Welcome to the September edition of e-xpressions. Stories and updates on our website this month include:
- Norwich Christian Meditation Centre;
- Contemplative Fire - update, an update to the Contemplative Fire story;
- Whitehaven café church;
- Living Room - update, an update to the Living Room story featured on expressions: the dvd - 1.
Start as you mean to go on
At the heart of the fresh expressions movement lies the question 'who will never be reached if our church only does what we do now?' Fresh expressions of church are one part of the UK churches' desire to engage with the majority – those who have never been involved in church, or who lost contact long ago. We are seeking to reach the people who are unlikely to come to our present services.
A fresh expression of church is not designed as a halfway house or a stepping stone to attendance at an existing service. These may be good and right things to do but we should not confuse them with fresh expressions of church. Fresh expressions are new congregations, or church plants. Of course plans can change. There are projects which were set up for one purpose - such as a bridge to existing church - which later morphed into a fresh expression (people have a habit of getting on to one end of a bridge and refusing to cross!). But fresh expressions work better if the clear intention, at the outset, is to plant a new congregation.
It is important to start any mission initiative as you mean to go on, because your methodology will depend on your intentions. Bridge projects tend to be events set up to deepen relationships with people already in touch with a particular church's ministry, perhaps through toddler work or a senior citizens lunch. Experience may eventually show that your event needs to develop into a regular congregation and become church for its members, but It is more likely that the aim is to draw as many as possible into Sunday worship.
A fresh expression of church starts with a desire to reach those with whom the local church has no significant contact as yet. It normally involves a process of listening, serving and relationship building before any public event of act of worship can be established. It has to be done this way round because otherwise you have no idea who your event would be for, because you don't know to whom you are called. Designing an event like that is designing blindfolded. But following the listening process, it is likely that you not only know who it is for, but you know them personally. There is also a significant difference between staging a regular event for people and forming community with them. Church is community around Christ not just an event staged by Christians for those who might be interested. If there is to be community and discipleship, prayer and worship, word and sacrament and outreach to others, these all need all to be in the founding DNA of the fresh expression, even if they unfold over a period of time. It is always best to start as you mean to go on.
New look for mission shaped ministry
The msm course has been revised and redesigned with the help of a team of creative partners including Olive Drane, Mark Berry, Sue Wallace, Tony Hardy and Ben Edson.
Andrew Roberts, director of training for Fresh Expressions, says of the new look and content,
We have listened very carefully to course participants and its critics, and updated msm substantially as a result. In those revisions and the formation of the msm Board - which includes Howard Mellor (Chair), Joanna Cox, Jonny Baker, Bishop Graham Cray, Ian Mobsby, John Drane and Zoe Hart - we have been very careful to add even more breadth and depth to what was already in place. I believe that depth of writing and resource from many writers and practitioners of all ages has now given real substance to the tone and content of the course and material which is much more interactive, creative and suitable for a variety of learning styles.
Since its launch in 2007, 1,580 participants have flocked to 45 msm courses. In many cases, those involved have seen calls and visions clarified – sometimes going on to launch or sustain fresh expressions of church, while others have helped existing churches to become more mission-shaped.
Thirteen further courses are getting underway in September and October - including the first in Canada. By this time next year, it is estimated that approximately 2,500 people will have been involved in msm in the UK making the course a major contributor to lay and ordained ministry training.
Christmas is coming...
The first Christmas decorations were up in Selfridges, Oxford Street on 2nd August and, whilst we might be leaving it another few months to start sharing Christmas stories, we need to start gathering them now!
So if you know of a fresh expression doing something special for Christmas, tell us about it now! From the exciting, to the weird and wonderful, to the (extra)ordinary stories of fresh expressions engaging with their contexts in relevant and accessible ways this Christmas, we want to hear about it. You can use our online form or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org - why not take five minutes to do it now and help us to inspire others with your story.
The Share Community launched a few weeks ago. Already, a number of people have started groups and discussions in this new interactive part of Share, but these are in their infancy and would value your input.
If you are a member of the Share website, you will still need to register separately for the Community. To get there, follow the Community link on the top right-hand side of the Share homepage. Once you have joined, check out the 'Groups' or 'Members' or browse the recent activity on the home page. Make friends, and have fun joining in… or start up your own group or discussion.
The weekly Share guest blog continues to attract comments and debate, with recent topics including: the place of ritual in secular society, it's all about relationship, how to have an impact in your community and sacred spaces in unexpected places.
Training, jobs and events
With five mission shaped ministry courses just started this weekend, there's still time to sign up for courses in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, Plymouth, South Wales, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire or Stoke on Trent which all start within the next month. Contact your local course on the links above for details.
If you are aware of any jobs in fresh expressions, we'd be delighted to advertise them on our jobs page - at the moment we're aware of an opportunity for Director of Mission and Pioneer Ministry for the Sheffield Diocese.
If you haven't heard Stephen Lindridge, Fresh Expressions Connexional Missioner for the Methodist Church, explaining Fresh Expressions in under two minutes to Greenbelt TV, you can watch the clip in our news story.
Have a good month,
The Fresh Expressions team.