Missioners on fresh expressions of church

Monday, 18 August, 2014

A selection of Church of England Diocesan Missioners consider what Fresh Expressions has achieved in the Church of England in the last ten years.

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Rachel Jordan, National Mission and Evangelism Adviser: Fresh Expressions has actually achieved more than even I had imagined that it could have in ten years which, actually in Church of England terms, is a short space of time. In some recent research, over ten dioceses have been surveyed; we've added one medium-sized diocese to the Church of England. If we multiply that up, there is a good possibility that we've added three [equivalent] sized dioceses to the Church of England and that is in ten years.

Michael Mitton, Fresh Expressions Officer, Derby: We've seen some encouraging developments in the Derby Diocese and we currently now have four full-time, paid pioneers and a pioneer curate and they're making, I would say, quite an impact - not only in their local area where they're serving but also I think the way they are commending pioneering and the life of fresh expressions to the rest of the diocese. We are also seeing about 40 at the moment, I would say, fresh expressions of church of different kinds, many of which are Messy Church but also quite a number of café churches and things of that sort.

Ben Edson, Fresh Expressions Missioner, Manchester: I have now been in Manchester Diocese for about 12 years. When I first came to the Diocese to establish a fresh expression of church, there was a degree of suspicion towards fresh expressions; now I think that suspicion is largely gone and we're seeing fresh expressions being more and more integrated into the life of the diocese. We have a well-established FEAST group, a Fresh Expressions Area Strategy Team; we have a supportive bishop and senior staff so slowly we are seeing the integration of fresh expressions into the life of the Diocese.

Charlie Kosla, Mission and Evangelism Adviser, Chelmsford: Fresh expressions have made an increasing and significant effect in our Diocese. There's an increased understanding of what fresh expressions of church are and more traditional parish churches are beginning to look at it, engage with it, learn with it and run with it.

Linda Jones, Director for Mission, Liverpool: In the Diocese of Liverpool 10 years on, it's so exciting to look back and see how much we have furthered the mission because people have seen what is possible and we've been able to use monies to initiate things which are now developing in new and exciting ways, incorporating what we call the inherited church and pioneering work.

Barry Hill, Diocesan Mission Enabler, Leicester: In Leicester Diocese we have been on something of a journey over the last 10 years – as I guess have nearly all dioceses. A significant point for us was in 2010 when a vision and a strategy were laid before the diocese and Diocesan Synod agreed unanimously to support a vision that would work towards, we felt the Spirit's clear calling, to work towards as many fresh expressions of church in 2030 – mature, active, fresh expressions as we currently have inherited expressions of church which, for us, is about just over 300. And that, not just for pragmatic reasons, but for vocational reasons, for mission reasons, in the first instance nearly all of those fresh expressions would be led by teams of volunteers who aren't ordained, organically leading churches in their own context. And so what we're now looking to do is to develop a network of some 600 lay, licensed – the bishop offers his licence to these pioneers – and then support and trellises to support their ministry in all its different forms.

Kerry Thorpe, Mission and Growth Advisor, Canterbury: Factually and statistically we can draw on the wonderful George Lings research to say that he discovered 61 functioning fresh expressions in the life of the church [in Canterbury Diocese] and the 61 were discerned from a total of 115 different creative missional projects that were investigated so there's been a real culture of encouraging people to get on with some new forms of mission and trying to reach new people and doing something fresh.

Charlie Kosla: The challenges we face are obviously where to put our resources - time, training and finances - into ministry, whether it's ordained or lay. We've got increasing numbers of pioneers out there who are being trained and equipped but where to put them? And also to get permission. We're also looking at making spaces for them, looking at jobs in parishes, starting up new forms of church.

Linda Jones: As we are developing pioneer ministers, we are realising that everybody who is passionate about mission in our current generation needs to be pioneering and so we're continually looking at every situation having a pioneering aspect in whatever way is authentic in that context and encouraging parish profiles to incorporate a real missional pioneering aspect to what they want to do.

Michael Mitton: We have a lot of lay leadership in our diocese of our fresh expressions and the thing we're giving attention to is how we can best serve and resource those lay people and we are giving consideration to an emerging strategy for giving them adequate support.

Ben Edson: I think that one of the main challenges that we're facing is that fresh expressions are still seen as something that sits outside of the parish structure and one of the main challenges and opportunities I think for us is to make sure that fresh expressions are fully integrated into the life of the local church community. We're doing that in Manchester; we're launching a community of communities but we are working across the Diocese to develop fresh expressions within the parish context.

Kerry Thorpe: It would be particularly helpful if we could get churches at a deanery level to look at a shared strategy, to be able to do something which an individual church wouldn't have the resources to do working across a town or across a group of villages in starting something new.

Charlie Kosla: The one thing I could do if I could do it, if I had the power and the authority to do it would be to release the actual finance for pioneer ministry. We've got lots of goodwill towards pioneer ministry but with goodwill you need financial backup.

Barry Hill: God has blessed us with wonderful licensed pioneers from many walks of life, with many different styles and approaches, and we give him great praise for that. That said, nearly all of our fresh expressions have a fragility, a 'clayness' if you like to their jars which I think can be very helpful, it can be important and it emphasises a deep reliance on Jesus and his Spirit at work. And it is difficult. So many of our fresh expressions are one decision, or one leader, away from – it would appear – from stopping. And so one of the challenges for us over the next ten years is how to support fresh expressions of church as they grow and as they mature but in such a way that doesn't take away that reliance and that fragility in a helpful way. And so for us as a diocese, we're putting more and more resources into support, discernment first, support, coaching, training, development, accompaniment of in time hopefully hundreds of licensed lay pioneers.

Rachel Jordan: To keep going with fresh expressions we actually need to keep saying some of the same things over and over again and, for some of us who've actually been talking about this for ten years, the temptation would be to move on, to find something new, to get diverted onto something but we need to keep saying the same message because we haven't actually got over the tipping point. We could still, I think, fall back so we've got to keep saying the same thing clearly, concisely in a way that people understand and we'll get them involved to actually take the steps it takes, give them the courage it takes to step out and do something new.


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