Having taken Ruth Gledhill’s rebuke seriously, I offer this as an alternative way of saying what I wanted to say in the last post.

Some people groan when the term ‘Fresh Expressions’ is introduced into polite conversation. I have even heard people reply with something to the effect that they are quite happy with stale expressions of church thank you very much. But, like the term or loathe it, it represents a setting free of many churches to be creative, innovative and imaginative in their worship and outreach.

OK, it is true that what would simply have been called a ‘Coffee Morning’ or a ‘Pensioners’ Lunch’ ten years ago (attracting little applause for its pastoral or evangelistic cutting edge) can now be labelled a ‘New Way of Being Church’. But, isn’t that the genius of it? Giving ordinary initiatives a label of approval makes the whole enterprise feel more highly valued than it might have done before.

Rowan WilliamsThe Archbishop of Canterbury has just launched a new collection of good stories (or ‘best practice’, as it is usually known) of fresh expressions of church entitled Ancient Faith, Future Mission. These relate to all sorts of people, personalities, interests, backgrounds, passions, problems found in all sorts of contexts around the country. They are aimed at encouraging churches not to reject the old stuff (which is still culturally helpful and appropriate for many people), but to reach out to people not being reached through the old stuff by using cultural forms that are more likely to be effective. After all, the point is to create the space in which all sorts of people can find that they have been found by God.

Now, no doubt this book will attract sneers as well as gratitude. It will be represented by some as yet another pathetic attempt by a failing church to get trendy and pull in young bums to fill the empty pews – which is often how the Church of England is represented in the media. But, this will be a big mistake. And it will be interesting to know how those who sneer are going about reaching the thousands of people who are not worshipping in their existing services and not finding the local church creating the space in which they can find that they have been found by God. ‘Pointless and shallow’ was how one cleric described reports of this book (I bet he hasn’t read it): what is his alternative for effective evangelism and worship that draws more than the usual suspects?

Creative attempts to bring Christ to people and people to Christ have always drawn contemptuous rejection from those who know best. I think I know whose side I am on in this one.