Archbishop praises 'crucial' work of Fresh Expressions

Monday, 27 April, 2015

Archbishop Justin Welby has praised the 'crucial' work of Fresh Expressions as the church in England seeks to engage with an increasingly complex culture.

Speaking at a Fresh Expressions 'From Margins to Mainstream' event held at Lambeth Palace yesterday, the Archbishop spoke of the 'huge complexity' of engaging with the modern world.

You can watch highlights of Justin Welby's address below.

But he said the Church was well placed to meet this challenge because of its great diversity and vibrancy. From Fresh Expressions and pioneer ministry, to cathedrals and training institutions, he said the Church is

more of a jazz band than a symphony orchestra.

He added:

It's an improvisation… it's the process of bringing together so many different aspects of what it is to be the church and enabling those to work in harmony.

Within this he said that Fresh Expressions plays a vital role in bringing people to faith in Christ.

Looking forward, the Archbishop said the Church must lift its gaze from internal conflicts and focus on

the work of the Spirit to move through this land, renewing it and strengthening it and bringing people face to face with Jesus Christ.

During his talk Archbishop Justin reflected on the harmony between a lot of Fresh Expressions work and his own ministry priorities of prayer, reconciliation, and evangelism and witness.

Prayer features heavily in many fresh expressions, he said, because they draw people to faith and to relationship with Christ.

And the most natural thing to do, especially for new Christians, is not strategic plans but passionate prayer,

he said.

Fresh Expressions is also 'crucial' in helping reconciliation between diverse groups within the church, he continued.

Reconciliation is about the business of living diversely in a diverse world in a way that draws people face to face with Jesus Christ. And reconciliation happens in the church not when we look inward at each other but when we look outward, and begin to work together for the good of the Kingdom of God. Fresh Expressions is crucial to that.

The initiative has also been 'a gift' to evangelism and witness across the country, he said – but stressed that this work could not be done by any one group alone.

The work of bringing more and more people to faith in Jesus was 'in the hand of God,' he said. 

But it needs

fresh expressions to be utterly normal within the life of the Church of England, within its training, within its sector ministry, within its mission action planning. It requires each to see that they need the other. It requires the orchestration and the inspiration of the Spirit of God.

Archbishop Justin welcomed the appointment of Revd Canon David Male to the new role of National Adviser for Pioneer Ministry.

This article was originally published on the Archbishop of Canterbury's website.


Duration: 6:00   | Download Download video (flv)

Transcript

Justin Welby: We in the church have huge complexity now. We have fresh expressions, we have pioneer ministry, we have church planting, we have parishes all over the country getting on with what parishes do, we have cathedrals, we have the mission agencies, we have the training institutions, we have mission action planning and so on and so forth. And we have sector ministry.

If any part of the orchestra does not play, then you don’t get the tune, the symphony; you don’t get an effective sound that conveys to the world what we are seeking to convey to the world. It’s an improvisation in many ways; it’s more of a jazz band than a symphony orchestra. It’s the process of bringing together so many different aspects of what it is to be the church and enabling those to work in harmony.

And in many ways what today is partly about is the process of thinking about how we listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying because the conductor of the orchestra is not Phil, or a bishop, or whoever; it is the Holy Spirit of God, who brings the whole church together – and brings the whole church together in order that it may go outwards.

So, what this day is about is the process of thinking a bit more about how Fresh Expressions and all that goes with it – and I’m using the term as shorthand – is integrated, is part of that orchestra, plays in the same tune and that the orchestra plays the same tune that Fresh Expressions is playing; that we are together as one. Not so that we all have a nice, good, effective system internally but so that as God’s people in this land, we begin to achieve what God is calling us to do.

And one of the things that has particularly struck me thinking about today, and thinking with Chris Russell about today is the way in which much of what you are doing reflects some of the priorities that are on my mind under the quinquennial goals. A characteristic of fresh expressions’ work is a commitment to prayer; it’s quite often the old prayer that we mostly pray, most days which is, ‘O God, help’ because you find yourself up to your neck in something and you just don’t know how you’re going to do it and there’s some wretched person breathing down your neck saying, ‘show us the evidence that this works!’ And you’re just thinking, ‘O God, help.’

But actually prayer is a characteristic that one sees in many fresh expressions because of the fact that they draw people to faith and to relationship with Christ and the most natural thing, especially for new Christians to do, is not strategic plans but passionate prayer - and pioneers, and fresh expressions, are deeply embedded there.

Reconciliation is about the business of living in diversity in a diverse world in a way that draws people face to face with Jesus Christ and reconciliation happens in the church, not when we look inwards at each other but when we look outward and begin to work together for the good of the Kingdom of God because at that moment, somehow, the issues we’re dealing with become manageable – not least because the issues we’re facing outside us are so enormous that the issues we struggle with inside get put in their proper perspective. And that’s true all over the country. So if the church is to be a truly reconciled church, I mean the church of God in this land not just the Church of England because I’m thinking of Martyn (Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church), URC, and all the rest, to be truly reconciled; it would be a church that is playing the tune that the Holy Spirit orchestrates amongst us. And Fresh Expressions is crucial to that, being part of that.

And lastly, evangelism and witness. That hardly needs adding but it is something that is one of my passions. It has been such a gift, Fresh Expressions, to evangelism and witness across the country but it isn’t everything. It is something when it works with everyone else; none of us is in a position to say – and I think someone said this before, ‘I have no need of you.’

It is essential that we operate, we improvise. It is a jazz band more than an orchestra but it is one which must improvise in tune, in harmony, together. We serve a God of fire and Spirit. Set England ablaze is our job, set England ablaze. It’s an eternal job not a temporary one, it’s one which will last forever; that is worth everything we can give it. It is a job that is in the hand of God; it is a job that requires Fresh Expressions to be utterly normal within the life of the Church of England – within its training, within its sector ministry, within its mission action planning. It requires each to see that they need the other; it requires the orchestration and the inspiration of the Spirit of God.

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