It does feel as if Society and Ministry have changed quite dramatically in the very brief time since my time at college. As if everybody would still be talking about The Matrix and Losing My Religion...
I thought Mission-Shaped Church was a breath of fresh air, even if it was an incomplete work in lots of ways, and is only just catching up with expressing itself in language that others within the Church of England can relate.
A slightly frustrating debate at Synod yesterday, because there seems to be something about Fresh Expressions that causes some people to be quite happy to expose their ignorance. We got a bit stuck on whether if Exhibit A is a Fresh Expression of Church, does that make Exhibit B a Stale Expression of Church, and then (without even considering whether something that a group of people do on a Sunday morning is even a Vague Expression of Church - come on if Church is the people then there has to be something defining about who they are or what they do!) non-Fresh Expressions of Church became Mature Expressions of Church.
We then got side-tracked onto the issue of money (Fresh Expressions always cost money, whereas you could have been mistaken for thinking that Traditional Church came for free) and enculturation (an Expression of Church in, say, a Cafe is de facto sold out to contemporary culture, whereas an Expression of Church that is, for all intents and purposes, identical to attending a classical concert isn't) - "we are incarnate, they are enculturated".
These bugbears were more than made up for by the preceding three presentations -
the Children and Family worker in Devizes
the Missional Community growing in Poole Town Centre
the Project in Weymouth that is always portrayed as being about Street Pastors, but (as Tony showed) is a lot more
Lots in these that struck real chords with me about what I need to spend more time doing. Mission, community and being outside Church - but also lots about what Church should be like. I particularly liked the phrase about Church needing to find itself as the place where people can come and be themselves.
Several comments focussed on the difficulty in additional workload required by Fresh Expressions of Church, but I think there has to be a response to this that Traditional Church will happily consume 110% of all available resources given it, so we need to be honest about priorities. There will never be space to add something like this on.
I think it was Bishop Graham Cray who then said that he envisaged the majority of Fresh Expressions of Church to be Lay led, but I think unless (in Anglican contexts) Clergy get involved in at least the start - permission, boundaries, priorities, theological reflection and so forth, then (in Anglican contexts at least) it ain't going to happen.