Rev’d Chris Gaul, Pioneer curate at St James Kidbrooke, shares his journey.

“Pioneers cannot help but pioneer.” I recently said this to a person who is exploring ordination as a pioneer. What do I mean? Whatever context a pioneer finds themselves in, we see through the lens of opportunity. Perhaps there is a bit of the entrepreneur in us.

During the second year of my curacy I was helping to lead the early stages of a church graft – where a group of people from one church feel the call of God to join in with what He is doing in another church, usually this is where they already live or sometimes where they feel called to live. We are now just over 18 months in we are seeing incredible signs of growth in numbers and in depth.

What did we do?

For the first year we listened. We developed relationships with the church, the area, and the local community. There was always going to be a time when change was initiated but taking the time to listen meant that the change came from within the church and the community, resulting in an excitement and an energy which has driven us forward as one.

The temptation as a new leader to ‘make your mark’ or to ‘prove oneself’ had to submit to God’s will for His church. In Life Together Bonhoeffer posits that if we love and value our own ‘wish dream’ or in today’s rhetoric, ‘the vision’ of or for the community, more than the community of God we are called to lead, then ultimately, we shall fail and in doing so, destroy the community we are called to nourish. In one’s excitement, zeal, and enthusiasm can be easy to run ahead and think, ‘what next?’ I need to pray; Lord, what next? In Augustine’s sermon On Pastors, he warns that the leader must, ‘listen attentively; […] with fear and trembling,’ because it is God who guides us in truth to nourish those we lead, and it is nourishment from Him that is growing our community once again.