Urban Expression, a church-planting initiative strongly influenced by Anabaptism and radical Christianity, is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this weekend (17 and 18 November 2012).
Begun in 1997 when Jim and Juliet Kilpin, with the support of Stuart Murray Williams, first moved into East London, Urban Expression has since recruited, equipped, deployed and networked several church-planting teams across the UK - notably in in London, Manchester, the Midlands and Glasgow.
In Glasgow, Neil Pratt has just been hired as a part time development worker to recruit more teams for the city.
Urban Expression has been described as promoting "experiments in Jesus-shaped living" in inner cities and estates. Though it has a strong value base, it seeks to work collaboratively rather than competitively with others, and has developed an ethical approach to church-planting which contrasts with what many see as 'church poaching' by some evangelical groups.
The development of primary church movements in Britain is reflective of the changing place, status and location of Christianity in these islands, and notably the shift towards post-Christendom.
Stuart Murray Williams has written: “Post-Christendom is the culture that emerges as the Christian faith loses coherence within a society that has been definitively shaped by the Christian story and as the institutions that have been developed to express Christian convictions decline in influence.” (Post-Christendom, Paternoster Press, 2004).
Urban Expression's commitments and values are oriented around the the practical idea of "following God on the margins and in the gaps, expecting to discover God at work among powerless people and in places of weakness."
Church life in many inner city communities is weak, says UE:
* Because the social and spiritual needs in the inner city are enormous
* Because the inner city is changing and many churches struggle to adapt
* Because Christians have steadily moved to the suburbs and continue to do so
* Because inappropriate models of church planting are sometimes used in the inner city.
Along with Ekklesia and other groups, Urban Expression is part of the Network of Anabaptist Organisations (formerly 'Root and Branch'), which have grown through friendship and recognition of shared values and concerns expressed through the Core Convictions of the Anabaptist Network.
Ekklesia (which itself is ten years old this year) is happy to send warm greetings to our Urban Expression friends on the occasion of their fifteenth birthday.
* More on Urban Expression: http://www.urbanexpression.org.uk/ 
* UE training and events: http://www.urbanexpression.org.uk/training 
* Follow UE on Twitter: @urbanshalom
* Core Convictions of the Anabaptist Network: http://www.anabaptistnetwork.com/coreconvictions 
* Ekklesia's ANO partners: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/links/partners.shtml 
© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia. He was formerly global mission secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.