Fresh Expressions Research

Interesting little video on the Fresh Expressions website regarding the latest research going on through the Church Army in Sheffield.

It’s a useful clip in terms of both its findings and in terms of the way that the methodology being used is explained. Before launching into a bit of a discussion on the findings I’d like to explain why it is a useful teaching tool for students, particularly A Level students doing the Sociology of Belief module.

The clip shows an excellent example of operisationalisation – which is a term which students sometimes struggle with in the theory section of the course. Methodologically it also highlights how the sample has been found and the decision making process involved.

In terms of the findings they have some useful things to say in terms of the secularisation debate (through the higher example of de-churched people than non-churched for example). They also have some really useful things to say about the development of some world-affirming new religious movements from existing denominations or churches and the way that tradition is incorporated into these (with the comments on the role of Anglo-Catholic churchmanship).

Finally for gifted and talented students needing extension work it is useful for developing thinking further around the classification of groups. These groups are still part of a church, (although that church may now better be classified as a denomination), yet they also have features of sects and cults (cultic movements) (using the sociological definitions). It also has some good links to class and religious attendance.

Anyway, enough of letting my inner Sociology teacher out and on with the post. It is also a clip which is good for those of us not studying Sociology but interested in the way the church is currently developing.

In terms of the lay element it would be interesting to know how they are emerging and I look forward to reading the final findings on this. The issue of authorisation and “permission giving” is not mentioned in the clip and this is something I am interested in.

The fact that 80% are engaging in discipleship is not as surprising as I think Claire Dalpra says. In terms of the discussion on how does this happen in Fresh Expressions I found that fascinating as it is an area which shows how the fresh expression/ pioneer conversation/thinking and the existing language/frameworks/ ways of thinking are sometimes in apparent conflict. The pioneers are looking at what needs to emerge and how things might need to be done differently but a new paradigm has not fully emerged on this yet, thus the wrestling which the clip said was going on. I think it highlights that divide that still exists between the reality for the practitioners who are trying to get it done and working out what that means in their own context and those who would like to be able to provide a set of good practice to roll out to people, just to be adapted contextually.

Earlier version edited.