Welcome to the November edition of e-xpressions. This month we've had a bumper crop of new stories on our website:
- Focus Service: Sheffield Chuch, a church for people with learning difficulties;
- Stillpoint, a collection of resources and spaces in Oxford for those attracted to the contemplative tradition;
- A church being rebuilt around a community project in Willington Quay;
- St Christopher's, church in a school in Leicester;
- and we learn when to stop at the 3:08, Nailsea.
There's more on learning from failure at the 3:08 on November's podcast, as well as Visions in the crypt at York Minster and some thoughts on discipleship from the Brierley Hill Project.
There’s no such thing as failsafe!
A risk-free existence can look very attractive for a while. Although the fine line between risk-free and unbearably boring is easily crossed. But those who want risk-free should never become Christians. To follow Jesus means risking all to follow him. I was recently reminded that the Church of Scotland report 'Church Without Walls' says that the essence of church is 'People with Jesus at the centre, traveling wherever Jesus takes us.' The whole fresh expressions initiative is about allowing Jesus to take us to those whom our existing churches do not reach, and working with him, as he forms a new group of people, who are willing to go wherever he takes them. That inevitably involves risk.
All churches and congregations are 'expressions of church'. Christ is fully present wherever two or three (or 25 on a cold Autumn morning) gather in his name. But no church fully and maturely expresses Christ. Each has a capacity to mature and each needs to be complemented by others. The risky thing about inherited expressions of church is that we know how to do them, and sometimes fail to take new risks for God. The risky thing about planting a fresh expression of church is that we are only just beginning to learn how to do them, and will need to learn from our mistakes. It is hard to be part of something that does not live up to our hopes and expectations, or to discover that a venture is not as easy as it seemed to be in advance. It is painful to realise, too late, that we have made a mistake. But without some failures we will never learn a better way.
Saying, 'I wish I had known that earlier' may be exasperating, but it is a vital part of the way we learn. The disciples' journey with Jesus was full of getting things wrong and (sometimes) learning from mistakes. That is how he formed them for their mission 'to the ends of the earth' and that is the way he will form us.
There is no guarantee that we will succeed, but we will never succeed if we are not willing to try. God is faithful but there is no such thing as failsafe, in fresh expressions or any other aspect of discipleship. Whether our early attempts at planting fresh expressions work out as we hope, or not, lets stay on the learning curve together.
There's more about trial and error on the creative experimentation page of Share.
First Bishop's Mission Order
The first Bishop's Mission Order in England, formally authorising a fresh expression of church, was signed on 8 November by the Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish. The Order was made for Exeter Network Church, a thriving 300-strong group of Christians who meet at a school in the city. It authorises the new Church as being within the Church of England, but outside the parish system.
Mission Orders were only approved by General Synod last year and each one will be different, written according to the particular requirements and goals of the fresh expression of church.
Though the church will pay a contribution towards the Common Fund which pays for the work of the diocese, and its priest will answer to the Bishop, the Exeter Network Church will operate above and across normal parish boundaries. The Order will run for five years, when it will be reviewed. Find out more in the full media release.
Sanctus - new DVD
Our new DVD, Sanctus: fresh expressions of church in the sacramental tradition, is out now. Featuring a keynote address by the Archbishop of Canterbury from 2008's national day of pilgrimage to Coventry Cathedral, the DVD has seven stories of sacramental or contemplative fresh expressions: Visions, Moot, Critical Mass, Glorious, Contemplative Fire, feig and Blessed.
See for yourself exciting ways in which worship can be real and total; something not just thought about, but seen, and head, and touched and smelt - an experience that envelops all our senses.
Very Revd Richard Giles, Liturgical Consultant
Stop press: Our new interactive DVD-ROM, mission shaped congregations, is released at the end of this month. More details in next' month's e-xpressions.
The 308 Nailsea story mentioned above is about a fresh expression that failed and decided to call it a day. Sometimes risk leads to failure, but we can learn from our mistakes. There is a page on the Share website purely for this reason. If you want to read other people's honest admissions of failure, or share a story of your own, go to the Your stories - things to learn from page.
The sister page to this is a place to leave success stories. Again, to read other people's posts, or to leave a comment yourself, go to the Your stories – things that went well page.
The Share discipleship section is recommended in the Brierley Hill Project section of the November Fresh Expressions podcast. For more than a dozen detailed pages on discipleship, with principles, resources and practical advice, find out How might we encourage discipleship?.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is to be the keynote speaker at a national event in Lincoln which will focus on the long-term development of fresh expressions of church. Changing the landscape: fresh expressions and the long term takes place on 5th March 2010 and you can book places now.
Apologies for the difficulties with last month's e-xpressions. We have fixed the problem and there shouldn't be a repeat (famous last words...) - thank you for bearing with us. You can always view the latest issue online.
See you again next month,
The Fresh Expressions team.