A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.
I have initiated and made sustainable several Fresh Expressions of Church. In various contexts.
Fresh Expressions of Church in Lowestoft
Cre8 is a fresh expression for children, young people and their families, at Carlton Colville Methodist Church, Lowestoft. The programme of activities included a gardening club, health and fitness programme and special events.
The mission strategy focuses on the projects slogan “Building lives and building community”. Cre8 is a flexible mix of activities in the church building. Among the most popular is a cinema and film club where a group of gifted and talented young people from a local school developed the film club project. As an educational project in partnership with the school.
Before I began any pioneering activity I always encourage some form of research project to find out what the community want and need rather than what we think might be a good idea. See more on the Lowesotft research in the past project section.
Cre8 came about as a result of that research and we built up a small team to get things off the ground, including a partnership with the Schools Partnership Agency.
We started off with the kids taking part in shows. Adults would come along with them on Saturday mornings for rehearsals and have a bite of breakfast with us. At that time the Christian input was very small because we were at the stage of simply wanting to build up relationships with the children and their parents.
It was at that exploring sort of stage that we began to see the development of a holistic ministry, where people’s Christian spirituality is very much seen as part of their physical, social, mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
The spiritual dimension was present in all we did because our hope was for a Christian Spirituality to be at the heart of every thing we did.
In all my projects its important to have a strategic plan which incorporates a set of values to work through and shape the community we are and what we hope to be. In Lowestoft we saw these as; Worship, Prayer, Creativity, Learning, Enjoying Abundant Life, Transformation, Influencing, Giving, Celebration, and inclusivity.
A family service once a month was held in a very informal way. For example one month it was aimed at blokes as part of the Father’s Day theme – we enjoyed bacon sandwiches, a Yorkie bar challenge; a clip from a Rob Bell DVD, and a lot of bunting and a banner made by the kids!
We also held very low-key Communion with them. At one such Communion, we looked at the meaning of symbols; starting off by looking at McDonald’s, Nike and KFC – what their ‘symbols’, their logos, say about them? We then moved on to the symbolic meaning of the bread and wine. It was all consecrated properly but we served the wine in paper cups and half slices of sliced bread like the people would eat at home. It was all familiar to them.
Fridays@7 was another development – a café church environment where families could chill out to eat, drink coffee, watch films, enjoy music and explore what Christian Spirituality looked like to them.
It was amazing what has happened there. One guy loved Shakespeare and he went out to buy himself a King James Bible because he sees parallels between the two; there were a lot of the programmes on radio and TV at the time about the King James’ 400th anniversary and he was fascinated by it. That was his entry into Christianity.
I met a guy at the local gym who couldn’t get along with traditional church services at all but now he’s a regular on Friday evenings. From time to time we meet at a local pub, we also went go karting, walking, and other fun things that families enjoy and encourage our non-church friends to join us on these occasions.
During this process, there have been struggles along the way and it did not come together easily but the church and community wrestled with issues together to find a way forward and develop things. This was certainly a painful process at times. But conflict can be creative and an opportunity.
From my experience the mixed economy works very well as long as there is a communication strategy in place between all the stakeholders but especially between the inherited church and the fresh expression. We met once a month with representatives from the different areas of church life coming together to plan and discuss. The fresh expressions group was very firm in saying that it is as much ‘their’ church as the inherited church. They also knew that communication and working together would aid flourishing for both congregations. Sometimes there were difficult conversations. Not always an easy journey.