The Fresh Expressions movement is about putting the church Jesus loves closer to the people Jesus loves. We do this by working through the inherited church to expand its reach into networks and neighborhoods who aren’t being reached by any church.
As we’ve gone about our work, we’ve become convinced that an important way of expanding the reach of the church is to notice how the church has already expanded into those networks and neighborhoods through the families who comprise the Church.
If we’re going to put the church closer to the people Jesus loves, one of the ways to start is through the family itself, because the family is the primary place most of us learn to give and receive love. If we’re to see a great spiritual awakening in the US, the family is part of the solution because it—like the inherited church—is an obvious place where God is already showing us how to love. In the Catholic faith, we’ve learned that the family is often called the domestic church.
The theology of the domestic church is helping us recover a missional edge that many of us have missed. In the theology of the domestic church we have the possibility of reimagining the family on mission by learning to love as God loves. God is in a constant state of giving and receiving love.
It is in God that we find our heart’s true home and our deepest source of identity and strength. If we don’t know who we are in God, we’ll never live fully into the mission of God. As St. Augustine said, “You can’t give what you don’t have.”
The Amore Project
We’re building The Amore Project as a leading edge of the Fresh Expressions movement, established through the love that God has for us and for every person. This love works through marriages and families to build bigger spiritual families.
We see this in the early church where all who are in Christ are called brother and sister. And this is only possible because of the nuptial—or self-giving love that Christ exhibited in his death and triumphant resurrection.
Last month, we gathered in the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for a groundbreaking event. We were Protestant and Catholic, mainline and evangelical, contemplative and charismatic. We were hosted and warmly welcomed by Bishop Ronald Gainer who made the case for the domestic church as vital for the new evangelization.
The Rev. Tory Baucum and his wife Elizabeth shared about their experiences at linking evangelical and catholic theology to gain a biblical understanding of their marriage as a sign of God’s love. United Methodist scholar Dr. Ben Witherington gave a New Testament framework for the family of God and author Frederica Mathewes-Green shared how the practices of the early church sustained this understanding of family.
Popular theologian, Christopher West, shared how theology of the body, espoused by Pope John Paul II helps us all recover our identity as God’s image bearers in a world that is desperate for love.
Msgr. Renzo Bonetti shared how simple everyday acts in home and family life can shape our practice of love, from the way that we greet each other in the morning, to the way that we do the dishes at night. “There is a liturgy of the home”, he said “and this helps us participate in the divine.”
Most importantly, the event allowed us to participate in what God was doing in one another. There were opportunities for repentance as we admitted how much we share and how much we need one another. At several points, words of repentance and words of hope were shared that brought many to tears.
It is with this repentant and hopeful posture that we seek to build The Amore Project as a way forward for the whole Church to gather around the love God has for us and for the whole world.
If you would like to learn more, or get involved, join us for one of these events or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Gannon is the Director of Ministry Formation for Fresh Expressions US and leads the Fresh Expressions efforts of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. He earned the Bachelor of Arts Degree from Baylor University and the Master of Divinity degree from Duke University. Prior to entering seminary, Gannon worked as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate and as a public affairs officer in the anti-human trafficking office at the U.S. State Department. He enjoys forging partnerships between followers of Jesus from different traditions and has served in various roles at several churches, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Anglican. Gannon is married to Carey, who also is a graduate of Duke Divinity School. Together they work to bring fresh expressions of church to the collegiate community at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.