Encounters on the Edge
Encounters on the Edge was a series of quarterly booklets from Church Army's Research Unit, exploring the wide range of church plants and fresh expressions to come out of the Anglican Church in recent years. It ran from 1999 to 2012, reaching a total of 56 issues. 55 of those issues are available below as free PDF downloads.
Issue 43, Seven Sacred Spaces, has been revised as a full colour booklet and is available here.
The free online successor to Encounters on the Edge is Snapshots - Stories From the Edge. It is available here.
1. Living Proof – a new way of being church? by George Lings - download
Living Proof is the name of a small Christian community working for community development in a deprived area of north east Cardiff.
2. Unit 8: Out of sight, out of nothing by George Lings - download
June 1997 saw Unit 8 refurbished and ready to run; lino on the floor, posters on the walls, a moveable pool table,TV and video. But ready for what...?
3. Cell Church Planting - Has Church reached its Cell Buy Date? by George Lings - download
The questions “What is Church?” and “What should emerging forms of Church be like in the early years of the New Millennium?” are in a state of ferment. George Lings investigates an example of one possible way forward.
4. Eternity - the beginning by George Lings - download
Eternity’s mission statement: to build a community in which Christians and non-Christians can experience God’s love.
5. Joining the club - or changing the rules? by George Lings - download
Why bother to validate new ways of being Church?
6. "Across the Pond" by George Lings - download
Why should a stagnant pond be the hidden key to effective church planting? How can churches, used to a mentality of “Come”, set out on the vulnerable journey to “Go”? George Lings investigates a church drawn down that path.
7. New Canterbury Tales by George Lings - download
Why have network churches sprung up in Canterbury diocese? At what cost and by what means? Are these new and do we need them? If so why, and how can they flourish?
8. Thame or Wild? by George Lings - download
A historic Oxfordshire town conjures tame images: middle England, middle church, and middle class. But any history that tells of trebled membership, principled diversification and the creation of further congregations has lessons to teach us.
9. Leading Lights - Who can lead new churches? by George Lings - download part 1, download part 2, download part 3
Lay leaders exist across the spectrum of emerging churches. As many as one third of church plants have been lay led. Is this a welcome throwing off of the shackles of clericalism? Does it work?
10. Hard Graft? by George Lings - download part 1, download part 2, download part 3
Have you ever been faced with having to revitalise a church? Is this replanting? How many elements of the old will continue? Can it work or is it hard graft?
11. Never on a Sunday? by George Lings - download
Sunday attendance patterns have altered so much that the Church of England is changing the way it collects the figures. But what are none Sunday churches like? George Lings went to visit some.
12. The Enigma of Alternative Worship by George Lings - download
Should we see it as creative or subversive? Does it serve paradoxical or unreconcilable needs? Why does it live uncomfortably with the label stuck on by others? What is alternative Worship? We went to find out.
13. Encountering Exile by George Lings - download
With the decline of the Church in the west, our world seems so different to the joyful simplicity of the new Church of the New Testament. Where else in the Scriptures could we look to cope and hope?
14. Can the Church make a difference to communities living in the inner city? by George Lings - download part 1, download part 2, download part 3
The Eden Projects in Manchester are serious about transformation in the inner city. Significant progress seems to have eluded the Church so far. Eden looks as though it has found some clues.
15. Dynasty or Diversity? - The HTB family of churches by George Lings and Paul Perkin - download
Within the UK church planting movement, Holy Trinity Brompton in London has been one of the leaders. How transferable is their model of planting? Is this dynastic cloning or intentional diversity?
16. Mass Planting - Learning from Catholic evangelism by George Lings - download
Scenario: Passionate Catholic sacramentalist meets radical mission-minded evangelist - what do they say to one another? What if this mix was two halves of one person who planted an unusual church?
17. Addicted to Planting? by Claire Dalpra - download
How do people in recovery from addiction become disciples? What would a church plant of recovering drug addicts and alcoholics look like? Is Alcoholics Anonymous a model of emerging church for the 21st century? Claire Dalpra investigates.
18. Stepping Stones by George Lings - download
Suppose a middle class church was called to work on a run-down council estate, frighteningly called “Little Beirut”? How much could they know about how to tackle the task? Was that why they called the church plant “Stepping Stones”?
