Have you ever wondered what a Fresh Expression is? It’s a term that is increasingly being used in church circles to describe a new way of being church. It’s part of the big rethink of the nature of church that is currently underway in this country.
The Fresh Expressions organisation has actually been developed by the Methodist Church and the Church of England but also has a very much ecumenical remit. So it was that our Synod of the U.R.C. sponsored a Fresh Expressions day on April 21st , and six of us from Redland Park attended to find out more. The day was led in particular by Michael Moynagh, an Anglican theologian working extensively in this area of work.
So what is it all about, then? Fresh Expressions recognises that for many within our society that church as we have known it for a very long time no longer works. That the majority of churches are now in decline is evidence of that.
Many responses are being developed and many are worth looking at and taking on board. Fresh Expressions seeks to establish new forms of church where people are, instead of expecting them to be where we are (when clearly they are not). “Where people are” can be understood in various ways but might include physical locations such as a Starbucks or a pub.
So some definitions from Fresh Expressions: “A fresh expression of church is a new/and or different way of being church in and for our changing culture.” And: “A fresh expression of church is not normally seen just as an additional activity or simply a stepping stone for people to Sunday services, but as something with the potential to be or become church for those who take part.”
Confused? Intrigued? Totally bewildered? All or some of these terms? Don’t worry you’ll be in good company, this is very new to many people. But do take on board that some serious rethinking is going on which can only be good news for all of us in the long run.Will there be a place for church as we know it on a Sunday?
Yes, there will be, but at the same time if we want people to come to us we first of all need to go to them. This is what we call mission. In actual fact the vast majority of churches model their church life mainly on themselves and their own interests. “Small wonder,” said Michael Moynagh, “that our churches are in the state of decline that is so evident.”
As in June we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the new Redland Park building it is worth reflecting on the missionary passion of the like of Urijah Thomas. That was mission then. What must mission be like in the very different world of 21st century Bristol? That is the question that demands much work, discussion and prayer