Fresh Expressions in Southwark is coming of age! Yesterday we held the first Fresh Expressions vision day in the diocese of Southwark solidly backed by the diocese. We had written support from Bishop Christopher (Bishop of Southwark) and it was opened and introduced by Bishop Jonathan (Bishop of Croydon) and attended by two archdeacons and the new Canon Missioner Stephen Hance. This is an extra-ordinary sea change in a short period of time (see a recent post elsewhere to see something of the treacle we had to wade through in more recent times).
Even more importantly about 100 people from a variety of churches and denominations were there (even one person who came over from Belgium!) showing that there is a real desire to engage with the insights that Fresh Expressions has to offer.
So, yesterday it was joy to be able to have this first vision day. The day was led by two people (unfortunately, Bishop Graham Cray had to drop out through illness) – Ian Mobsby who leads the new monastic community of Moot in London and Rachel Jordan who is the national adviser for mission and evangelism in the Church of England. It was a great day where they led us through an outline of what Fresh Expressions of church is all about.
They started by looking at the background of Fresh Expressions and the root of many of the problems – that the church no longer connects, at all, with the majority of the country. Statistics show that in 2006 15% of the church went once or more a month to church and there were various levels of fringe that made up another 10% and there were about another 6% that were deemed open to the church. But 60% of the population were deemed closed to church. Either because they had been once and no longer did and din’t want to or because they had never been and were very unlikely to go in the future. Rachel also shared that if you bumped into someone aged 60 there was a 60% chance that they had attended church at some time, that if they were 40 it was a 40% chance and that when you reached 20 there was only a 20% probability.
This is a major problem facing the church and Fresh Expressions are one way in which the church as a whole is looking to this challenge.
One of the ways that they helped us think about this was to give us pictures of people and to make up a profile of the person and think how it could be that we might look to reach out to them. What would the problems be? How could they relate to church or did we need to look to go to where they were? It was a useful exercise to think through what we do.
In the afternoon we had a series of seminars on a variety of different areas – new monasticism, spiritual seekers, emerging community, elderly, young families, loving service. It was great talking to people afterwards about all that they got out of the day.
One thing that you may notice from the pictures are that people are wearing their coats – that is because the church was COLD! Given the weather and the coldness of the church it was amazing that so many people were there – and stayed!
So, what is next. Well, there is also the full Mission Shaped Ministry Course starting in May and I do hope that a good number will come on that to help us all develop Fresh Expressions of church in south London. For those in Springfield this will be a natural step and will help us to develop further our thinking and understanding of all that we are hoping to achieve through our River Ministries.