There was once a movement in the churches in UK back in the 1980's and 90's. It was called "alt. worship". Then the movement discovered some colleagues on the other side of the pond and the movement was renamed "emerging church". Then some bishops waved their hand and rechristened it "Fresh Expressions". It was the same but it was also different. And it now had the blessing of the church which meant an easier ride, less enemies, more funding, greater understanding but also less punk rock and wild rebellion. It also meant a little historical editing and some loss of individual voices that were subsumed into the bigger picture.
But its been a great ride and a great privilege to sponsor projects under all of these titles.
A special gathering of Fresh Expressions leaders starts tomorrow. Today is the last day to register. [PDF] David Male, founder of Netchurch and author of Church Unplugged, is organising this meeting. I can't be there, as I told David. Apologies to all! Hope it goes well!
But I do send greetings to the 50+ people who will be there. They are coming from 10 countries. Thats great!
Fresh Expressions is an international movement with a different flavor in each country. My observations from a busy year of traveling and interacting with Fresh Expression leaders in many countries:
In England, Fresh Expressions is primarily an Anglican and Methodist movement. The Anglicans coined the phrase and have cast the most obvious Fresh Expression shadow. The Church of Scotland have been doing a tremendous job with their 'emerging church fund" but they have not yet fully shifted their terminology over to FE. [There might be some history there]. Some other fresh expressions of church are reluctantly being counted among the others but are reluctant to hand over the keys to the Anglicans and here I am talking about the Anabaptist type groups like Urban Expression. But by and large the FE movement is a RAGING SUCCESS and there might now be 3000 fresh expressions of church in the UK.
In most of Australia, the Uniting Church is one of the strongest voices for FE but the Anglicans are strong in Sydney. My time in Adelaide was amazing and I wouldn't be surprised if that city emerged as the FE leader in Australia.
In New Zealand, the Baptists are busy getting some networking going around the country and the Anglicans are also involved. Obviously.
In South Africa, probably the Anglicans but I didn't see many new expressions of church.
So it really is an international movement but the event this week will feature only English speakers. That's a bit of a shame. I think if they wanted to attract more leaders from the 'colonies" then they just might have to ask a few of them to speak as well as listen.
Bishop Graham Cray will be speaking. I highly recommend hearing him. He has served the movement well as an ambassador, cheerleader and guide, [see his thoughts on monastic FE] and we all owe him. Same for John Drane. And Maggie Dawn. Ok - I guess there are lots of great speakers, even if they are all English :-]
Related: I am hoping many Fresh Expressions will start on the margins and work towards self-sustainability. I am calling these Fringe Expressions and we are starting 50 of them this year.