Posts Tagged “fresh expressions”

Bishop Graham Cray’s excellent address on Fresh Expressions to the evening session of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly is now available to watch on the Church of Scotland website.  Well worth a look, listen, copious notes and lots of thought.

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On Monday night, after the drama, confusion and intrigue of the Overture discussion that never happened something important happened… something which is at the heart of the future of the church.

It was late in the evening when Bishop Graham Cray spoke to a disappointingly small group of people as part of the Emerging Church fringe event.

Bishop Cray is the man in charge of Fresh Expressions, the joint project between the Church of England and the Methodist Church, and he has been working in the area of pioneering ministry for years.

His first sentence was a response to a video of a great youth project at the Steeple Church in Dundee.  ‘That’s great’, he said, ‘but that’s not what I’m talking about.’

In that one sentence he summed up the concern I have with the direction of the ‘Emerging Church’ conversations and support available through the Church of Scotland.

Graham spoke of ministry across cultural boundaries, of growing churches where there are none and of a mixed economy of church.  He shed light on the how and why, shared encouragement and pointed out some pitfalls.

All that requires legislation, changes in recognition and training of the ministry needed for these new expressions and funding.

I’ve heard little this week to convince me that the Church of Scotland has a corporate awareness of this area or a grasp of where it is heading, despite the good work of the development officer for this area.

The event was webcast.  It would be great if Graham’s talk could be shared wider.

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Tonight, for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of, I was invited to sit on a panel for a discussion of ‘The Emerging Church’ at International Christian College.  If you read yesterday’s post you’ll probably realise that i was pretty nervous about it for a number of reasons.

If you missed it, my article on Emerging Church is in the newly published OneKirk Journal (along with an interview with Scott Rennie and some amazing words written by Roddy Hamilton).

However, back to tonight.  It went pretty well I thought, despite me outing myself as never having been an ‘Evangelical’ which I guess was one of the inevitabilities of taking part.  Oh well.  Never mind.  I think my ‘outsider in terms of the evangelical church but maybe more insider in terms of emerging church’ position added a wider perspective to the debate.

I enjoyed the discussion but there were some things that I wanted to pick up on and perhaps save others having the same problems.

The first is that we always need to be pretty clear which emerging church we’re talking about.  This evening’s discussion grew out of the visit of Brian McLaren last year and the students wanted a forum to discuss some of their unanswered questions.  I saw the value of this but I’m not sure I see the point of only discussing what McLaren thinks the emerging church is, no matter how much fun that might be.

I don’t buy that McLaren is leading this emergence on his own.  I’m concerned that if we focus all of the discussion on what Brain thinks we miss the very real question about why stuff is emerging from ALL kinds of churches.  What is driving this experimentation?  What is it that people are dissatisfied with?  I think McLaren has a go at answering some of those questions, but he’s not the only voice in the discussion.

The second is that, believe it or not, this ain’t America.  The drivers for the Emerging Church in America are its particular political, social, cultural and spiritual context… none of which are the same here in Scotland, despite the very obvious homogenisation of western culture.  The evangelical context in America has a social and political dimension that is not replicated here in the UK where the ‘religious right’ doesn’t have the same influence in the political or social agenda.

I think we need to be more deliberate about finding out what’s happening here and who, if anyone, is writing about it.  That’s one of my hopes for Emerging Scotland, that people will share their stories and begin to chronicle the emerging church here in Scotland.

The third is that, even though it’s a crowd pleaser, cheap stereotypes about liberals sitting round candles isn’t an accurate representation of any of the Emerging Church.   Please don’t make fun of people who are trying honestly and earnestly to seek God’s will and to worship Him in ways that make more sense to them than whatever they have found in a denominational church setting.

So, overall, a good night I think.  It was filmed but I don’t know if or where that might appear…

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Today my colleague Jan and I ventured over to Wishaw URC to experiment with Cafe Church. Jan had been to visit the elders and the Girls’ Brigade last week to explain a little of what would happen.

Cafe Church

Cafe Church

Because this was their first experience of something different from a traditional church service on a Sunday morning we kept a little of that familiar structure with an opening and closing hymn and a couple of responsive prayers.

The biggest change was the seating and the middle section of the time where we basically had a workshop type discussion about the 10 Commandments and rules for living with coffee and cakes.

I have to say for me coffee and cakes in church is definitely the way to go!  People felt much freer to move around to talk and to take part.  Everyone said they enjoyed it and would like to do it again.  Perhaps not every week, but regularly.

They liked the chance to talk and discuss and contribute during the service, rather than only getting to talk to each other at the end.

We often complain that people don’t come to Bible study groups or that people don’t participate.  Perhaps that’s because we don’t create the right conditions.  A cup of coffee and a cake around a small table seemed to work for us today.

Why not give it a try sometime?  What do you have to loose?

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