COI Gazette – 26th January 2017

Fresh expressions of church?


Fresh expressions of church (fxC) have, paradoxically, been around for a long time. It could be argued that they have been with us since Pentecost and the earliest Apostolic mission. At their simplest they are new forms of church that emerge within a culture and engage primarily with those that don’t ‘go to church’ – the fxC approach is to ‘go to them’.


In 2004, the Church of England produced a report entitled Mission-Shaped Church: church planting and fresh expressions of church in a changing context. This report introduced the language of fresh expressions. It also helped us to pay greater attention to our prevailing culture, to emerging church practices and to how God appeared to be active in mission.



Messy church, café church, church planting. Chances are we have all come across one of these, if not in practice then in something we have read. They are all examples of something we are beginning to hear more of – Fresh expressions of church (fxC). Whether you are an expert on fresh expressions or are now scratching your head in confusion, the Gazette is running a monthly series on the subject, beginning with this issue (see front page). We are grateful to Dr Tim Ling and the Research Unit of Church Army for providing this.

The Church of England has gone through a similar challenge as our own denomination – how to live out a Christian witness in a changing culture where fewer and fewer people are going to church. In the Church of Ireland we have the evidence of our censuses that present the trends to us. As Dr Ling notes in his article, the Church of England produced a report in 2004 entitled Mission-Shaped Church: church planting and fresh expressions of church in a changing context. This was an attempt to begin grappling with the issue. It was also when the term ‘fresh expressions’ began to appear.

Our series will help the reader to understand some of the thinking and practices that lie behind fresh expressions of church. As Tim Ling points out, it is rooted in recognising the reality that people no longer come to church. The response of the fresh expressions approach is not to bewail this, but to work out how to “go to them”.

One reaction to all this may be to label it as the exclusive preserve of one spirituality or type of church – that it is the sort of thing the evangelicals, liberals or Anglo-Catholics get up to and not for us. Or, that you must have access to great amounts of money to make it all happen. The experience of the Church of England, and current research do not bear out the suspicion that fresh expressions is for one ‘brand’ of church or another. The evidence suggests quite the opposite.

The West Wing is a fictional TV series about US President Jed Bartlet (Democrat) and his administration, first shown from 1999 to 2006. One of the characters is Leo McGarry, the White House Chief of Staff. In one episode President Bartlett comes up with a very unusual idea that he wants his Chief of Staff to make happen. Leo McGarry, obviously less than impressed, has a memorable response to the President’s request. “Is this one of those ideas you have at breakfast, but by lunchtime have forgotten what it was you asked me to do?”

Experience and evidence suggest that fresh expessions of church is not one of those ideas that appears at breakfast and is forgotten by lunchtime. Our monthly series, featuring six articles, will examine more of the thinking and manifestations of it. Fresh expressions represents a serious attempt by all types of churches to become more missional – “to go to them”.

When it launched the 2004, Mission-Shaped Church report, the Church of England demonstrated that it wanted something more than a diagnosis of the challenge it faced. It showed a willingness to re-imagine church in a way that would help churches and members to be more effective in mission.

For the Church of Ireland, moving beyond diagnosis of a challenge is an important thing to do. Being demonstrably willing to invest serious resources into new thinking and action would seem to be an unavoidable step.

Home News

  • Farewell Evensong for Belfast Cathedral organist
  • TCD Chapel Choir visits Enniskillen
  • TKA team visit to Diocese of Kajiado, Kenya
  • Bishop of Clogher announces new Diocesan MU Chaplain
  • Focus on Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh


In Perspective – Magpies, ladders and a pinch of salt

Insight – Starting the year with gratitude

World News

  • United Methodist bishops condemn President Trump’s ‘offensive’ remarks against immigrants
  • South Sudanese archbishop urges arrest of soldiers accused of rape
  • Church to thieves: ‘Give our bell back and all will be forgiven’
  • Zambia’s churches urge an ‘ongoing process’ to bring peace and justice to Zambia
  • Church leaders cancel services in Lusaka in bid to halt cholera outbreak
  • President of World Vision to retire
  • Bishop McKeown and international delegation of bishops meet young Palestinians and Israelis

Letters to the Editor

Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

THERE ARE so many cries every year, especially at Christmas time, about the Palestinian Arabs being occupied by ‘aggressive’ Israeli Jews. Those voices are rising again with President Trump’s courageous stance in acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in contradistinction to most other governments across the globe.

The USA will miraculously move its embassy from Tel- Aviv, which is not Israel’s capital, to Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal, indivisible, spiritual and political capital which welcomes both Arabs and Jews, as well as Armenians and Druze. Israeli Arabs fare better than their counterparts living under Islamic regimes.

The truth of the matter is that ‘Palestine’ has been occupied by migratory Arabs since the forced expulsion of the Jews by the Romans circa 135CE and the benighted Jews had to wander the earth as a scattered people, oppressed and brutalised from country to country, whether under Christian or Muslim rule, but they were no longer a free people in a country of their own.

The world calls it ‘occupied Arab land’ without researching the facts or the history, never mind the biblical connections.

It uses the term ‘Palestinian’ to describe Arabs living in the land of the Bible, which erases the fact that the Jews living in the country before 1948 were
also called ‘Palestinian’. The last book in the Bible describes an eternal Jerusalem in heaven in which there will be 12 gates of pearl (the ‘pearly gates’), but do anti-Semites know that even in heaven Jerusalem will be an ‘Israel’-themed capital?

Peace cannot come without Israel being in Jerusalem. The fact that Jews have been miraculously gathering for over a century to the land of their forefathers only galvanises the fact that they will be in their land again, ready for the Messiah’s momentous appearing.

Surely he is at the door. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
Colin Nevin Bangor Co. Down

Same-sex marriage debate

THE REVD RUPERT MORETON has posted a video clip of someone who was brutally murdered in Uganda a few years ago. What Mr Moreton has failed to do is to report accurately the circumstances of the murder.

It has been reported that the perpetrator had been bailed from prison by the victim and was living with the victim. Further, reports say the murderer claimed, and these claims have not so far been refuted, that he had attacked David Kato in a fit of anger for his refusal to pay him for sexual favours whilst living with him.

The murder of David Kato, and anyone else, for their sexual behaviour or identity is abhorrent, but so is using such an awful event for party political point scoring.

Mr Moreton should do his homework before using such a video clip for his own ends.
Dr Alan McCann (the Revd), Carrickfergus Co. Antrim

Transgender and women’s sports

MR O’CALLAGHAN invited me to address his very legitimate question of how we resolve the myriad of practical procedures, processes and rules that have to be tackled when a society moves from a more simple, often binary, world view to a more inclusive, complex, but often messy perspective.

All I can say is that I agree with him that it makes our
life more difficult to have to address these practicalities. But, address them we must if we want to have a fairer, more inclusive society.

Jesus did not eschew people on the perimeters of the society of his day. Neither should we.

In relation to Mr O’Callaghan’s specific question about competitive sprinting: I don’t know what the answer is.
However, perhaps the experts could enhance equity by delineating classes in such events by body-weight, as in boxing, rather than on simple male or female categorisation? Appropriate supporting regulation would have to be developed.

Prof. Patricia Barker


Book Review

NORTHERN IRELAND Author: Judith Cole

Publisher: Ambassador International


News Extra

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  • Magheragall JAM group supports Baby Basics
  • Death