At St Mary’s Lapworth we have a longstanding relationship with the Church Mission Society (CMS). At Christmas we give them a donation (around £200), and we receive their publications. It has been a quiet relationship for a long time, but things got a shake up this summer. We received a letter from CMS reminding us that they were founded in 1799 and that 2021 is their 222nd birthday. They set us the challenge of raising an extra £222 for them to celebrate the birthday! This request caught the imagination of the PCC. We set aside Sunday 1st August to think about CMS and to take a retiring collection for them in church. Would we manage to raise £222?
As I prepared for 1st August I read up about CMS. I even read some of the pamphlets that they have been sending us all these years! And I have really appreciated this. It has given me a whole new insight into CMS and the great value of its work. CMS is a mission agency, which trains, places and supports people in mission roles in the UK and throughout the world. In 2019 it was supporting 132 Mission Partners in 37 different countries. It also works in partnerships with churches in the UK and organises significant mission leadership training. Our own bishop, David Urquhart, came to ordained ministry through involvement with CMS in Africa.
I also appreciated finding out about the history of CMS. This is profoundly tied up with three generations of the Venn family that are commemorated by the CofE on 1st July each year. Henry Venn (1725-1795) was curate in Clapham and Vicar of Huddersfield. He developed evangelical principles and became known as an “Evangelical Divine”, famous for his piety, but also his cheerful demeanour, which was rather in contract to the gloomy disposition of many churchmen of his time. Henry’s son John Venn (1759-1813) was Rector of Clapham from 1792 until his death. He was a central figure in the group known as the “Clapham Sect” which included MPs like William Wilberforce and Henry Thornton. The group became famous for its role in the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, but it also founded various missionary societies including CMS in 1799. John’s son Henry Venn (1796-1873) was secretary of CMS for 32 years and was hugely influential in its growth and the development of its policies and theology. He stressed the need for education and the training up of indigenous church leadership. He emphasised the need to trust in the emergence of a truly native church, without subjugation to western leadership or culture.
And the £222? Well at the time of writing we are pretty close, so I am confident that we will get there! I’d like to wish CMS a happy birthday and blessed future.
With prayers and best wishes, Fr Patrick
Prayer from the Church Mission Society (CMS) website
Jesus, you gave deep attention to the people that you met.
By your Holy Spirit enable me to be present to
those you send my way.
May we be a gift to each other.
And so may your kingdom come…
Amen. Ian Adams, Mission Spirituality Adviser for CMS