The juxtaposition of these two would-be opposites, popularized by Robert Webber in his numerous writings on the effects of the early church on contemporary worship, describes one important aspect of the emerging church movement. Ancient Faith, Future Mission: Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Tradition (Seabury Books, 2010), edited by Stephen Croft, Ian Mobsby and Stephanie Spellers, draws another term ‘fresh expressions’ into the mix. While ‘Emerging Church’ has its roots in the evangelical movement, ‘Fresh Expressions’ has erupted out of the Anglo-Catholic tradition originally in England and a bit later in the Episcopal Church in the United States.
With a host of distinguished contributors including Rowan Williams, Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, and a foreword by Katherine Jefferts Schori, the book served for me as a primer of what emerging church looks like in the Anglican tradition. It offers a history of the U2charist movement, from one of its earliest designers; descriptions of many permutations of ‘Fresh Expressions’ communities in England and the US; and even an article on how buildings inform worship and specifically how two churches transitioned their congregation by imaginatively redesigning their century-old sanctuaries. Every contributor had a story to tell and the total encourages hope for a tradition that has long struggled with the public perception as the ‘frozen-chosen.’ The inclusion of numerous websites for further study enriches the book even further. Ancient Faith, Future Mission will be on my short list of suggested reading.
Paula W Hartzell is the Director of the Interfaith Resource Center in Wilmington, Delaware.