Thursday, April 17, 2014

why God matters Easter camp

I’m off to Robe for Easter weekend, to speak at an Easter youth camp. I work with adults most of the time, so I’ve particularly enjoyed the invitation, over the last few weeks to be thinking about Why God Matters at Easter from a youth perspective.

After much toing and froing, I’m using the events of Easter as a frame -

  • Why God matters Easter Thursday?
  • Why God matters Easter Friday?
  • Why God matters Easter Sunday?
  • Why God matters Easter Monday?

It will enable me to pick up different dimensions of God – in suffering, in love, in life, in mission. I will be using a range of pop culture resources, including REM, Massive Attack and the movie Vantage Point. I’ll also be using some tactile engagement. We’re going to make our own cups of suffering. Plus I’ve got my colouring Holy Week creative project I’ve been working on all week to show them.

I’m excited and nervous. In the move from Pastor to Principal, I’ve really missed talking about Jesus at Easter and I’ve loved going back through my archives, thinking about what might connect in this context. Equally, I have a fairly demanding job, so my body would love a break. Will that happen on Easter Camp at Robe I wonder? Finally, am I too old and old-fashioned to connect with young people?

Time well tell :)

Posted by steve at 12:42 PM | Comments (2)

Monday, April 14, 2014

colouring Holy Week

This week I’m colouring Holy Week. I’ve found a bit of board in the garage, which I’ve cut and prepared with a gesso wash.

And then I painted blocks of colour, adding layers to deepen intensity.

Then I applied gold leaf, in celebration of resurrection life.

These colours are not necessarily traditional church colours. But they help me, and perhaps others with visual learning preferences, step through the events of this week. I’m doing this for myself. I’m also doing this to help me prepare for Easter Camp in Robe, at which I’m speaking to young people from the rural South East of South Australia.

The colours of Holy Week make sense for me as follows:

Green on Palm Sunday, to remember those who waved palms and celebrated Jesus entering a city. Red on Monday, because on Monday (in Mark’s gospel), Jesus got angry, red-faced, and trashed the money changers in the temple. Brown on Tuesday, to recall Jesus words that unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it can not produce many seeds. Lavender on Wednesday, to remember perfume, and the extravagant, expensive love of an unnamed woman, who poured what was possibly her family hierloom onto Jesus head. Blue on Thursday, to express the feelings of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, a soul deeply distressed, troubled, overwhelmed. Black on Friday, for on this day God died. Grey on Saturday, for on this day all of creation mourned. Gold leaf, etched with rainbow colours on the Sunday, for on this day life to the full in the here and now was re-defined.

As a result, on Monday, I have cut two pathways of response into my board, for on Monday, the events of this week leave us with some choices. How then will we live, in light of the events of this week.

Posted by steve at 01:10 PM | Comments (2)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sketches from a Nameless land

Shaun Tan’s Sketches from a Nameless Land: The Art of the Arrival arrived today. (I’ve blogged previously about Shaun Tan – about the richness of seeing The Arrival performed as music, about the missiology of hospitality I see in Eric (which I’ve used often in groups reflecting on mission).)

As with all Shaun Tan products, Sketches from a Nameless Land: The Art of the Arrival is beautiful – hard cover, great attention to detail. Shaun is a cartoonist and Sketches from a Nameless Land: The Art of the Arrival explores his craft – his inspiration, his sketches, the processes by which his amazing The Arrival was made.

I’m nevertheless fascinated by the sketchbooks of other artists. I love seeing the origins of ideas, the connections with real-life experiences, the myriad choices and problems – and the reminder of what attracts us to art and fiction in the first place, its ‘made-ness.’

I often talk in lectures about “showing your working” and I love trying to work out how others in my field – missiology and pop culture – originate ideas, connect with life and unpack their work. So it’s great to now be able to do that with Sketches from a Nameless Land: The Art of the Arrival. I love the creativity, the depth of reflection, the whisper of imagination.

Posted by steve at 12:22 AM | Comments (2)

Monday, April 07, 2014

Calabashes, Wild Ox, U2, Virgins and Trauma

Flinders University produces a glossy publication to highlight research outputs within Humanities Faculty. It is produced by the Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities, which unites humanities-based researchers engaged in creative and reflective investigations of culture and thought. The Department of Theology (which is Uniting College) has a one page write up in their latest publication, under the title “Calabashes, Wild Ox, U2, Virgins and Trauma.”

These words don’t usually occur together and make little sense when grouped. But as an overview of research within the Department of Theology in 2013, they are a great indication of the breadth of our focus and interests … Research in Theology is diverse and wide-ranging.

