Welcome to the August 2012 edition of e-xpressions.
mission shaped ministry
Don't forget to sign up for mission shaped ministry starting in the autumn in Bury St Edmunds, Market Harborough, Chelmsford, Gloucester, Bluewater and Faversham, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Nailsea, Doncaster, Wolverhampton and Hull. A course starts in Eastbourne in January.
The 24-unit course is usually presented over three Saturdays; a residential weekend; and six or seven weekday evenings. For those developing fresh expressions of church, coaching can be offered in between meetings. Individuals are very welcome to sign up for the course but organisers have found that learning is enhanced when people come as part of small groups.
When Love Crosses The Great Divide
Sean Stillman (Zac's Place & God's Squad) takes to the road in September for a series of dates to enthuse about mission to the margins. It provides an opportunity for anyone seriously engaged in - or wanting to be engaged in - mission on the fringes to hear from an experienced practitioner who has found his home amid the chaotic street community, bikers, artists and many living in a cycle of destructive patterns of behaviour.
Just a bloke on his bike, the sermon on the mount and 25 years worth of stories from the margins.
Discount: making a difference
expressions: making a difference is our DVD of twenty eight stories to inspire and challenge and it's now available for just £10 (RRP £15). The stories illustrate lessons to be learnt as fresh expressions of church make a difference to people's lives.
From the church for ragamuffins in Swansea, to the Divine Divas of Tadcaster, these new ways of being church demonstrate that God's Spirit is helping Christians live mission-shaped lives in a whole range of fresh contexts.
Fresh Expressions show how the Church can reach out in new ways to those around us. We should be encouraged and inspired by these projects which are showing God's love in practical ways all over the country. I hope this DVD will help other church communities realise the wonderful potential they have to make a difference wherever they are.
John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
And don't forget, if you buy anything from our shop at the moment, you can get a free copy of The Future of the Parish System - just add it to your basket and the discount will be added automatically.
There's still time to sign up for Break Out, the gathering of pioneers and those involved in pioneer ministry with the aim of learning from one another and finding support from those who share the same call. It is an opportunity to be together, learn from each other and also interact with a number of guest speakers.
This year's gathering runs from 12th to 14th September 2012 at the Hayes Conference Centre and bookings close on 3rd September.
The Guide: worship
The new worship section of the Guide adds a selection of worship ideas to the existing wide body of knowledge and expertise.
Those involved in fresh expressions of church - and those wanting to find out more in any church context - can browse a wealth of content including confessions, creeds, prayers, praise and more.
Many fresh expressions do not start with worship as part of their initial set-up but many questions surround the introduction of worship when primarily serving those with no previous experience of church. What is worship? How can it be done sensitively? What are the practicalities involved? How best to explain what is happening and why?
The new section of the Guide tackles many of these issues by offering different 'ingredients' for worship in seven potential contexts or settings:
- children and their families;
- all ages together;
- 20s-30s (café-style);
- those with complex lives (including homeless);
- retired people;
- medium-sized gatherings.
The aim is that the examples and multi-sensory activities suggested will help to provide resources that can be adapted to individual contexts.
Multiplication not duplication
The purpose of fresh expressions of church are to be and embody an appropriate form of church to reach those who are not being reached by our existing ways of doing things, whether these are thought of as 'inherited' church or not.
In Church for Every Context (p151) Mike Moynagh writes
Many churches continue to serve significant sections of society. Yet the question presses: whom are these churches not serving?
This is a question which every church should ask itself, however well it seems to be doing. Who will never be reached if we only do this? Each well established fresh expression needs to ask exactly the same question as any church in inherited style - how can we reach the sort of people we don't reach now? Many fresh expressions are relatively small, but it may well be that the multiplication of the small is the Holy Spirit's strategy for our times.
Mike then points to the increasing diversity in our society and continues
Church no longer has the option, if it ever did, of relating to people as if they were all the same... Churches will look different because they are engaging with different people.
To reach those we are not reaching we need not only many more fresh expressions of church, but also many different fresh expressions of church. Neither duplicating inherited models, nor limiting ourselves to a number of well established types of fresh expressions, will do. What is needed is a multiplication of expressions of church both in numbers and creativity. The key process of listening to God in each context and then bringing the gospel and the context together in a creative way, opens up the possibility of real local creativity, if we refuse to let our imaginations be restricted by the models of fresh expression which are frequently used in other places. The Holy Spirit has not run out of ideas yet!
The vocation of the church according to Ephesians is to be Christ's
body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
That is, to embody Christ as the fulfilment or completion of each place and dimension of life. Any place where people gather, for whatever reason is potentially a place for a gathering of his people. This requires a rich diversity,
so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
We have not yet seen the full range of that rich diversity.
Diversity within unity is God's intention. The creative multiplication that I long to see also requires a commitment to connectedness. Expressions of church are expressions of the Church and all of the Church belongs together. Personally I don't believe it is appropriate to use the word 'church' of gatherings of Christians which have no meaningful connection to other churches. We cannot heal all the existing breaches in the Church's unity but we have a responsibility to ensure that we do not create new ones. Inherited churches plant fresh expressions as sister congregations, fresh expressions plant new sister fresh expressions, inherited church and fresh expressions are not fully 'church' without one another. May God gift us with new gifts of creative imagination for mission and a deeper longing for unity.
New this month
New stories this month include:
If you've not checked out the Guide, there are some other stories you might have missed: Save Haven, Language Café, Mini Mass, Space4Me, Sidewalk, Ealing soup kitchen, Regenerate-RISE, The Springfield Project, The Community of St Jude, The Odyssey Mission Community, Rainbow Worship and Eagles Wings.
New views this month include:
New On demand material this month includes:
- Linda Rayner on fresh expressions in the URC;
- Graham Cray on sustaining a fresh expression of church;
- Paul Bradbury updates the story of Reconnect;
- Bob Franklyn on the challenges of context and culture.
The phrase missional community seems to be being used both more frequently and in more diverse ways in the mission-shaped/fresh expressions movement. In a moment I want to ask if the phrase is helpful but first here is a quick attempt at a typography.
I am aware of four ways in which the phrase is being used:
- as an alternative description of a fresh expression;
- to describe intentionally-small fresh expressions or emerging churches;
- to denote small- to medium-sized groups that are constituent parts of larger church;
- to describe an Order of Mission.
Is the term 'missional community' helpful?
In the light of the above I want to ask:
- first, is the language understandable when it is being applied in so many ways? Or has it becomes so complex that it has become devalued? We may understand what we mean and developing a comprehensive typography could be the basis for a good MA dissertation, but what does someone with no Christian experience make of it all?
- second, is the term 'missional community' helpful, particularly when others (eg. the local Mosque, an AA group, the aficionados at the Apple Store) may legitimately argue they are a missional community too? Where is the Christian distinctiveness?
- thirdly, and ironically, could the term be a hindrance to mission? Is there a risk that it objectifies and therefore puts off the people the community is seeking to reach?
As for an alternative, if it is necessary to explain what a missional community is by using the word Christian, why not simply talk of Christian community in the first place?
What are your thoughts? You can read more details and comment on this article on our website.
Have a good month,
The Fresh Expressions team.