Janet Sutton explains what she is doing as the first URC pioneer minister.
I am the URC's first pioneer minister, working in the field of fresh expressions and emerging church. My role is to explore the potential relationship between the reformed tradition and the emerging church, and to facilitate emerging Christian communities in this part of the country.
The South Western Synod of the URC is made up of 130 churches covering Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire, Bristol and parts of Dorset, and Gloucestershire. Cullompton already has a vibrant institutional church life, and my mission is certainly not to impact negatively on that. So where does my mission lie?
That mission is to the people who would never think of going to church: who have left church and decided not to go back, or have explored other ways of expressing their spirituality; or have never considered the possibility that church (or even Jesus Christ) might be relevant to them.
On the estate where I live, most of the adult residents get in their car first thing in the morning, drive to work for the day, come home (possibly via Tesco's), go in, shut their doors, and that's it. If church is about community, and there is no sense or understanding of being community, where do we start?
It has to be by creating community. The precursor to that is creating relationship - and that is where I have started. It is slow work, and it can be frustrating. Prayers for this ministry are needed more than ever - for our strategy of hospitality in growing community on the estate, for my call to mission among people interested in alternative spiritualities, and for the new shoots of growth developing through community engagement.
I have been accepted to work in the prison at Exeter as a Community Chaplain but the clearance process can take for ever. More prayer! That everything may go smoothly and God will give me patience as I wait.
Things are gradually starting to happen and I'm particularly grateful for the conversations beginning to take place, at Cullompton Film Club, in the pub, on the street and during my endless dog walks. It's very early days but an exciting time. Watch this space!