Posted by steve at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 06, 2014

learning leadership from my garden

Last night we ate ratatouille. The onions were sweated over a low heat for 45 minutes. The herbs were added, including basil, garlic and Italian parsley all fresh from the garden. Over time, the vegetables, pepper, eggplant, courgette, tomato were added. Finally, cheese and bread crumbs mixed together.

The eggplant was grown from seed (heirloom from Diggers Club) in the garden and in the growing, I’ve been challenged about leadership. I planted the seeds back in October and to be honest, they struggled. Only a few germinated. Those that did grew very, very slowly. It was a constant battle to protect them from snails. They were rapidly overtaken by broccoli. When we left for holiday in mid-December, only two plants remained, about 2 cm high.

When I returned to work, two plants remained, but still only 2 cm high. To be honest, I was pretty disappointed. One month and no sign of progress. However, at least they were alive. Much else in the garden, ravaged by a run of 42 degree days, had wilted.

I removed what was large and competing (the broccoli) and began to water. Slowly the two eggplants grew. First flowers appeared.

Now, the fruit hangs heavy and black, a gorgeous sheen amid the green. The first fruits were delicious last night and we face the prospect of more ratatouille, along with eggplant dips, in the weeks ahead.

I’ve reflected on leadership as I’ve tended to these eggplants over the summer. It would’ve been easy to buy seedlings, but there is something deeply satisfying about planting from seed. It would’ve been easy to give up in the face of little growth, but I’ve realised the value of patience and persistence. As I’ve watered, I’ve pondered those with whom I’m relationally connected. I’ve wondered what it will mean for them to keep growing, and how I might participate in that. This has begun prayer and introspection.

I’ve needed to remove the broccoli. That was really difficult. It was large and impressive. But it was actually harming the growth of another. I’ve begun to inspect my own life, wondering what habits and attitudes are in fact choking the life of something else. I’ve begun to realise that the loss of a key person, a key leader, as essential part of the team, might in fact be an opportunity for another person to begin to fruit – differently, uniquely. Which has provided a different perspective on the current movement within the team at Uniting College.

Last week I spoke on theological education in leadership formation. It was an academic paper, that drew forth a range of academic challenges.

Perhaps I should have just told them about my eggplant. That theological education in leadership formation means planting, watering, removing, enjoying. That it also means

  • tending to God’s 3 gardens – through Creation in Eden, by Resurrection at the empty tomb, by Eschatology in Revelation 21
  • the spirituality of composting (here)
  • the spirituality of gardening (here and here)
  • the ecclesiology of garden church -  (here and practically here)
  • about an outdoor faith indoors (here)
  • a funny story that emerged because we as a church gave out vege plants at our annual Spring Clean community contact day
  • the ethics of gardening leadership ie about why I’m a vegetarian (here) and how  little actually land you need to feed a family of 3 (here)

And as I spoke, I could have passed around some home made eggplant dip.

Posted by steve at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

a yarn in the making

This is a most fascinating invitation, noticed in our local bookshop. Pre-loved jerseys are wanted – to document, disassemble and remodel. The expectation is that each has a story. So a mix of craft and story.

It made me dream of being part of a faith community like this – a place in which stories of what is precious is told, in which acts of telling and acts of creating are valued, in which the future is shaped from what is offered, to enter into a church, and church year, which was a “yarn” in the making.

It also reminded me of John Drane’s metaphor for the church, in his wonderful chapter, “Looking for Maturity in the emerging church,” in Mission-shaped Questions: Defining Issues for Today’s Church (Explorations)

The image of weaving the cloth is a powerful metaphor for today’s church. So much of what we have inherited is like a comfortable sweater that is now unraveling around the edges. We can do one of two things with that sort of sweater: either we patch it up, to try and make it last a bit longer, or we pull at the loose ends to see what happens, with a view to taking the wool, washing it, and knitting it into a garment that will be fit for a new generation. No-one could possibly deny that the unraveling is happening. It is the creative spirits of the emerging church who are acting with missional intentionality to imagine, and then to create, unfamiliar shapes and patterns of faithful discipleship that are both old and new (Matthew 13: 52).

Posted by steve at 06:17 PM | Comments (5)

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

resourcing Lent

I was asked to lead devotions for a group yesterday. Being Lent, I took 3 images from the week that was in Si Smith’s wonderful 40 series and printed them on paper.

I provided a brief introduction, of the author, of the imaginative exercise of wondering what Jesus might have done for 40 days in the wilderness and how these were resourcing my life this Lent. I then invited the group in pairs, to take an image each.

What strikes you? What Biblical passages come to mind as you look at each picture?

Share with the wider group?

If these pictures were prayer, what would it be? We’re busy people, so please keep it simple. Either thanks for … or please…

The interaction was rich, the insights important, the prayer apt, heartfelt and richly participative.

