Both the church and the Christian university are institutions … recruiting the hearts and minds of the people of God …. To bear God’s image for and to all of creation.
James K A Smith
ForMission College Principal retires
The present Principal, Martin Robinson, has made the following statement.
“In one sense, those in Christian ministry never retire. However, we can leave one area of ministry and pick up a different ministry. After 18 years working with the college in one form or another, I feel it is right to hand on the responsibility to a new person. The college Board will oversee that process. I have accepted a request from Greater Europe Mission to work part time for them on the Engage West Midlands church planting project as from 1 October 2020.
I am immensely grateful to the Board, to my colleagues and to the many wonderful students who have studied with the college over the years for their friendship, support and encouragement.”
The Board of ForMission has made the following announcement.
“This is to inform you that Rev Dr Martin Robinson will retire as Principal and CEO of ForMission College on 30th September 2020. This has not been a sudden decision. Martin has been discussing his intention to retire at the end of September with members of the Board of Trustees for some considerable time. This means that the Board of Trustees will be actively seeking a new Principal for the College to commence duties on 1st October 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.
Martin has made very significant contributions to the College and without his vision and commitment the College is unlikely to even exist. The Board will find ways of recognising and thanking Martin for his 18 years of service once restrictions as a result of Covid-19 have been sufficiently relaxed.”
Two weeks ago, we highlighted the work of Engage West Midlands and their efforts to church plant in the UK. One of the first church plants to flow from this initiative is currently forming a core leadership team. The intention is to plant an intercultural church, aimed particularly at a younger age group. The hope is to recruit an intercultural leadership team from the beginning. That will be challenge.
A USA based mission organisation called Ethnos, is helping with the initial team training. During the pandemic that also has its challenges. If you know of potential church planters, interested in a church plant in the broad Handsworth/ Great Barr area, please be in touch with Engage West Midlands by email firstname.lastname@example.org
In the Shadow of the Twisted Spire
Taking Reverse Mission Seriously
One of our FCC ministers, who is originally from Malawi has written a wonderful book on the theme of reverse mission. Not only has Harvey (Kwiyani) written extensively on the topic, he has also gained a Ph.D. in a related area and actually engaged in mission in at least three western nations. Such thoughtful practitioners are rare.
Of course there are thousands of pastors, evangelists, missionaries, self styled apostles, prophets, healers, exorcists and others from Asia, Africa and South America conducting ministry in various western lands, but mostly these are conducting ministries to their own culture, ethnicity and language group, living as part of the huge diaspora from other continents who have migrated to the west.
So, it was with great interest that I interviewed Pastor Toyin Taiwo from Nigeria:
As she explains, Toyin self-consciously attempted to begin a multi-national congregation in Chesterfield, England. Although Chesterfield is near the huge industrial towns and cities of Sheffield, Derby, Leeds and Nottingham it isn’t the kind of place where one would expect to find a large migrant community. The town is famous for the twisted spire on the main parish church in the town and it certainly feels more ‘English’ than many of the places where African majority congregations have sprung up.
Growth at Grace Chapel has not been spectacular or straightforward. After eight years of intensive effort the group has grown from Toyin’s own small family to become around 80 adults and 20 children with about two thirds present on any particular Sunday. The congregation is drawn from around twenty different nationalities, representing every inhabited continent on earth.
Although Toyin is a Nigerian and her congregation is part of a Nigerian denomination, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, interestingly the smallest national African group within the church is drawn from Nigeria. The white English community represents the single largest group. There are other white migrants present from various European nations and from commonwealth countries such as Australia. It’s an intriguing and remarkable mix.
So how did someone who does not regard herself as a fully trained pastor, whose husband’s occupation as a senior executive within a multi-national company, often takes him away from home, combine her responsibilities as a wife, a mother and a prayer warrior with the call to mission in a strange land?
Toyin’s upbringing is significant. She describes her father as someone who was shaped culturally by the Anglican Church in Nigeria and was educated to MSc level in Leeds, England. He ensured that his daughter was given a wider appreciation of the world than the immediate Nigerian context in which she lived. That was partly accomplished by sending her to what is called a ‘unity’ school – an institution that deliberately brought together a multiplicity of pupils from different regions and tribal groups within Nigeria. She describes herself as being de-tribalised both by the influence of her father and also by her educational experience.
Marriage to a senior executive in the business world meant immersion in a number of different cultures. While living in England their family chose to worship in a lively and largely white English, Baptist church in the commuter belt that serves London. That helped to convey a sense of what English church life in a contemporary English church might feel like.
Toyin’s family moved to Chesterfield in order to provide a more settled base for a family whose father was required to travel a good deal. In that context she felt a call to begin a church. Because she was then worshipping in a congregation belonging to the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Sheffield, the idea of beginning a congregation near to where she lived was not unusual, except that she did not feel as if she had the necessary gifts or training to do such a thing. This was a call that she resisted for some time.
