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08 July 2015

Mission pioneers set to change lives

Mission pioneers set to change lives

A manicurist, a campaigner against female genital mutilation [FGM], and a singer songwriter from North Wales have graduated from Church Mission Society's Pioneer Mission Leadership Training programme.

The pioneers come from a diverse range of missionaries, but were drawn together by a common desire to change lives and evangelise to the people they serve.

Jonny Baker who is the director of mission education at CMS and oversees the course, said: "The pioneers have been inspired and equipped to lead new projects and innovations that communicate Jesus to many of those living on the margins in 21st century Britain."

He felt that the course is helping to redefine missionary work, saying that: "Mission pioneers give the Church a glimpse of the future, where mission will not be delivered solely by large para-church organisations, but increasingly through agile, innovative and creative pioneers, witnessing 'love in action'."

The Pioneer Mission Leadership programme, first established in 2011, is a creative way of equipping and mobilising Christians for ground-breaking, transformational and sustainable mission. Jonny explained how the programme has been designed to provide a more inclusive approach to training pioneers.

"The course gives pioneers, who often display the gift of not fitting in a supportive learning community –a place to belong, as well as equipping and empowering them to initiate and follow through with mission projects that have a wider impact on the Church and society."

Since entering the training programme, manicurist Erika has started an initiative called Cherish, which is aimed at girls who suffer from low self-esteem and who are self-harming. Through the Cherish course Erika has been able to help these young people construct their own manicure kit.

In between learning how to do manicures, the young people talk about their worries and struggles and in the process each has found renewed confidence and their own voice. Erika now hopes to buy a VW camper van and take her manicure skills around the country.

Ann-Marie Wilson, an anti-FGM campaigner, has set up the charity 28 Too Many –the number of African countries where FGM is still practiced –to highlight the perpetrators and ultimately eradicate the practice globally.

She recalls her experience: "Initially, I felt I was literally sinking as it's a lonely life pioneering on your own. I joined the aptly named 'Sink or Swim' module –and I am now in an action learning set with two others. Without this course I'm not sure I'd have made it this far!"

John, a youth worker with StreetSpace in Weston-super-Mare explains the benefits of being on the course. "The flexibility of the course has been essential as I needed to work alongside my learning. It has provided the space to work out who it is I am and what I am called to. Moving forward I fully expect to lean into our learning on the Missional Entrepreneurship module and try my hand at social enterprise."

The Church of England has recognised that pioneers are vital for the future of the Church and the Church Mission Society's Pioneer Mission Leadership training programme provides a designated pathway for ordination as an Ordained Pioneer Minister (OPM). It offers certificate, diploma and MA qualifications.

Read more about the CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training programme