According to the latest research, 39 per cent of Church of England parishes have started a ‘Fresh Expression’ of church since 2000 – a new initiative to connect with those who are currently outside church, and who may feel disconnected from some inherited ecclesiastical structures.
Fresh Expressions is a movement led by the Church of England and the Methodist Church to nurture contemporary forms of church life alongside traditional ones. It has some parallels with aspects of the non- or post-denomination ‘emerging church’ movement, with initiatives such as the Church of Scotland’s ‘Church Without Walls’, and with earlier ecumenical projects such as Churches Together in Britain and Ireland’s (CTBI) Building Bridges of Hope.
Examples of Fresh Expressions, says the C of E, includes a network of cell churches involving Merseyside police officers, a pair of surfers preparing to set up a church centre on Newquay’s beachfront, and a special monthly service in Cambridge for Goths.
These and other less exotic examples feature in a DVD released today to mark the continuing expansion of the programme. It has an introduction by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.
Expressions: the DVD 2 – Changing Church in Every Place, has been developed as a tool for continuing the momentum of establishing and sustaining these new forms of church. It draws on the experiences of pioneers in fresh types of ministry and highlights that Fresh Expressions can be set up anywhere, by churches from any tradition.
The DVD shows how Fresh Expressions have already been successfully developed in a range of specific contexts: within work places or leisure networks; in rural communities; by emphasizing sacramental elements; and with groups of young people.
Dr Williams says: “I’m colossally encouraged by the amount of activity that there seems to be around the church at the moment. This DVD tells part of this new story. I hope [people] will watch it, give thanks to God and get involved.”
The film, says its producers “also indicates a deepening in understanding of how Fresh Expressions can evolve to continue to meet the needs of the community, and reflects the sharing of good practice and creative ideas currently taking place across the Churches.”
Four in-depth ‘discussion starter’ films are also included to guide local churches in thinking about contemporary Christian mission. The new DVD is available through Church House Bookshop in London and other outlets.