Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Fresh Expressions

Maggi draws attention to a new initiative by the Church of England and the Methodists which observes and analyses new forms of church. It starts with a description of twelve new kinds of church activity or community as described in Mission Shaped Church:

Alternative worship communities
Base Ecclesial Communities
Café church
Cell church
Churches arising out of community initiatives
Multiple and midweek congregations
Network focussed churches
School-based and school linked congregations and churches
Seeker church
Traditional church plants
Traditional forms of church inspiring new interest
Youth congregations

and adds on two more that ought to be there:

Fresh expressions focused on children
Fresh expression focused on under-fives and their families

Not an exclusive list but it will be interesting to see how this develops. But the issue is as Maggi points out that:

"There is something defiant, joyful and messily challenging about grouping them together: it affirms us all, not setting one above the other, but calling all of us to recognise the work of God in ways that we ourselves don't like very much, and to admit that "our" way is only one way, not necessarily better than the rest."

Then I got hit on the chin...

"The trouble with getting committed to your own project, though, is that it can be quite hard to reconcile your own commitment with an attitude of acceptance and encouragement of a project whose values or raison d'etre seems to oppose your own."

"We are called to follow the Creator of the Universe, and living creatively almost nevitably means disagreeing passionately with someone else at some point in your ife. You can't be creative and remain diplomatically bland. Yet although we aren't called to agree, we are called to love - to support, believe in, and think and speak generously of those who don't do things the way we do. It's a tough call.... Go right ahead and disagree."

"Spar away - we need to make each other's worlds a little larger. But not with antagonism, arrogance, self-righteousness, defensiveness or pride. Love one
another."

All this was in my mind as I enjoyed a fireside lunch with a friend, as we gently sparred and shared our passions for inner city church. Different approaches perhaps - but we came away our thinking stretched. Our conversation helped me see how sometimes I play the victim card so well with those that struggle with our 'values or raison d'etre'; but with Maggi's words in my head I was aware that I also dish it out.

Yes it is hard to reconcile your own commitment with an attitude of acceptance and encouragement of a project whose values or raison d'etre seems to oppose your own. Yes it is easy to make all the right noises about creative tension but harbour deep suspicion. Yes it is easy to dismiss the kingdom efforts of others. Yes it is easy to pull down. Certainly it is easy not to think and speak generously of those who don't do things the way we do. It is very easy not to recognise the work of God in ways that we ourselves don't like very much. Not so easy to admit that "our" way is only one way, not necessarily better than the rest.

Maybe the 'fresh expression' isn't about finding a longer list of church - maybe it is more about attitude?


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