Training Pioneers at Church Mission Society

This year has seen a record number of students enrol for the Church Mission Society’s pioneer training programme, which commences this month.

The course designed by pioneers, for pioneers, was created to equip Christians for ground-breaking, transformational and sustainable mission, both in the UK and around the world. A total of 28 students were inducted into the programme yesterday to train as mission pioneers, mission ordinands and lay pioneers, representing a significant increase on previous years.

Jonny Baker, Church Mission Society’s director of mission education and leader of its pioneer training programme described this year’s intake as “a fabulous endorsement, not only in the quality of the training that Church Mission Society provides” but also “a recognition of the effectiveness of pioneering as an authentic route to mission”.

The current year’s intake of pioneers represents an eclectic mix of people including Will, who is developing mission community house on a new housing estate, Anita who leads a town centre chaplaincy team and Idina, who runs Servants, a mission community in Southall and is now beginning training for ordination as a pioneer minister. 

While some students, such as Tracey, who works with children and families in a semi-rural town, have projects up and running, others such as Jo, who is considering how to blend mission and business on a Derbyshire housing estate, are still at the exploratory stage. Also among this year's students is Nick, who ran a 'pantomime church' for 11 years and has now set up an arts centre and hosts a comedy night at his church.

The course, which began in 2010, has seen a steady increase in numbers since then, reflecting a surge in popularity for pioneer ministry. The Pioneer Mission Leadership Training course now offers a full suite of academic options for pioneers, including training for lay and ordained pioneer ministry and an MA study option. The Church Mission Society course has been recognised by the Church of England as a training route for ordination but while the course is Anglican in flavour, it is infused with a broad spectrum of traditions, theology and experience.

Luke Larner, who is preparing to commence his second year on the Theology, Mission and Ministry course, explained how the pioneer training course had changed his outlook: “The course felt like a homecoming as I was rubbing shoulders with other Christians who spoke my language and had experienced the same struggles I had. I found treasure in places I would never have looked before, in the ancient teachings of the church, confirming that others have travelled this journey of the pioneering mission before.”

(Many thanks to the Church Mission Society for this article)

Home from home: new pioneer hub (Andy Freeman)

Andy FreemanAndy Freeman shares his hopes for the new CMS pioneer hub.

I have just started a new job. In some ways it's daunting because the role is for just nine hours a week, but it's also very exciting and I'm so glad to be part of it.

So what is this daunting and exciting prospect? In a nutshell, I will be working with CMS to develop a pioneer hub for the south of England. The hub is a new development, funded by the South Central Regional Training Partnership – that's Anglican, Methodist, URC and other churches in the Oxford, Guildford, Portsmouth, Winchester and Salisbury dioceses/areas. The idea is to create a specific hub to support pioneers in the region, in connection with existing resources and training.

In the past 12 months, CMS – alongside other training providers in the area – has been developing specific training and support for pioneers. Over the next three years, these are the sorts of things we hope to see happen in the region:

  • a supportive network of pioneers.
  • an annual gathering of some sort.
  • a network of mentors/coaches available to pioneers.
  • the development of good practice and policy for pioneers in dioceses and districts.
  • collaboration between training providers so that pioneers get best training possible.
  • specific practitioner sessions at CMS, starting in September 2011.
My hope is that the pioneer hub will become a place of network and support to pioneers in the south of England

For these five dioceses to contribute to a resource dedicated to pioneers is wonderful. As a pioneer ordinand in training myself, I know how tough things can be, and how important it is to have focused support and training. My hope is that the pioneer hub will become a place of network and support to pioneers in the region, a place of training that directly helps pioneers and a place of connection to anyone pioneering in the region.

The pioneer hub is there for you whether you're a lay or ordained pioneer, whether you're in training or whether you're simply getting on with things. If you're a pioneer, I'd love to hear from you and shape this hub around your needs. Feel free to drop me a line at

24-7 announced as new partners in Fresh Expressions

Fresh Expressions today announced that the 24-7 Prayer movement has become a partner in the initiative.

Listen to Andy Freeman explaining why 24-7 Prayer are joining the Fresh Expressions initiative below.

Graham Cray and Andy Freeman

24-7 Prayer is an interdenominational movement of prayer, mission and justice that began with a single, student-led prayer vigil in Chichester in 1999. It has since spread to more than 100 countries.

The movement has given rise to numerous new initiatives, communities and ministries particularly focusing on the poor, the marginalised, students and those outside the reach of normal expressions of church. The missional communities, inspired by ancient Celtic monasticism, are generically known as Boiler Rooms though they may also be known by a local name – such as Houses of Prayer.

Andy Freeman is on the 24-7 Council and pioneered the first 24-7 Boiler Room in Reading, overseeing the development of similar communities across the world. He is now training for ordination at St Mellitus College while developing Reconcile, a mix of an Anglican fresh expression and a 24-7 community.

Andy said,

Conversations have been going on for some while between Pete Greig, director of 24-7, and Bishop Graham Cray as leader of the Fresh Expressions team, about the possibility and potential of partnership. I had also talked to Bishop Graham about it in relation to my own training as a priest. The result was that it felt like the right time, something that God wanted us to do.

There are a lot of parallels between the work of Fresh Expressions and 24-7. I think the biggest one is that fresh expressions start with the process of listening. This listening to culture, listening to what's going on and listening to each other is also very important within prayer rooms and nearly all of our communities would have started from that same place.

Bishop Graham Cray, Archbishops' Missioner, commented,

I am delighted that the 24-7 Prayer movement is becoming a partner in the Fresh Expressions initiative. 24-7's emphasis on prayer, spirituality and mission exactly accords with ours, and will strengthen us as we develop patterns of discipleship for fresh expressions of church and as we engage with young adults.

Andy Freeman sees further similarities in work relating to training, how to stay flexible and mobile while working alongside more established forms of church, and enabling continued thinking on associated ecclesiology and theology.

We are really interested in how we can help Fresh Expressions, but I think we are also conscious how Fresh Expressions is going to help us too. In particular I hope that prayer rooms could be part of the listening process for people on the ground wanting to build mission communities and fresh expressions. I'd also love to see ways in which younger people could get the opportunity and be given the permission to start fresh expressions of church. To play our part in the Church's continued change and growth in its development of the mixed economy will be very exciting indeed.