The conference was quite good, although in some ways Christian conferences about Fresh Expressions could do with their own Fresh Expressions make-overs. Noisy kettle urns boiling up every five minutes interfered with our ability to listen, tea without fresh milk, no biscuits and seriously uncomfy plastic chairs. Also I must admit to being a bit cheeky and testing out really whether these people practice what they preach. At coffee break I sat alone and stared into space wondering if anyone would start up a conversation with me, you know do that whole welcoming, hospitality thing us Christians are supposed to be so good at - 5 minutes went by - nothing, 10 minutes, still nothing, I gave up. I grabbed my bag and moved 10 chairs down to sit right next to an American women, to ask her which church she came from and what she hoped to learn from today.
Anyway, never mind. Bishop Alistair said some good things, about how new clergy, in their declaration of assent, promise to proclaim the gospel afresh in every generation and how we have to use the things of our culture to reach the people of our culture with the message of Jesus Christ. He spoke of the 'screen and soundbites' generation and whist this can be effective, it mustn't mean we compromise on depth. He also spoke about how we are a post-modern society desperate for significant relationships at a time when family and community are breaking down (or manifesting themselves in new ways. We network now and technology can bind us together but separate us too.)
Jesus encapsulates this need in two commands: love God and your neighbour as yourself and Fresh Expressions is all about loving God through our demonstration of love to our neighbour, to neighbours (strangers) who do not yet know God's love.
He also spoke about how we are obsessed today with measuring everything - pay-packets, the economy and church numbers. This draws what church is about to a superficial level but mission is instead about bits of leaven in a huge amount of bread and it's about scattering seeds. We need to look to the quality of our discipleship further and wider and make the gospel fresh to those in this generation.
We looked at messy church and late night church, cafe church and youth church and the work of street pastors and churches which catch tired and hungry clubbers with their open doors and cups of tea and sausage rolls. It was church that was meeting people where they were at. It was missional.
I didn't really find out anything new and certain things won't work in Allestree - we won't catch the clubbers who are all in town. We will offer messy church though this summer which will be brill. I had a few ideas for how to extend our service to the under 5s and their families this summer which I'll share when I've thought it through some more, and it was encouraging to hear other people's stories with their youth groups, and how it can be a hard slog and can take ages before unchurched youth are ready to go deeper. So this has allayed a few worries and refocused my energies and my commitments because I need to be prepared to be in it for the long haul.
All in all a good day - just could have done with a biscuit or two to keep us going.
Also whilst looking up 'declaration of assent' and what it entails for this post, I discovered this website which looks really good: