17 May 2024

Connected Pioneer Gathering 2024: Storytelling together

Major Ruth Gray

A photo shows people worshipping in a large, airy room.

Major Ruth Gray reports from this year’s Pioneering Gathering.

Connected, the Pioneering Gathering 2024, was a weekend of sharing stories of how God is working.

When stories of deep encounters with Jesus are shared, we see and experience transformation. The phrase ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ is used often but, when you catch a glimpse of the picture, you experience so much more than a thousand words could describe. As you listen to a story, you become part of that story and then the story changes and grows and evolves. Suddenly there is connection, cohesiveness and challenge as the Holy Spirit changes the storyteller and the listener.

During the weekend, we were blessed to be given the beautiful space of the venue to encounter and connect with God and each other. It was a gift that revealed more of who God is and how he is working in the lives and communities of the delegates, who represented a connected global community.

The speakers – Mark Berry, the Rev Cham Kaur-Mann, the Rev Dr Kate Coleman, Rich Robinson and Cath Livesey – shared insights that spoke deeply into our lives. In the opening evening, based around the theme Disrupted Disruptors, the Rev Kate brought a challenge: ‘Can these bones live? Yes, they can when the disruptors disrupt by God’s grace.’

Five sessions followed the themes Pioneering Spirit, Discerning the Spirit, Prophetic Spirit, Pioneering Leadership, and Leading Team Through the Lens of APEST (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher). These brought rich teaching, connectedness and lightbulb moments as experts taught and we learnt together as a connected community.

Michael Alford, territorial community engagement lead, Rob Moye, sports mission specialist, and Territorial Director of Community Services Tony Daniels led worship, bringing us into the presence of Jesus. Assistant Territorial Director of Community Services Gill Bedford prayed for the delegates and shared pictures that God spoke into the conference.

Stories from local expressions gave glimpses of the work of God in today’s Salvation Army. From living faith out in Feltham, St Ives, Hadleigh Farm, Sheerness, Denmark and Australia, the diversity of stories was vast. The connectedness of it all was evident as glimpses of individual encounters with Jesus, community transformation and new communities of faith coming to life were discussed and shared with attendees.

The after-hours buzz in the lounge was intense and the conversations continued into the early hours as people shared, ate and prayed together. It was a time of deep connection with God and each other. Relationships were created and grounded in who we are in God, with one worship song repeatedly reminding us that we are children of a King and Jesus connects us.

On Saturday evening, deep stories of how others had found Jesus were shared and life was truly lived out and shared together in a deep, inspiring, life-changing way. Major Caroline Heward (Yorkshire and Humber DHQ) opened God’s word on Sunday morning, speaking around Acts 2 and the community of believers, bringing us back to the truth of who we are in community and how we are called to share life in our local contexts.

As the final worship finished, people left tired but thankful that they had been part of the Connected gathering. God spoke, ministry happened, lives were changed, fun was had, sweets were eaten and new relationships were formed. It was good, but good is only really ‘good’ if the impact is felt in the days and weeks that follow.

There is a message from this gathering that everyone needs to hear. My attempt to sum it up is this: your ordinary stories are extraordinary, and someone needs to hear them. Not because of us, but because of Jesus. Be connected!

Written by

The Salvation Army red shield

Major Ruth Gray


Learn more

Find out more information on pioneering and fresh expressions.

Pioneering and Fresh Expressions

Discover more

One of The Salvation Army’s primary roles has always been to break new ground with the gospel.

This online course is an introduction to pioneering and forming fresh expressions of church.

Major Andrew Vertigan unpacks what pioneering really means with Simon Hope.

Events across the UK and Ireland Territory.