Always new, and nothing new (Ian Adams)

Ian Adams reflects on the need for humility and boldness in 21st Century mission.

The word 'mission' has in many ways become tainted by cultural imperialism and domination. It's a tough act to reclaim any word from its baggage, and some suggest that the word itself needs to be replaced. Reclaimed or replaced, either way it's my sense that whatever word we use, the possibility of the Jesus tradition as a way of life bringing the healing of all things is waiting to be explored, experienced and offered humbly as gift to the world.

And this mission will need to be more humble than it has been for many centuries. As a faith community we have too often not lived in the spirit of Jesus. Mission in his name in the 21st century will need to rediscover humility.

But this humility may release a new boldness! From a starting place of humility emerges a new and quiet freedom to live the Jesus-path with grace and imagination, to encounter him around us and within us, and to offer ourselves in the Christ's name as small gifts towards the world's healing.

It requires a pioneering spirit to see new possibilities and nurture them into being. And there's a powerful sense of newness present whenever we engage in the Spirit's dreamings. With the Psalm-writers of the Jewish scriptures a new song is always being sung.

But there is also a vital need to sense connection to what has gone before. If mission is always new it will always be at the same time, in the very best sense, nothing new. There will be newness because the Holy Spirit seems always to be ahead of us, imagining new life in an ever-changing context. There will be connection with what has gone before because it is the same Holy Spirit who is inspiring the mission. Interestingly for many people it is the ancient roots of the Jesus tradition that are particularly attractive, a deep well from which we may draw 'a spring of water gushing up' for life.

This mix of old and new is vital. In the faith tradition we are one people, one Church. This keeps us connected to our brothers and sisters who may express their sense of mission in a very different way to us. Traditional or experimental, both count, both matter. Whatever it looks like, what is important is the spirit in which your mission is lived and expressed, with St Paul's 'abiding faith, hope and love' as a possible guide.

The connection between always new and nothing new keeps us both humble and bold. Your fresh expression of church is just one more in a long line of such adventures, and you are just amongst the latest to be trying to respond to what God is calling into being. That revelation calls for humility. But your expression of mission is yet one more in a whole line of such callings. You are being entrusted with something precious and, its own small way, important. That revelation calls for boldness!

May your fresh expression of church thrive on the mix of humility and boldness that comes from being always new, and nothing new:

  • what do you sense are the close points of connection in your mission as a fresh expression with what has gone before?
  • what is the newness of the thing you are shaping, the new song you are singing?

Changing the landscape: making the mixed economy work (Ian Adams)

Ian AdamsIan Adams tells us about changing the landscape: making the mixed economy work.

I love it whenever I discover traditional and evolving streams of church

  • seeing each other as partners in the same amazing calling, diving into the flow of God's reshaping of the world in the way of Jesus;
  • seeking out insights, imagination and wisdom from the other;
  • practising generosity in spirit and in resources to each other;
  • honouring each other's paths and distinctiveness;
  • recognising our own weaknesses and idiosyncrasies while looking for the best in each other;
  • and inspiring each other to engagement in mission with the world, as it is, where we are.

So I'm really looking forward to the Fresh Expressions day conference Changing the landscape: making the mixed economy work in Oxford on Friday 6 May. It will be great to hear stories and experiences from people working imaginatively in both conventional and innovative settings – and it's good and appropriate that this is not just a 'from the front' event. There will be spaces for everyone to get involved in the conversation.

I'm also looking forward to hearing how some of those with the widest overview sense the mixed economy is progressing and how it could develop – people like Stephen Lindridge, Fresh Expressions' Connexional Missioner for the Methodist Church; Archbishops' Missioner and leader of the Fresh Expressions team, Graham Cray; and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams who – of course – first coined the phrase 'mixed economy'.

I'm hoping that it will be a great opportunity to ask some of the tougher questions of ourselves, like:

This is not just a 'from the front' event – there will be spaces for everyone to get involved in the conversation

  • can the mixed economy really work on the ground, particularly when financial resources are being squeezed?
  • how are both streams of church continuing to engage with people from little or no faith background?
  • can we provide light and freeing frameworks that give lay people the confidence and support to start and sustain new communities and projects?
  • how is the mixed economy enabling us to make a real difference in society in these demanding times?

Great opportunities, demanding questions. So it's vital that the conference will be not only just (or even mainly) about our words, but also a place of stillness and prayer where we can be open to the presence of God-who-is-close. 24-7 Prayer will facilitate this by providing a continuous prayer environment. Something else to look forward to.


StillPoint, a collection of resources and spaces for those attracted to the contemplative tradition, is a new fresh expression in Oxford. Ian Adams and Matt Rees explain.

StillPoint - logoStillPoint began out of our work as Ordained Pioneers and the hOME and mayBE fresh expressions of church communities in Oxford. We became aware that there were many 'on the edge' of our work who were interested in spirituality but not religion, who would not look to the church for what they are seeking. We had become increasingly convinced that there were great resources and practices that could nurture faith coming from the contemplative tradition. One of the great opportunities for today is that ancient contemplative approaches to faith find resonance in our current post-religious context. We therefore wanted to explore how we could enable people to encounter such treasures through some form of resource centre offering ways into the practise of Christian spirituality. This could open up a depth of faith for Christians living in the 21st century, and could assist spiritual seekers to encounter the Christian contemplative tradition. This would be offered as a gift, as a way in, an accessible approach to Christian contemplative spirituality.

StillPoint - exhibtionIn a place like Oxford, the sense of being 'spiritual and not religious' is huge, so connecting with such people is important. We also wanted to do it for ourselves, so that we could be living a depth of the faith informed by such practices. The focus then has to be assisting people on their particular spiritual journey, a key area for the church to get involved in if it is serious about mission in the twenty first century.

A challenge for the church is to shift an understanding of the faith from 'something you do' like going to church, to a sense of Christianity defining 'a new way of being', enabling you to become more whole, more self aware, more human and to make a difference in the world. This is a call to discipleship, and perhaps we have often dumbed down on what it means to be a Christian disciple. It is important to discover and practice a spirituality that brings love, transformation and peace.

StillPoint - launchSo we began StillPoint, offering a mix of resources and possibilities. We have run a series of meditation workshops drawing on the Christian tradition. We have invited some long-experienced practitioners of the Christian contemplative tradition to run workshops and offer their insights. We have also put on an Art Exhibition on a theme, again aimed at enabling people to quest. It is very important to us that StillPoint is focused on the experiential. We want StillPoint to be a centre of practice rather than another study centre.

StillPoint - cinemaWe have deliberately from the beginning not used church spaces, but used a cinema and a local arts café as public space, to seek the spiritual in the ordinary so that it can be trusted space for spiritual seekers. We have created a website, again aimed at those who might define themselves as spiritual and not religious.

Our hope is that StillPoint increasingly supports spiritual seekers to explore the Christian faith and for Christians to increasingly understand and grow into the depth of their faith, fit for the twenty-first century. It is still early days, but it is already exciting to see what has happened and the potential for it to grow and make an increasing impact where we are.