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 – Southwarkvocations.eventbrite.com.