Thursday, 11 June 2009

Ancient Faith, Future Mission: Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Tradition

The term ‘fresh expressions’ usually triggers a number of reactions: some people are excited while others are suspicious. Many more are still unsure what the fuss is all about. This book will be extremely helpful for enthusiasts, critics and the undecided with its varied mix of theory and story-telling. It’s a really helpful addition to the rapidly expanding library of fresh expressions literature.

A fresh expression is “a form of Christian community for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church”. This book contains a number of stories and accounts from people who have already stuck their neck out and had a go. There are chapters about Visions, the U2charist and Feig. Richard Giles has some interesting things to say about buildings. Ian Adams and Ian Mobsby talk about ‘New Monasticism’ while Philip Roderick and Tessa Holland explain Contemplative Fire.

Alongside the stories, this book is also an attempt to relate the concept of fresh expressions to a deeper well of tradition and understanding. There are references to the catholic, sacramental or contemplative traditions. In many ways the writers are inconsistent about what this might mean, but the book does open the door to an interesting and intriguing conversation.

In the opening chapter, Archbishop Rowan Williams suggests that the term ‘catholic’ should imply an approach to the Christian life which is about “speaking the whole truth to the whole person”. He also points out that a catholic approach has some really valuable resources to offer to the fresh expressions movement. These could include a concern for non verbal expressions of faith, a focus on sacramental action, a strong sense of liturgical time and rhythm and an insistence that faith is a community as well as an individual experience.

Summarising every story and argument in the book is beyond the scope of a short book review so could I suggest you get hold of a copy and give it a read. There are some real treasures here which you might find surprisingly helpful…

(Review written for the Door)

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