Fresh Expressions is a highpoint of Rowan Williams’ primacy

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said the establishment of Fresh Expressions has been a high point of his primacy.

Speaking on the day he announced his resignation and his move to Cambridge as Master of Magdalene College, Dr Williams said:

I think the two things I look back on with greatest satisfaction are that we've managed in the Church of England to launch this very new mission outreach programme Fresh Expressions, and get the Church of England to recognise the possibility of new styles of congregational life and new styles of training for ministers to go with it. I think that's really begun to build itself in to the life of the Church.

Speaking in an interview recorded by the Press Association, Dr Williams added:

And in the last couple of years we've also managed to launch the new Anglican Alliance for Relief and Development worldwide.

Rowan Williams, along with the Methodist Council, established Fresh Expressions soon after the publication of the Mission-shaped Church report, and described it as

one of the big positives of the last 10 years.

The full transcript of the interview and the related video can be found on the Anglican Communion News Service website.

Somewhere Else

If you have seen expressions: the dvd – 1 then you will remember Somewhere Else – the Liverpool ‘bread’ church. Heather Lovelady brings the story up to date.

After a fantastic 10 years at Somewhere Else, we have spent the summer saying our goodbyes to our founder minister, Rev Dr Barbara Glasson, and have just welcomed Rev Ian Hu as our new minister from September.

Transition is never easy and over the last 12 months we have worked and prayed hard as a community to find the person to help us continue this unique city centre ministry. We are excited to see where God will take us over the next few years. Will bread making remain at the centre of the mission? We are keeping an open mind, although this simple yet deeply theological concept has helped us engage practically and spiritually with many people: marginalised, ordinary and powerful here in Liverpool, nationally and in the wider world. Our small upper room continues to provide safer space for the vulnerable, inspiration to those discerning their calling, silence for prayer and reflection and a place to be continually ‘amazed’ by the bread…

We recently held a story making event at Somewhere Else with artist Laura Wild. You may like to look at the website to see some photos and video clips of community members fashioning ‘story starters’ from sourdough and then making their story as part of a national artwork project called ‘culture capital 2009’.

Come and visit! We are open for bread making, prayers and lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10.30 to 2.00pm and worship is on the third Sunday of the month at 11.00am.

Earlsfield Friary

In Earlsfield, south west London, a pioneering new venture has started that seeks to build a mission-focused, new monastic, fresh expression of church. Johnny Sertin is the lay pioneer who leads it.

Johnny SertinEarlsfield is a melting pot of diverse cultures. It’s known as  ‘nappy valley’, with many young families ‘camping’ here until they migrate out of the city when they want a ‘better’, and often more expensive, education for their children. However there are two other more historical social groups that make up the bulk of the community which are perhaps initially less obvious. Firstly local indigenous families, many who have lived here their whole lives and have an extended family network in the neighbourhood. Traditionally they come from a more working class culture. Many now are affluent through exercising the right to buy council owned properties during the boom of the housing market in the 90’s. Many too have done well pioneering small start up businesses with bespoke labour skills as their service. However there are still some who are less fortunate from this indigenous group who have struggled with the changing landscape of their area. Finally there is the influx of people from other nations who have been coming here for the last fifty years as the colonies of Britain’s Empire folded and immigration laws were relaxed. Many of these families arrive all together and live on the housing estates peppered around the hub of Earlsfield. There are real social issues on some of these estates. Just in the last two weeks there have been two drug related shootings on the estate near to our home.

Three years ago my wife and I came to this area of London to explore mission spirituality through a communal rhythm of life with others. We began our own journey living in an extended household for two years, trying to practise a pattern of life together. From then a small community has come together which now orientates around five households. We are exploring how we could live out the Christian faith in practice. We have a central rhythm of life, seeking to focus on our individual spirituality, work and home lives. We focus  on ‘mission life, discipleship and open community’. The Friary itself has four key values: ‘mutual rhythm, mutual Christ, mutual support and mutual mission’. We are not into becoming a specific ‘intentional community’ living all together. Instead we seek to become a ‘community of intention’ by the way we choose to live as a network of people.

We gather weekly on Mondays for prayer and on Thursdays over a shared meal and to break bread together. We are very much linked into the Church in the local area too, with some of us worshipping at different services on Sunday mornings.

