We need to push away the notion of church as simply something to which people sign up in one go and in one way.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, addressing the Fresh Expressions national day conference in Oxford on Friday (May 6), said the heart of the Church's mission involves walking alongside people to help them 'see' things they've never seen before - and the task was the same for both inherited church and its counterparts in fresh expressions.
The mixed economy refers to fresh expressions and conventional churches working side by side. Exploring how this work may develop in future, the Archbishop said the challenge was to accommodate the changing shape of church life in Britain and achieve a balance between the continuing development of smaller 'cell'-type groupings and larger-scale events that continue to be extremely important - particularly for the under25s.
He emphasised the importance of building personal, face to face, relationships across the boundaries of different church models.
The small group, the cell, may be part of the life of an inherited pattern, it may be part of a much more experimental or exploratory pattern. It doesn't really matter. What matters is the sense of mutual commitment and mutual seriousness that enables creative engagement with the immediate community.
He also warned against the ever present danger of churches acting as
little independent, autonomous, self-serving groups doing what they fancy, finding the style that suits them'
rather than developing
a context in which there really is a flow of communication, good news and challenge between different styles of church life that may respond to different personalities and different stages on the journey.
The Archbishop went on,
One of the things that the whole fresh expressions story has, I think, helped many of us to see more clearly is that we need to push away the notion of church as simply something to which people sign up in one go and in one way.
So when we talk about fresh expressions I'd like to think that we're talking about countless local enterprises of vision; enterprises of vision where people are being encouraged and nourished and enabled to see what they hadn't seen before so that the picture shifts. You see the picture in the picture. You see beyond the details. You see a greater world.
Bishop Graham Cray, Archbishops' Missioner and team leader of Fresh Expressions, added,
The mixed economy is not intended as a device to allow two separate things to happen at the same time. It requires a partnership where traditional churches and fresh expressions of church pray for one another, support one another, and learn from one another. In this respect it is time to stop just talking mixed economy and time to start acting mixed economy across our nations.
We do not truly act mixed economy unless we act ecumenically as well. The denominations are not competitors but partners in mission. Their shared task is to engage the whole of society, in their part of the country, with Christ and his kingdom.
The conference saw the launch of Fresh Expressions' DVD, expressions – making a difference and the first in a series of Share booklets exploring some of the issues surrounding the starting and maintaining of fresh expressions of church.
You can watch Rowan's and Graham's addresses and find other materials from the day on our Changing the Landscape page.