Thursday, February 14, 2013

the ending of innovation: last fresh expressions interview

Today marks the last interview of the UK alt.worship research phase. It will be interview number 20. The interviews can be grouped in three categories.

Innovation in groups (alt.worship groups ten years on). The selection is not random but simply based on groups that I interviewed back in 2001 as part of my PhD research. They thus provide a window into sustainability.

  • Host
  • Sanctuary
  • Bigger Picture
  • Foundations (Resonance)
  • Moot (Epicentre)
  • Grace
  • Club culture Project
  • Visions (Transcendence)

Innovation in denominations as Fresh Expressions. During the ten years, a key change in the UK landscape has been the advent of Fresh Expressions. It has introduced new words, including pioneer, mixed economy, Bishops Mission Orders. These interviews analyse the environment in which the innovation occurred and explore the leadership practices and insights that lay behind the change.

  • Dr Rowan Williams
  • Bishop Steve Croft
  • Bishop Stephen Cottrell (today, last one)
  • Andrew Roberts

Innovation in training. Intrinsic to the formation of new communities is leadership. These interviews analyse the changes that have, and have not occurred, in recognised training systems, in light of the Fresh Expressions initiative.

  • Trinity College
  • Ridley Pioneer training
  • CMS Pioneer Training
  • St Mellitus
  • John and Olive Drane

Together, these interviews provide a variety of perspectives on mission, leadership and change in the church in the United Kingdom. In cafes, Colleges and churches, bishops courts and Master lodges, I have been gifted some wonderful honesty and insight.

I’m still pondering a frame by which to analyse the data. My instinct is to turn to mission, and especially mission history. This could involve placing Fresh Expressions alongside other mission initiatives in history. Three possibilities spring to mind – the Celtic mission from Ireland to England; the modern mission movement through the voluntary organisations that began with William Carey and the birth of Methodist, which served as a renewal movement in denominational structures.

Posted by steve at 09:29 PM


  1. Or the Oxford movement? (I remember doing an essay once on the Oxford Movement and the Emerging Church). There are comparisons within the rediscovery of ancient spiritual practices etc.

    Comment by Sue — February 15, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

  2. Sue,

    Maybe you should write that part? 🙂

    I thought of Methodism cos F Ex is not just Anglican. And also cos the formation of methodism had a reverse impact on Anglicanism ie it changes the parent denomination as it changes people’s lives in conversion. Thus conversion is in multiple ways.


    Comment by steve — February 15, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

  3. Observation: All very Anglican … where at the Baptists, Methodists, URC, RCs, New Frontiers, etc in all this?

    Comment by Andy Goodliff — February 15, 2013 @ 7:16 pm

  4. Ok feeling slightly defensive Andy :).

    I say in the post “based on groups that I interviewed back in 2001 as part of my PhD research.” Host was URC, Graceland was non-denominational (as was Late Late Service), Club Culture Project was Church of Scotland. So that’s four of the nine as non-Anglican. Which I suspect would be a pretty fair balance of church life in general in UK? Bracketing out the Catholics.

    In terms of Fresh Expressions, the original signatories were Methodist and Anglican and so I have researched them. Baptists have only just come on board (why would be a research project in itself). I’m not aware of New Frontiers joining F Ex (again a research project in itself).


    Comment by steve — February 15, 2013 @ 7:31 pm

  5. Apologies if came across accusatory, it was merely an observation.

    I am of course a Baptist, and commenting as the BU has just been reshaping (in part due to redundancies needing to be made) its life and there are some who are pushing for more pioneer opportunities (see incarnate network, urban expression) and this is slowly becoming possible for those training for ministry at uk baptist colleges. (if your interested in stuff baptist and pioneer, i can put you in touch with some peoples, but recognise the limits of your research/time)

    I also observe that although the alt.worship has had an affect on baptist worship, we do not, too my knowledge, have any real alt.worship churches like Grace or Moot.

    It would be interesting to see what affect/difference your research would have had if you had visited 5 baptist colleges, some baptist regional ministers and some baptist church plants.

    Looking forward to what your research can tell us.

    Comment by Andy Goodliff — February 15, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

  6. Many thanks for your thoughts over the past couple of weeks – I look forward to your work – it will be an important reflection over the developments that have taken place since the fresh expressions initiative started. My PhD is coming on (juggling research and ministerial training is hard going!) but hope to submit next academic year. The essay on Somewhere Else (the Bread Church) is coming out in a book called New Missions. I’ll contact the editor this week and try and get a date for you.


    Comment by christine dutton — February 15, 2013 @ 7:55 pm

  7. Andy, you weren’t accusatory IMHO, I was wanting to own my own defensiveness – I’m a Baptist!

    I am aware that there is much of interest in the Baptist UK world (and I learnt in an interview this week that at one point in the story Stuart Murray actually had a huge influence on the F Ex movement).

    However what F ex does is locate that within a specific system – here is a bottom up (the communities) and a top down (an archbishop who creates a new category of ordination). So there are all sorts of insights about the intended and unintended consequences of innovation with a system.

    And I hope that as a specific case study, it might be of wider usefulness.

    Appreciate you re-commenting


    Comment by steve — February 15, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

  8. Hi Steve, this is really important work you are doing. Praying for you.

    Comment by andrew hogarth — February 15, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

  9. Thanks so much Andy. There are lots of obvious points of connection with what it means for us to join what God is up to South Australia,

    Comment by Steve — February 16, 2013 @ 8:12 am

  10. Hi steve

    wow – thats a lot of work. just a wee correction though: No one in club culture learning network/community/clubchurch thing – was part of the church of scotland. My wife and I did the initial study/proposals and CofS funded a 3 year project + we were gifted a city centre tenement flat – which we remade as a modern frairy with, kitchen, art music DJ studios, prayer areas, live in guestmasters – to serve the local club scene, which a bunch of us worked in – it attracted artists/clubbers from many backgrounds, some had loose ties to church groups/denominations –

    none of which included church of scotland – strange but true (;-) great to hang out with you after all these years of blogging – albeit sporadic this last year.

    ps all of us have gone and pushed into stuff across a spectrum of life in scotland/britain/world – I think all of us into pretty challenging areas – some innovating, some on a more radicalising tip (like mine) – all that fiery stuff comes with us into creation – canny help it I guess ‘Go into all the mcworld … Yeshua said – so I guess thats what we ended up doing… (;-) big blessin tae ye down under dude fae scotland…

    Comment by paul thomson — September 30, 2013 @ 9:33 am

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