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Parish of the Woodford Valley with Archers Gate and Kings Gate

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About Fresh Expressions

A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.

It will come into being through principles of listening, service, incarnational mission and making disciples.

It will have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context.

(The incarnation happened when God became human through Jesus and immersed himself in human life. 'Incarnational mission' means being involved in the everyday lives of the people you are called to serve.)

Sue Hope, Priest in charge St Paul's Shipley and Adviser in Evangelism for the Bradford Diocese says, "It emphasizes four things in particular. Fresh expressions are:
Missional - serving people outside church;
Incarnational - listening to people and entering their culture;
Educational - making discipleship a priority;
Ecclesial - forming church."

If a local church is describing an initiative as a fresh expression, again does the venture meet these criteria? Let's be relaxed if it doesn't - it could still be a worthwhile project. But at least the church wouldn't be raising false expectations.

Other terms that cover fresh expressions of church are: emerging church, new forms of church, new ways of being church and church plants.

At the heart of fresh expressions is a different way of thinking about church. Many existing churches operate with a 'you come to us' mindset.

Fresh expressions have a 'we'll come to you' mindset instead. They start not with an invitation ('Come to us on our terms'), but with an offer ('we're willing to come to you, serve you and stay with you. If you want, we'll also help you to be church in a way that suits you - in your style, not ours').

The aim is not necessarily to provide a stepping stone into existing church, but to form new churches in their own right. The flow is from the congregation to people outside - not inward, but outward.

Fresh expressions is a new mindset, not a new model of church to be copied.

A spectrum of fresh expressions exist.

The renewal of an existing congregation through mission, and especially through careful listening to the non-churchgoers the congregation is called to serve.

This might involve radically reshaping the provision of all-age worship, for instance, or rethinking a midweek service.

Reinventing an existing 'fringe' group, mission project or community service so that it is no longer a stepping stone to Sunday church, but becomes 'church' in its own right.

A youth group might grow into a youth congregation, or a luncheon club for the elderly might add worship after the meal.

Creating a new Christian community within a single parish…as a mission initiative. Often it will be lay led and have a relatively small budget.

An informal service in a local leisure centre and a midweek after-school meeting for a meal and worship would be two examples.

A large mission initiative spanning several parishes or circuits. It will be more likely to require a full-time paid post and to have a more substantial budget.

It could be a new network church across a city-centre for Generation X, a town-wide teenage congregation or a home-based church plant on a new housing estate.

Here are three examples of fresh expressions:

All three strands acknowledge that society has changed and church must change too. The challenge for all of us is to recognize God at work in each other and champion what God is doing. Bishop Stephen Cottrell once described it very well - as like 3 grow-more-bags next to each other. The first is about how existing churches can be more mission shaped in the way they do traditional church. A second grow bag is how a traditional. Church can invite a brand new initiative such as a youth fellowship or an unchurched community finds its place as a congregation in the life of the church amongst other congregations. The third - is more about being Fresh Expression than missioned shaped, such as a cafe church in its own premises, a church that meets in a school or as part of a health centre, or skate park these last ones are what I understand as Fresh Expressions. Being 'Mission shaped' and being a 'Fresh Expression' are not the same thing!

Church for the un-churched:

In my book we must also not assume that the un-churched are more likely to flock to new expressions of church rather than traditional expressions of church. The challenge is to attract the un-churched to church regardless whether it is traditional church or new expressions of church. I believe that fresh expressions of church for the un-churched are just as likely to associated with traditional church as they are likely to be associated with new expressions of church. Perhaps the challenge is to encourage HIS followers is to take our Great Commission more seriously. We live in an age where this has to be done very sensitively with the un-churched more likely to respond to reason than pressure. We need to speak in a language that is understood by the un-churched. We need to be able to express how HIS ways are in the common good of our society.
Posted by Tim Hall on 10 July 09

Woodford Valley Aided School

Our work within the school is very much of a Fresh Expressions type. Fully integrated into the parish, there is also a lively worshipping community that is not traditional church.

Worship takes place, sometimes in church but often not, the school has its own very distinctive worshipping ethos.

Our workshop days concentrate on craft activities with worship and when possible the children's work is actively blended into our regular church worship

It is a baptizing and confirming community. There are parents who are Christian but worship with the school community and only occasionally with the regular church community. They are no less church for that. Their commitment grows at their own pace.

It is led by the head teacher with the full support of the governing body, Foundation governors and PCC.

What of Archer's Gate?

Those who respond to more traditional church will be joining us as they get to know us..and there are already those who do.

There are likely to be groups who know little of church and who will respond to a very different informal approach and these we will be exploring. The text highlighted in red above may prove to be good for us at least initially.

Ann Philp and material drawn from 'From Expressions' web site.

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