Ben Edson explores being called to the centre.
The rhetoric of this second phase of Fresh Expressions seems to place a large focus on embedding fresh expressions in the ordinary life of the traditional church. Fresh Expressions, as an institution, is moving towards the centre. My personal vocation has always been to the edges, and hence I personally react against this move towards the centre. It may be that the move towards the centre is correct for Fresh Expressions, but my question is whether this centripetal movement is missional suicide for fresh expressions.
When I began ministry eight years ago, there was no Mission-shaped Church report, no Fresh Expressions, no mixed economy, no Ordained Pioneer Ministers, no Bishops' Mission Orders; it was an exciting time as we broke boundaries and defined church alongside the traditional pattern. In the past five years all these areas have been developed; many resources have been poured into them as the edges have been pulled towards the institutional centre. The edge is now neatly defined by its relationship to the centre rather than by those outside the church. Fresh Expressions is mainstream.
For many spiritual searchers and post-modern pilgrims, the mainstream nature of Fresh Expressions is deeply problematic. Many questions will be asked such as: 'Do I want to be part of a mainstream, hierarchical institution?' If the answer is no, then we will have failed in this part of the missional task and so, whilst I recognise the importance of the relationship to centre, it seems that we need to nurture the new emerging edges rather than the edges defined by the centre.