A new type of church ministry is the focus of a two-day event this month.
Church pioneers from across Wales are meeting to share their stories with others and to look at ways to take the ministry forward.
And to provoke some extra creative thinking, they are meeting for the first day at Cardiff’s hands-on science discovery centre, Techniquest.
The conference, called Llais 2019, is being organised by St Padarn’s Institute, the training body of the Church in Wales. It will be chaired by the Bishop of Bangor, Andy John.
He says, “Pioneer ministry is about connecting with the community beyond the church – meeting people where they are rather than expecting them to turn up to the church building on a Sunday. From working with farmers in a cattle market to disadvantaged families on housing estates, our pioneers build relationships with the wider community and look for imaginative ways to share faith and develop Christian community that are appropriate to these groups.
“We’re looking forward to hearing pioneer voices and stories from across Wales at this event and learning how we can develop this important type of ministry in all walks of life. And I’ve no doubt that the creative environment we’ll be in at Techniquest will stimulate our minds as we look for new ways of serving others.”
Joining the delegates will be Jonny Baker who heads up mission training at the Church Mission Society. He will be reflecting back on the group discussions each day.
Llais 2019 takes place on 29-30 April at Techniquest on the first day and at Future Inn on the second day.
Pioneer minister, the Revd Jon Price, Bangor Diocese, writes:
People tend to have an idyllic view of rural life. But in the villages around Llanidloes the reality can be different. Loneliness, transport problems and unhappy family life can be paralysing. Churches here struggle with small numbers, but there is a great affection for church buildings even among those who never go into them. Together, we are working to bring Good News not just inside the churches, but way beyond their walls. Many of the people who live in and around the area would find it difficult to attend a traditional church service because it has ceased to be part of society’s week-by-week culture, so our desire is to takes all that is good and enriching about Christian community to them.
Sanctuary is the name of the small mission community that came into being around three years ago. There are eight of us altogether, and we all share in a commitment to grow as disciples and share our faith in mission and evangelism. As the mission community took shape, we encountered needs and problems that were wide-ranging and it would have been all too easy to think: ‘Where do we begin? If we try and tackle all of it, there’s no way we can.’ Instead we started our time with prayer and listening. This helped us work out how best to love the people we were being called to reach out to.
This led to our ministry taking two distinct directions: the development of a chaplaincy at Welshpool Livestock Sales; and of ministry to families and others on local housing estates.
With many of the traditional support networks such as the village pub, shop and post office gone, for many rural areas only the church is left to try and fill the void, and provide that ‘listening ear’ that so many people need. That is how our role as chaplains was created; to provide opportunities for conversation to happen and to point those who are struggling in the direction of further help.
Meanwhile, on the estates we have organised casual, informal events, centred on hospitality, and we have built up strong relationships with the families there.
During these steps of loving and serving and building community, we hope to awaken people’s desire to explore faith further, and are pondering how we might develop the space and garner the resources to encourage this. Some people fight shy of evangelism because it seems to square uneasily with our tolerant, respect-the-right-to-disagree culture. But evangelism is no more than offering the hospitality of God.
Together I feel we can really make a difference and show people that the Church does care and we are there for them.