I came back to Sheffield for nine days on Wednesday of last week to fulfil a series of essential engagements in the Diocese here.  One part of my attention and prayer has been on what is happening in Rome and I’ve continued to keep up to date with the Synod through the daily bulletins on the Vatican website.

The Synod is mainly meeting in groups through these days and developing a series of propositions which will then be voted on in the plenary Synod before going forward as the basis of a message from the Synod to Pope Benedict XVI.

My public engagements in these eight days are in one way a normal snapshot of the life of a Bishop in the Church of England at the present time.  In another they provide a good worked example of the ways in which the Church of England is engaging with the transmission of the faith in our present context.

I came back to Sheffield with a renewed appreciation of the significance of the Anglican experience in mission in the present moment.  As one person said to me in Rome, we have been working at this question of the secularisation of society and appropriate missional and pastoral responses for a long time and in an increasingly intentional way.  It is not, perhaps, surprising, that ways forward developed in an Anglican and British context would be relevant elsewhere to Churches grappling with similar challenges.  The Roman Catholic Church has already acknowledged the importance of the Alpha Course in evangelisation.  I’ve heard similar comments over the last few years from the Protestant Church in Germany and from other parts of the world about fresh expressions of church.

In my address to the Synod I talked about developing fresh expressions of the church for a new mission context.  In the Church of England we have become used to talking about the mixed economy church: traditional congregations alongside fresh expressions of church within parishes or groups of parishes.  The term mixed economy was originally coined by Archbishop Rowan Williams in his time as Bishop of Monmouth.

So what I have I been doing in this reasonably typical week?  On Wednesday evening I attended and led one of twelve Deanery evenings across the Diocese looking at re-imagining ministry for mission.  This one was in the Laughton Deanery, just south of Rotherham.  I began the evening by asking people what questions they were wrestling with at the moment.  They gave a particularly rich series of answers: how to pass the faith on to children, to young adults, to those beginning the faith.  I felt as though I was in exactly the same conversation as the one I had left behind in Rome.

On Thursday evening, I attended the opening of a new building serving a community project led by Church Army Evangelists which relates to some of the most needy people in the city.  The work is an attempt to serve and listen to and witness in a particular sector of city life through pioneer ministry.  On Saturday morning I was with a local parish for a morning teaching on the beatitudes and the importance of being a Christ-like Church.  On Saturday evening, we were at St. Thomas, Philadelphia for a gathering to celebrate the Forge Youth Ministries, which serve over 800 young people across the city in sports, in ventures of different kinds, in small missional communities, in discipleship and mentoring.  On Sunday morning I was at St. Peter’s Greenhill on the edge of Sheffield where a year ago I instituted a young pioneer minister as Vicar and he brought a team of young adults into a traditional parish.  A year on there has been significant growth both in the 9.30 traditional service and in the new 11.00 am informal worship.  There were many young families and a new ministry with children.  Finally yesterday evening I licensed new honorary canons in the Cathedral at a beautiful service of choral evensong.

As we reflect together on the transmission of faith in this part of the world, we need to begin from the point that we are increasingly a diverse society.  To reach every part of that society we need many different approaches, many different pastoral responses, many different expressions of the church bound together by a common understanding, vision and goals.  A diocese and a parish is increasingly made up of these many different communities and ministries.

But at the heart of them must be the call to go, to listen, to serve, to form community and to bear witness to the gospel in many different places as an ordinary yet extraordinary part of the life of God’s Church.  And the goal for them all must be to become Christ like communities, a sacrament of God’s presence in God’s world.

Six of the fraternal delegates had the opportunity to speak this afternoon.  I was in good company with Metropolitan Hilarion from Moscow, Father Massis Zobouian from the Armenian Church, Bishop Sarah Davis of the World Methodist Council, the Revd. Dr. Timothy George of the Baptist World Alliance and Bishop Siluan from the Romanian Orthodox Church.  His Holiness, Pope Benedict was present in the Synod which was an honour for all the delegates who spoke.

The text of my own intervention is below.  It’s very much based on what I heard and what I thought could usefully be reflected back to the Synod rather than being a full and balanced approach to the subject.  There is a fuller version which will eventually appear in the documents of the Synod, with footnotes!

Holy Father, dear sisters and brothers,
thank you for the opportunity to take part in the Synod and reflect with you on
the vital theme of the new evangelization.
Archbishop Rowan Williams spoke last week
on contemplation as the root of evangelization. I address the fruits of
evangelization in the life of the Church as the Church reflects the character
of Christ, in mature disciples, in new ecclesial communities and in new
First when the Church is renewed in
contemplation of Christ and the word of God, we are transformed into his
likeness and become bearers of the character of Christ, becoming more clearly
the Church of the Beatitudes.
Second, the new evangelization calls for a clear
vision of what it means to be a discipleThe new evangelization is a call to whole
life discipleship: an invitation to follow Christ for the whole length of our
lives, with every part of our lives, and into wholeness and abundance of that
life. In catechesis it is vital to have a clear
goal before us: the formation of mature disciples able to live in the rhythm of
worship, community and mission.  We are
called to be with Jesus together and to be sent out.
Third, I would encourage the Synod to reflect
further on the formation of new ecclesial communities for the transmission of
the faith to those who are no longer part of any church. For the last ten years, the Church of
England has actively encouraged a new movement of mission aimed at beginning new
ecclesiola in ecclesia, fresh
expressions of the church, as a natural part of the ministry of parishes or
groups of parishes or dioceses.  These ecclesiola aim to connect with the
sections of society the parishes are no longer reaching. They are formed by a process of careful
double listening to the culture of a particular group and to the Holy
Spirit.  Contemplation is at the heart of
the methodology. The listening is followed by discerning paths of loving
service.  The fruit of the service is
often a new community of young people or families or the elderly. Within the
new community the seed of the gospel is sown and evangelism takes place.  Only then can the new group of Christians
begin to offer prayers and worship and continue their journey to the full
sacramental life of the Church. Finally, who will be the new
evangelisers?  I commend further
reflection on diakonia and the
ministry of deacons.
This process of going and listening and serving
and forming new communities requires particular gifts.  In the Church of England we have named this
cluster of gifts “pioneer ministry”. We have recognized pioneer ministry as a
focus of both lay and ordained ministry in our Church.
Pioneer ministry is rooted theologically in
diakonia and the ministry of deacons:
listening, loving service, and being sent on behalf of the Church.  Recent New Testament scholarship has
emphasized the role of the deacons in the New Testament, women as well as men,
as those who carried the message of the gospel to those who were beyond the
churches.  In the Church of England
ordinal deacons are described as heralds of Christ’s kingdom and as agents of
God’s purposes of love. The diaconate and diakonia are closely connected with
God’s mission and the service of the kingdom.
May Almighty God continue to bless and
guide this Synod as we reflect together on the ways in which our understanding
of Christ shapes our understanding of God’s mission and the ways in which our
understanding of God’s mission continues to reshape Christ’s Church.

Note: ecclesiola means “little churches” and diakonia means service in mission.