As we have looked at embracing a mission spirituality, we have landed on two things that are the essence of Jesus’ own ministry. Though seemingly simple they have been profound in our own story. Jesus was committed to eating together with others, and healing people. With that in mind there are three things we are involved with missionally at the moment:

First we are starting an event each year called LOVEearlsfield. This is in partnership with the Churches Together network. The aim is to host a party for the neighbourhood over Harvest and allow people to meet and converse in a safe and hospitable environment. We are also using the funds raised to support youth initiatives the area.

Second we are supporting a local Anglican minister who runs a youth club on the housing estate where recently the shootings took place. We are volunteering at the club on Wednesday nights, trying to raise funds for the kids, developing programmes for change to help them out of the poverty trap and support the logistical needs of the minister.

Lastly we are trying to help each creatively in how we practise a mission spirituality not only in our local area but also in the spheres of life we work in. We are talking about how to do this and what this looks like. How do we support each other if I am a stay at home Mum or Dad, work in the media industry, education, and so on?

Make. Believe. logoThis year we hosted a learning community for a group of people, helping to shape their thinking on faith and vocation. This is called make believe and was run with our partner CMS.

As to the future, many ideas keep coming and we are processing them regularly. However like all pioneering environments, the valleys have been as much part of the journey as the mountaintops and we have shared equally in both. Real transformation is dependant upon how we personalize change in our own walk of faith and allow for the person of Christ to both break and shape us into becoming our true self. It is in this process that all missional endeavors can embrace the importance of being salt and light. Salt to preserve the goodness of creation and resist a gravitational pull to rot. Light to open our eyes to see beyond the limitations of what we think we know.

Cafechurch Network

Ian Mobsby talks to Cid Latty, Network Leader for Cafechurch Network.

What is cafechurch?

That is a very good question. I think we sometimes forget how far away many people are from ever coming to church. Cafechurch is all about creating a context for people who do not go to 'church', but are interested in God. It is about providing a comfortable setting for people to consider issues from a faith perspective. It is also a way to develop a community that people are happy to be a part of. All this is based on good incarnational theology.

How did it begin for you?

Three years ago I was Senior Minister of a Baptist Church in Welwyn Garden City that asked the question 'how can we engage with our community more effectively?' We could see that there were many people who might never enter a traditional church building. So we looked at our community and could see how a thriving café culture was rapidly developing. Coffee shops were opening up everywhere and this was happening right across the UK too. In fact a staggering 50% of the UK adult population visits a coffee shop. We found that many members of the church already used a coffee shop as a 'third place' between home and work. So we asked our local Costa Coffee if we could meet there and were amazed when they said yes.

How did you run your café church?

What we designed was a themed event with quizzes, a short talk, discussion and live music – all with the added benefit of being served by friendly staff. Our purpose was to help people engage with issues like debt, parenting or the environment from a faith perspective. We called it 'coffee with a conscience'. People would not only be invited to enjoy a lively evening of chat, hope and humour but we would offer them resources and prayer support that would help them engage with the issue after the event.

So how did the national organization begin?

What we ran on that first night proved to be so popular that I began discussions with Costa Coffee senior management and a few cafechurches were piloted in other stores. Due to the success of these, Cafechurch Network was formed. This charity was later given the 'OK' to put a cafechurch in every suitable Costa Coffee store in the UK. Additionally Costa asked that all churches wanting to use their stores should come through the Cafechurch Network. Today other coffee shop chains have opened their doors to the Network too.

How does this benefit Costa and the church?

Stores benefit as cafechurch helps them to be part of the local community. There are great benefits for the church too, as people who would not go to a more traditional church setting interact with people who do. This may be one of the first steps for some towards 'going to church'. For others they may feel that cafechurch in a high street location is the kind of church they want to belong to. This challenges us then to re-imagine how we can help people develop their relationship with God in a café context.

If there was something you would say to the church what would it be?

This is a great opportunity for an adventure of faith. I currently have more store managers asking for a cafechurch than I have churches ready. So I would invite churches to attend a cafechurch training day and then join the Network after that. When they do, we will link them to their local store and provide resources to help them run a cafechurch.

cafechurch network banner

Twilight @ Costa

Methodist minister Jeff Reynolds reflects on starting Twilight, a fresh expression of church in Costa Coffee in Stafford.

