2021 Review Fresh Expressions report

Planting and Adaptation

This post is part of a series forming a review of Quartz activity. For an introduction and overview of the report start here at the “Sabbatical” post.

Activities like Interweave, All Age Worship, Second Sunday and Housegroups best fall into this category. They are all activities which draw from recognised models of Church and adapt or apply them in new contexts and ways. Unlike an outward facing “Fresh Expression” the direction of movement was to draw on the context of everyday life, and then plant this in the church environment to see what would grow. This ‘internal ecumenism’ approach used creative spirituality to give established attenders of St John’s the opportunity to try out new things themselves and learn to value the possibilities presented by practices beyond their traditional church experiences.

Interweaves started by applying the multimedia approach to services first established by Alternative/Creative worship communities in the 1980’s and 90’s. (I’ve written a post about this here which includes video footage of what they looked like back then). The building of St John’s was used as a canvas within which to create an immersive experience that drew from traditional church liturgies and activities, combining them with contemporary popular culture. At each event a theme was chosen and then the team worked collaboratively to explore and express the insights gained during preparation – as well as plan activities for those who just came to participate in the event.

The big Interweaves involved a team of around five volunteers supported by a week’s worth of professional time. They were often themed around specific festivals celebrated both within St John’s and the wider Dumfries community. Some connected chaplaincy work in schools at assemblies and in classrooms with the Interweave event through the use of similar activities adapted to each context. Interweaves were publicised on the Quartz Facebook page which also provided an avenue for further engagement. Artwork used at Interweaves was left in place when appropriate and contributed to the seasonal changes in the St John’s building marked by flowers, colours and the permanent artwork bonded to the fabric of the building.

Advent 2014 Poster

Difficulties encountered included timetabling clashes where established activities were given priority. The building is magnificent, but not designed to support multimedia installations, and simple things like finding plug sockets could be a challenge. As everything was temporary, setting up and taking down required considerable effort from the core team. As it wasn’t a defined service it was difficult to explain what Interweave was. The name “Interweave” was actually a late development, and early events were named individually and described collectively as “Creative Worship” when a term was required.

Difficulties can build a team however, and the challenge of hanging things without using scaffolding and of working together to create something beautiful, interesting and engaging was great. Interweaves could adapt flexibly to constraints imposed, and to involve temporary residents in Dumfries such as students, benefiting from their skills.

As there was an overlap between those involved in quarterly Interweaves and the more frequent informal service (currently known as All Age), aspects of the two events were shared. Examples of this included the collaborative approach, the use of creative spirituality from serving food to visual arts installations and a range of ritual, musical worship and words.

A ‘Second Sunday’ poster (used online)

The “Second Sunday” events developed last of all the Quartz activities. They focussed on a single creative worship approach for each event and filled a gap in the cycle of forms of evening prayer. When Lockdown happened “Second Sunday” moved online. We provided a range of ideas for people to carry out creative worship in their households, and a live chat window to meet up online. This was blended with physical meet ups when safe and activities such as walks and making a cairn of stones.

Quartz also facilitated a series of housegroups. These are included in this collection of activities because whilst Lent study groups are a traditional part of St John’s life, the topics of study for the Quartz group included books on alternative worship, forest church and spiritual responses to the climate crisis that explored rethinking the traditional relationship between human institutions like the church and the rest of creation.

The groups also featured creative approaches like using video conferencing to make meeting accessible even when people couldn’t leave their houses (long before lockdown).

Footage filmed before and during Covid, used to bring the outside indoors when locked down.

This class of activity fits less easily into the idea of “Fresh Expressions” because there was no intent as Quartz to develop another instance of church. It is perhaps better described as preparation for a “Fresh Expression” or for welcoming internal growth and training in creative spirituality.

Some statistics for the number crunchers. Attendance at interweaves varied too much between events and over the years to work out a reasonable average so I have focussed on typical volunteer team hours supported.

Housegroups2nd sunday
No. per year41 for 6 weeks12
Stipend Hours Invested1403060
Participant Hours SupportedTeam: 100
plus 5 – 15 attendance per event
All times approximated, per year

Link back to Simon’s Sabbatical report

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