While this blog has been quiet for a bit, we’ve travelled to Australia and taught a week long intensive course in Sydney – hoping that we might find an odd moment to blog here, but it’s all been so busy this is the first chance, now the course has ended. A good week with Australian church leaders, mostly young (20- and 30-somethings) and mostly seriously engaged with the missional questions of what church might look like for the 21st century. And the minority who weren’t quite ready to engage with all this at least kept their opinions to themselves and didn’t disrupt things for everybody else – which is probably about as good as it gets.
The questions here have a familiar ring about them. When is a spiritual engagement ‘real church’ being one of the most prominent. How do you tell the difference between something that’s an outreach activity designed to get people into the churches we now have, and a missional community that is itself ‘real church’? Issues of power and control surfaced perhaps more than they might in some UK contexts, and it’s probably fair to say that some people (maybe a majority) found it hard to believe some of the creative things happening in UK mainline churches. Just as well we have the Fresh Expressions DVDs to show them, and all the website resources connected with that, otherwise some would have thought we were making it all up. So we have ended the week with a feeling of gratitude for all the networks we are a part of in the UK, and those of you who are reading this in that context need to know that what we are all engaged with is out in front when compared with other places around the world. Of course one reason for that is the reality that we know our traditional churches are in bad shape. But we’ve also learned how to read the culture in such a way as to recognize signs of God at work. In one discussion this week, somebody commented that our emphasis on connecting with those people we have called ‘spiritual searchers’ wouldn’t work in Sydney, because there are none here. The reality is that Sydney is host to the single largest Mind Body Spirit festival in the entire world! How easy it is to be so insulated in our own spaces that we don’t see the bigger picture. Yet the importance of building bridges is right there in the city centre:
And we took this ourselves. Clearly, having something iconic helps develop your photographic skills.
Next stop is Canberra, and meetings with the Anglican diocese to help them work out how they might introduce Fresh Expressions and the Mission Shaped Ministry course there.