How deep are we willing to go? (Mark Berry)

Monday, 15 February, 2010

Mark BerryMark Berry asks how deep we are willing to go.

Graham Cray told General Synod last week that a crucial factor in the spread of fresh expressions has been 'a new imagination about the form or shape of church'. He is right. We have seen over the last half decade an exploration emerge which concerns not just the stylistic aspects of our gatherings - music, dress, structure, location, etc - but concerns the very substance of what it is to be church. The question is, if this is good, how deep are we willing to go?

At the heart of the matter is how we have sought to be community and how this journey has led us into a new romance with the God who is by nature community. We have had a new encounter with God as Trinity, not a hierarchical Trinity with God the Father as the CEO, Jesus as middle management and the Spirit on the factory floor, but with the Trinity as the root of radically mutual community ... of the meal table, not the boardroom table!

This is changing how we see and do leadership within communities, where we put the emphasis on the flow of gifting rather than the authority of a title or position. Each of us surrenders our gifts to the community and so each of our gifts, rather than being lost becomes animated from use and spreads through the community. When a prophet is willing to give their insight then all our eyes are opened in new ways; when the artist creates, we all find new ways to express ourselves.

So, how deep are we willing to let this change affect us? How much of our systems and structures are we able to challenge? Can we let a 'ground up' shift impact how we think about every part? Can it change the way we think about leadership, about ordination, about our structures? 

Can it change the way we think about leadership, about ordination, about our structures? 

A colleague of mine from Lichfield Diocese, Revd Richard Moy, challenged Synod why it 'locked its trainee clergy away for three years in a place full of other Christians'. I agree. We need to reflect on how we train our leaders, but have we got to go deeper? In this changing world, which will force our church to change, is it time to release leadership, to give it back to communities, to create a new way for sustainability which does not rely on a professional body but on equipping and resourcing communities to lead themselves? 

After a recent visit from our new bishop, one member of safespace said how great it was to share with him as he was not at all 'bishopy'! Is it time to reflect the shift from hierarchy to community, not only on the ground but can we as a church become a community of communities, where we rely on each other, where we support each other and allow the quietest voices to be as significant as the most powerful ones?

About the author: 

Mark Berry is Pioneer Leader at safespace, Telford.


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