Fresh Expressions Round Table

Lambeth Palace is a very impressive building, big staterooms, lots of old wood and high stone arches. It doesn’t much look like the Church of England I know. We sit in a small room off the chapel: nice sandwiches, decent coffee and a lively and engaged conversation on Fresh Expressions [a phrase which you know I am personally suspicious of.

We began the day with a coffee in one of the Staterooms: very plush, lots of sofas. I could have done the meeting there, but we retired to a much smaller, pokier room in the Palace. Passing impressive-looking libraries and paintings of dead archbishops and a display case of gifts from the Chinese to ++R on his last visit.

Under discussion is a number of issues for Catholic Practitioners of Fresh Expressions, and we begin with a discussion which springs out of a paper by Angela Tilby, and now part of the Mission-Shaped Questions which I have just bought and will want to read on the train home. It was a good paper, and it stimulated a lot of good discussion. At the heart of it was a call to an authentic spirituality which had an identifiably anglican and therefore sacramental heart: Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.

One of the best comments was from Stephen Croft who identified that the Anglican Liturgy itself was not the mechanism through which Anglicans were formed, but it was the mode of transmitting that DNA of Anglicanism. It was again, rubric and shape rather than the actual words which mattered. The preface of the 1549 BCP spoke of uniting “divers practices in divers counties” and so diversity is what should be celebated. Carl Turner, who sits of the Liturgical Commission spoke of Common Worship as a mechanism for permitting creativity, whilst some around that table felt it had been used as a brick with which to beat fresh expressions with.

It will be interesting when we get together to work on a liturgy for a Catholic Fresh Expressions day on December 8th, at the moment with the Archbishop of Canterbury planned to be the principle celebrant: how far can we go? Will ++R consent to Blesséd or similar on his watch, or are all Bishops happier with not knowing what happens in dark corners of their Church. This is a great opportunity for selling Fresh Expressions to Anglocatholics, and selling the Catholic and the Contemplative to the wider Church though Fresh Expressions. We might not be able to persuade him to do Benediction, but a symbolic, deeply sacramental and imaginative eucharist should be achievable. I just don’t want to end up selling out, like what almost happened last time we did worship under the auspices of the establishment. It worked in the end, but not without a lot of soul searching and arguments between friends, which should never have happened.

Work on books and pamphlets continues and I realise that I have a job of work to do to place the philosophy of Blesséd in a wider public domain. If you are reading this, then I expect you already know some of the story, but there are many others out there whom I have not had the chance to engage with, and for whom the fledging ecclesial community might be just what is needed. Great to hear of Sue’s work in York, and the art exhibition imaginatively put on by Ian and Moot: an exciting future for them which needs lots of prayer.

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So, overall, a good day: lots to think about, a shedload more work to do, reassurance when I am low and the promise of good things for the future. We just need people to come and engage with the next Blesséd event – I can tell I am becoming anxious about this – it isn’t about numbers of people coming, but scale validates the process. If only half-a-dozen people come and are moved by it then that is all that matters, but I plan on buying 50 doughnuts, and it would be a tragedy to waste them…