If you receive our weekly reflections you will have met our newest member of staff, Jo Allen, when she put together a short video about herself back in June. Here is the introduction she prepared for our MOSAIC magazine that will be landing on door mats about now.
Hello, my name is Joanna (please call me Jo), and I'm the new director of Rural Ministries in the Southwest. Allow me to tell you a little bit about myself. I'm a 36-year-old mother of three, married to a Doctor of Public Health. I was raised in Southeast England and have lived, studied, and worked in Worcester, Bristol, Sri Lanka, Truro, Boston (USA), and rural Oxfordshire. My life's work has always been to help people come to know Jesus and to encourage the Church to live fully in the Spirit. During the last seven years, God has called me to pioneer new rural worshipping and missional communities within the Anglican Church. I feel passionately compelled to encourage and train other missional and pioneering leaders and to build spaces where they can feel loved, welcomed, and thrive inside and outside official church structures. This calling has been expressed through my work with the Rural Fresh Expressions guiding team and now through the Anglican 'Greenhouse' initiative, which creates spaces for Anglicans to journey together on a missional journey.
Rural churches fascinate me partly because they are largely forgotten, written off, and disregarded. Reading scripture, we often find God at work in the forgotten places. I am passionate about theology and education and am now pursuing an MA in pioneering ministry at the Church Mission Society. My study has concentrated on pneumatology and mission in rural settings, particularly missional listening. When churches learn to hear God's voice more clearly, I believe they begin to look different, feel loved, and live to serve others beyond the Church. I spend a lot of time teaching about it.
I grew up in a variety of Christian denominations. I was converted to Christianity at a non-denominational charismatic church that grew out of the Toronto blessing. I have since attended a Baptist church, numerous New Frontiers Churches, an Anglican church, a sizable evangelical church in Boston, and a few other Anglican churches. I have a heart for Christian fellowship across denominational lines, and my varied experiences have prepared me to do so. I attended Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, for ordination preparation after studying theology at Trinity Bristol.
In the next five to ten years, I see myself playing a role in helping to reshape the landscape of the rural Church by gathering and sharing the stories of rural pioneers; supporting rural churches on their missional journeys; creating theological resources to help the rural Church deepen discipleship and engage with mission; challenging the institutionalised Church to become more missional and more supportive of its missional leaders; and beginning a doctoral programme in rural pneumatological missiology, potentially teaching in theology colleges nearer the end. I also intend to continue the work I've been doing in the community to promote social justice, as well as inject more innovation into the life of the Church.
Jo Allen Director: South West