Monday, August 30, 2010

evaluating fresh expression birth narratives

In a few weeks I’m due to head to the UK, to take part in the Evaluating fresh expressions research consultation in Durham.

Which means some preparation! Back in 2001, as part of my PhD study, I interviewed various UK folk in regard to the alt.worship movement. Questions like

  • outline your involvement
  • in what ways do you see contemporary culture influencing you
  • how accessible is (should) worship be
  • how would you describe the place of mission and faith contextualisation

I ended up attending 10 UK alt.worship services, interviewing 17 people/groups (early pioneers like Late, Late Service, Visions, Dave Tomlinson) and talking to 9 more. It was fascinating stuff, but in the end my PhD simply got too big, and so I had to leave all of this research behind.

Now some 10 years later, I’m wondering if this stuff might be useful.  So I have begun to dig out the tapes.  I’ve heard the scrape of coffee machines in London cafes,  footsteps echoing through church halls in Hackney and tea being poured in Northern England.  Sure, 2001 is so last century. But I’ve found some great quotes:

“One of the things we learnt was that you need quite a lot of determination and quite a lot of encouragement if you want to be given the space to do something new within the church.”

“The very fact [evangelicalism] has been formed by the book speaks volumes about the kind of cultural baggage evanglicalism has.”

And some great questions being raised: What does sustainability look like and who’se responsibility is it? Does it matter if new forms are not longer with us? Is “surviving as Christians and living faith authentically within late-twentieth century London” less missional than “being a compassionate local presence working for peace and justice within the community”?

Whether I have the time to turn all this primary data into a research presentation I’m not sure.  Whether I have the time to construct a thesis that can honour these voices, connect with the Fresh Expressions literature that began to emerge 5 years later and still say something helpful remains to be seen.

But today I feel like I’ve been at table with some real heroes, some outstandingly creative, missional pioneers.

Posted by steve at 03:41 PM

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