The Diocese has just announced that I have been appointed as Dean of Fresh Expressions in Southwark. This is a new part-time post and is initially for a year (for both sides to see how it goes) and does not alter me continuing as Minister of Springfield Church. It is an exciting opportunity not only for myself but in a wider context given the realisation by Bishop Christopher and others in the diocese that Fresh Expressions can have a significant impact on the mission of the church .
The post is aimed at encouraging Fresh Expressions in Southwark and will seek to
encourage, train, mentor and build a team of practitioners to encourage pioneering work across the Diocese of Southwark.
It was very flattering of the diocese to approach me to see if I would be interested in the role (and I had to go through a formal interview process which allowed both they and I to see what would be involved and if I was the right person) but this only comes about due to the extra-ordinary church of which I am the Minister. Without the support of the people of Springfield and a wonderful staff team then I would not be in the place where I feel that I had anything to offer. As it is I do believe that seeing the way that people at Springfield have led on so many things may be something of what I can offer to others.
This isn’t a one-way arrangement. The thing I love about Fresh Expressions is that there is always more to learn and to discover and I know that working with others will refresh me and the church and will help Springfield as well. There is a mutuality about helping others that then helps us.
So, what will my role actually involve? Well a number of things.
Firstly, it will be to encourage churches to consider Fresh Expressions as part of their mission mix. I was at a meeting of the Area Deans this morning where I gave a very short presentation on the new funding available and the Mission Shaped Ministry course that we have delayed for a few months so that those applying for funding can also be helped through being able to attend the course. Some of them are already asking me to present to chapter or synods.
It will be to help administer the £100,000 fund that the diocese is making available this year for new Fresh Expressions. This fund is a practical demonstration of their commitment to make Fresh Expressions a reality. We hope that by judicious use of this money that more will become available in subsequent years.
It will be to meet with the archdeacons and bishops and others to see who and how we can encourage, help and support Fresh Expressions in the parishes for which they are responsible.
It will be to build a team of practitioners who can support and encourage pioneering work across the diocese and across the traditions. It is important to note that already there are a number of Fresh Expressions of all the traditions in the diocese (according to brand new yet to be published research by George Lings) – we already have some from all the traditions – catholic, evangelical, central, charismatic and liberal. It will be good to visit and meet people and see what is going on and see what we can share.
It will be to train and mentor people – so there is the excellent Mission Shaped Ministry course starting in May which I am responsible for.
Currently Southwark has about 40 Fresh Expressions of church and we are seeking to significantly increase this. Many of the dioceses that have been going for some years are seeing Fresh Expressions have a very important impact in the health and well-being of the diocese. So, Canterbury has over 3,000 members of Fresh Expressions, Liverpool 2,900, Chelmsford 1,800 etc. In each of these cases about 3/4 of them are unchurched (never been part of church) or dechurched (have been in past but left). It would be great to see these sort of numbers coming to church in Southwark through Fresh Expressions.
It’s an exciting time and I’m very much looking forward to starting the role and I hope and pray that we can see Fresh Expressions flourish in Southwark in the months and years ahead.
The press release is on the Diocese of Southwark website: http://bit.ly/1yLhyE7