Fresh Expressions' future role for Church confirmed for years ahead
Fresh Expressions is "a gift" from God to the Church, and is set to continue its work "well beyond 2014". That was the message from Bishop Graham Cray at last week's national day conference in London ...
Fresh Expressions is to continue its work "well beyond 2014". Bishop Graham Cray (pictured below), Archbishops’ Missioner and leader of the national Fresh Expressions team, confirmed the movement was "staying in business" during a speech at its national day conference in London to review progress to date and to look to the future.
Addressing Following the missionary Spirit – going forward with fresh expressions, hosted by Holy Trinity Brompton, Graham Cray emphasised an ongoing role for the team:
"‘We will continue to network pioneers, gather learning, publish stories, and provide the training needed. New partners are joining and longer standing ones identifying the work that is needed well beyond 2014."
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spoke of missional opportunity and the importance of belonging: "Why should people still be interested in the Church? Because the Church is what speaks to us about the possibility that all human beings can belong together by the grace and acceptance of God if they’d only just … turn round, repent and believe, turn round and trust, look to the generosity of the God who created and redeemed you, look into the face of the stranger in a completely new way.
"So what we’ve been looking at and thinking about in terms of fresh expressions (of church) is … belonging being created. People who thought they didn’t matter, they weren’t welcome, are discovering that they are; suddenly finding there’s a challenge about community that only the Christian vision or the Christian community can help them with."
In a poignant moment, Rowan Williams was later prayed for by the President of the Methodist Conference, Mark Wakelin; Moderator of the URC General Assembly, Val Morrison, and a group of young adults from re:generation, a Methodist fresh expression of church in Romford (see picture above).
Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church, commented, "Fresh expressions have rescued the Church in numerical decline ... and the introspection and desperation that come about from that.
"I don't buy the narrative that fresh expressions is simply a knee-jerk reaction to how you get more bums on seats – I see it rather as an impulse of the missionary Spirit that rescues us from the introspection of certain kinds of ecclesial thinking."
He also called for an ‘evolving and real theological narrative’ for the inherited Church – as well as fresh expressions.
"We must move in the future, at a level of proper theological engagement, from the approach of some people, that the whole of inherited Church is all right, to be defended without question, and anything that is seen in their eyes to detract from that needs to be held up to the light every five minutes or uprooted every two years to see whether or not it is growing. Or indeed, to be knocked around the head to be asked if it can still stand up straight! We do need an evolving and a real theological narrative."
Links to full video and audio files from all contributors on the day can be found at www.freshexpressions.org.uk/missionaryspirit