The fantasy cycle and fresh expressions - 2 (Ben Edson)

Monday, 8 November, 2010

Ben EdsonBen Edson completes his look at the fantasy cycle and fresh expressions. You can read part 1 here.

I have previously considered the Anticipation, Dream and Frustration elements in a framework called the fantasy cycle of: Anticipation - Dream - Frustration - Nightmare - Death wish. Now I'm looking at the remaining stages in relation to fresh expressions of church.

Nightmare

The nightmare doesn't necessarily lead to death wish. The cycle is still breakable and death is not predestined. Nightmare comes on the back of frustration and I think it is a stage that we need to go through.

It's hard to qualify what makes for a nightmare. My experience was that it involved a variety of factors until, one day, the realisation hit me that things were tough. There may have been suspicions about it for a while, but all of a sudden you're firefighting and those hopeful dreams seem so far away. I feel the nightmare is the hardest stage to break because usually there will be associated pastoral crises that need dealing with as well. 

It's not simply a case of re-ordering, as that only serves to paper over the cracks. It's doing the hard work with your community that exposes you to the brokenness of the cross. It's the time that you cry with people in their brokenness and your brokenness; it's the time that you realise that it's not all easy. Yet, perhaps the hardest thing about this stage is that you still get the 'tourists': those looking to see the dream and not finding it.

Death wish

I'm all for death - I think that it can be liberating for a fresh expression - but we should not assume that death means there will be a resurrection. Death is death.

My leaving Sanctus1 involved the death of my life in that community, yet the community carries on - the community is bigger than the pioneer

I also think that the death wish may be something that different people go through at different times, in part depending on their role within the community. For example, my leaving Sanctus1 involved the death of my life in that community - yet the community carries on. The community is bigger than the pioneer. The death wish was individual rather than corporate; the danger is making a personal death wish corporate.

However, there is also a time when a personal death wish needs to be worked through for the sake of the community; a time when we put our struggles and frustrations to one side as we're in a different place to the rest of the community. If we don't, we'll drag the community down with us.

When the death wish is corporate I think that is when it needs to die. The cycle has come to a close and the community ceases to be. Death is death.

At risk of repeating myself, I think that the cycle can be broken but the key piece of discernment is when to break that cycle and what to move into afterwards.

About the author: 

Ben Edson is the Diocese of Manchester's Fresh Expressions Missioner.

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