What is a Fresh Expression of Church?
There is often some confusion as to what a fresh expression of Church is. It is a new worshipping community that comes about through reaching out to those who are not currently or have never part of a church. So, running a course such as Pilgrim or Alpha is not a fresh expression of Church; setting up a new congregation for your existing members is not a fresh expression of Church. Doing great imaginative mission to add to your existing congregation is wonderful but it is not a fresh expression of Church.
A fresh expression of Church needs to be both missional, reaching those who are not yet Christian, and ecclesial, forming a new expression of Church. So, setting up a congregation that meets the needs of the people of an estate is a fresh expression of Church, creating a neo-monastic community for spiritual seekers is a fresh expression of Church, a Messy Church that is aimed at being an ecclesial expression of Church and not a bridge is a fresh expression of Church.
Fresh expressions in Southwark
The Diocese of Southwark is committed to seeing people coming to faith in Jesus Christ and fresh expressions of Church have been shown to have a high impact in allowing this to happen. For every one person involved who already is a member of the Church two to three people who aren’t join in. In a recent survey by Church Army of the Diocese we found that there are 39 fresh expressions of Church with nearly 2,400 people part of them. These range across a whole range of types – from Messy Church and Café Church through church plants and Cell Church to neo-monastic communities. They cover the range of areas from inner city deprived communities, through the suburbs to rural communities. We would like to see a significant increase in these numbers and range of types and have an active plan to increase the number of variety of fresh expressions.
Training, Support and Funding
To help encourage new thinking and to grow healthy fresh expressions of Church the Diocese offers churches the ability to grapple with planting and growing fresh expressions to maturity. Specifically, we are offering three key areas of support.
The first area includes training via courses such as the Mission Shaped Ministry Course which we are offering in the Diocese on a regular basis. This is a year long course giving teams from a church time and space to reflect practically and theologically on fresh expressions and covers important areas such as listening for mission, Gospel and culture, engaging with your community, handling setbacks etc.
The second area is that of funding. The Diocese has created a fund to help fresh expressions to get started. Grants can be for small grants to help with small items or to help with some work on what is maybe an idea and hasn’t taken full form. For fresh expressions that are taking form and larger grants are required then a larger grant can be applied for. Finally, some fresh expressions need funding for a few years to become self-sustaining and grants are available to help.
Of course, to make the most of grants training is really important and we would wish churches who require a larger grant to undertake training and also have support as they embark on the journey to seeing a fresh expression come to maturity. In addition to formal training we also offer support to mentor and help churches.
For more information and assistance then please do contact the Dean of Fresh Expressions, Canon Will Cookson