Change in Southwark Diocese…

I was presenting a proposal last night to the Southwark Bishop’s Council to run a Mission Shaped Ministry Course in Southwark.

The Mission Shaped Ministry course helps churches to look at how they can engage with their communities and look at new forms of mission. What is interesting is that where Dioceses embrace Fresh Expressions there have been some radical changes. So, according to recent research by the Sheffield centre, statistics from the Diocese of Liverpool show there have been some major benefits from encouraging Fresh Expressions. These included:

  • Now 78 Fresh Expressions in the diocese (nearly 36% of church communities)
  • Over 2,700 people now part of these Fresh Expressions
  • For every committed Christian involved, four others are involved
  • 41% of members had never been to Church and a further 30% attended because of dissatisfaction with traditional forms of church
  • Over half were lay led

Up until recently Southwark Diocese has not been in favour of Fresh Expressions but that is now changing and changing quickly. There is a realisation that Southwark cannot carry on with business as usual. Part of this is because of a facing major problems over finance but I believe that there is a wider change due to realising that the diocese cannot pretend that society will just come back to the church. This came into focus when the Dean of Southwark, Andrew Nunn, mentioned in last night’s meeting that he had just had a meeting with Anglo-catholic priests who were grappling with how they do mission and weren’t always sure how to.

The Mission Shaped Ministry course is a great first step for churches to look at mission afresh. It is especially good for groups from a church to go on together and reflect together on what they could do as a church. Over 2500 people have been on an MSM course and of those some 26% have gone on to setup a Fresh Expression of church and 58% have been helped with their own church in thinking missionally.

So, it was great that last night the Bishop’s council overwhelming affirmed their support in our running an MSM Course in Southwark co-ordinated and run by ourselves and St Paul’s, Brixton (We of course need it for the project that we recently won to look at Fresh Expressions on estates). Indeed it was introduced by the Bishop of Croydon followed by Bishops, Archdeacons and the Dean lining up to praise the idea – very gratifying! They very much saw it as part of the strategy that the diocese is adopting in its call to mission.

We hope to start the course early next year and we already have Bishop Graham Cray (who heads up Fresh Expressions and an expert in the area of misison) and Bishop Jonathan Clark (Bishop of Croydon and heads up one of the Fresh Expressions national working groups) planning to run sessions.

It will be great to get some of our people from the Roundshaw congregation on it (Sue, Jean and Nigel have been on it before) to engage with what it means to be a Fresh Expression and to build links with people from St Paul’s, Roundshaw.

I’m also hoping that on a later course we can widen it to others in Springfield as well!

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