Mission Pioneers innovate to bring the Good News to Ayrshire

The Church of Scotland in Ayrshire has launched a new Mission Pioneer programme to connect with people in refreshing and dynamic ways.

The Presbytery of Irvine and Kilmarnock has formed six Pioneer Initiative Teams, four of which are connected to parish churches and two which will operate across the presbytery area, in a variety of contexts.

Misson Pioneers

The teams are led by Mission Pioneers who will work alongside and in partnership with parishes – urban and rural – to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and to build new worshipping communities.

Team leader, Rev Maggie McTernan, described the programme, launched in April and inspired by the Church's national Pioneer Ministry project to go beyond the walls of church buildings, as "bold and exciting".

Relationship building

Alison Muir has been appointed to lead the "Crossing Together" programme, a partnership between Dreghorn and Springside Parish Church and the new united congregation of Irvine Mure Relief, which intends to plant a new church in the south area of Irvine.

The vision is for an intergenerational church where people of all ages will be brought together to share activities, experiences and worship in a new dynamic way.

Mrs Muir, 41, said: "I am loving all the various aspects of being a Mission Pioneer, from developing our mission statement and action plan to participating in the mission night events for presbytery.

"However, I especially enjoy building relationships and partnerships right in the heart of Boutreehill and Broomlands with the local people and businesses.

"It is very exciting being part of a fresh expression of Church, getting to walk with people and meet Jesus on the way, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to start or enhance their own discipleship journey.

"There is room for all of us, including myself, to grow and learn through being Church in a different way as we follow Jesus together."

Diverse role

Jill Hendry is leading the "Growing with God" project in the south area of Kilmarnock.

It is an outreach ministry and she will work with the pioneer team to create connections in the community, establish and nurture relationships with individuals, community groups and organisations.

Mrs Hendry said: "I am thoroughly enjoying the diverse nature of my role as Mission Pioneer.

"Connecting, talking, listening, sharing and most importantly building relationships with people of faith and none."

Pete Anderson is leading "Thrive", a missional project to connect, support and disciple people in their 20s, 30s and 40s from Stewarton who have either stopped going to church or have never stepped into a church building in their lives.

The project seeks to "go to" the Church's missing generation and share the love of Christ by building new networks, including online, that counter false perceptions of church and faith.

God at work

Mr Anderson, 48, said: "It's been a great start laying down the vision and values with the core team that will underpin our activity.

"We're at the listening and exploring stage asking where is God already at work as we pray together and undertake a community audit."

Katrona Templeton, 41, is leading a presbytery-wide project to ensure that all congregations are more welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities.

The vision is to enable everyone to engage fully in church life, including worship,service and fellowship.

Mrs Templeton said: "I am loving my new job, it is exciting to be able to make a real difference by building bridges between the disabled community and the church.

"So far we have worked hard to get a solid framework established and I can't wait to be able to start putting everything into practice."

Robert Thomson has been appointed to lead the Irvine Sports Mission which will build on existing work in sports clubs and establish appropriate "gathering points" for discipleship, worship and mission.

It is recognised that sport provides opportunities for building relationships and creating friendships which can lead to disciples being made.

Mr Thomson, 35, said: "I have been encouraged by the passion and energy of everyone who I have met so far.

"With lockdown restrictions easing slowly I am excited by the potential for growth and renewal."

Online church

Stuart Forsyth, 34, has been appointed to develop a locally focused online church across the presbytery area.

The aim is to provide resources that would create a community which had a long-term desire or need for worship rather than attend services in a church building.

Mr Forsyth said: "I've enjoyed my first few months in post.

"As much as everyone's looking forward to getting back to ‘in-person' services, church online is still going to be an important part of how we do Church and the team and I are excited to launch this new initiative after the summer."

Faithful and hopeful

Ms McTernan, said: "The new pioneer initiatives are working to establish worshipping communities that will come together in new ways, to share God's love with those who have no church connection.

"The pioneers will work in partnership with the parish churches, and will also support the parishes to develop their own missional activity.

"The aim is to establish a witnessing and worshipping community in every locality in the presbytery in the next 10 years.

"It's a bold ambition but an exciting one, seeking to be faithful to what has gone before and hopeful for what God will do in the future."

The six Mission Pioneers are Ministries Development Staff (MDS) and the posts are part-time over fixed terms.

The programme, which is supported by a special presbytery fund, is part of the presbytery's development plan and a response to a 2018 General Assembly instruction for the Church to meet the needs of areas for which they have a spiritual responsibility and make best use of available resources.