Photo Credit: Diocese of London
A new School of Pioneers is opening in London to provide non-residential training in pioneer ministry for lay leaders. The initiative is being run jointly by the Diocese’s Centre for Church Planting and Growth and the Anglican mission agency Church Mission Society (CMS). The new venture will “identify and train new pioneer leaders to birth ‘new churches, for new people in new places’ across London”, a spokesperson for the diocese said in a statement.
The Diocese of London is more than half-way through an ambitious target of opening or re-launching 100 new worshipping communities by 2020. In 2017 the diocese’s electoral roll figures – the closest to a membership list in the Church of England – showed a 13 per cent increase in church membership since 2012, bucking the national trend and demonstrating a clear demand for church growth, the diocesan statement said.
“I am excited by the potential of our partnership with CMS”, the Bishop of Islington, Ric Thorpe, who leads the Centre for Church Planting and Growth, said. “We are working to encourage a culture of pioneering through church plants, fresh expressions and missional communities throughout the diocese and through the School of Pioneers, we will be able to train and commission lay people to lead new forms of church in new places for new people.”
The Director of Mission Education at CMS, Jonny Baker, said: “The London School of Pioneers is part of our growing network of training hubs for lay pioneers that we are developing in partnership with dioceses around the country which began with the St Cedd Centre for Pioneer Mission in the Diocese of Chelmsford.
“They are the result of nine years of sustained success and continued growth of the Pioneer Mission Leadership Training programme that CMS has pioneered from its base in Oxford.
“The Church of England now wants a more accessible version of this training based in their own diverse contexts, in order to train and equip their lay people for pioneering mission”, he said. “The hubs form part of a rapidly expanding network of pioneers across the UK that is changing the ecclesial landscape and influencing the development of pioneer training in other parts of the world.”
The new School of Pioneers has the backing of the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally. It will allow the diocese to offer formal training to lay pioneers for the first time, “and testifies to the growing importance of ‘pioneering’ in the Church’s strategy to reach a generation who have grown up in a post-Christian culture,” the statement said.
The School is aimed at lay people who are either already involved in pioneering, or who have been identified as pioneers within the diocese. It will offer pioneers the chance to understand their vocation, and gain the expertise, experience and understanding to help them launch and lead fresh expressions of church including missional communities, community projects and entrepreneurships, across the diocese.
Meanwhile, the diocese’s plan to open 100 new churches continues, with the opening next week of the new St Luke’s Church in Millwall, in the south London district known as the Isle of Dogs. The Bishop of Stepney, Adrian Newman, will rededicate the building – his last major engagement before he retires. The original St Luke’s was a temporary iron-building, constructed in 1865. That was replaced with a 700-seat Gothic-style building in 1873, but that building was destroyed in an air raid during World War II; following which the parish was merged with the neighbouring Christ Church.
The new St Luke’s has been built to cater for what Bishop Adrian described as “today’s needs of a flourishing Isle of Dogs community.” He said that the new building was “a fantastic example of how the Diocese is working confidently to foster its ministry in East London.”
The Priest Missioner at St Luke’s, Ed Dix, said: “With so many new homes being built all around us on the Isle of Dogs, the church family at St Luke’s is overjoyed that we too will soon have a new home, to share with each other and with our local community.
“Our vision as a church is to be overflowing with the life of God, and the installation of the spire on the new church building . . . is a big sign to our neighbours that we are here: to be a blessing to all, and to point people to the Risen Lord Jesus.”