Paul writes – Anglican Bishop Steven Croft has some useful things to say in his little essay “Persuading Gamaliel: Helping the Anglo-Catholic Tradition Engage with Fresh Expressions of Church”. The essay was amongst the excellent collection of essays Ancient Faith Future Mission: Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Tradition published in May this year. Other essay’s that I really benefited from were Rowan Williams’ lecture (here as a PDF); Karen Ward’s chapter (copy of a creative liturgy that accompanies her chapter on COTA can be found here as a PDF), Sue Wallace’s reflection on Visions, Ian Adams and Ian Mobsby’s chapter on New Monasticism, and in particular, Jonathan Clark’s Postmodernism and Sacramentalism. I haven’t had a chance to read the two chapters on Feig and Contemplative Fire. Jonny Baker offers a little reflection on the book here.
Get yourself a copy of the book. It’s excellent, particularly if you find yourself more at home in the Anglo-Catholic-Sacramental tradition.
Meantime, here are a couple of excerpts from Croft’s chapter:
“...The incarnational pattern, whereby missionaries go first of all to bless and serve a particular section of society, is emerging as the most authentic and helpful model for the development of fresh expressions of church. The blessing and service of the missionary first of all builds community, which in turn creates the opportunities to make disciples. As disciples are made, so the church begins and grows... today there is a need to see the gospel inculturated in appropriate ways for changing contexts... communities are vital places of formation and witness – an insight drawn from the broader catholic tradition down the centuries...” (p.44)
That churches grow at all “is but the culmination of thousands of small endeavours; the result of local congregations being prepared to begin new communities by going where people are and shaping church in imaginative ways according to the context... (p.47)
I really appreciated Croft’s use of the letters of Pope Gregory to Augustine of Canterbury, preserved in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. The letters paint a fascinating picture of the formation of new communities.
“...  A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefits of people who are not yet members of any church;  It will come into being through principles of listening, service, incarnational mission and making disciples;  It will have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context...” (p.49)
These last three points, particularly point # 1 are so important to any discussion around potential new expressions of church. They cannot be lost sight of.