19. Net Gains by George Lings - download
Churches for networks of people (not neighbourhoods) are on the increase. What can we learn from the early examples, now that such churches are being intentionally begun by dioceses?
20. Soft Cell by George Lings - download
Devotees of cell promote it as the big change needed for today’s church. Others have decided that the price is too high, the pain is too great, or cell doesn’t fit where they are. Is there any middle way to do cell alongside congregation without fatally weakening what cell offers at its best?
21. Reading: the Signs by George Lings - download
How do you connect with teenagers who have never been to church? Where do you start? Where will it lead? Reading these signs is far from easy. George Lings investigates an Anglican church in Reading who are finding a way forward.
22. Mission-shaped Church: The Inside and Outside View by George Lings and Bob Hopkins - download
With General Synod’s approval of Mission-shaped Church in February 2004, will this Church of England report about Anglican church planting and fresh expressions of Church make any difference?
23. New Housing, New Partnerships? by George Lings - download
Does ecumenical church planting mean death by bureaucracy? How are mission-minded church plants being grown on the new housing developments? Do multiple denominational churches show us a way forward?
24. OASIS - Work in Progress by George Lings - download
How can the worlds of church and work be connected? What are we learning about mission to the workplace? Can church be formed at work? George Lings heard of an oasis planted in a demanding workplace and went to investigate.
25. A Short Intermission - How can church be expressed within the arts? by George Lings - download
The influence of media and arts is huge. However, some say church and the arts don’t mix; both can think the one tends to corrupt the other. What might happen in a safe space where both could explore and flourish?
26. A Rocha - Christians, Conservation and the Community by George Lings - download
As environmental concern grows, Christians are belatedly adding to the ecological voice. The charity A Rocha has been active in this process for over 20 years. Is this another emerging expression of Church?
27. The Village and Fresh Expressions - Is rural different? by George Lings - download
Some say planting churches only works in urban areas. A variety of stories are emerging to contradict that. What variety of people are are in countryside and why? Can one expression of Church, even the traditional, suit everybody?
28. Rural Cell Church - A new wayside flower by George Lings - download
Cell churches seem to be a natural home for people coming to faith through process evangelism courses. But how well does cell suit the countryside?
29. Northumbria Community: Matching Monastery and Mission by George Lings - download
Could new monasticism be of greater significance than most other fresh expressions of Church because it invites us into deeper life in Christ? Northumbria Community are one group exploring this.
30. Discernment in Mission: Navigation Aids for Mission-Shaped Processes by George Lings - download
As more people sail off on the adventure of starting fresh expressions of church, it is apparent that many lack crucial information that would help them steer better. This issue offers some tactical and biblical frameworks.
31. Small Beginnings: Church for Under 5s by Claire Dalpra - download
What fresh expressions of church are beginning among under 5s and their families? How is spirituality nurtured in children of this age? When does work with under 5s qualify as a fresh expression of church and what do they have to teach us?
32. Simpler Church: Where time is at a premium by George Lings - download
How can we create ways of being church which are simpler yet keep essentials? What sort of meetings actually enable people to meet and grow as disciples of Christ. How simple is it to keep it this simple?
33. Café Church 1 - Cafe, croissants and Christ? by George Lings - download
As café has established itself as an accepted part of British public life, there is a case that this culture should be embraced by church members. This is being done in very varied ways and will take two issues to explore properly.
34. Café Church 2 - Double Jesus with cream and sugar? by George Lings - download
Today the best examples of mission are journeying into surrounding cultures, not persuading people to come into church culture. How does this work in café culture? We found three stories taking honourable risks to venture out beyond church venues.
35. Changing Sunday - "Come and go": beyond attractional church by George Lings - download
Come and Go is a good example of shaping church around the needs of those who find its patterns don't fit. Deeper than that, what happens when existing churches are serious about discipleship, creating community and enabling lay ministry?
36. Leading Fresh Expressions - lessons from hindsight by George Lings - download
What happens when the pioneer moves on? What did hindsight reveal about strengths and mistakes? We are grateful to two leaders who were candid about their own stories.
37. Chasing the Dream - Starting community by Claire Dalpra - download
What can we learn from intentional Christian communities? What would they say were the classic mistakes to avoid? How can community be authentic? And how does community aid them in their mission task?
38. The Cost of Community - Issues of maturity by Claire Dalpra - download
What might help the communities in fresh expressions of Church grow beyond good starts to longer lasting effectiveness? What can we learn from intentional Christian communities that will help fresh expressions of Church grow mature community?
