What's Fresh Expressions?
Fresh Expressions is an initiative sponsored jointly by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and supported by the Methodist Church, which aims to encourage new and different expressions of 'being church' in a changing culture.
In a recent article, Dr. John Sentamu spoke of his support for the Fresh Expressions initiative:
"It has been so good to see the way the Fresh Expressions initiative is encouraging individuals and groups to pioneer new ways of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with people in this country.
The rediscovery of God's mission in our time calls for risk takers to engage incarnationally in the diverse contexts of our society. They deserve all the support we can give.
This is not a 'one size fits all' situation – we need to engage with people in ways that are relevant to their lives.
Of course the traditional churches are doing that too, and many have a long record of faithful witness and service to their communities.
However, it is increasingly clear that we need a variety of styles if we are to take the message of Jesus to those who have never had the chance to consider it for themselves. More and more traditional churches are trying new patterns alongside the old. It is all about growth and thrives and what the Archbishop of Canterbury has called a 'mixed ecology' of mission.
There are some specific challenges facing the fresh expressions that have been established way beyond the usual church circles. If they have been genuinely established for and populated by those who are 'unchurched', then the issues they will face in coming years are, I believe, two-fold.
First, how can they make the transition from community-based initiatives to fully responsible sacramental congregations in their own right, nurturing life-long disciples of Christ?
Secondly, as they grow and become settled into a style and way of being and working that is effective for them, how can they maintain their mission imperative?
This is a question that needs to be addressed to all churches, of course, old and new. How, when the needs of their members can become all-consuming, do they maintain their focus on looking outwards, serving their communities and sharing the gospel day by day?
We are all working our way forwards together to find the answers to these questions. There are some fresh expressions that have been established for some years that are well on their way to becoming well-rooted communities of disciples. Others are only just starting out. I suspect that the key is to take the demands of discipleship and formation seriously, whilst constantly being on the lookout for ways of doing that that relate to the culture of the fresh expression.
The challenge to remain mission-focussed is to keep recalling the founding vision of the fresh expression, and measuring activity against it. How will this community continue to grow? Will it best grow by planting new initiatives? How can it serve its community in new and relevant ways.
My hope is that, in the next few years, we will hear more stories of fresh expressions of church that are growing to maturity in their own right – but that are also sending out shoots of new growth. The main thing is that people are hearing and responding to God's call to join in a community that is good news, and that brings healing and hope. I am sure Hope08 will see the proliferation of new expressions of church, and I welcome the emphasis this year on transforming the whole community. Let us 'watch this space...' "
About Fresh Expressions
Fresh Expressions was launched in 2004 as both acknowledgement and response to changing patterns of culture and worship in society. In recognition that traditional Sunday morning worship was no longer the norm for many, and that the nature of communities was changing, Fresh Expressions seeks to provide a church experience to people in different places – and in the kind of networks that more keenly reflect today's society. Whether school or cafe based, youth or alternative worship focused, or offering worship mid-week instead of weekends, Fresh Expressions helps Christianity blossom in a variety of new ways.