A body of many parts
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its parts form one body, so it is with Christ... Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Taking Fresh Expressions forward
Find out about our current five areas of focus and our key new projects going forward.
You can view a video summary of this article below.
I have always marvelled at the multiple expressions of Church to be found within the body of Christ, and it was one of the things I loved most about leading and pastoring a local church. As the body of Christ grew and multiplied into a variety of congregations, I would often find myself making four changes of clothing on a Sunday to adapt to the particular style and tradition of each worshipping community! Of course, there came a point - after we had planted seven very different fresh expressions of church - when I needed to surrender to the fact that the vicar alone couldn’t possibly adapt to the culture of each and every one. My role then was to keep a diverse church connected, where the different communities could learn from each other, celebrate their stories together and be mutually supportive.
An organisation of many partners
Over the past nine months, becoming team leader of Fresh Expressions has meant embracing that challenge all over again, but on a vast scale. The landscape that has evolved over the decade since this initiative started is huge, with many different faces (denominations, streams, agencies, colleges and local communities), often within strikingly different cultures, encompassing several layers of experience and understanding, and each with a language and vocabulary of their very own.
On one level, none of this has changed our main purpose as an organisation:
Fresh Expressions seeks to transform communities and individuals through championing and resourcing new ways of being church.
On another level however, everything has changed, and the organisation that once existed as a single sponsored initiative is now in the position of supporting and championing a movement of many parts and networks.
As a result, the emphasis of our role has shifted too. Whilst still being committed to 'renewing vision, gathering news, supporting growth and developing training', the task of communicating and convincing has now been overtaken by the challenge of connecting. As more have joined the partnership, the movement as a whole can increasingly offer multiple ways of renewing vision, gathering news, supporting growth and developing training, and we at Fresh Expressions want to celebrate and facilitate that in a new season.
A network of networks?
In On the verge, Alan Hirsch talks about eight 'movement rules' and highlights the 'network rule' in particular. He writes:
Of all the movement rules, the network rule is the one most often overlooked. When we look at a movement, we're often enamoured by the mass of its size and intrigued by the smallness of its parts, but we miss that what is actually holding it together is an infrastructure of networks.
Of course, we can put ourselves on dangerous ground when we try to put the phrase 'infrastructure of networks' alongside the word 'movement', and Hirsch himself talks about the difficulties in enabling an organic 'all channel network' to thrive. At the same time, however, movements are partly catalysed by the quality of communication and connection between their many parts, and Fresh Expressions has been privileged to play an increasing role in enabling that, to support - if you like - the emergence of a 'network of networks'.
A fresh path for Fresh Expressions
How then, might we draw a picture of Fresh Expressions to describe our future role? Returning to the body image, I think increasingly we would want to see our partnership as the skeleton on which an 'infrastructure of networks' can thrive and multiply, each made up of many parts, but joined together in a common vision. To that, we are now adding the joints and muscle of five major areas of focus:
- inspiring vision;
- networking strategically;
- connecting geographically;
- supporting practitioners;
- resourcing learning.
We are then adding the flesh of several major projects, all designed to connect the movement's many parts through the DNA of promoting best practice, providing effective support and creating genuine partnerships wherever we can. We invite you to read about these in the attached document and to 'watch this space' as we develop the vision of becoming a network of networks.
Above all, though, we invite you to continue with us on this wonderfully complex journey of which 'each one of you is a part'.