(CEN) Time to 'Dream' in Liverpool, and beyond...

Friday, 25 June, 2010

Fresh expressions of church are only properly understood in the context of a 'mixed economy church'. The mixed economy is not a rhetorical device to allow the newer to coexist with the older. It is a commitment to maintain the unity and common life of the Spirit across an increasingly diverse and fast-changing mission field. 'Economy' is an appropriate word to apply to the Church, drawn from Ephesians 1.10. Paul speaks of God's 'plan' to gather all things up in Christ. The word translated as 'plan' gives us our word 'economy'.

It is a word about the proper running of a large Roman household, applied to the household of God as it plays its part in God's restoring of the universe through his Son.

The mixed economy church calls for a wide range of creative partnerships between long established patterns of church life and newer ventures. In our day the whole church has to be 'like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old' (Matthew 13.52). It is our cathedrals and other 'greater churches' – abbeys, priories and so on which have a particular opportunity to embody this, and a number are already doing so very well. I will focus on one – Liverpool Cathedral.

Richard White is the pioneer minister of the Dream network fresh expression, founded eight years ago. Dream now has six groups; five in the Liverpool area and one in New Zealand. A close relationship has developed with the cathedral which can be seen in a number of ways. During Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture in 2008, Dream set up a small installation in the cathedral where people had an opportunity to reflect and, if they wanted, leave their email address and contact details. Several hundred people did that during the year. This was a sign that people were connecting with Dream in some way, and wanted to do so again in that incredible building and in other places too.

The biggest personal shift in emphasis came in September last year when Richard became Canon for Mission and Evangelism at the Cathedral. When he came to the end of his curacy he had been appointed half time to oversee Dream, and half-time with CMS (also a partner in Fresh Expressions). The diocese of Liverpool then offered a full-time opportunity to oversee Dream, and as two of the Dream groups were already linked with the cathedral by then, the cathedral played a growing role in Dream's development. Two of Dream's groups All Age Dream and Dream in the Cathedral meet in the Lady Chapel where they are trying to develop reflection zones to engage both children and adults simultaneously.

Cathedrals are the locations for stable rhythms of prayer, and some fresh expressions are exploring 'new monasticism' and developing light touch rules of life.

People are not just responding to Dream as a safe place to come to faith but also see it as a place to deepen that faith. As a result some have taken on the Dream 'Rhythm of Life', committing themselves to a way of life built around practices that have been central to followers of Jesus down the centuries. Jesus' summary of the most important commandments gives their rhythm its shape: 'Loving God with all our passion, prayer, intelligence and energy; and devoting ourselves to loving others and ourselves.' In a further development this year they launched e-Dream, a weekly email newsletter with Dream To Go reflections, Dream Lectio Bible Readings and regular updates from the Dream network.

Dream - labyrinthAll forms of church face the challenge of remaining missional. Richard says

It is very easy to slip back into being comfortable. Yes we want Dream to be a safe place but we also want it to be a dangerous place because we all need to be pushed out of our comfort zone.

They need to break out of the cathedral at times and so, have instigated 'guerrilla worship' on several occasions.

It's about taking simple, creative, genuine acts of worship out of the church box and into the marketplace.

These have been great fun; the first held in the Liverpool One shopping centre and another on the beach at Crosby where we had a labyrinth near Antony Gormley's iron men installation. Both have had thousands of hits on YouTube.

What has become clear is that there is tremendous potential in that relationship and Dream and the cathedral are now looking at a whole range of possibilities to work together even more closely.

Richard says

To my mind, that’s very much trying to live out the whole mixed economy thing. It is different from the inherited but is in no way detached from it.