Skip links

Fresh Expressions Conference 2024: Igniting Sparks of Transformation in Methodism 

The recent Fresh Expressions gathering was more than just a conference; it was a rallying cry for change, a call to reignite the passion of Methodism in the 21st century. Rev. Ken Suhr and eight others from the California-Pacific Annual Conference attended in person and online, and they are excited to support the growth of Fresh Expressions in our region. 

Held against the backdrop of contemporary challenges and the evolving landscape of spirituality, conference attendees learned about building communities rooted in practice and inclusivity, and rethinking what it means to be a church.  

Throughout the event, hosted from February 7 through 9, a recurring theme emerged: dream big while starting small. Attendees were reminded of the transformative power of compassion, echoing the ethos of Methodism’s inception, which was fueled by a commitment to God’s grace. 

Dr. Laceye Warner underscored the missional essence of Methodism, saying “Methodism was not born from doctrinal disputes, but from a missional impulse motivated simply and fully by God’s grace.” Participants were challenged to reclaim the fullness of this grace, embodying the principles of prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace in their interactions with others. 

Speakers urged participants to prioritize belonging over adherence to tradition, emphasizing the pressing issue of loneliness in contemporary society. They challenged conventional systems and structures that perpetuate power imbalances, advocating for a radical reimagining of the church as a space of empowerment for marginalized voices. 

“We need to go outside of our norms, whatever is our normal routines and ways, to reach those who need the love, help, and hope of Jesus,” remarked Robert G. Johnson, encapsulating the spirit of innovation and outreach that permeated the conference. 

Rev. Suhr, Director of Leadership and Congregational Vitality for the California-Pacific Annual Conference, attended the event in person and shared “as John Wesley and early Methodists pursued the whole Gospel (focusing on both personal and social holiness), and as John Wesley was moved by the compassion of God to go make himself ‘vile’ by sharing the love of Christ in word and deed in ‘unholy’ places, the Fresh Expressions movement is moving out of the walls of the church and bringing healing and hope to individuals and communities.”  

In a poignant analogy, Bishop Tom Berlin likened the current state of the church to citrus greening, a disease that leaves fruit bitter and unripe. Urging attendees to embrace discomfort as a catalyst for growth, he called for a willingness to try unconventional methods in the pursuit of renewal. 

Amidst the reflections and calls to action, personal commitments and ideas flourished. Attendees pledged to engage in prayerful discernment with their communities, step out of their comfort zones, and spearhead fresh expressions of faith in their respective contexts. 

Those at the gathering departed with a renewed sense of purpose and determination to carry forward the sparks of renewal that started during their time together. With eyes set on the horizon, they embraced the challenge of reimagining Methodism for a new era, one defined by compassion, inclusivity, and unwavering commitment to God’s grace. 

If you are interested in learning more about Fresh Expressions or are interested in starting one in your community, contact Rev. Ken Suhr,