ON Monday evening, I gathered with Christians from across the Leigh Park estate to welcome our new PO9 pioneers.
It was a joyful celebration with Bishop Christopher commissioning Sara and Barney Barron into their new roles, and the people from this great estate affirming them in the tasks ahead.
Our pioneer ministers will add to what the church has to offer.
The title ‘PO9’ shows that they will be alongside people, not in a traditional parish, but in an area that covers mainly Leigh Park, Warren Park and West Leigh.
As Christians, we are called to be ‘with’ people – where they live, where they work and where they are in their relationship with God.
Pioneer ministry, especially, is about being alongside them where they are, rather than expecting them to come inside a church building.
I reflected on Monday night as we prayed – not in a church but in the wonderful theatre space at Park Community School – of how each of us might learn to know the love of God in new and challenging ways.
As pioneers, Barney and Sara will get alongside people of faith and none at all, they will encourage worshipping communities where people gather and they will use the prayerful support of existing Christians to deepen the faith of others.
In the commissioning service, the pioneers and the people together make four important promises.
We all promised (1) to seek out people of peace, (2) to walk with Jesus in our community, (3) to become like children in humility, and (4) to work and pray for justice.
These are bold aims, and we can only achieve them by being with people and each other.
We can only seek to fulfil these promises in the power and love of God and in partnership with each other.
There was rightly much rejoicing at the party afterwards that these two people will bring their love and commitment to the PO9 area.
It was also a celebration that I and all Christians across the area can commit ourselves again to the joyful task of being ‘with’ those around us, to learn from them and walk with them. God bless the pioneers!