Looking back, and looking forward, with fresh expressions in Scotland

Monday, 14 December, 2015

It has been a busy year for those developing, encouraging and championing fresh expressions of church in Scotland.

The Church of Scotland is currently initiating research into new forms of church attached to all denominations or no denomination at all, across the country. These new ways of being church – whether known as missional communities, church plants, Messy Church or fresh expressions - are making an increasing impact in a variety of areas and the research is part of what will be a major survey to understand the size and impact of its congregations in parishes the length and breadth of Scotland. The pilot research will be followed up with formal suggestions for change offered to the General Assembly in 2016 before the full survey is conducted.

The Church of Scotland says,

Research within the Church of England has raised the profile of fresh expressions, offering clarity and hard data to those responsible for resourcing and training people for this work. If you lead such a group and are willing to be part of the Scottish research please give details - the reference number will be your name.


Oban resources

The research comes in the wake of Going for Growth events in Oban, Shetland and Linlithgow which delivered support and encouragement to anyone interested in encouraging mission, creating new worshipping communities and developing new ways to express faith.

An afternoon session in Oban was for those with a Presbytery responsibility for Planning, Mission, Training or Education while an evening session, open to all, explored exciting new developments, resources and initiatives. Equip - which brings together inspiring speakers, practical ideas and resources for congregations - offered a series of workshops. Equip events were held in Motherwell and New Deer

The Going for Growth event series is part of the Emerging Church initiative created through a partnership between the Ministries and the Mission and Discipleship councils. Events are being held in every region of Scotland over a three-year period.


Going for Growth

In June, the Going for Growth Summer School in Dundee welcomed 60 ministers, elders and delegates from across Scotland keen to know how to put the fresh expressions' philosophy to work in their own contexts.

It goes beyond just giving permission or blessing, it's a paradigm shift in how we understand church,

said Lesley Hamilton Messer, Church Without Walls team leader for the Mission and Discipleship Council.

Quite a few people told us that this is not the latest fad; it's a completely new way of working. Relationships come before structures with a focus on building trust and service to the community.

Rev Alister Bull, Mission and Discipleship Council Secretary said the Summer School was a highpoint.

The programme was filled with grounded research and inspiring stories that engaged fully with challenges which the Church in Scotland is facing,

he said.

I saw first-hand an engaged and energetic gathering of committed people who have a renewed vision for the Church of Scotland.

Reverend Norman Smith, Convenor of the Emerging Church Group who ran the events said,

We have seen these events really encourage and inspire people in their faith across Scotland. The Summer School was a significant moment for the attendees with many encountering fresh expressions for the first time whilst others moved further along their journey. As a church, we are very happy with how it went and are looking forward to our 2016 school.

The four-day residential event involved keynote speakers Phil Potter, team leader of Fresh Expressions; George Lings, Director of the Church Army research unit and Doug Gay, Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies at Glasgow University.


The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, John Chalmers, said it was

time to experiment in new ways of doing ministry and mission; it’s time to share our experiences across the church.


I am concerned that messy church can be considered a worshipping community: A hallmark of the church against the prevailing culture is to not be a self selecting club , but inclusive of all types of people: It seems to me that Messy church appeals tpo peoples selfish motivations - their kids get lots out of it , but it misses the point on intrinsic values - purpose of life. I also have concerns that it bends prevailing culture to a superficial service of the gospel rather than challenging the assumptions of the current age - and so when kids grow tired of the format the parents move on too as they are not changed in their intrinsic values.
If Messy church could work with the need to transform our selfish consumerist unsustainable society into something where respect for God Creation and well as salvation of souls was inherent I believe more adults would see the relevance for their less extrinsic values and respond to the the challenge to take up their cross and follow Jesus.

so a fresh expression of messy church that works out doors, with natural materials, with renewable resources and less with instant stuff that ends up in land fill would be a start. Christian families joyfully travelling actively to Messy church, enjoying making bread out of organic flour, enjoying plants and flowers , never seeing any icing and refined sugar, using fire and clay and water ,enjoying the seasons....are these things reflected in the bible stories and topics covered, the resources provided?

Does Messy Church need a Green Make over to fit in with the need to look after god Creation?

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