Each month the Share website in England sends out Share Thoughts, a free monthly email with a thought-provoking article, containing material of great interest to the church. In the August edition the article below appeared, which we reproduce in full with the kind permission of Fresh Expressions and Share.
We thought it would be of great interest to many Canadians and could even start an online discussion of the issues it raises. At the end of the article we have asked a question to which we would like you to respond!
Share thoughts – August 2010
exploring fresh expressions of church together
Rural fresh expressions
On a rural housing estate in North Oxfordshire, Church Army pioneer Ian Biscoe got to know his neighbours, put on a Christmas talent show at which Alpha was advertised, ran the course, turned it into a Thursday evening discipleship group, and enabled the group to be church. Five years later there were four congregations with 100 to 120 people overall.
David Muir, a pioneer minister in Devon, has offered these ten tips for people wanting to develop fresh expressions of church in rural areas.
1. Do some serious homework on the social realities in your area
The countryside is hugely varied, so beware of generalisations about what ‘country people’ are like.
2. Do assume that countryside people are well disposed to the Christian faith
Most are. So think hard before using language like ‘becoming a Christian’.
3. If you are new to the countryside, get involved
Traditional countryside people will always see you as an in-comer, but it will only take a couple of years to be accepted as an ‘OK in-comer’.
4. Beware of the idolatry of nice village life
This is a temptation for the traditional inhabitants of the countryside and for in-comers seeking their rural idyll.
5. A community centred on its own well-being is a form of selfishness
The church must challenge this rather than collude with it to gain acceptance.
6. Support the church building
It is a social symbol that continues to have some Christian opportunities. Attending funerals will open some doors.
7. Accept that we have lost the battle for weekly public worship
‘Public’ worship was a Christendom idea and we need to let go of it. Think about how else to give expression to a living faith community.
8. Support the vicar
People still want clergy for baptisms, weddings and (most of all) funerals. So support ministers in their traditional roles, and find ways to link their ministries to whatever fresh expression of church you feel called to develop.
9. Refuse to be trapped by geography
Countryside people travel, often quite long distances, to things they really want to go to. So think wide. Doing something ‘just for our little community’ is killing the countryside socially.
10. Think ‘sustainability’ rather than ‘funding’
Evangelism by largesse is another Christendom idea that needs to die. It fosters dependency rather than initiative. Grants run out. So keep it simple. Start what the group can sustain.
Do you agree with David? What else might you add? Have you an experience of rural fresh expressions that you can share? You might like to comment on the Share page, Rural fresh expressions.
For more thought-provoking articles on different aspects of fresh expressions of church, visit the Share website. To discuss with others, join the Share Community.
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Question: “In what ways do Canadian rural situations differ from, or match, the English rural scene?”
Please key your response in the comments box below. I hope we can get a good discussion started!