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Still at the Cutting Edge

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This is a text-only version of an article first published on Friday, 19 September 2014. Information shown on this page may no longer be current.

The Door explores how our original Cutting Edge Ministries have evolved as they celebrate more than a decade since they were launched. by Matt ReesIn our diocese we have some churches that are very old.

At the other end of the life cycle it's encouraging to see a growing number of new churches coming to life and establishing themselves as new expressions of Christian community.

The Home Community (www. home-online. org), based in east Oxford, is one such expression.

Beginning in 2003, Home is now in its eleventh year of existence.

Home members go for a walk on a recent weekend away.

Stephen Purbrick Home aspires to be an "experimental Christian community".

Perhaps new churches are by their very nature experimental as the process of forming a new community necessitates a certain fluidity as the community's identity and character are all being formed and negotiated.

Whether or not that's true, we hope that Home has experimentation written into its DNA.

For us that means not being afraid to ask the difficult questions theologically and to listen to a diversity of voices as we search for an expression of spirituality that is authentic for us and authentic for the world we are a part of. It also means a freedom to be creative with liturgy and ritual.

This we see primarily in our gatherings which are organised in "cycles" around a theme.

Recent cycles have had titles like "Coming Home", "Spirituality of Work", "Elemental" and "A Further Shore".

Our cycles include a variety of types of gathering - they might be centred around a discussion one week, a guest speaker another week, an all-age gathering another, a meditative gathering another.

(Bishop John was a recent guest speaker. ) We also have an "open source" gathering where people are invited to bring contributions on the theme of the cycle which could be a piece of music or poetry, a piece of art, or a reading.

We even had a sculpture once.

We use the skeleton of the liturgical year as a framework for our gatherings which are always eucharistic. As we have grown older so have our children and one of the fascinating transitions for us has been from being a community comprised almost entirely of young, single adults, to being a community with a much richer diversity of married and single people, children and older folks.

This has given us a much more family feel.

We try to share food often - if it's not our monthly community meal someone is usually producing some cake or something for some other reason. We celebrated our 10th anniversary last September with a walking pilgrimage revisiting some of the places that have been important to us on our journey (ironically for a community called "Home" we have never had a home of our own!), followed by a service of thanksgiving, followed by cake, champagne and topped off with a barrel of ale and a ceilidh. It was a great day of celebrating the life we have together, the life God has given us as a community.

Of course, we may be one of the oldest Fresh Expressions of Church but we are still a mere sapling compared to some of your churches.

So please continue to pray for us as we continue to build a life together, a home we can call our own. The Revd Matt Rees is Chaplain to Home.

See www. home-online. org for more. Contemplative Fire goes globalA LITURGY using phrases like "letting go" and "being set free" complements the more traditional language of confession and absolution.

On occasions indoor meetings are swapped for woodland walks with an outdoor Eucharist and pauses for body prayers. That is all part of the life of Contemplative Fire (CF).

The dispersed community has recently celebrated becoming recognised as an "Acknowledged Religious Community" by the Church of England.

"That was a major event for us," says Jo Howard, who heads up CF in High Wycombe.

"It is bringing together the traditional and non-traditional religious communities so that is quite a big step for us and confirms our link to the Church of England. " Jo, a Licensed Lay Minister in the Oxford Diocese, is licensed to CF. This link places CF within the spiritual heritage of monastic communities through the ages.

"We have confirmed our connection through having a bishop visitor, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, who walks alongside us. " A Senior Religious Sister, Sister Rosemary of the Sisters of the Love of God in Oxford, also walks alongside CF, ensuring a gender balance in those accompanying the Community, particularly before the legislation allowing women bishops was passed.

CF was started by the Revd Philip Roderick in 2004 when he was based in Buckinghamshire.

Since then CF has grown substantially and established local communities across the UK and beyond.

There are now 117 "Companions-on-the-Way" in the UK, a group of more than 30 in Toronto and the furthest flung member is in Maui, Hawaii.

There is a particularly big group in Sheffield, where Philip is currently Bishop's Advisor in Spirituality. CF Members or "Companions" as they are known, commit to a rhythm of life - "Travelling Light, Dwelling Deep" as part of the community.

People may meet in small groups of three, seven or 12, in some areas at monthly gatherings of up to 35 people for worship and contemplative communion.

These are generally planned by a core team of four to five people and Jo said there is no "typical" gathering.

The team meet twice in the month, first to sit down with the lectionary readings for the date of the gathering.

"We read them aloud and hold them in silence.

We sit with those readings for 15 to 20 minutes then we talk about what we have reflected on and what that is saying to us.

We'll have a discussion and discern what we sense the theme is that is emerging for us.

Our hope is that something creative will emerge based on that theme.

There is very much a flow to the worship but it's different each time.

It's not people sitting in rows of chairs, but the unfolding of the liturgy takes a different shape at each service.

We try to give people the space to reflect for themselves. " After seven years of gatherings, Jo said the High Wycombe group is looking at doing things differently, starting 18 months ago with the Woodland gatherings. The smaller groups have a variety of formats.

Some are based around a shared meal and readings that act as catalysts for reflection "Other groups meet in threes and are more of a deep process of reflective sharing and a format that has been devised as a way of holding it together. " Jo, a sports massage therapist by trade, values the reflective nature of Contemplative Fire.

She says: "I have loved being a part of this community over the last 10 years.

It's my spiritual home and what I have perhaps valued the most has been having other like-minded people to journey with, to explore my faith with.

There are lots of ways of being involved.

Some people are companions in places where they are on their own.

There's a community weekend coming up for people to get together. "See www. contemplativefire. org Philip Roderick established the Quiet Garden movement in 1992.

In 2010 he began a third sister network, Hidden Houses of Prayer. MayBeMayBe is another Oxford based fresh expression, established by the Revd Ian Adams who has since moved on.

Ian teamed up with Matt Rees for Stillpoint - an initiative providing contemplative resources for exploring spirituality in Oxford.

Ian has since moved away but MayBe is still going strong. For more see http://maybe. org. uk/Discovery DaysDiscovery Days was run by the Revd Penny Joyce, who has since moved on, as a way of helping new residents build community on the Madley Park Estate near Witney.

It ran for several years until Penny left. I-Church is thriving"WE are not just surviving but thriving," says the Revd Pam Smith, who became the Priest-in-Charge of i-church in 2008.

Pam is licensed by the Bishop of Oxford and the church is supported by this Diocese.

i-Church is an online congregation with more than 700 members.

It has two services a week as well as a regular, chatroom-based social gathering.

Members are from the UK, Scotland, America and Australia. "It's our 10th anniversary this year.

There have been a lot of changes over that time as we have looked at being an online church and at ways of doing evangelism online," says Pam, who is writing a book, to be published in February 2015, on online ministry, mainly inspired by her experiences running i-church. "Our members are a mixture of those who can't get to a physical church, members of small churches who enjoy the opportunity for fellowship with the wider Christian community online, and people who are exploring or returning to the Christian faith. "See www. i-church. org

Page last updated: Friday 19th September 2014 12:00 AM
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