Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fresh Expressions, Diocese by Diocese (virtually)

After trawling through all 43 Diocesan websites, it's very clear that the whole 'Mission Shaped Church' agenda has had a varied impact, if the sites are anything to go by. Bishops, prayers, and rules on buildings are an ever present reality, but there's a much patchier picture on 'fresh expressions of church'.

The 'average' diocesan site has some mention of the Mission Shaped Ministry course, with a link to the national site, and (in some cases) to forthcoming local MSM courses. A few have a description of what Mission Shaped Church/Fresh Expressions is all about, and a handful (see below) actually showcase examples of Fresh Expressions in their Diocese.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are some websites which have no mention of any of the above. In some cases it's because the Diocese is putting its resources elsewhere than the website (fair enough, things are tight). But to find that getting on for a third of Diocesan websites don't really mention it at all is a bit worrying. One or two of these have a strong mission message already, but on some sites the absence of anything about Fresh Expressions is part of a general absence of much to do with mission.

In passing, it's interesting that Mission Action Planning (which hasn't been a national initiative) is much more common than Fresh Expressions, and much more high profile in many diocesan strategies.

Most worth a visit (in alphabetical order):
1. Bristol: a selection of Youtube videos on local fresh expressions and a diocesan Church Planting Policy. The whole website is very mission flavoured.

2. Chichester has a full list of registered Fresh Expressions in the diocese

3. Exeter a substantial Mission section, includes Fresh Expressions in Devon, with details of specific local fx's, plus local examples. 2 Cathedral based fresh expressions Life on the Beach is a mission partnership between Exeter Cathedral and local churches, using the Cathedral green for a Saturday open-air outreach/festival. Nightchurch is a new outreach based in the Cathedral on Friday nights, aimed at Gen X and Y. Mission Downloads include generic fx presentations for parishes/deaneries to preview, and a very good paper on Pioneer Ministry.

4. Guildford: a concise list of every fx in the diocese, grouped by type (alternative, workplace, cafe etc.) with details of when and where. Also a 20 page thesis on the difference between fx and traditional outreach.

5. Liverpool: lots of good things, but highlights: ACTS a joint initiative with TEARfund to take parishes step by step through embarking on a new project for the benefit of the community, from building a community centre to running a fun day. A way in for community based fresh expressions. Their latest report on the diocesan strategy identifies a resource church for pioneer ministry, and summarises church plants and pioneering projects.

6. Norwich: simple pages explaining Fresh expressions and alternative worship, with links to local examples and a page on alternative and creative worship, from all-age to 'liquid', with links to blogs, books and resource sites. Couple of good case studies of redeveloping churches as community centres.

7 Oxford: The Encouraging Evangelism page has a selection of vid clips on the practicalities of evangelism, no. 5 focuses on the Jigsaw fresh expression of church in Witney. Oxfords Cutting Edge project (2002-8) resourced 6 pilot new congregations, there's a summary of the fruits here, and the full report on the project is well worth a read if you are looking to set up a Fresh Expression within an Anglican diocese, very very helpful. The Diocese has also produce a concise 'Beginning, Nurturing and Sustaining Fresh Expressions' booklet, which is available as a pdf.

8.Ripon and Leeds: has FX section, and great to see that there are 4 video clips of different FX in the diocese, plus an intro from the Bish. However, they need to link the vids from the fx page! Also has a policy document on mission and ministry in UPA parishes, worth reading.

9. Southwell: nothing explicitly on fresh expressions, despite pages on Sports Ministry, and Car Boot Sale ministry, and a link to iChaplaincy (an internet chaplaincy/workplace chaplaincy in the Nottingham area.

At least as many other dioceses have fresh expressions pages, some which mention local projects but without much detail (Truro).

You'll notice that not all of the above are actually going great guns on Mission Shaped Church. Southwell and Liverpool are there partly because they are things that look like fresh expressions of church, but don't use the label. Based on websites alone, you'd have to say that only Bristol, Exeter, Guildford and Oxford have really got the bit between their teeth, but you wonder how many people even in these places are holding the reins (to mix equine metaphors).

It's also interesting that a planned General Synod review of Mission Shaped Church has been shelved. I really do hope it's not for long: despite Rowan Williams clear leadership on this, and the remarkable changes embraced by the church in recent years, the evidence from the online presence of the various dioceses is that the job is by no means done.

1 comment:

  1. I think that one of the reasons that the emerging church is not flagged up much on diocesan websites is, ironically, that much of it is happening through the new media, especially the internet. As the hierarchy is, overwhelmingly suspicious of the net, probably because they do not have the control over the people involved in the same way they are used to having control over people in the "real world," they are hardly likely to advertise it.

    There will be no emerging church in institutional religion as long as those in power resist that which is emerging from the grass roots. There will be no fresh expression of Church whilst those who have put themselves in charge of it are happy with their positions of authority under the old dispensation.