Being Church in Blacon (September 2017)

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What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Church’?  A building?  A group of people?  Well, the word is used for both.  And when people gather together to be ‘Church’, what do they do?  What does worship look like?  We tend to think of singing hymns, reading the bible, saying prayers, sitting (or standing or kneeling) in pews, with clergy wearing different sort of clothes.  The list goes on and on. 

We have traditional ideas of what church involves – whether it takes place within a formal church building, or under a tree in the middle of the bush in Africa.  What about if I said church worship didn’t have to involve hymn singing? What if I said instead of in neat rows on pews or chairs, that Church could equally be people sitting on floor cushions and drawing pictures? 

People around the Church of England have been thinking about the basic elements of Church, and different ways of helping people to draw close to God, and to worship him.  Because that is what church is ultimately for – to be part of God’s mission in the world, making God’s love for the world known.  God’s love which is so great that He gave His only Son Jesus Christ to die for him, that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have everlasting life.  And the way God’s love is made known, will vary in different places, and with different people.

All kinds of cultures around the world worship God, in all sorts of different ways.   Many people are coming to realise that today’s society is like a whole different culture to what prevailed in UK in past generations.  Therefore, a new and ‘fresh’ way of being church could be needed nowadays to engage with people who are part of that different culture.  This has become referred to as ‘Fresh Expressions of Church’.

The Fresh Expressions movement is not just about holding big events that attract loads of people.  It’s about finding fresh ways of engaging with people about God.  It’s about using those ways of engaging to help people come to believe and trust in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It’s about not only having people express that faith and trust, but living it out – becoming disciples themselves.  A Fresh Expression is not a halfway house to being a ‘proper’ church.  It’s not something that would be a stepping stone for somebody to be properly counted once they come to the traditional Eucharist service.  A Fresh Expression is Church.

At Holy Trinity, aside from our traditional Eucharist, we regularly offer two other more informal styles of worship:  Café Church and Godtastic.  We are coming to realise that maybe we need to also explore even more radical Fresh Expressions of worship, in addition to what we currently offer.

There is no ‘standard’ format being used elsewhere that can simply be copied in Blacon.  Everywhere is different.  So, in other places there is for example a surfer’s church based on a beach; a skiers’ church on a ski slope and a youth congregation that meets at a skate park.  Some ‘congregations’  do not come together in one place at one time, but are together as a ‘virtual’ community, on the internet.  What would be right in Blacon depends a great deal on what age-group we are talking about.

The aim, though, will be to help people come to a living relationship with God, to grow in their faith and trust in Him, and to have ways to expressing that in worship that is relevant to their culture.  Please pray for us as we consider and seek God’s will, as to whether there are Fresh Expressions we need to develop.

If you want to find out more about the Fresh Expressions movement, have a look at www.freshexpressions.org.uk

Tina Upton