Posted by steve at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Together toward life: when The Shaping of Things to Come is much more bleak

The Australian Association of Mission Studies tri-annual conference is in Adelaide in October 2014. With Anthony Gittens the guest speaker, it promises to be a rich mission feast. The theme is Margins, Mission and Diversity and the conference will also acknowledge the tragic death of Ross Langmead.

Here is my proposed paper in which I try to connect the conference theme with my research on sustainability and fresh expressions:

Together toward life: when The Shaping of Things to Come is much more bleak.

The 2013 Commission on World Mission and Evangelism statement on mission encourages the local church in Spirited experimentation, (Local Congregations: New Initiatives). This could be argued to be a discernment of the Spirit’s activity on the margins of the church, for the sake of the world.

Such a (marginal) call is not new to Australia. The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church (2003, first edition) is considered a seminal Australian text in missiology. In chapter two, titled “Hope of Post-Christendom”, Frost and Hirsch present six stories of new initiatives in mission.

Investigation ten years reveals that three of these “hopes” are now closed (two incurring significant financial loss, a third misrepresented).

Such levels of failure in experimentation are consistent with data emerging from New Zealand and United Kingdom. Of the five communities described in Threshold of the Future: Reforming the Church in the Post-Christian West (Gospel and Cultures) (1998) none now survive. In the United Kingdom, of twelve communities researched by the author in 2001, only five now survive.

If new forms of church are the shaping of things to come, how might we respond missiologically to such data? Three responses will be explored. First, Biblically, in the mission of Epaphroditus in the letter to Philippians. Second, historically, how The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died understands the rise and fall of Christianity. Third, theologically, how a hermeneutic of surprise, emerging from Romans 8:15 (The Message) and the Pixar movie Up, values adventure over sustainability.

Posted by steve at 08:14 PM | Comments (14)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Beyond Education: Exploring a Theology of the Church’s Theological Formation

I’m in Melbourne today and tomorrow as part of Beyond Education: Exploring a Theology of the Church’s Theological Formation, sponsored by the Uniting Church’s Centre for Theology and Ministry and the University of Divinity. The aim is to try and construct a theology of theological education. On Saturday I’m presenting a paper: Theological education in leadership formation (abstract here)

That has been the focus for much of my week. As part of my research, I compared our current 2014 Bachelor of Ministry degree, with our 2009 Bachelor of Ministry degree. Their have been significant changes, as this table shows

In other words, in 2009, we changed our name, from Parkin Wesley College to Uniting College for Leadership and Theology. Sometimes changes in name are simply cosmetic, a rebranding in which the ingredients remain the same. Looking at the Bachelor of Ministry, we see significant change, including

  • A new stream structure that has brought to the fore leadership and formation.
  • More options through specialisations.
  • Space created for formation (4 new topics in SFE and Integration) through the change of 7 topics (in theology, Bible and Pastoral care) from compulsory to optional
  • New topics written especially in leadership and Discipleship and Christian Education
  • Opportunity for “have a go” innovation through BMin practice, with increased SFE and the use of context as primary.

In the second half of my paper I will then ask whether these changes suggest it is either theological education
or
leadership formation. Or using the work of cultural theorist Mieke Bal (Anti-Covenant) and theologian Graham Ward (Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice), this allows theological education in leadership formation.

Posted by steve at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dispersed Lent Journal Project 2014 at distance

One of the dispersed Lent Journals 2014 returned today. It has been travelling by post, moving around rural South Australia, among our distance students. It was a great joy to see it return, complete with post paid bag as students decided to pay themselves rather than let College pay.

The story behind the Dispersed Lent Journal Project 2014 is that we at 34 Brooklyn Park are a dispersed community – students, staff, teachers; post-graduates, under-graduates; studying for audit and for credit; face to face and distance.

At the start of Lent, four journals were released into the community – in lectures, in library, in student common room. Folk are invited to journal what Lent means to them, and pass it onto another in the community. (Full description here). We wanted a way to connect our dispersed, mobile community.

Distance students were keen to participate and here is one now returning after being posted around South Australia. Which means it is now able to be handed onto another student. Connections are being created among the dispersed, spirituality nurtured and nourished among those who gather and scatter.

Posted by steve at 08:44 PM | Comments (2)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

the suspense of tomorrow: “Something was here but it got deleted”

As you can see from my diary, I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. “Something was here but it got deleted” is my first appointment for the day. I have no idea what it is. I have no recollection of what was “here” before it got deleted. Nor do my hardworking on conscientious administrative team. It’s a mystery.

I’m ready.

I’m waiting.

I’m wondering.

We’ve checked with various people.

