It has been an exciting time for Fresh Expressions over the past year in Southwark Diocese. We have seen a significant change in tempo in regard to them and we now have a good feel for how many fresh expressions of Church we have across the Diocese and some great initiatives to encourage more.
When we had the Church Army do a survey in 2015 as to the number of fresh expressions of Church we found that we had 39 across the Diocese. As more churches have been exploring new ways of reaching more people with the Good news of Christ we have seen more initiatives across the Diocese.
What is encouraging about the above diagramme is not only that the number of fresh expressions of Church has grown to 99 from 39 but that there are many other initiatives which are incredibly valuable (a “Bridge” is a ministry that aims to feed into existing services, an “Internal ministry” is a ministry of care for existing members and the “Not yet fxc” has the possibility of becoming a fresh expression but it may not meet regularly enough or is still exploring how it might become missional).
In addition we have seen a wide range of types of fresh expressions – everything from church grafts and church plants through to Messy Church, New Monastic Communities etc
Lastly, it has been wonderful to see fresh expressions adopted across the wide range of traditions in the Diocese of Southwark. Of course, this means (as it should) that each tradition brings its own insights into their fresh expressions. This is important as fresh expressions are meant to be imaginative and to draw on the roots of each of our traditions and not to create clones.
One of the key areas that we have been focussed on is building a platform from which churches across the Diocese and the different traditions can grow fresh expressions in their context. This has taken a variety of approaches to enable us to do this.
The first is through using the Pioneer Spectrum to help us in looking at what God is calling us to in this particular time and place and with these conditions and people and resources available. This has given us a top level view of what it is that is being attempted. It is a useful tool to enable churches to have a shared vision of what they wish to achieve.
The second area is through the increasing use of Pioneers in the Diocese. This is a multi-pronged approach. In the first phase we have focussed on ordained Pioneers with the appointment of our first Pioneer Curate (and a further two per year) and the use of Strategic Fund money from the Church Commissioners. We are also looking how this can be expanded further. The second phase, which we very much hope will be coming shortly, will be looking at Lay Pioneers who we expect in the long term to be vital for Pioneering within the Diocese.
The third area is through the increasing use of Action Learning Groups. These are groups of practitioners focussed on a particular area (e.g. Estates or Missional Communities) who commit to try new things, to be open and accountable to one another. Over time we hope that more and more will be formed and that they will share their learning with others around the Diocese. We already have two that are about to happen – one about ministry on estates – Sowing in Concrete on the 21st March and one looking at disabilities – Dementia Friendly Church on the 28th March. Both are free and click the links to see and book to come.
Lastly, we continue to offer our baseline Mission Shaped Ministry course to help churches to begin to grapple with how they can make a difference in their community.