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Rediscovering mission

22 February: Rediscovering mission and what that means for Church with Canon Ian Silk

Ian drew on some of the experiences of his seventeen years at St George's, Swallowbeck and his  twenty years in the area as he explored this week's subject.
We pray more when we're in need... and it's an odd time we live in in the 21st Century with the Church in the middle of changing cultures.
St George's, Swallowbeck, has started 'T-Time' services with tables and toys - and this dice.  Things can happen in any order; this includes the tea bag.  A member of another service at St George's drops an item personal to them in this large bag; it provides an opportunity to come along and talk about what the object means to them and their faith.
The six faces of the dice also include PrayerSongScriptureGetting to know you and News/Notices - a reflection on world affairs.
The T-Time service originally started like a mustard seed with three families; it has now grown to between 20 and 40 people of all ages.  Perhaps it's a modest Fresh Expression of church, just one example.
To rediscover mission, it's worth remembering that we are never too young or too old to be involved.  The time to act is when God shows us something about mission.  Isaiah 43.19 illustrates how God does a new thing, even a new way in the desert, the wilderness.  What sort of desert are we in today?  We may even find ourselves involved in a mission project to bring water to a desert.
Some statistics suggest that 10% of the population have a regular relationship with their church, attending at least monthly; a further 10% may come to church a bit. Of the next 40% who used to come to church, some say that half are still open to coming to church and half won't, although more recent research suggests that those who will not enter a church make up 5/6ths of this group.  The remaining 40% of the population have never been part of the church.
The book Mission Shaped Church (pdf, 1MB / ISBN 978-0715140130) includes stories of how mission happens across all denominations.  It includes examples of church planting and fresh expressions of church in many forms.
A term often used these days in church life is that of the Mixed Economy - the traditional alongside the new - not either/or but rather both/and.  Canon Silk encouraged the Lent group to imagine a rich and varied garden, perhaps at a country house; the diversity of planting offers a picture of church life.
Mission is seeing what God is doing and joining in with it.  Something to pray about and share in.
A Fresh Expression is a form of church; primarily for people who are not members of any church but with the potential to become a mature congregation.
Drawing on an example from sociology, the group were introduced to three areas where people live:
Home - a place of closely guarded privacy
Work - a place of demands and pressure, and
Spare Time - the place where we feel welcomed, comfortable, a place where we want to be.  Such places often involve food and drink; relationships are formed which knit our society together.
Canon Silk prepared the evening for group discussions by asking:
Where and how does the church relate to those Third Places in people's lives?
Where was Jesus found? By the lake, the river, on the road, the mountain - all places where people meet freely.
When looking at what Fresh Expressions are, it was noted how the Church of England's General Synod sees Fresh Expressions in every churchmanship earthing mission in their locality.  'Fresh' is not the opposite of 'stale, but rather a fresh shoot - like new growth near a tree, alongside, complementary, proclaiming the message afresh to all ages.  A Fresh embodiment of the gospel - all rooted in our own localities and drawing on God's gifts as needed from the wider community.
Five mixed groups of around a dozen folk each discussed the following questions over refreshments:
* In Mark 4.30-32, Jesus describes the Kingdom of God like a mustard seed.  The groups were tasked to encourage one another with examples of mustard seeds that have grown into big trees and how these activities or projects demonstrate something of the Kingdom of God.
* Secondly, the groups were invited to describe the Third Places in our area that are important to people in our neighbourhoods and networks.  Could we imagine Jesus being there - and what would he say and do?
* If the official definition of a Fresh Expression of Church is ''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. It will come into being through principles of listening, service, incarnational mission and making disciples; It will have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context', how can we listen to God and also to the needs of our community [double listening] more effectively?