Fresh Expressions US is proud to announce a new partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming!
An increasing number of people in our communities will never walk through the doors of a church and yet crave a deeper spiritual life and a sense of community and connectedness. Fresh Expressions is the movement to take church “out there” – to those who are open to the spirit, but adamantly closed to church as we know it. We call them the “nones” and “dones” – those who have never been to church, and those who have been hurt by church and are just simply done. Fresh Expressions seeks to create communities of faith that may look quite different from Sunday morning, but give people space to deepen their faith through conversation, prayer, and even new expressions of worship. It is an exciting and creative movement, full of possibility.
The Rev. Mary Erickson, Pioneer Scout – Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming
We were recently able to ask the Rev. Bobbe Fitzhugh, Missioner for Fresh Expressions of Faith in the Diocese of Wyoming some questions about this new partnership.
Tell us about your denomination/organization.
The Diocese of Wyoming encompasses all of the State of Wyoming with 98,000 square miles and just over 570,000 inhabitants (less than 6 people per square mile). There are 46 Episcopal churches throughout the state as well as a number of outdoor chapels. Churches vary in size from several hundred members to those serving small rural communities with congregations in single figures. 20% of our churches have full-time stipendiary clergy, 41% have non-stipendiary clergy and the rest rely on supply priests to provide sacramental ministry. We are blessed to have a very strong Foundation (Foundation for the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming), that has committed funding for our Fresh Expressions program at a very strong level.
How did you learn about FX? What drew you to it?
The Church of England’s success with Fresh Expressions and our partnership with the Anglican Diocese in Leicester, England. Bishop John Smylie visited Leicester, learned about Fresh Expressions and their success after 15 years, came home and created and staffed the position of Missioner for Fresh Expressions of Faith in March 2018. I almost immediately attended the National Gathering and was inspired and motivated to help infuse the Diocese of Wyoming with the language and culture of Fresh Expressions.
Why do you think it’s important to partner with FX?
We have parallel partnerships with our Linked Diocese of Leicester and with Fresh Expressions US and both are critical to our long-term success in building and sustaining fresh expressions in Wyoming. We have held an FX Vison Day, a Learning Community and have Roundtables scheduled for November 2019. We’ve shared many of the books and online resources available through FX. Many of our Pioneer Scouts (our original team of visitors to the UK), as well as a number of our Pioneers starting FX will be attending the next National Gathering. The resources, energy, team members and connections with other denominations sharing in the FX way of being are critical to long-term success.
What hopes do you have for the growth of your organization, and where do you see FX fitting into that?
At the 2018 Wyoming Diocesan Convention, a resolution was proposed by the Pioneer Scouts and adopted by the Convention calling for the creation of 48 Fresh Expressions of Faith in the next 10 years – one for every traditional homestead church in the diocese. We are very pleased with the progress made as the Holy Spirit is breathing life into, at last count, at least 30 listed groups in the homestead churches of Wyoming for fresh expressions. Some are in place, others are in the works, many more are currently dreams of an individual or group.
The events and resources provided by FX are critical to our success. Whether Vision Day, Learning Community, Roundtable, blog or digital book, we find the FX resources and staff to be high-caliber, Christ-centered and extremely helpful in achieving our vision.
Do you have any Fresh Expressions now, or others you’d like to develop soon?
There are at least 14 fresh expressions that are calling themselves Fresh Expressions in the Diocese of Wyoming. Some meet regularly, some have met a few times, but they are all intentionally gathering within the framework of a fresh expression. Using the Fresh Expressions stages of Listen, Love & Serve, Build Community, Explore Discipleship, Church Taking Shape, we are categorizing where the groups are now.
- A sampling of active Fresh Expressions around the Diocese:
- Babies and Me – Cheyenne St. Mark’s
- Coffee Shop – Our Saviors Hartville
- Crafts and Laughs – All Saints’ Torrington
- Friday Night Livelies – Trinity Lander
- Hardly Just a Coffee House – St. Barnabas’ Saratoga
- Singles Eating Together – St. Barnabas’ Saratoga, Holy Trinity Gillette and Good Shepherd Sundance
- Mindfulness4Mamas – St. John’s Jackson
- Wine Wednesdays – Christ Church Glenrock
- Spirit Yoga – Christ Church Douglas
- Women in Prison – St. Matthew’s Laramie
- J Crew – Cheyenne
- The Table – Casper
What resources have you found helpful?
Travis Collins “From the Steeple to the Streets” book and the small primer – “Fresh Expressions of Church” book by the same author are “required reading” for all of our churches and potential pioneers. We learned so much from the Vision Day and materials provided there, the Learning Community material presented by Shannon Kiser was tremendous and many of the website resources are used by all of us. We access similar materials directly from the mother ship in Fresh Expressions UK.
What would you say to other leaders considering partnering with FX?
The benefits of partnership encourage seamless collaboration, expertise, access to materials and events and other resources. Fresh Expressions is now part of the very fabric of the Diocese of Wyoming and partnership with FX will help us continue to grow and thrive.