As the uncertainties and disruption due to the Covid pandemic continue, I thought it might be helpful to give you a brief tour of what is happening in OCMS.
Our flagship programme, the PhD, continues to serve a cohort of around 110 scholars. Along with those doing the Guided Study Programme (GSP), some have found the past months helpful while others have struggled to progress their research and writing due to increased pressure from daily work, restricted access to those they are researching and loss of residency in Oxford. Since August, we have been progressively reopening OCMS but with Covid cases going up and down we are unlikely to be fully open before the end of the first quarter next year.
A particular challenge has been to start new scholars in our programmes. We lost the Research Induction School in April and have cancelled the one in October. A dozen scholars are waiting to begin the PhD journey along with a number of GSP students. Instead, our faculty is working hard to convert the programme into a fully on-line curriculum in which residency will focus primarily of library work and tutoring by faculty mentors. The Integrated Mission Leadership (IML) programme for senior execs, which relies heavily on the dynamic of an intensive residential, has been postponed till July next year. In the meantime, a group of experts are collaborating with OCMS in order to develop a similar programme for mid-level mission leaders that can be run through a mix of online and residential modules.
Our publishing has flourished in recent months, with many excellent titles in the development. We have published 8 titles since the start of the year, including:
- Jubilee: God’s answer to poverty; a book that celebrates 50 years of TearFund ministry
- World Christianity in Western Europe: Diaspora Identity, Narratives & Missiology edited by Israel Olofinjana; a book that explores the role of Christians from Africa, Asia and Latin America in re-evangelising Europe
- Transcending the Modern Mission Tradition; a cut-down version of Michael Stroope’s brilliant book tracing the historical development of the concept of mission and calling for new language in mission
- Undivided Witness; an edited volume that explores the intersection of community development and church growth in least-reached contexts. It has rapidly become a best seller!
Work has continued on the preparation of an on-line platform that will host the Alliance of Mission Researchers and Institutions. A core Alliance of 17 institutions, facilitated by OCMS, has been working with IT developers in Oxford. They have done an excellent job in understanding the key elements of the platform (publishing, connection, and collaboration) and produced very exciting blueprints for the platform. The Alliance is gathering interest from individuals, organisations and networks committed to mission research and practice. With £60,000 set aside, we need a further £40,000 in order to build the site. We are praying that the money will come in so that we begin building the site in November and launch in early 2021.
In the past two months, momentum has been developing around the OCMS Research Forum for Faithful Witness. Dr Kirk Franklin, recently the Executive Director of the Wycliffe Global Alliance, has been seconded to work with OCMS on this initiative as well as the IML programme. The Research Forum will create a collaborative community for senior mission researchers in different parts of the world who are exploring different areas of cutting-edge mission. Amongst other things, the Forum will enable OCMS to support research into questions raised by mission leaders participating in the IML.
Finally, despite the disruption of Covid, work has continued with architects to prepare plans for a building project aimed at providing the kind of hospitable and practical space in Oxford that will serve the next generation of mission scholars and researchers. The plans are ambitious and inspiring while at the same time providing wise stewardship of the unique building that houses OCMS. We have been given £200,000 as seed funding that will enable us to seek all the necessary planning permissions and prepare detailed design plans. Let us know if you would like a prospectus.
I hope this summary of some of the current activities of OCMS gives you rich material for thanksgiving and prayer. In this time of uncertainty we are more than ever conscious of James’ warning, ‘Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” ‘ (James 4:13-15)
Please pray with us as we continue to learn to wait on and work with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.