Pioneer Practice by Jonny Baker
Inspiring, affirming, nourishing and practical - a book for pioneers and those wanting to support and release them
By Jonny Baker
Reviewed by Mel Neale
I would recommend this book to anyone who identifies themselves as a pioneer, or for those who feel a call to action but just don’t fit. Also, if you are a church leader and you want to identify, support and release pioneers this book is a really good starting point.
Having initially jumped at the chance to review this book I then, on waiting its arrival, began to feel some trepidation: no-one wants to give an unfavourable review, but as with many of us who identify as pioneers we are used to people not 'getting us’. I had thought that, at best it might be descriptive, that I would read some good stories and maybe even some justification for pioneering. In short, I was expecting it to be about me and my kind, not necessarily for us. I was delighted to find it was so much more.
It’s beautiful. It has an immediately engaging ‘magazine’ style to it and uses some stunning images. The colour coded sections are really clear and stylishly presented. I found it very readable. As I read I felt my questions were being anticipated - it was clearly curated by a pioneer.
The book begins with stories of pioneering projects, but it does not stop there as it breaks down their practice and the practical steps they made. There is diversity in these narratives and I was left with a sense that my own experiences could fit alongside these; they weren’t unreachable ‘glory stories’; they were real and honest.
In the “Be You” section I was encouraged to explore myself as a pioneer; What is the dissatisfaction that bugs me? What is the passion that I carry? What are the talents I have? This led to some practical exercises that I gained a lot from. From here the book gets into real ‘on the ground’ detail with shared wisdom from other pioneers, the practical nitty gritty stuff that can be put into action.
The real strength of this book is it understands pioneers. I felt that this book knows that we can’t do anything else, even if we wanted to and that we are in it for the long haul. This book provides what someone needs to hear when they know pioneering is not just what they do but who they are.
Mel Neale is a pioneer who lives and works in her small corner of West Yorkshire developing community connection and action through the arts