes messy church and our weekly Noah's Ark toddler group congregations. Through these services we are thoroughly open to community. This is pioneering; actively seeking people to come and join us. I spend at least half of my ministerial hours outside of the church doing other pioneering ministry activities. I meet with communities of people where they are, geographically, socially and theologically, to explore what it means to be disciples of Jesus. That might result in people joining existing churches such as St Nicolas; but might also lead to new ways of being church which are rooted in the teaching of Jesus, whilst looking completely different. For example Oakwood Forest Church is a completely new form of church which is evolving as it grows.
What will my ministry look like a year from now?
The honest answer is that I don't know; this is a new ministry in the Diocese and a new focus for me. I will visit other churches to inspire them to reach out into their communities as I have been doing for messy church; I'll be delivering some training about forest church to Ordinands and LLMs as early as next month; and I've been asked to meet with those interested in lay pioneer ministry in the Diocese. But what else I will do is still evolving. What I do know is that 'for now' I'll keep on doing what I'm currently doing; ministering in church, in the parish and in the community.
What can you do for me?
You have supported and encouraged me every step of my journey and I ask that you continue to do so. Please pray for me as my ministry grows and my role evolves; that I might be sustained and enlivened each day.
After the service on Sunday when the announcement was made Harry came up to me and said "you need a pick axe girl if you're going to be a pioneer". Wise words indeed. Harry hit the 'axe' right on the head about what it is that this ministry is - it's about chipping away at society and helping people find God within themselves; and it's about chipping away at the closed doors of churches to let the beauty of the Holy Spirit rush out. I'm the girl with the pick axe.