Groby Elder becomes Newbigin Pioneering Hub’s first Assembly Accredited Lay Pioneer

Wendy Hall, an Elder of Groby United Reformed Church in Leicestershire, is set to become the Newbigin Pionneering Hub’s first URC Assembly Accredited Lay Pioneer.

In this reflection, Wendy shares her story about how she went from the margins of church to being at its centre:

”I feel as if I have always sat on the outside edge of Church, having experienced several different denominations and free churches during my life.

“I love the concept of community and while this is an important part of church life it never sat quite right with me: internal services, internal house groups and life that never seemed to connect with those others out there.

“I harboured a deep desire to be ‘outside the walls of Church’ but being Church in some way. I just didn’t know how to go about this change, and often I was thwarted by others view of me. I was taken by some aspects of New Monasticism and looking back over my journals throughout the many years, I found a note asking myself ‘does God want me to be a Pioneer?’

“Fast tracking to the present I found myself unexpectedly retiring and asking God ‘what now?’ I wondered again about pioneering and encouraged by some friends I did a year with Church Mission Society (CMS) on their Pioneer Certificate Course.

“After my year with CMS, the URC set up the Newbigin Pioneering Hub, and I found myself thriving in this environment.

“Here I was able to deepen my fledging knowledge and have conversations with like-minded people. The topics while similar to those undertaken at CMS and were focused in a way that suited me, and I found myself starting to stretch my boundaries, and shape what my ‘true north’ looked like among my doubts and vulnerabilities.

“There was so much teaching in the pioneer training which I found new, inspiring, and reforming. Topics such as mission spirituality and finding my genius. The Bible in cultural context, community enterprise, justice, the gift of pioneering, the pioneer spectrum, and creating flourishing shalom communities. I found nothing but grace and warmth and encouragement in this environment and from Ash Barker who heads it up. His experience in over 30 years of pioneering, and the Hub’s location, in one of the most deprived areas of Britain, was an incredible journey. It has changed who I am and is enabling me to become who I am meant to be. This is a journey that I keep travelling. I could not recommend it more highly.

“During my training we were asked to dream of the community/church we would like to see established six years from now. I was aware that the community café was attracting many families with children with autism. To my astonishment during this envisioning, the idea of Under the Willow Tree (UWT) emerged.

“At the time of writing UWT is a fledging community taking place in Groby URC in Leicestershire, near  where I live. It offers support and blessing to families with SEN children aged five to 11. We meet from 3-5pm twice a month on a Sunday afternoon, and provide creative opportunities, sensory toys, and equipment, interaction circle time, signing and songs, cake, blessing, and support to each other.

“My hope is that we will cross the sacred secular divide to find flourishing in peace, acts of prayer, love, and compassion together, and that we might also seek justice and help for the marginalised SEN families, in other societies in the world.”

Learn more  more about the Newbigin Pioneering Hub and how to apply for the CMS Certificate in Pioneer Mission that begins this September.