39. Hope Among the Hopeless - Connecting with the urban poor - George Lings - download
Can we find ways to create the kind of Christian community that engages well in urban areas which exhibit the reality of a post-Christendom society and are in the grip of poverty?
40. People Try to Put Us Down - Fresh expressions with older people by George Lings - download
Given the age profile of many of our churches, why do we need to keep older people as a priority in our mission endeavours? Are fresh expressions of Church wanted by older people?
41. Do network churches work? by George Lings - download
A decade has now passed since the first network churches began. How have they fared? Why have they not thrived and multiplied as was hoped? What difficulties have they encountered?
42. Across a Threshold - A family of rural church plants by George Lings - download
We are now confident that fresh expressions of Church can be started, but more subtle questions remain about how they develop over time and are sustained well. We found a rural example living through these transitions and report the evolving story.
43. Seven Sacred Spaces - Expressing community life in Christ by George Lings - revised full-colour edition available here
At its best, monastic life has always been a divine wake-up call to the Church. To sustain that life, monastic communities have evolved the seven characteristic places within their sites.
44. Hidden Treasures - Churches for adults with a learning disability by Claire Dalpra - download
Stories of church for adults with learning disabilities are an important reminder that fresh expressions of Church continue to grow in surprising places, including vulnerable groups within our society. This issue tells two stories of such churches.
45. The X Factor Within - Rural café church by George Lings - download
This issue tells the story of a café church in a rural context. It is an intriguing example of a fresh expression working with café, all-age worship and faith exploration concurrently.
46. Messy Church - Ideal for all ages? by George Lings - download
Messy Church is clearly popular and fun – but are those very qualities praise or problems? There are lots of questions to be asked about this most numerous kind of fresh expression.
47. Christ Church Bridlington - Mission-shaped thinking in a larger church by George Lings - download
Christ Church serves the northern seaside town of Bridlington which has a significant Urban Priority Area element. It is a signal story of corporate life in the Spirit among poor and working people.
48. That's 'sorted' then - Start, sustain ... and begin again by George Lings - download
Where are the fresh expressions that really connect with the non-churched and win some for Christ? Where are the cases that take real steps along the path of maturity? Where are those that include the ability to reproduce once more? There is a story in Bradford of Church Army working with teenagers that ticks all these boxes.
49. New Ground - A working students' household by George Lings - download
How can at least some students grow through active ministries of giving out, gain a positive experience of community, learn to love local church and significantly reduce their student debt at the same time?
50. A Golden Opportunity - Revisiting the story so far by George Lings - download
As we celebrate our 50th issue, here is an opportunity to look back and see what we can learn across the stories we've reported on so far. What do their longer stories tell us? Are there discernible patterns across them?
51. DNA Networks - Open community centred on Jesus by George Lings - download
How do you start a new church from scratch, but in such a way that it does not largely attract bored existing Christians? Is it possible to combine being a church community that obviously enjoys life and yet is about discipleship, not attendance?
52. New Town, New Church - Deep excavations by George Lings - download
This issue tells the story of the birth and growth of a young church in one of our tougher UK mission contexts, the New Towns. Building genuine community from scratch in an artificially created neighbourhood is not easy.
53. Crossnet - Do not despise the day of small things by George Lings - download
Over the years, Crossnet in Bristol have discovered remaining small can be a significant gift. Their story offers valuable insight into how apprentice-style models of discipleship done among the few are more effective than traditional methods of discipleship among the many.
54. A Spare Part? - Sustainability and spare-time led fresh expressions of Church by Claire Dalpra - download
A significant proportion of fresh expressions of Church are led by volunteers in their 'spare time'. Leaders have to balance the demands of full-time work alongside growing their church. This issue tells the stories of two spare-time led churches that have been going for over 15 years.
55. Thirst - Go to a place neither of you have been before by George Lings - download
Though much good mission work occurs in schools, fully-fledged school-based church is less common than we thought. This issue tells the story of Thirst, a fresh expression of Church that serves the parents and staff of the local Church of England primary.
56. Sweaty Church - Church for kinaesthetic learners by George Lings - download
Welcome to Sweaty Church in York. Inspired initially by Messy Church, this fresh expression of Church uses participation through activities, games and sport, rather than craft, as the means of families learning together.