Eventually, towards the end of 2008, she accepted the call to church plant and out of a conversation with a Muslim woman from West Africa, she began a Bible study with that particular woman and with many of the friends of that same person. After three months of home studies they went public with a worship service. Toyin was determined that from the very beginning this would be a church that felt more English than African. The length of the service, the choice of worship songs, the refreshments, the style of the meetings were all shaped in such a way that it was more comfortable for English people than Nigerian. That was a courageous choice and crucial in shaping the future composition of the congregation.
Key features of the way the church has developed include these three convictions.
First, they prayed for the town and not just for the growth of the church. That included prayer for the economy of the town, its well being, for those with mental health problems, for the flourishing of the local university campus, and for the public life of the town.
Second, they worked actively with other churches and tried to serve their needs wherever possible. That helped to build an atmosphere of trust amongst the Christian leaders in the town so that it became easier for the churches to work on projects together.
Third, they have been responsive to calls for help from town council officials and other Christian organisations (for example Street Pastors and a Soup Kitchen in the town) for accommodation. This has led to the running of a soup kitchen on Tuesdays and Thursdays by volunteers drawn from different churches and one run on Sundays solely by Grace Chapel volunteers. The soup kitchen, I am told, is soon to be upgraded to a hub where the homeless can have their laundry done, have their hair cut and feet cared for by church volunteers.
A few years ago, the Community Safety Partnership office in the Council had noticed young people congregating by the bus station – near where homeless people slept. These young people tended to come from deprived parts of the town and some had been excluded from school or were taking ‘legal highs’. Older people, using the bus station, were afraid of this group of young people and the Council was concerned that the youth were being influenced by the homeless folk, many of whom had serious drug or alcohol problems. The local Street Pastors, Toyin and another local minister were invited to help. The Street Pastor would invite the youngsters to a Friday group at Grace Chapel but after four weeks they came by themselves. Toyin’s team gave them sandwiches as well as tea and coffee. From this work has come a Friday night ‘Roc Café’
While none of these things are entirely original activities, they are highly contextualized and flow from a concern for mission first with church being seen as a servant of the mission and not the other way round. As I interviewed Toyin, she and her team were moving into their new premises – a former bank in the main town square – right in the centre of the market area, with Chesterfield’s famous crooked spire looking on.
The painting above is by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, Chesterfield Church in Derbyshire, 1773. It currently is located in the British Library. It is made available through Wikimedia.
- Harvey C. Kwiyani, Sent Forth: African Missionary Work in the West, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2014).
What does a flea have to do with ‘missional imagination’? During the summer, Forge Midlands has been hosting 60-minute webinars to help churches and leaders think more creatively about their context where God is already at work. Our most recent seminar on Reawakening Missional Imagination with Trevor Hutton included five stories and practical suggestions of how to reawaken dreams and explore new possibilities of joining the Father, Son, and Spirit in his work in our communities and neighbourhoods. In a season of ‘Black Lives Matter’ and Covid19, these stories are inspirational and worth your time to watch.
Last month’s webinar looked at ‘Lessons from Acts 11 – A Church Responds to Crisis’. This was also a timely presentation from Trevor. Our next webinar is 13 August at 7.00pm where we will be exploring the topics which Forge looks at over the course of a typical year.
We are happy to share the webinars with you. You can get the links and passwords to view the recorded webinars by emailing me at Timothy.C.Aho@gmail.com. You can also register for the 13 August webinar using the same email address. Send any questions my way!
Reawakening Missional Imagination:
Password: 9W&A^+xp (best to copy and paste)
A Church Responds to Crisis
Password: 6Q%!3uz^ (best to copy and paste)
On-line counselling course
ForMission College is currently developing an on-line course that will act as an introduction to counselling. It will not lead to a counselling qualification, but it will give some good training around the principles and practices that are required to be effective in offering support and encouragement to those who express the need for support. More details will be available on the ForMission web site in early August.
ForMission College seeks a new Principal
New Principal for ForMission College – call for expressions of interest
ForMission College equips Christian leaders to engage in the mission of God. It offers short and foundation courses, and BA and MA degrees in mission. It draws students from across the Christian denominations and from the breadth of multi-ethnic society.
The College Board of Trustees wish to appoint a new Principal from 1st October 2020 or shortly thereafter, following the retirement of the current Principal, Rev Dr Martin Robinson.
In the first instance, the Board invites expressions of interest to be emailed to email@example.com
More information will be sent to those expressing interest.
News from churches
What are our churches doing to re-open after lock-down? Speaking with a number of church leaders this week I discovered that the answers to that question are many and various. Some are waiting until September before moving back into their buildings. Others are planning to move back gently over the summer and still others are currently experimenting with a mixture of outdoor events and a continued on-line experience. Our God leads us in very creative paths!
Introducing Mat Wilson
We have completed our set of introductions to the Strategic Board and over the next few weeks we will profile the members of the FCC National Council. This week it is the turn of Mat Wilson:
Mat is the Senior Minister at Rowheath Pavilion Church where he has served for 7 years. This is how Mat describes himself.
“I am married to Hannah and we have three kids. For a few years we lived in Albania as mission workers before I became Team Leader of a mission training college in Birmingham. I support Aston Villa and enjoy a good curry night out.””
Till next week, Martin Robinson….