Tuesday, June 02, 2009

How Fresh is Your Diocese?

In the course of the last month, I’ve been looking through all 43 Diocesan websites for resources in the areas of mission and Fresh Expressions. The full research is here:

Based on diocesan websites alone (which I’m aware don’t give the full picture), the level of engagement with Mission Shaped Church, Fresh Expressions, and the Mixed Economy church is mixed. Several Dioceses give it a high profile, some don’t mention it at all.

However, this isn’t an indicator of how seriously the dioceses take mission: for example both Southwell and Manchester have plenty going on, but neither gives FX a very high profile.

For simplicity, I’ve grouped all the Dioceses (excluding Sodor and Man, which has a very skeleton website) according to what level of profile they give to Mission Shaped Church, Fresh Expressions etc.

High Profile

The following dioceses use their websites to draw attention to particular Fresh Expressions in their area, and provide background on what Fresh Expressions is:
Bristol, Chichester, Exeter, Guildford, Liverpool, Oxford, Ripon and Leeds.

Of these I would say that Bristol, Exeter, Guildford and Oxford exemplify the level of engagement and fruit that would be good to see in every diocese.

Medium Profile
The following Dioceses (typically) have a Fresh Expressions page, run the Mission Shaped Ministry training course, and have some level of encouragement for Fresh Expressions, perhaps with examples of a particular project.
Chelmsford, Ely, Gloucester, Norwich, Peterborough, Southwell, Truro

Low Profile
Fresh Expressions material consists mainly of links to other sites, no evidence of any work in the Diocese.
Bath & Wells, Blackburn, Bradford, Chester, Coventry, Durham, Leicester, London, Manchester, Portsmouth, St. Albans, St. Edmunsbury & Ipswich, Sheffield, Southwark, Wakefield, Winchester (but a new appointment here, so would expect profile to rise), York.

No Profile

Nothing on the site to do with Fresh Expressions or Mission Shaped Church.
Birmingham (though the ‘local projects’ section has examples of what you’d call Fresh Expressions), Canterbury, Carlisle, Derby, Hereford, Lichfield, Lincoln, Newcastle, Rochester, Salisbury, Worcester

Based on the above, the majority of Dioceses (29 of 43) give low or no profile to Fresh Expressions on their websites.

Though in some Dioceses, mission is a clear priority with or without Fresh Expressions, a glance at the list above will show that for many of them, Fresh Expressions has made little or no impact on their public face as shown through the Diocesan Website – which is also now a prime place for archiving resources, stories and training materials.

I'm sure that there is plenty more going on than the diocesan sites record, and the reasons for this not feeding through to the sites could be many and varied! This information is accurate at the time of writing, based on what I can find on the websites. There may be hidden gems, but they’re too well hidden to find! As websites will change, it’s true as a snapshot, but not as a moving picture.


  1. Thanks, David, for an interesting piece of research. Amidst much encouragement, there's stil some confusion out there about what fresh expressions are, and how to bring together a community of faith and practice around them. Websites aren't everything, but they are sometimes a window into the soul. Both Kent dioceses seem more of a no-fly zone than I realised! Maybe it's just the websites...

  2. Great piece of work David, which I've passed on to my colleague who carries the Fresh Expressions brief in Chelmsford Diocese. I would want to endorse +Alan's comment that websites don't give the whole picture e.g. I understand Lichfield has a lot going on but it is clearly not being publicised on their website as Fresh Expressions.

    In Chelmsford we recognise we have some work to do on this area of our website. To quote Tony Blair 'Much done, much still to do'!

  3. Charlie Kosla2/6/09 9:41 am

    Thank you also David for this research. I am the "colleague" with the FX remit for Chelmsford Diocese! I again echo the statement that web sites do not necessarily tell the whole story of what is actually going on in a diocese. Confusion over what is a FX is certainly prevalent, I therefore tend to take a more puritan line with the definition whilst still encouraging cross cultural mission of whatever description.
    Work on our website is in progress (my me!) thanks for the friendly kick up the backside.
    Keep up the good work.

  4. My experience with websites is that, unless an organisation is primarily web-based (e.g. Cricinfo, online news services), the sites tend to have intermittent splurges of new content, and then a 'rest' of months, or even years. Diocesan sites take time to catch up with what's on the ground, and the people on the ground may well have more important things to do than what's on the diocesan site!

    Charlie - like you I'm probably a purist: we have a monthly cafe service, which I've not registered as a FX because it's not a church, though it may be a 'fresh expression of worship'. I think we've got the two quite blurred, and in some places people are just branding tea as a fresh expression of coffee, and thinking that's job done....

  5. Just to add a note that this whole series of posts (including the "cut out and keep guide to top resources" that is coming out tomorrow) should be available as a PDF by the weekend, including a couple of extras.

    Perhaps what Fresh Expressions needs is a "list of top resources" maintained by the national initiative, that can be pulled in as an include file as by Diocesan websites. That could then site alongside local resources.

    We'll raise the possibility, but that is something that properly belongs inside the structures.

  6. Should be fixed now.

    Apologies for missing Worcester off first time round - they are in the last grouping, and counting Sodor and Man in gives us 29 of 43 dioceses with low or no profile for FX through their websites.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.