Defying the dire predictions made above, Anglican and Methodist churches in England have joined forces to draw in the unchurched and reverse declines by diversifying their worship offerings. The Tablet (April 8) reports that an official movement called Fresh Expressions, sponsored by the Methodist Church and the Church of England, has drawn approximately 400 churches to offer the disaffiliated what the Archbishop of Canterbury called a “mixed economy” church that combines traditional services with new experimental models. Among the new worship expressions are a skateboard park church, services which adapt the music of the club scene, cell groups, and a “Rolling Church,“ with no fixed starting and ending times.
The Church of England has taken this path before, when it allowed the establishment of a youth church service based on the rave culture 10 years ago that became mired in sexual and leadership scandals. This time, the church has increased its monitoring of alternative services and groups. Victoria Combe reports that approximately 30,000 have been brought back into the fold through Fresh Expressions. Critics say that Fresh Expressions church participation would have to be multiplied many times over to make any dent in the steady decline of these churches. Combe concludes that the movement has injected hope and enthusiasm into these churches as well as relaxed the boundaries between Anglicanism and Methodism. “It will be interesting to see whether growth continues at such a pace and whether the churches’ methods of monitoring will allow such unusual innovations.”
(The Tablet, 1 King Cloisters, Clifton Walk, London W6 0QZ UK)