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Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Phil Bromily

by handrew last modified 13 Sep, 2016 01:12 PM

Starting a rural fresh expression...what's your context? Phil Bromily, rector of the Oldbury Benefice as Fresh Expression Associate, takes a look at the mixed economy in a rural setting.

The Church has been going on about “fresh expressions” for a while, so much so, that the movement feels a little “un-fresh” at times. I guess “stale expressions” wouldn’t have the vibrant, motivational tone that the Church is after. Having said that though, I was leading a Vision Day recently down in a rural part of the south of England and was amazed when only a half a dozen or so people in a packed (albeit bijou) Village Hall admitted having heard the term “Fresh Expressions” before. So I’m sure there is still more work to be done.

Many folk from rural areas attending a Fresh Expressions Vision Day or reading about the subject tend to think, “that’s all well and good, but how do I convince our elderly congregation to set up a night club, skate park or BMX facility? And would they get injured in the process?” For that reason Fresh Expressions specifically hosts Rural Vision Days, so we can contextualise the issues and root them in the culture of the countryside.

One caveat before I go any further though. Beware! Even rural England is not as monochrome as you might imagine. Our villages are made up of a diverse bunch of ideas and cultures. So what works in one village, might not work in the neighbouring one.

Arriving as Rector of the Oldbury Benefice, in 2006, I wanted to challenge the PCC’s and Church Wardens to explore different approaches to church growth and not put all of our eggs into the basket of traditional Sunday Church Worship. The jargon for this a “mixed economy” approach to mission, attempting to cherish the inherited models of church, whilst also looking to shape new ways of being church alongside it.

One such PCC, in Compton Bassett, were very generous and adventurous in their thinking. I asked them a question: What was the village like 40 years ago? They described a school, a post office, a pub, a population double the size of today, a shop etc. Then I asked them: What was the church like back then? Apparently, there was a full robed choir and two or three services every Sunday, and  a full time priest living in the Rectory (a very large one at that!). I asked them to describe the realities of the village today and the church within it. It was a very different picture. There is now only a pub and a church left, there are few children in the village, only 8-12 people come to a weekly service in church, and they share their vicar with 4 other villages. It became apparent, that the church of forty years ago, as described, was just right for the village of forty years ago, but our challenge, as a PCC, was to create a church of today that would be right for the village of today.

Out of this conversation came our first Fresh Expression of church.

Rev Philip Bromiley (Rector of the Oldbury Benefice and Associate for Fresh Expressions)

 

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  • Phil Bromily
    13 September 2016

    Starting a rural fresh expression...what's your context? Phil Bromily, rector of the Oldbury Benefice as Fresh Expression Associate, takes a look at the mixed economy in a rural setting.