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Archbishop talks about Fresh Expressions on BBC local radio

Thursday 8th December 2005

A transcript of a radio contribution by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, for a 'Fresh Expressions' feature on BBC local radio.

... I've talked quite a bit about the church of the future as a mixed economy, meaning by this that there's no one kind of church life that captures everything, that does every kind of job. We need both a traditional parish doing its work really well and some quite new kinds of venture, some new kinds of initiative, that's what I mean by a mixed economy and I think that's where the health of the church of the future is going to lie. We do need to recover confidence in the God of mission in the Church. We need to recover the sense that the agenda isn't something that we set or the world sets but that God sets, that God has a vision for human beings which he wants us to pursue with Him, and that He will give us the resource that we need. And I think unless we have a really strong, a really overwhelming sense of gratitude to God, then we're not going to get that confidence back.

... I'm colossally encouraged by the amount of activity that there seems to be around the church at the moment. Every time you lift up the log there seems to be more and more life scurrying around. And the way in which that develops is so different in so many different areas that it really does illustrate the point of the mixed economy language.

... There are new kinds of parish life, there are new kinds of work with teenagers, new kinds of work for that matter with pensioners and others. So there's already a huge amount going on, our job is to join in, to give it the nourishment it needs so that it will grow in the right way. Let me give two examples of encouragement and imagination around the place. You've got, for example in Derby, an inner city situation with lots of rather alienated, drifting, young people, as you have in lots of inner city areas. The church there has established a really very vibrant, very innovative, meeting discussion point for young people in church premises, but not in church time. It's a very unchurchy project with some very gifted youth workers going along with it, and the numbers of people going to that have just increased colossally, month by month, in the time that it's been running. So that it's the kind of meeting where you can expect 60,80, 100 people to turn up, to talk, to sing, just to spend social time together, and that's one kind of outreach.

... Completely different is the work done through a little contemplative prayer group that meets in a not very much used country church in Buckinghamshire. It simply meets for silence, for intense quiet prayer, once every fortnight. And again it draws people in very large numbers from around the place, up to 60 to70 people can turn up for these meetings and it draws people from a very wide area, who don't know quite what they might want to say when they go into church, but they do know they want to listen. So those are just two examples out of very many, out of 300 or more examples of new life around in our Church.

... It's been said with some justice, that a lot of the training of clergy has tended to prepare people for maintenance rather than expansion, or even sometimes for managing decline. That said, I'm not sure how fair it is, but at the very least we know we've got to find some new ways of encouraging the sort of ministry that will be prepared to be entrepreneurial, that will take risks, that will step outside the conventional patters, the conventional boundaries of the way church is done. Training people for that is difficult because you can't just train people to be innovative; they have to have their own gifts and so on. But you can at least provide an environment where people don't feel that they are being put into a sausage machine. I think there is a lot of serious thought going on about that and very recently the bishops have approved a new set of guidelines for the training of these pioneer ministers.

... I think the work that's being done through the Fresh Expressions initiative already, in just over a year, has been phenomenal. I think we've got a very gifted, a very committed team, we couldn't have done better. And everywhere we turn there is encouragement. It does seem that God is doing things already with the life of the Church in this country. And if it's true that mission, as it has been said, is finding out what God is doing and joining in, then we've certainly got a lot of joining in to do and that's wonderful.

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