Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fresh Expressions of Church as Post Modern Friars

Last week, I spoke at a New Monasticism conference organised by the Anabaptist network and the Northumbria Community. I was invited to dialogue with the Provincial Brother, who heads up the Anglican Franciscan Order in England. It was a real privilege. This week, I was invited to speak at the Rochester Diocese Gathering about how Rhythms of life contribute to reimagining Church as spiritual community. Both events have got me thinking...

Much of the Fresh Expressions movement I identify with, comes from the more radical Emerging Church end, out of the Alternative worship end. However, I have been repeatedly struck, that much of what I see and hear about the more innovative Fresh Expressions, is that they resonate a lot with the premodern Friars.

Friars, literally means 'brothers' coming out of the French, to emphasis a calling to serve a particular community. They were send out in groups to serve, and build new forms of indigenous church through loving care, hospitality, teaching and worship. Historically there were 4 great movements of these Friars. The Black Friars, the Dominicans, were Friar preachers who were into dialogue, evangelism and hospitality. The White Friars, the Carmelites, promoted forms of contemplative spirituality and hospitality. The Grey Friars - the Franciscans, offered radical love and pastoral care, emphasising social and ecological justice, and finally the Austin Friars, the Augustinians, who encouraged spiritual journeying and pilgrimage.

Now these great premodern Friars were engaging in a pre-word culture based on mysticism, who enabled the faith to grow by how they lived, by orthopraxis. People were encouraged to go deeper into the faith, by adopting or taking on a rhythm of life or rule, not to dissimilar to the commitment some make to being a Christian as an adult. People were encouraged to go deeper in their faith, through a pattern of spirituality, in how they lived.

Now many of the new Fresh Expression initiatives at the radical end of Fresh Expressions, again turn to use a rhythm of life in a post word culture, which again is being driven by the logic of new forms of mysticism driven by consumerism and information technology. These postmodern friars seek to love and evangelise through radical hospitality and through dialogue, and through orthopraxis.

When you think about it - the Anglican Ordinal which is used when thinking about Fresh Expressions of Church - states - to proclaim afresh the gospel for every generation. Well this is very apostolic, and relates to the vision of a number of Friar rhythms of life. Further, the Bishops new mission orders - sound very like Friars being sent out as communities made up of ordained and lay people. It is for me too much of a coincidence.

Emerging and Fresh Expressions of Church came about because of a new mission imperative as culture changes from modernity to postmodernity. Social change 0f this form is not new for the church. In fact, you can look at the Benedictines and Franciscans and see that they were radical new fresh expressions of church in their time, but where they maintained obedience and accountability to the wider church. In the same way, Emerging & Fresh Expressions Postmodern Friars or New-Monastic movements are seeking to be radical but accountable to to the church.

These are exciting times, ones with an Ancient:Future perspective.

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