This is a salutary story that if, as a minister/leader of church communities, you give people the chance to use their initiative – don't be surprised if they do.

In Stafford, we have been looking for opportunities to express church 'outside' of our church buildings. One of my members approached me and said 'what about doing Church in Costa Coffee in the centre of Stafford?' I was immediately intrigued and excited about what that might mean. What I didn't realise was that my words of challenge to my churches in previous months had been heeded and this member had done an enormous amount of groundwork to help establish a 'new' church in the centre of Stafford.

The vision came out of the challenge and in January 09, 'Twilight@Costa' was born. It is a monthly gathering on the last Thursday of the month at Costa Coffee in the centre of Stafford. It is a relaxed evening with no discernible elements of more traditional church services but an opportunity for people to come and share together in an excellent atmosphere that has a Christian ethos at its very core.

The more we have sought to establish Fresh Expressions of Church in the Stafford area, the more we have realised that you can have the best church services that are relevant, humourous and non-threatening and where the welcome is the best it can be, but there are still many who find physically entering a church building an impossibility. So our vision has been to create a church where people are, rather than where they are never going to be.

We have been running for six months and it is going really well. Each evening is about 90 minutes long and involves coffee (obviously) and a myriad of other excellent drinks and food, music, chat, quizzes and fun. The evenings are theme-based and so far we have tackled fair trade issues, people-trafficking, debt problems and also held a jazz evening. As always with any fresh expression of church we realise that it is an organic animal and that we will change things and tinker with our ways of operating to make it the best that it can be.

We hope and pray that we will continue to develop and establish this expression of church and that people for whom more traditional forms of church are a turn-off, will continue to feel that Twilight is 'their' church. Please feel free to join us on the last Thursday of each month at Costa in the centre of Stafford.

Around the firepit

A community evangelist and development worker, Peter Homden, has been 'visiting and engaging' with gypsy travellers for more than five years and talks to Emma Garrow.

The settled Gypsy Traveller community makes up one of the largest ethnic groups within the parish of St John’s Heatherlands (and the Church of the Good Shepherd) in Poole.

The church's community evangelist and development worker, Peter Homden, has been 'visiting and engaging' with the gypsy travellers for more than five years and is gradually 'building church in the community'.

'It is a community that is evolving,' says Peter. 'When you take a nomadic group of people that becomes sedentary and settles, it places stresses and strains on the culture.' This estate, and its local church, are both close to Peter's heart, since it was here he grew up and first started attending the Good Shepherd. His vocation took him to mission work in London, training college and then back home, where his role has been funded by the St Aldhelm's Trust (out of the Diocese of Salisbury) for the past three years. This summer he is to be ordained pioneer minister.

'I’m back full circle,' he says. 'The estate has changed but I'm beginning to see the issues I saw in London 25 years ago.'

Peter lives in his own home in the middle of the estate, where the diocese has placed a building that operates as an office-cum-counselling room in his garden. 'There is a regular stream of people at my door asking for help, especially the young people,' he says. As part of his involvement with them he has set up a bike project where they mend bikes together, and 'talk about life issues'.

He describes his work on and for the estate as 'broad'. It has involved talking to the local police on the subject of prejudice, training community workers looking to engage with the Gypsy Traveller community and the general building up of relationships through door to door visiting.

'Lots of the work is done in homes,' he explains. 'We have mini prayer meetings with the families. With about 80 per cent I could knock the door and before leaving they will ask, "Pray for me, pray for this" '. 'Prayer is at the heart of what we do.'

It is also very much a part of the 'gatherings', held quarterly, to which members of the gypsy traveller community are invited. Gatherings meet in the church's spacious grounds around a firepit and involve karaoke, accordion playing and 'copious amounts of tea', with the aim of building a worshipping community. Up to 30 people attend, bringing with them their own unchurched, non-gypsy friends from the estate.

This autumn Peter hopes to build the work further by developing a drop-in centre for coffee and chat, but also for practical support and public services. 'Our remit is for a holistic gospel,' he says. 'For faith that brings change.'

Messy Church goes to the beach

Messy church goes to the beach and makes history as two different fresh expressions meet up. Janet Tredrea reports.

Tubestation, a fresh expression of church in Polzeath, Cornwall opened its doors to nearby Wadebridge’s regular Messy Church at the end of July.

Messy Church at the beach - villageDuring the winter months, parents, carers and children from Wadebridge have been attending Messy Church – a new form of church for families held in the local primary school. When the weather was really fine, attendance numbers dropped, so it was decided to take Messy Church to the beach… where the people were.

The session, Bible Seasides, began with funky drink and biscuits before everyone went down to the beach to construct a sand village made of eastern shape houses of 2000 years ago. The weather was definitely not brilliant, but the builders seemed unperturbed! We left a sign for those visiting the beach later that we had constructed Beach Street, Galilee.

On the return to Tubestation, a dozen or so crafts were on offer all with a Bible Seaside theme. One of the most popular was Lim-PETS, God’s creatures with our own adaptations!

eMessy Church at the beach - paintingAs the crafts finished, so the worship began with musicians from Tubestation and Rev Jerry with Buzz the albatross (all the way from America!) with their message based on the house that was built on the rock. Hot dogs were served from the outdoor BBQ and the fun and the fellowship was complete. A great chance for two fresh expressions to work together.


Ian Mobsby talks to Rona Orme, Children's Missioner for the Diocese of Peterborough, about the beginnings of a fresh expression in a new-build area of Northamptonshire.

Wootton - surroundings

Wootton was a classic English village on the edge of Northampton, which in the last ten years has been absorbed by the building of new housing to become a larger suburban part of greater Northampton. The needs of this population have steadily increased, many of which are unchurched families of young parents with young children. The local Parish Church of St Georges has not been able to make an impact in many parts of this new community, whilst developing its continuing work to the older parts of Wootton.


Two years ago, a new parish priest was appointed who began to develop a more engaged ministry with local people. Although requests for baptism and numbers attending monthly Family Services have grown, it soon became apparent that she did not have the capacity to engage further with the people living in the 'new-build' areas with its two new primary schools, secondary school and growing community of unchurched families.

Additionally, there were very few local links between the old village of Wootton, and the community developing in the new-build area, making things even harder for the Parish Church to have an impact in the newer areas of its community. In effect, two parallel communities were emerging out of the local context. So the Diocesan Mission Enabler, Children's Missioner, Archdeacon and Parish Priest became increasingly aware that the mission and ministry needs of the new-build area of Wootton remained unmet.


This then raised the need to develop a 'mixed economy parish' – deepening and developing the work that had already been started, alongside beginning something new and pioneering to address the needs of those parts of the local community the church had not been able to reach.

An opportunity presented itself, when the Church of England Commissioners offered the Diocese of Peterborough money for setting up four posts to engage with new-build housing communities with pioneering mission initiatives. It was offered to assist the Diocese to engage in mission with a local population expansion of 20%.

 Wootton church

Providentially, these posts were to be focused on meeting the specific mission and ministry needs we had already identified in Wootton. So the Diocese quickly explored what a potential pioneer post could contribute in assisting the Church to engage with the needs of largely unchurched families with young children living in the new areas of Wootton, which is now the key focus supported by the Diocese, Deanery and Parish.  


Already partnering discussions have begun with one of the local Primary Schools. Preston Hedge's Primary School was very keen to develop collaborative pastoral support for working with children facing family relational difficulties, and to develop after school clubs exploring faith and other issues. The school see the need as supporting the emotional and spiritual development of pupils, creating an exciting opportunity for contextual mission and ministry. There is now a real potential for birthing something really interesting and innovative in a local mixed economy of church.

The Diocese are currently seeking the appointment of a full time Pioneer Minister (open to Lay or Ordained Pioneer Minister) to lead this exciting new project, with support from the local Parish Priest, Diocesan Mission Enabler and Children’s Missioner. It is hoped that this work will build an evolving ecclesial community coming out of mission and ministry needs of local children and their families in a school context.


Peter Gilbert, a member of Church of the Martyrs in Leicester, tells the story of how Tomatoes has proved to be an innovative project in engaging with unchurched local families.

