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Fresh Expressions: 'the Life Blood of Who We Are' - General Synod February 2007

Tuesday 27th February 2007

In an introduction to a presentation on the Fresh Expressions initiative at the Church of England's General Synod, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of it being a central part of the Anglican Church: "to provide a place where Christ is set free in our midst".

A full transcript of his introduction follows:

Thank you very much indeed madam Chair. You'll recall that at the inauguration of this new Synod I suggested that Synod should remind itself annually about what is happening, by some sort of report, or better some sort of celebratory event. Well, I hope it's a sufficiently celebratory event that we've moved on from the last business to this one! But you are certainly going to have a report on where Fresh Expressions is.

To be called back during our Synodical procedures to some recollection why we're here in the first place is, I think, essential; it happens in our worship, it happens in a lot of our conversations, and of course it weaves itself in and out of a great deal of our business, one way or another. But it is important to set aside time just to hear, to learn, and to give to give thanks for what is happening.

Essentially the Fresh Expressions programme is not simply about a kind of scattered set of experiments; it's about that gradual, but I think inexorable shift, in the whole culture of our Church that has been going on in the last few years, and which will undoubtedly continue to grow and develop. And that shift in culture is about the way in which discovering new expressions of the Church's life has now, rather paradoxically, become part of the blood stream of the traditional, mainstream Church's life.

To be, so to speak, an ordinary average Anglican, to be an ordinary average Anglican diocese, to be an ordinary average Anglican bishop, now involves you in thinking about, planning for, and involving yourself in, some quite extraordinary and, on the face of it, sometimes rather un-Anglican bits of new life. We're rediscovering something about what the Church is, as well as what the Church of England is; rediscovering, to use a favourite metaphor of mine, that the Church is something that happens before it's something that is institutionally organised. It happens when the Good News summons, assembles, people around Jesus Christ. Remember that that is what we're thinking of, not a series of scattered experiments, not a series of enterprises in religious entertainment, not, God forbid, a kind of dumbing -- down of the historic faith and its requirements so that more people may get vaguely interested.

The point of Fresh Expressions is the point of the Church itself; that is to provide a place where Christ is set free in our midst, if one can use such an expression - and I hesitate to- to gather those who want to be in his company. That freedom is always there for our Lord, we can simply try and, as has often been said, join in and not get in the way.

So you're going to hear something now about being the Church, and being the Church of England, not about something marginal, something eccentric, but about the very lifeblood of who we are and what we are. What's been achieved in the years in which Fresh Expressions has been working, is remarkable and it owes a great deal to the extraordinary energy and vision of Steve Croft and his team.

© Rowan Williams 2007

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