One of the things that attracted me to my new role is how committed the leadership of the locally established church was to trying something new and seeking to reshape their structures towards this. Equally it brought a sense of trepidation in taking the role as I do think “newness has to happen elsewhere”. The phrase captures my lifetime of experience (so far) of being on the edge and is taken from Jonny’s reflections on Arkbuckle (HERE). You can also see some my further reflections on how this applies to our approaches to church (HERE) particularly the Typology work which connects to newness and Fresh Expressions. As an aside I think one of the reasons why lay led Fresh Expressions are so successful (HERE)is that culturally the lay leaders are automatically a space that is of newness happening elsewhere.
So even in this role with great supportive senior clergy who are trying to take risks, reshape structures and systems, I still feel called to try and navigate, carve out, and create space for a newness beyond. The work on structures so far has been excellent at starting the journey towards the more Modal/Sodal Fresh Expressions column of my typology, people are having great conversations I can capitalise on, and I have a least 6 Fresh Expressions things bubbling up in the first three weeks. However I think part of my role has to be about creating the elsewhere space for the more Emerging wing of the typology which will help generate the stories sparking the re-imagination of church, and I have couple these in the pipeline as well.
So I am two weeks into my new role as the Fresh Expressions Enabler and buzzing with ideas, met some great people and trying to navigate the structures and systems in place. There is a move in the diocese to reshape with Methodist and URC partners into mission communities, and inevitably everyone has a different take on what a mission community is. There are big questions about how to work with the structures and divergence as well as the need to recognise and embrace that “newness happens elsewhere”.
SO two things have come to mind, firstly is to try and find a metaphor for Fresh Expressions/ Mission Communities/Pioneering in Cumbria, that is broad enough to cope with the divergence but sufficient to bring some focus. (at the moment I am playing with dry stone walls). Metaphors can be powerful, and the strength of using them in an emerging context is obvious. They offer stretch and focus, give people space to imagine and ground practice. I am also interested in using it as what Edward De Bono would call a provocation to promote creativity (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjSjZOjNIJg about 3mins in) and as a tool towards lateral thinking. This may mean reducing the dry stone wall concept to a single part (eg stone) to increase the effectiveness of the provocation, but somehow we need to help people change track. Perhaps the balance of using the stone as the provocation and wall as the metaphor will mean discussions can navigate the divergence/focus issues.
Secondly I want to navigate some regional types of mission communities that can span the structures and re-imagine Fresh Expressions in this context, and equally these could act provocation signposts to encourage people down a different track, the challenge will be how to shape them and communicate them with the wider community.
What are the weaknesses of this approach and has anyone blended metaphor and creative thinking approaches in the emerging church contexts?