fresh expressions of church
what is at their core?
Just as part of the essence of parish is to be territorial, the essence of
`network' is not so much to be cross boundary, but to be non boundary.
The heartbeat of these expressions of church is a passion to engage with
a specific social or cultural context across a wide area. They interpret their
`cure of souls' in terms of their current members plus the existing and
potential contacts of their members in their spheres of relationship within
their shared activities and interests.
Most network churches have declined to adopt methods of pastoral or
evangelistic ministry that are geographically based. They do not visit door
to door, or deliver a magazine to an area. They don't seek baptisms,
weddings or funerals outside their existing circle. Some have even
volunteered codes of conduct that will return Christians attempting to
transfer, to their present churches. As such they seek not to trespass on
parish, but to be different from it. By diocesan agreement and often legal
entity, they have no parish territory for which they are responsible. Their
only base is the relationships their members have with others.
Another common feature is that they seek ongoing relationship with the
wider Church. Many have steering groups drawn from within and even
beyond the diocese. They have chosen to be more directly and closely
accountable to the church catholic than have perhaps most parishes.
This may be partly their Anglican desire to express an identity that is
equally local and diocesan, working with the synodical and the episcopal.
There are several further factors that are important in the context of this
It is not yet clear how far these congregations are made up of the non
churched who have come to faith. Large proportions are certainly de
churched, but even if that is the case, then this is still an important and
serious area of mission.
We know that one early example of network church failed. This may be
because the leaders did not spend enough time clarifying their vision
before beginning. A simple focus on `the unchurched' is too vague a
target, especially when coupled with seeking to operate over a wide area.
Other network churches have rightly focused more narrowly on specific
groups such as those who frequent pubs in regenerating city centres,
or those who have sporting interests in common.
The team for a network plant may come from a number of different
churches. If this is the case, it is important to spend time developing