this is the eighth of a series of short reflections celebrating twenty years at cms
in 2003 a year long course called re:source began (the irony of the name!). it was one year course where six different contexts were visited over weekends to learn from what was happening on the ground. it was a partnership between a few organisations - from memory they were cms, anglican church planting initiatives, revs, oasis, soul survivor. i really loved it - we still draw on that model now visiting contexts over a weekend to learn from them. but here's the thing - the strapline on the logo was church plant training. it changed over time and became creating church in the emerging culture and various other iterations.
i think the spirit of it is captured in this quote off an early flyer:
i found this pretty interesting looking back. if i may indulge a little more in looking back the question about church planting actually began for me in conversations about young people before that. it was deemed to be highly controversial at the time but in places it was clear that they were never going to join the existing church so growing a new one out of that seemed the best option. this was back in the 90s. i remember discussions about it when we ran a nightclub for young people in bath and wondered what we would do. fast forward a bit and by the late nineties i was in london and had got involved in grace which was a new congregation of an anglican church that began as part of what then was termed alternative worship. i wasn't involved in starting it. but the point i want to connect to is that i was contacted by a couple bob and mary hopkins who set up anglican church planting initiatives in 1996 and they started an annual anglican church planting conference and wanted a range of stories or models of what was happening to be shared. i went along to talk about grace at that church planting conference. i don't know what year that was. and in the earlier post on emerging church that was in response to new churches beginning that were very much at home in the emerging culture
fast forward to mission shaped church being published in 2004 and the subtitle of that is guess what...
church planting and fresh expressions of church in a changing context
in that a range of examples are listed and they would have been very similar top the range of things at the conference - youth church, new congregation, messy church, alternative worship, new monasticisim, cafe church, cell church, planting into a new building and so forth. according to the day of small things research stats that is still the best movement the church of england has had in briitain for genuinely starting communities where those who didn't realise church could be for them find out it can be. why the church of england has not continued to invest in it baffles me whilst at the same time it has a stated outcome of wanting lots of new worshipping communities.
what is also interesting to look back on is that bob and mary used to teach at re:source on a range of models and dynamics and how that affected what you did - what was the context, what size of team, the relationship with the culture and so on - did you start with church culture and worship or the local culture... it was a pretty broad and expansive range of things (their web site still has a models and types section) and contextual approaches were seen to be good from the get go. in fact overall the drive for all this was a sense that western culture needed an approach informed by the best of cross cultural mission that grew indigenous or contextual expressions of church. cms were so on board with this that we contributed to funding bob and mary and they were part of the same team as me for several years - i must catch up with them!
fast forward again to the last decade of training pioneers - they start many things in mission including new communities of disciples. some describe that as church planting, others use different language but that is a big part of what they do. in the recently published book of stories of lay church planting from myriad they have pretty much all been done by pioneers!
looking back over my time in cms i have been and still am very much engaged with church plating in the emerging culture. there is so much more i could say about this and why the language has become contested or lots of people have abandoned it. but i think it probably needs recovering and/or reclaiming or at least we need a generous and wide range of approaches going forward much like that mapped by acpi and fresh expressions as above - did i hear someone say mixed ecology?!
interested in church planting? then at cms we have been doing that the last twenty years or so in this context (and by the way probably helped plant two thirds of the anglican communion back in the day which is also now a complex space too).