We’ve just wrapped up four incredibly stimulating days at the Fresh Expressions International Learning Community that took place at the beautiful Ashburnam Place (Battle, England).
Teams gathered for the event from all corners of the globe – the host team from the UK joined by Southern Africa, United States, Mountain Sky (also United States), Canada, Sweden, Germany and of course Australia.
It was both fascinating and encouraging to hear the stories of fresh approaches to church and faith community that emerged from each of the national teams. There’s something special that happens when a “tribe” of like-minded people gather together.
It was interesting too to discover that the shape of Fresh Expressions (from an organisational perspective) differs greatly in each place.
In Southern Africa for example, they’re a well organised team and have formal partnerships with nine different denominations. Meanwhile in Mountain Sky USA, it’s predominantly an initiative of the United Methodist Church through that area (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana) and involves approaches to planting new churches and new faith communities in an area that seems to bear many of the same cultural hallmarks as Australia.
In the UK, naturally (as the originators of the Fresh Expressions movement) they’re very well organised, and with a partnership involving several denominations. Each denomination shares in resourcing the wider movement, together with undertaking their own work of developing new expressions within the denomination. The movement began in 2004 in the UK under the auspices of then Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams – who saw it as an ideal vehicle to begin a contextual church planting movement within the churches involved. That commitment continues, and while there are more traditional church planting movements underway in the UK, Fresh Expressions (and the associated training and support offered under that banner) continues to be a vehicle that helps local churches and local leadership groups establish new church communities.
Each of these stories (and more) provided great food for thought for the Australian team. We gathered at the conference not ever having actually met as a team before (indeed several of us didn’t know each other until we arrived!) and through the week were able to dream together about how we can (collectively) energise Australian activity in the area of fresh expressions.
I valued the opportunity to meet so many leaders from around the world. Session times were predominantly spent in our country teams (and this worked brilliantly), which meant meal times were a noisy buzz of excited conversation and story sharing.
In the next three posts I’ll share (a) a couple of particular stories I encountered and which I think have something to offer in an Australian context; (b) a couple of things I learned about myself (I’ll try not to overshare!), and (c) what the Australian team see as the future of our network down under.
Your questions or comments, of course, are welcome.