mission shaped church
complement the existing monthly `Open Doors' children's club,
held at that time. The style was informal, interactive and
ended with a shared tea. Adults who attended `4 All' were
invited to an Alpha course or to join a cell. Just over a year
after its start, 70 people were involved on a regular basis.
`4 All' simultaneously strengthened the commitment of
existing congregation members and attracted new people
who would never attend a more traditional service.
Two issues, common in Church of England rural ministry, can either offer
great potential or danger to fresh expressions of church.
The first is the multi parish benefice. A united benefice with six
parochially based churches who relate to one another as sister churches
has a ready made framework for recognizing as fully church a new church
based on cell or network. It would be a partner in the gospel with a mission
that complements the group or team. The danger is that, in benefices
where each parish church has its own PCC, fresh expressions of church
will not have a suitable mechanism for accountability. Nor can they easily
find an equal place alongside older forms of church, including responsibility
for finances and payment of parish share. A single PCC for the whole
benefice, with DCCs for individual churches old and new, would be a more
sympathetic structure in which fresh expressions of church can be
accountable, nurtured and mature.
The second issue is that of church buildings. Ancient hallowed buildings
can be wonderful centres for worship. However, churches in the countryside
struggle to subsidize the conservation of the nation's heritage to the extent
that they have in past years. It is important that they are able to consider
first the mission to which God has called them. Where there are excessive
numbers of such buildings in small populations and cost or conservation
interests put adaptation for modern needs out of reach, they starve
mission and the development of fresh expressions of church by taking a
disproportionate share of money, time and effort. How these two issues are
addressed is vital to the future of planting fresh expressions of church in
working for maturity
The necessity of, and the path to, maturity for fresh expressions of church
has already been shaped by great mission thinkers of the past such as
Henry Venn of the Church Missionary Society.
He was one of a few