I was recently reminded that many years ago Rowan Williams coined the phrase ‘mixed economy’, when talking about a church where inherited church and Fresh Expressions of church would co-exist. More recently he expressed his disappointment that he hadn’t talked about ‘mixed ecology’. Economy is transactional whilst ecology is more organic and speaks of growth and interdependence.
As we move out of lockdown, I would like to encourage a conversation about how we worship across the circuit and how we can have a ‘mixed ecology’. Our circuit mission statement already says:
We want to give thanks to God for all that we have inherited, whilst at the same time seeking to be as visionary as our forebears were in looking to the future. It is not for us to cling on to the past, but to confidently step out with God into the future. Releasing our people to serve God in this time and place, and working with those who share our vision, rather than being burdened by maintaining buildings that are inflexible to meet our missional opportunities.
• Access to high quality worship and teaching that is relevant to those we seek to share the gospel with
• Creative community engagement with appropriate partners
• Transforming lives through discipleship
• Strategic use of buildings and people
The acrostic is a nod to Acts 4.32 where the early church ‘owned everything in common’. But words on a page have to be translated into action. Those of us who have been able to join in the online circuit service will know that even amidst the restrictions of social distancing, the nightmare of copyright law and auto-cues, when we have come together, we can do amazing things. I am grateful to everyone who has shared in leading prayers, testimony, music and preaching. We have seen the same with The Bereavement Journey and the Take Time Meditations that have been resourced from across the circuit. What does this mean for us as we move forward? The gravitational pull of old ways of doing things is hard to overcome but can we come together in new ways (online and on-site), to share our resources, to provide worship that is inspirational and invitational, that takes us beyond our own buildings and out into our community?
Looking at inherited church or fresh expressions Christian management writer Ken Blanchard says that he is commonly asked is, ‘Which approach is better—improving what is or creating what isn’t?’ The answer he gives is ‘Yes!’ As we seek to faithfully respond to God’s calling we should be seeking to improve what is and creating what is not yet!
I go back to that image of being a ‘mixed ecology’ church. Ecology deals with the relationship of organisms to one another and to their physical landscape. It is a call to reimagine ourselves so that we are relevant to our post pandemic communities in transformative ways.