The Pioneer Working Group in the Church of Ireland emerged some five years ago as three dioceses began working together in an attempt to encourage the pioneering of fresh expressions of Church.
From this emerged the IDLE – the Inter Diocesan Learning Experience, modelled on something similar in the Church of England. The three dioceses took part in an IDLE led by Canon Kerry Thorpe and found it so encouraging that they decided to widen the net in two ways. First, by inviting other dioceses to take part in an IDLE and secondly by inviting bishops across the Church of Ireland to nominate ‘Diocesan Advocates’ to come together with the Working Group to take Pioneer Ministry/Fresh Expressions forward in the Church of Ireland. Both initiatives have helped widen the Church’s involvement and expand the vision. Nine dioceses are now involved in the IDLE and eleven of the twelve have a diocesan advocate. Through these initiatives, it has become apparent just how much is happening across the dioceses of the Church of Ireland – there is already much to celebrate and by way of example, 46 of the 74 applications for Priorities funding this year were for outreach initiatives.
Over the past year, the expanded Group has also been working on an initiative that will assist the Church by way of on–going support. Thanks to funding from the Priorities Fund and the Church Fabric and Development Fund, a National Initiative will begin in the Autumn with four part–time staff employed – three facilitators and an administrator. The team will be led by Canon Phil Potter who has recently stepped down as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Missioner and Team Leader of Fresh Expressions UK.
In broad terms, in a simple, clear and intentional manner this Team will create a fresh expressions/pioneering Community across the Church of Ireland. So, an IDLC to replace IDLE! Under the banner of ‘Shaped to Serve’, the Community will raise awareness of and help embed new initiatives and innovation, along with giving expression to the re–imagining of what church looks like in the 21st century.
As part of their support, the Team will seek to make connections, build partnerships and develop relevant training for parishes but also for those who sense a particular calling to be pioneers. They will also organise an Annual National Gathering/Conference.