fresh expressions in the sacramental tradition is a collection of reflections/essays edited by ian mobsby and steven croft. it's a very welcome book. a fear that is often expressed is that fresh expressions is the play thing of evangelicals but a read of this shows that this clearly isn't the case. i wasn't expecting to think this but it made me think i'm more catholic than i realised! i actually prefer to resist those sort of tribal labels anyway - i've blogged/ranted about evangelical identity before and i don't find that helpful at all - being a follower of christ is enough for me. but here's a couple of the things that made me think i may be more catholic than i knew...
rowan williams opening chapter identifies these features of catholic spirituality:
non verbal expressions of faith
a central place to sacramental action
seeing christian life as taking time and use of the christian year
faith is a community experience and not just an individual one
then steven croft locates the movement in the tradition of catholic mission in the vein of vincent donavon and roland allen - with central themes of the missio dei, incarnation, and the formation of disciples in community
steven croft's chapter is brilliant - he uses the story of gamaliel in acts 5 who cautioned the sanhedrin to wait before judging the early church. steven croft suggests half the clergy in the church might be in that position of caution and writes his chapter to persuade them to come off the fence. he also makes the point that the resistors/conservatives are in every part of the church and my experience has been that conservative evangelicals have been the most resistant group to ideas of contextual mission as they seem convinced that their way of doing things is the gospel itself! steven croft led the fresh expressions team for 5 years, has spoken with every diocese and lots of groups around the country. he is a wise man who brokered so much in what was a relatively short period so i really valued what i see as his parting reflection. he is now bishop in sheffield.
one of the things he talks about is whether the language of fresh expressions is helpful and says we had to have some language to 'talk about this movement of forming new ecclesial communities through contextual mission'. and it was that sentence where i thought - yes that is why this is so exciting! 'emerging church' 'alternative worship' 'emergent' 'postmodern mission' may come and go but if it has helped us recover contextual approaches to mission at the heart of what the church is about then it is an amazing thing...
there are chapters on various communities such as contemplative fire (i must blog about them another time), new monasticism, a couple of helpful pieces on liturgy and sacraments, and a few US authors such as karen ward, paige blair and phyllis tickle in the mix if you are looking for a book to help lever discussion in the episcopal context in the US.
congrats to ian and steven on this book (which i noticed was the window display in church house bookshop last week). it's not just another book on this stuff - it has a particular story to tell and role to play.