I hope that you had a great 2016 and that you are looking forward to all that God will do in you and through you in the year ahead.
Sacred Space missional community
It’s been wonderful seeing members of our community find healing and grow in such confidence that they have been willing to take on leadership positions in other churches and express their creativity to encourage others. One of our members has recently had a book of poetry and artwork published charting her journey through depression. She has now found a faith community to become a part of and is exhibiting her artwork in the church she has joined; she wants her experiences to help others and is also volunteering at the local psychiatric hospital where she was once a patient.
Another member of the community has started painting portraits to reflect back the image of God which is visible in the face of her sitters, in order that they might be blessed and built up in their faith. In 2015 I worked with a community theatre company to put on two productions in John Bunyan Baptist Church in Kingston and I collaborated on an art exhibition with the artist collective called “The Society of Volumes”.
It was a wonderful occasion where over 50 unchurched creatives displayed their artwork, performed music and spoken word and showed their original filmmaking consecutively on all three floors of the church building. Most were spiritual seekers who would never normally have anything to do with church and one of the participants was the person who started the Green Fair, which is where my journey of mission to spiritual seekers began 11 years ago!
Unfortunately, despite these successes and investing over a year working with John Bunyan to build relationships with art and community groups and work towards a vision for a new community arts centre in their building, they have decided to hand the property over to a Texan Baptist missionary organisation. Sacred Space has also spent the past year discussing and drafting documentation in a bid to move to a team leadership and secure a Bishop’s Mission Order (BMO) from Southwark Diocese.
We’re hoping a new base can be found for us in one of the Anglican churches in Kingston now that our plans for John Bunyan have fallen through. We can then continue to build on the contacts we’d begun to make with artists and resurrect our plans for an alternative worship-style Fresh Expression for creatives in our locality.
Once Sacred Space is officially recognised and finds its place within the structures of the Church of England, it is anticipated I will have my ministry as a Lay Pioneer and leader of the community properly acknowledged by the Bishop of Kingston. It is hoped this will then help with our fundraising efforts.
Mission to spiritual seekers
I have continued to partner with members of the Sacred Space community to do mission, not just with artists but also steam punks and through the growth of the town centre chaplaincy service. We have four volunteer chaplains going into the shops in Kingston every week, and we hope to see more added this year. The chaplains are totally overwhelmed with how the retail staff of Kingston have taken them to their hearts. They are welcomed by shop workers and market stall holders alike. They were particularly invaluable in supporting a manager whose store was being closed down and staff were being made redundant.
With the chaplains’ help, the manager was able to prepare the others for interviews and continue to stay positive for their sake, even though he was also going to be made jobless. It made a horrible situation bearable, and showed God’s love and concern in the midst of such adversity. I have now handed the town centre chaplaincy over to the person I’ve been supporting and training up for the last couple of years, for them to take on.
I’ve loved participating at the steam punk events in New Malden and have had amazing conversations with all kinds of wonderful folk as a result. At the latest fair in November, I met a self-confessed witch, as well as a pagan who lives at Stonehenge. I was also able to share prophetic words and pray with a tarot reader, a woman recovering from breast cancer, a man facing redundancy and a single mum whose son has just received a diagnosis of having autism.
I consider it a privilege to be able to listen to the concerns of those who would not set foot in church and invite our loving Lord Jesus into the situations they’re struggling with, so they know they’re loved and not alone. I also led the Dekhomai team at the Mind, Body, Spirit Festival at Olympia, London in May and I’m in discussions with a mission agency and a number of churches in Ibiza about the possibility of doing some training on outreach to spiritual seekers. This would be ahead of a big new age fair they have on the island towards the end of each year.
In July I was appointed by CMS to a two-day a week role, devising and delivering dynamic mission training for the new pioneer hubs currently being set up around the UK. These hubs are a way where people, who are interested in mission, can get involved in doing mission, connecting with others, networking, sharing ideas. They often attract people who are either unchurched or on the edges of church, and are readily equipped.
The pioneer training based in Oxford has now become so successful that requests are coming in to provide training in other places as a catalyst for pioneering mission. The first hub launched in September in Chelmsford, and others are expected in due course. We currently have 14 students training with us and I taught on their first module last term. It was particularly rewarding when one of my students shared how she was partnering with an urban farm to put on a nativity service in their barn for the first time. She has also been encouraging churches to donate equipment for a teenage mums’ project and has begun building relationships with the young women who go to them for help.
In addition, I led the Introduction to the Church History module for the diploma in Oxford last autumn. I really enjoy helping pioneers learn and applying this learning to their practice.
The two-day a week job is in addition to the pioneer network facilitator role I already have one day a week. Being properly employed has made a huge difference to our finances as a family. We could no longer afford living on the small part-time salary I had raised myself. We have managed on this for six years, but with Daniel planning to go to university in September, it’s just not sustainable. I continue to rely on this for the two days a week I work in Kingston.
I completed the modules and assignments for my MA last June and am now working on my dissertation. I have decided to revisit the issue of shame. A publisher has already
has expressed an interest in a book on the subject once I’ve finished my research.
With love and blessings.