Fresh Expressions Roadshow visited Spalding on 30 June and 14 July 2010, led by Pete and Kath Atkins, national Fresh Expressions team and Rev Steve Faber, Mission Enabler for the URC East Midlands Synod Office; Pete continues as chair of CTAL. These brief notes and links offer a taste of the wide range of ideas, questions and wisdom shared.
I treasure your voice, I cherish your name, All I desire is your presence
There’s no strength in these bones, so Lord come and fill me; I can’t do it alone. So Lord be near me, for your kingdom come, Lord work through me And be glorified
Not for here, but for there, with the lost and the lonely; Not for here, but for there with the broken and the hungry: Not for here but for there with the lost and the lonely, not for here but for there. David Gate, Ab, © 2008 Trinity Publishing/Adm. by kingswaysongs.com
Session 1 explored the current state of the wider church 95% of this area – and Lincolnshire – missing out on God’s blessings through his Church. Newcomers to existing churches find them so alien to their cultures.
Session 2 looked at the response of the Church and the many signs of hope – what is happening and why it is important, not least in encouraging one another with good news stories.
Some observations from the 'Mission shaped church' report by Rt Rev Graham Cray, bishop of Maidstone: there is exceptional impact and interest in these new works, noting how the report explores some 25 years planning and implantation. Conclusions include:
* church is shaped by inheritance than its mission and the needs of those outside its walls
* the challenge is to be become shaped by mission
* God has initiated all sorts of creative mission responses
The name Fresh Expression was coined during this period; the report was originally entitled Dying to live. It has resulted in the training of many pioneer ministers and leaders.
* God’s spirit is on the move
* Christians are trying new things
* new types of churches are being established
* church leaders are encouraging them
Fresh Expressions is helping with training and resources
Archbishop Rowan Williams talks of the mixed economy – “both and” - where we continue to grow the church where it is growing and develop fresh expressions where needed. A Fresh Expression is [a form of] church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.
Principles of listening, service, incarnational mission and making disciples have the potential to become mature expressions if church shaped by the gospel.
A DVD was shown, featuring a spectrum of Fresh Expressions of Church, including The Living Room at Highfields church, Southampton and a discussion followed on whether or not such fresh Expressions look like 'church' and asked if anything similar happening where you are?
* It was noted that those involved were not doing things just for the sake of it but to preach the gospel
* The DVD appeared to illustrate the importance of simply watching what God is doing and joining in – as seen in the way his love, joy, peace, the fruit of the Spirit were evident in the lives of the many in these new Fresh Expressions; an easy way to see where and when God is at work is to see this fruit. Whilst some find the length of time it takes to see change, mission, development and growth so frustrating, the need to simply depend on how we respond to God is stressed rather than the way we drive things forward.
* Fine china for afternoon tea… it's the simple things which can be the most effective.
It was noted that there are three key characteristics in the establishment of a Fresh Expression of church: a strong mission focus, a willingness to re-imagine church and a commitment to both existing and new forms of church
Occasionally this develops to existing church members inviting others to come along, the 'engaged method' – we go out and then hope that folk come, eg Back to Sunday.
Fresh Expressions endorses a third way - the 'emerging method' where existing Christians go to where the people are at and then stay with them, introducing Jesus to people and then helping them to grow in their way and culture (cf opening song: Not for here, but for there, with the lost and the lonely; Not for here, but for there with the broken and the hungry: Not for here but for there with the lost and the lonely, not for here but for there)
* care enough about those not in church to take the initiative
* are focused on making disciples
* have an understanding of what church is – one, holy, catholic and apostolic
* prepared to stop doing some things to make room for taking the initiative
* are flexible – no preconceived idea of what church should look like
The example of the Fresh Expressions of cell church within the Tas Valley benefice in Norfolk was discussed prior to a time of group discussion.
Pause to think – so what’s next?
* What about us?
* Can we see potential for a Fresh Expression of church in our area?
* Which sections of the community are the churches not engaging with at present?
* How do we feel God is leading us?
* Can we see who among us may be gifted to pioneer something new? How do help them develop on the Lord's ministry?