|I am Asparagus|
My weekly edition of the Church Times offered me a useful perspective into the lives and future ministries of some younglings who are called by God, apparently, to walk beneath the banner "Pioneer Minister". To my eyes they seem to be funky young people all of whom are younger than me (if such a thing were possible). I wish them every success in their training and in their ministries, and I thank the Lord for their calling as I do for my own.
This is not to say that I came away from that time spend reading without a mite of a niggle in my stone-cold heart. No, dear readers, I had developed something of a low-level temper, a Grade 2 Tantrum (and not one granted by the snarling faces of the ladies on the front cover - and my weren't they snarling).
It's all to do with Fresh Expressions, an initiative of Mother Church to buy up small shops and sell coffee for God. Don't misunderstand me, I laud the whole idea of 'fresh expressions of Church', even if I can't say it without need of a tissue. It speaks of a real need to re-think what we are and what we do in the light of the cultural changes that ebb and flow. Really, it is a good thing (even though I know you think I am being sarcastic, which I am not).
Well the article in the Church Times, under the Big Blue Banner of 'How to Blaze a Trail', tells the story of some nice people becoming equipped for this work of Pioneering Ministry. The thing is, it makes two statements either deliberately or not, without stating either:
1. Given that the entire country exists within a parish boundary of some sort, it speaks badly of many church communities who have foundered for economic reasons among other temporal ones. These pioneer ministers will be working in someone's parish - this invites a wealth of commentary and discussion, and quite possibly judgement - which I will avoid here.
2. That only pioneer ministers have the gift of pioneering ministry. If a pioneer minister is called to exercise a ministry in a new context, with those yet to be exposed to the Gospel (anyone says "un-churched" and I will geld you), what about those who already do? I minister in new contexts and with such people every day of my working life without exception. Yet I am not billed a pioneer minister, just Vicar.
Summed up, my view is that many (if not all) parish clergy are pioneer ministers by very definition. What we do daily is pioneer ministry - just within existing frameworks - as well as tending Christ's existing and much loved flock. I don't have this badge. I don't work out of a coffee shop. What I do every day is proclaim the Good News of Christ to my parish, walking with them afresh daily.
I am a pioneer minister. I blaze a trail. My expression of church is fresh.