In October 2007, Tomatoes began as an initiative of our Curate to explore a Saturday morning breakfast activity aimed at mission to the many students of higher education who live in the urban area of Leicester. We soon realised that this was a foolish endeavour, as what students do you see around on a Saturday morning? However, we quickly realised that it could be a great project to engage with local unchurched families. We are situated in a multi-ethnic urban context, with a Hindu Temple nearby and very different people living near each other in the local community.

The Parish Church of The Martyrs in inner-city Leicester is right next to a church hall and on Saturday mornings, the hall is taken over by an independent ballet school which is very popular with local families. Given that this was next door, we invited these families to come along to Tomatoes for a free breakfast and an opportunity to build relationships with local people. Surprisingly the connection worked and food is always popular! It began with mums and their children, but soon grew to partners coming along too. Now, people still come even if ballet is not happening, as it has become an important part of people’s local rhythm of life. We now have around seventy to eighty people and their children arriving for Tomatoes, coming every other Saturday. Most of these people do not go to church or have any faith background. Also a number of Martyrs folks come as well.

Tomatoes - kitchenWe were very fortunate that the Diocese of Leicester Mission Fund gave two grants to get us going and sustain us in the first three years. Running costs are around £1 per person.

So what do we do? Well we have a café style set up in the church, with newspapers, drinks and food. We don’t charge but allow people to make a donation.

We used to have a theme to each Tomatoes event and have a number of talented musicians in the church community play in the background with visuals and videos where appropriate. We usually have someone talk about some issue to do with faith, and this can lead into discussions. We have had discussions around news items in the papers. At first people were reluctant to talk about spirituality and its application into modern life, but it is now much easier to talk about these things. The key focus remains on building relationships. There is also the opportunity for people to write down prayer requests and give them to us, and then a short time of prayer is given after the talk part with a quiet reflection.

Tomatoes normally operates between 9.30am and 11.45am every other week. The focus then is on building community and showing the church as part of that community. Most people are not yet ready to explore Christianity in a formal setting, but are definitely now more open to spirituality. So these sessions do not encompass worship or being church, they remain a focus on relational mission.

The website and local advertising and particularly word of mouth have increased the visibility of Tomatoes, so we are working hard with ten of us as volunteers to keep it going. We are looking forward to Church of the Martyrs having a new vicar, as there has been an interregnum now for a while and whilst the project has really worked we would like to see more of the congregation involved in it as a way of enjoying themselves and of outreach to the community – one of our stated aims.

We are really pleased that the project has been able to listen to local needs, and responded with Tomatoes as a form of loving service, which has helped to build a community. The greatest challenge then from this is how to address the need for discipleship and Christian formation and then the need for authentic yet contextual forms of worship. There is no way that people can just go and attend an Alpha Course for example, as it will not relate to the context, so we are really not sure how we make this next step, and we need the Vicar or new curate to start working at Church of the Martyrs to help us explore possible ways of doing Christian formation in this particular context. We were pleased to see that some unchurched families were able to come to a Christmas Service, some were able to make this shift, but this will be a minority. So many we are in contact with are pre-Alpha and interested in spirituality rather than anything religious including Christianity. So discipleship and forms of contextual worship with its own distinct approach remains an important dream for the way forward.

In Tomatoes people tend to drop in and out of it in a fluid way, so there is not really a culture of people starting and finishing at the same time, so doing any form of discipleship ‘course’ with this type of set up just will not work.

Tomatoes - tablesSo we do see Tomatoes as a community but not yet church, full of potential we hope to become church in the future, but not yet anywhere near ready to go that way. You can’t rush or force people to go there, it has to be in the right time.

It has taken us three years to get this far, I think it is going to take quite some time for people to make the next shift to being interested in Christianity.

Another challenge we face is balancing the needs of unchurched families alongside a significant homeless population all in the same space. This can lead to some tensions when there are a lot of small children in the place, so we try to practice hospitality but also keeping the space safe for families.

In the meantime we need to be careful we do not burn out with the pressure of Tomatoes on top of very busy lives and we do need to get the Church of the Martyrs more fully behind what we do. But so far, Tomatoes has been a privilege to be part of, and something we hope will develop.