It’s with enormous pleasure that I can announce that the Archbishop of Canterbury will be visiting Springfield Church to help us celebrate our twentieth anniversary next year. He will be coming to preach and preside for our Sunday morning service on the 18th March, which is appropriately enough Mothering Sunday. How much more appropriate can it be to have the Primate of the church of England coming to Springfield as a recognition that churches such as ours are integral parts of the Church of England and no longer an oddity!
Springfield has always been a different sort of church. Set up to reach out into the community, with no parish and no church building it has always had mission as part of its DNA. We were a Fresh Expression before the term was invented! The thing with Fresh Expressions is that as a church matures then it can change into a “normal” church. In recent years we have recognised this as a potential issue and gone back to our roots – launching a cafe congregation – Springfield@Roundshaw, launching a messy church, changing the format of our toddler group into a messy church format and looking to launch river ministries that go deep into the community.
The idea of inviting ++Rowan (one + for a bishop, two +’s for an archbishop for those who are curious) started last year when I was at the ordination of Julian Staniforth at Canterbury Cathedral and I bumped into the Archbishop before the service when the ordinands were having a cup of coffee and they and their families were mingling. I asked the Archbishop if there was any chance that he might come to our twentieth anniversary celebration, I also asked if he could talk about prayer as I didn’t know how he coped with so much vitriol poured over him without a strong prayer life. He was very kind and took a moment and suggested that I write to him, which I did!
I received the initial acceptance in principle to the invitation three weeks ago but I was asked not to announce it until he could firm up the date, which happens six months prior to the event. I must admit I found it difficult not to be able to share the news with you all! I was told that if I had heard nothing to the contrary by the 18th September that I could go ahead and announce the visit. Well, I haven’t and so I am!
He will be spending the morning with us and I will be discussing the format with the PCC tomorrow night so that we can see how we can best use his visit to encourage and build us all up. When you consider how busy he is – his role as Archbishop, his role in the worldwide Anglican church (just for example he’s off to Zimbabwe next month trying to help with the conflict there and has asked for a meeting with Mugabe) as well as being diocesan bishop for Canterbury etc then you can appreciate how big this is for us and what a great privilege. I heard ++Rowan preach a wonderful sermon at an HTB conference last year and was even more keen to have him come if he would.
++Rowan has been a keen exponent of what he termed the mixed economy within the Anglican Church, speaking at several of the Fresh Expressions conferences. He recognises that the shape of church within the Church of England (and indeed other denominations) is likely to radically change in the coming decades as I blogged the other day. His visit to us is a practical sign of his enthusiasm for this mixed economy and a huge encouragement for us.
One of the original members of Springfield, Rosie, who came over from the planting church, Holy Trinity Wallington, has just told me that the original day for Springfield Church’s launch was Mothering Sunday – it’s therefore even more appropriate that ++Rowan is coming next year on Mothering Sunday to help us celebrate!