It has been five years now since Caroline and I were invited to lead the Pioneer network of churches. What we have discovered is that things take longer to develop in a network than in local church.
We are encouraged by the growth in the partnership with the Methodist Church, the launch of the Ignite training programme, the growth and development of churches and hubs across the network, new partnerships with key churches, the sense of unity that is growing, the overseas connections and the sense of God’s presence and favour in what we are doing.
We look forward to 2014 with renewed hope and faith as we seek to follow his leading in all that we do.
Thank you for your ongoing support and friendship on the journey
Billy & Caroline
Across the nation there is an encouraging move towards greater unity and we are represented in a number of national leadership forums – Partners for Influence, Evangelical & Charismatic leaders round table, network leaders (HTB) and Churches together in England.
There has been an interesting move across the network of churches acquiring and moving into new buildings. Open Heaven Church in Loughborough partnered with the Elim Church to purchase and redevelop a redundant Anglican building. Global Generation Church in Ramsgate has completed the refurbishment of a large warehouse in Thanet. Life Church in Reading purchased a redundant cinema in the middle of the town and officially opened this year. The Resound congregation in Bristol moved into their newly refurbished community centre in September. City Life Church in Southampton took possession of a 400 seater Methodist Church in the north of the city. Cornerstone Church in Swansea completed the purchase of a redundant supermarket on one of the main arteries into the city. Work began in Essex to build a new home for New Life Church, Wickford.
In September, Hope Community School opened its doors to the community of Sidcup. Paul Weston and team have journeyed for the past two years to secure the opportunity to open a Free School in their Borough.
At the same time, Pioneer partner church, Doxa Deo London, received confirmation that they have won their bid to open a Free School in south west London in 2014.
The Hope Project in Wellingborough received the Queen’s ward for Voluntary Service in recognition of the outstanding work that the church does on the Hemmigwell Estate.
It has been a year of making new connections with churches and missional groups across the UK. Emmanuel Church in Lurgan, Northern Ireland and Doxa Deo London are two significant churches that have begun to partner with Pioneer this year.
Pioneer connexion developments
The partnership with the Methodist Church is only in its third but we are already working in 12 of the 32 Methodist Districts nationally. Sim Dendy has been working across the network establishing links, speaking at conferences and developing the partnership. As well as facilitating mission partnerships between Pioneer churches and local Methodist Churches we have appointed three ‘pioneer connexion ministers’ jointly funded by the Methodist Church and Pioneer to work in existing Methodist Churches and re-establish a missional presence in those communities.
Ignite is our one year leadership training programme giving women and men of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to encounter God’s passion for humanity. Our first course began in Southampton in September 2012 with 27 students.
In addition to the teaching, students are each assigned a mentor and have opportunity to engage practically in ministry. These included mission trips to Germany and Romania, a pilgrimage experience to Ireland, a visit to New Community Le Vay in France as well as numerous ministry experiences within the Pioneer/Methodist partnership.
In September 2013 94 students enrolled on Ignite in Southampton, Maidenhead, Loughborough and London, with a number of other locations a strong possibility for September 2014.
Andy Read conducted a survey of Pioneer church’s overseas involvement. We discovered that Pioneer churches are involved in over 50 nations supporting mission, training leaders, providing aid, sending teams and creating employment.
As a network we partner with the Ozreach network in Australia, the Pioneer Connect network in USA and have recently been invited to work with a large network of churches in Germany.
A highlight of our year is the opportunity for leaders and ministries to gather together. In March 350 leaders gathered in Southampton for our annual leaders conference. In June we had an excellent School of Theology with Dr Crispin Fletcher-Louis, Professor Meric Srokosz and our very own Roger Ellis. Alan Scott from Causeway Vineyard and Peter Lyne were the main contributors at our Leaders & Ministries forum at High Leigh.