Looking Back at 2017’s best bits.
Crikey, its nearly Christmas! (Also known as Advent, I know I know….)
Anyway, ‘tis the time for sighing contentedly into steaming mugs of something mulled and contemplating the year that was. No one ever begins such look-backs with “So, a quiet year…” but, seriously, this has been a total belter of a year for FX and the way we think, write and communicate accross our network. Over the past 12 months, more love, care and time has been lavished on our website and new App than you could shake a bauble at – and we’re loving all the new ways that we’re able to hear from and share within our network. Turns out that you folk are loving it too, and it’s been great to get into online and real-world conversations about the new direction. Since the launch of the new website a regular 4000 of you visit these pages every week, with numbers climbing as the years go on – so thank you.
All in all, there seems no better time to quote Led Zeppelin and take a moment to look back at some of our FX highlights of 2017.
Even before our shiny new website was launched in the summer, re-thinking work was underway behind the scenes. We detected a shift within the FX movement from wanting a centralised bank of resource to needing to connect and share with fellow practitioners. It was a time of long-hard-looks at ourselves – what was fresh about Fresh Expressions? What were we trying to say, and to who? Over this year changes have been made and now a new crop of interviews, reflections, and stream-lined resources now adorn the new website like the twinkliest of fairy lights.
It helped to re-visit our ‘What is a Fresh Expression?’ page. There is now a FX heritage dating back over a decade – but surely, we concluded in our musings, a fresh expression much be ‘fresh’, so it was a good back-to-basics moment. “Believing that God is already at work in the world, Fresh Expressions reimagine how the Body of Christ can live and work in diverse and changing contexts,” we suggested – and we’ve spent lots of time this year filling our new ‘Stories’ section with inspiring examples of this.
I could single out many fine examples – Sue Steer at her just-about-to-start stage in Lubbesthorpe was a striking example of someone having no idea where the journey was heading but stepping out faithfully into the unknown. Later in the year we shared about pioneering work in Manchester in the University Chaplaincy context at St Peter’s House, and more recently #whoismycleaner explored the way in which social enterprise can be a tool for participation in mission and transformation.
Meanwhile a few themes emerged during our listening and story-telling that we enjoyed unpacking further. The compatibility of pioneering and evangelical theology was explored by Ray Driscoll, and (as you may imagine!) started a good conversation online. Faithful failure and what it means to ‘end well’ also cropped up throughout 2017, and we heard from Simon Mattholie and Sarah Agnew in ‘Breathing life beyond their time’. The Rural FX Conference ‘Dying to live’ picked up this important theme again.
‘Inspire Me’, our website section where we share some deeper musing and reflections from voices within our network, also began to buzz this year. We loved hearing from Lucy Moore about her thoughts on nothing being wasted in God’s big picture, and ‘Keep Calm and be Contextual’ explored engagement with Millenials: “Much parodied, somewhat derided… this man-bun sporting, yoga-loving, energy-ball munching bunch of over-anxious and self-entitled young adults are everywhere. Instagram, self-help groups, over-staying their welcome in their parent’s homes…. Everywhere except church.”
On top of all this website action, we have also launched our new FX App this year. It’s still spanking new, but we have high hopes that the App will be a fantastic resource for our network – a place where practitioners can find companions for the journey, can connect and support each other. The two sections – ‘stories’ and ‘events’ basically streamline everything you might need to know on the go, so if you’ve not downloaded our new baby yet – head right over here to get in the loop.
And so we don’t think it’s the tinsel going to our heads when we say that we think that 2017 has been a year filled with a whole lotta FX love. We’ve loved to hear and share your stories, and we’ve loved getting to know our network better both online and in-real-life. Reading the stories and reflections that have been shared this year we are struck by all the ‘love in action’ – stories of hope, of pioneer spirits, of honest self-reflection, of re-imagining church for our communities. This is also our hope and prayer for the coming year – to continue to participate in God’s work in the world, to see where the Spirit is moving and get on board with her plans wherever they may take us.
Merry Christmas y’all, and we’ll see you back and Fresh in 2018…
This article was created by Fresh Expressions writer Hannah Skinner.