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Research body to map new expressions of "church"

NCLS Research - the National Church Life Survey, whose sponsors include the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference - is about to launch the exploratory phase of a new project that hopes to describe fresh expressions of the meaning of 'church' in the lives of Australians.

A statement from NCLS Research says that when Triple J, the ABC youth radio station, uses 'emerging church' as their Buzzword of the Week, "it is time for church researchers to get to work".

"We are seeking all new ventures and hope that they make themselves known to us," says Dr Ruth Powell, NCLS researcher.

Talk of fresh expressions of church or the 'emerging church' has become more prevalent over the last decade.

"It is a priority for NCLS to attend to fresh expressions of church. In this new project we hope to create an exploratory map, share stories of experiments and new life, as well as, perhaps, providing a point of contact that encourages mutual support," said Dr Powell (pictured).

Researchers face the challenge that fresh expressions of church often resist definition and tend to be 'below the radar'.

"In this initial stage, we plan to throw the net as wide as possible," said Dr Powell. A 'new venture' is defined as any Christian initiative (such as worship service, gathering, mission activity, network etc) that commenced since 1991 ie currently less than 15 years old.

"We are also interested in ventures that no longer exist, as they will help provide clues about sustainability", added Dr Powell.

The exploratory phase of the project commences in April 2005. It will continue alongside the 2006 National Church Life Survey, however the team will also need to use a range of different methods to gather both data and stories for this project.

In the future, the project will aim to explore questions of health and vitality. What is required for a new initiative to be effective and sustainable?

NCLS Seeks All Things New: new project maps fresh expressions of church (National Church Life Survey 24/3/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
NCLS Research

Bishops reaffirm support for National Church Life Survey (CathNews 28/2/05)
Survey body pinpoints link between mission activities and more newcomers (CathNews 1/11/04)
NCLS to probe 'I'm spiritual not religious' sentiment (CathNews 10/2/04)
Jesus Christ "better known as a profanity than a deity" (CathNews 10/11/03)
Important book on church attendance wins recognition (CathNews 15/10/03)
Adelaide Vicar-General says Church must seek opinion of faithful (CathNews 20/5/02)

29 Mar 2005