If anything or anyone appears, I’ll let you know … tomorrow

Posted by steve at 10:01 PM | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

we’re hiring: Business manager

With the retirement of Peter Gunn, our Educational Resources Manager, we at Uniting College are looking for a Business Manager (full-time, permanent). This is a vital role in helping us manage forward the many changes we are making and undergoing. So if you know someone with exceptional business and financial management skills, a strong commitment to the vision of Uniting College and an ability to be an integral part of a committed team offering relational and efficient service in a tertiary education environment, then please let them know …

Description:

Uniting College exists to develop life-long disciples and effective leaders for a healthy, missional church, who are passionate, Christ-centred, highly skilled and mission-orientated practitioners. We offer a range of ways to learn and grow as a person and as a leader: through accredited course providers’ Adelaide College of Divinity and Flinders University and also through non-accredited courses for the Uniting Church.

If you consider you have exceptional business and financial management skills, coupled with a strong commitment to supporting the fulfilment of the purposes of the Uniting College, then this could be the position for you. This position is an integral part of a committed team offering relational and efficient service in a tertiary education environment.

The Business Manager will work closely with the Uniting College faculty and staff, Executive Officer and staff of Adelaide College of Divinity, and the Finance Management team at the Uniting Church SA Synod Office. This diverse and challenging position will be responsible for strategic business planning and innovation of the Uniting College and for building collaborative business relationships with other education providers.

The successful applicant will need to have demonstrated experience in the management of staff. Overseeing and leading the transition of the development of systems, processes and resources to support faculty in the delivery of courses, is crucial to the success of this position.

A degree qualification in Business, Accounting or other related discipline, together with a commitment and participation within a Christian congregation or faith community, are essential criteria.

A Position Description / Person Specification is available here or by contacting the Human Resources department on 8236 4234 or 8236 4278.

Please forward applications addressing the selection criteria of the Position Description / Person Specification to humanresources at sa dot uca dot org dot au by no later than 4pm Monday April 7, 2014.

Posted by steve at 01:15 PM | Comments (0)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Please, tend the green zones

I was asked to be the opening, after dinner speaker at the National Presbytery Ministers conference here in South Australia. With folk arriving from all over the country, tired, carrying heavy workloads, it was a difficult assignment. I decided to offer two stories.

My first story was my experience of an Adelaide Fringe Festival show, Henry Lawson goes to Princeton. I built on my blog review and after further conversation with the artist – Ian Coats, suggested that the show was a God at the fringe moment, a rich example 21st century mission – how will we live, told contextually, told publicly, with an invitation to consider God.

I also told a 2nd story. Since Presbytery ministers have significant church leadership responsibility, I told them about my research into Rowan Williams and how he provided leadership, first as Bishop, second as Archbishop, in Fresh Expressions. Based on my research (hauling out a draft chapter from the book project), I suggested that Rowan had

  • a clear theology – grounded in the life of the church;
  • intentional practices – to spend time on the fringe
  • a change strategy – tell stories of how the green zone changes him.

In between I offered Al Roxburgh lifecycles of an organisation as a frame by which to reflect on the two stories.

The Three Zone Model … visualizes the organizational cultures congregations and denominations form at various periods in their lives. It represents a dynamic of continuous change in organizational culture relative to the external environment. Church systems living in the discontinuous change now characterize Western societies will be continually shifting through these zones

After two stories and one frame, I made one request: Please, as leaders, tend the green zones.

So much of the life in Uniting Church congregations is red. So much of our Synod whole church life is blue. Please don’t get stuck there. Please go looking for the green. Please bring those stories, in my case Henry Lawson at the Adelaide Fringe, into conversation with the centre.

Posted by steve at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Emigration to New Zealand

The Emigration to New Zealand – A poem by Henry Lawson (1893)

I’ve just received a letter from a chum in Maoriland,
He’s working down in Auckland where he days he’s doing grand,
The climate’s cooler there, but hearts are warmer, says my chum,
He sends the passage money, and he says I’d better come.
(I’d like to see his face again, I’d like to grip his hand),
He says he’s sure that I’ll get on first-rate in Maoriland.

An’ tho’ he makes the best of things (it always was his style),
You mostly get on better in a new land for a while,
An’ when I see the fading line of my own native shore,
I’ll let it fade, and never want to see it anymore.
I’m tire of Sydney pavements, and the Western scrub and sand,
I’d rather fight my troubles for a change in Maoriland.

I’m off to make inquiries as to when the next boat sails,
I’m sick of all these colonies, but most of New South Wales,
An’ if you meet a friend of mine who wants to find my track,
Say you, “He’s gone to Maoriland, and isn’t coming back”.
An’ should it be the landlord or the rates, you understand,
Just say you’ll find him somewhere knocking round in Maoriland.

Posted by steve at 02:43 PM | Comments (1)