Saturday, November 05, 2022

innovation capture – a 2022 AngelWings Ltd international collaboration

A new AngelWings Ltd research project, and so a new journal – green, A4, lined. This research project, which I’m calling “Innovation capture,” is for the Diocese of Brisbane (Anglican) and with Complexability Australia. It’s a mini project, initially likely to be between 2 and 6 days. As with much of my work, it will be done remotely, from Ōtepoti (Dunedin).

The task of “Innovation capture” is to collect grassroots innovation case studies. This involves interviewing local parishes who participated through 2021 in a Diocese initiated Adapting Ministry in Complex times course. My task is to listen to their stories of action and change and then write up stories as learning case studies, with links to course content. The aim is to encourage and teach through storytelling.

It’s a project I committed to back in February 2022 but have been unable to get to, due to a range of other research contracts. So it was a relief to finally open a new journal and begin – conducting a 90-minute conversation and then drafting up a 1,000-word case study. This included discussion questions, along with links from the local story to various themes in the course content.

This is the fourth AngelWings Ltd small research project for 2022, alongside an evaluation of a student ministry in New Zealand, an evaluation of a community chaplaincy for a group in Australia and an educative course design weaving emergence and complexity theory with theology.

Posted by steve at 01:07 PM

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Muru: a theological film review

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 165 plus films later, here is the review for October 2022.

Muru
A film review by Dr Steve Taylor

Understanding the history of Aotearoa requires tracing a whakapapa, or lineage, of state violence. The invasion of Parikaha in 1881 and the shooting of two Māori at Maungapōhatu in 1915, continue to reverberate through our history.

In 2007, Police conducted dawn raids on private homes throughout New Zealand. Dressed in black, armed with machine guns and knives, Police smashed doors, windows and furniture. A school bus with three people on board was stopped and searched. The police press conference later that day used the language of ‘terror raids.’ While seventeen people were initially arrested, Solicitor General, Dr David Collins, refused to allow charges to be laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

In 2014, Police Commissioner Mike Bush apologised to the communities of Ruatoki and Taneatua. It was one attempt at muru, a Māori concept for reconciliation and forgiveness.

One of those arrested was Tama Iti. Interviewed at his art gallery on the main street of Taneatua ten years later, Iti spoke of the power of imagination. “We create [art] to keep communication open. Provoking thoughts and conversation is important.” (“Tuhoe community 10 years after the Urewera raids,” Stuff).

Muru is an imaginative rely to Iti’s gracious invitation to keep conversations open. Director Tearepa Kahi wanted to respond, rather than recreate, the terror raids of 2007. One way to provoke thought is to ask, “What if”?

What if people are angry and alienated? In the forests of Te Urewera, Tama Iti runs Camp Rama (fire light), teaching survival skills and preserving Tūhoe identity. Around a campfire, one man’s joke about a politician becomes a credible threat in the eyes of an eves-dropping Special Tactics Group (STG) surveillance team.

What if a drunk young man smashes mainstreet windows? Local Police officer ‘Taffy’ Tawharau (Cliff Curtis) guides a drunk Rusty (Poroaki Merritt-McDonald) back to his bed. The following day, a regretful Rusty sets off with his broom to make muru. In the eyes of another, one man’s broom handle becomes a long-handled weapon.

What if Police misused their powers? An armed STG officer (Manu Bennet as Kimiora) takes aim at a running Rusty and his bobbling broom. Shots kill a chasing Police officer and injure Rusty. With the operation spiralling out of control, STG are ordered to clean up their mess. Kimiora, armed with a high powered assault rifle, takes the law into his already blood-stained hands.

What if reconciliation could give history a new heart? In Te Hāhi Mihinare, Rev Dr Hirini Kaa begins with a Māori phrase, he ngākau hou (a new heart). For Kaa, when the gospel comes to Ngāti Porou through Piripi Taumata-a-kura, it reveals processes of debate and change. Tribes think creatively in the light of entirely new understandings they have derived from theological sources. Central to the Gospel is the sacrament of reconciliation. We often apply the gospel as individual acts of confession and reconciliation. Dr Kaa applies it communally. What might it take to reveal he ngākau hou (a new heart) amongst all who experience Aotearoa’s whakapapa of state violence? Such is the “what if” muru questions provoked by Muru.

Posted by steve at 08:27 PM

Monday, October 10, 2022

Article acceptance – Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy journal

Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy Stoked to get news this morning of the acceptance of a journal article in the academic journal Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy.

The article is titled “Lighthouse as a transdisciplinary boundary-crossing learning innovation in Christian communities” and is co-authored with Prof Christine Woods (University of Auckland) and Mark Johnston (now University of Glasgow). Together we reflect on the Lighthouse, a social innovation incubator weekend, funded by the Presbyterian Development Society, that we developed and ran for three years for the Presbyterian Church.

Social innovation in Christian contexts is greeted with suspicion by some theologians, as is talking about the apostle Paul in some business and entrepreneurship settings. So as well as running the Lighthouse, we set ourselves the task of writing for both audiences.

It was great to be published theologically last year in the International Journal of Public Theology (“Jesus as a socially (ir)responsible innovator: seeking the common good in a dialogue between wisdom Christologies and social entrepreneurship,” International Journal of Public Theology 15 (1), (2021), 119–143). (Some of story is here) ).

We then wrote for an entrepreneurship setting through the back half of 2021, reflecting on the Lighthouse as an educational innovation using two educative theories, boundary crossing and collaborative spirals. The invitation to revise and resubmit occupied late May/early June 2022. And now news of publication!

Thanks Presbyterian Development Society for believing in our funding bid :). Thanks Reviewer 2: “I thoroughly enjoyed reading this paper, it is a well-crafted and thoughtful paper that offers interesting insights and tools.”

Posted by steve at 09:22 AM

Monday, September 26, 2022

Published – Theologies of Fulfillment in a Reciprocal Study – International Bulletin of Mission Research

My latest journal article is now online – “Theologies of Fulfillment in a Reciprocal Study of Relationships between John Laughton and Rua Kēnana in Aotearoa New Zealand,” International Bulletin of Mission Research here.

Short abstract: Crossing the borders of religion presents challenges and provides opportunities. This article presents a contextualized case study from Aotearoa New Zealand. Photography, as a tool in discerning lived theologies, suggests a side-by-side relationship of reciprocity and particularity. Relationships across differences are revealed not in theory but in lived practices of education, worship, life and death. The argument is that Rua Kēnana and John Laughton enacted theologies of fulfillment, grounded in different epistemologies: mātauranga Māori and Enlightenment thinking.

I’m grateful for the writings of Dr Hirini Kaa and Archbishop Don Tamihere as invaluable resources in reflecting on mātauranga Māori and the life of te hāhi mihinare. I’m also grateful for the wisdom of Dr Wayne Te Kaawa in the writing and the resource and permissions of National Library of New Zealand.

Posted by steve at 12:22 PM

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Quiet Girl: A theological film review

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 165 plus films later, here is the review for September 2022.

The Quiet Girl
A film review by Dr Steve Taylor

“The Quiet Girl” rewards, but requires considerable patience. Cait (Catherine Clinch), a lonely child from a low-income family, is farmed out to distant relatives. In the hands of Eibhlin Cinnsealach (Carrie Crowley) and Sean Cinnsealach (Andrew Bennett), through simple acts of fingernails being scrubbed, hair brushed, and money offered as a treat, we witness Cait begin to flourish.

The movie (“An Cailín Ciúin” in the Irish) is based on Foster, Claire Keegan’s 2010 novella. In 2022 “The Quiet Girl” gained eight Irish Film and Television Academy awards, including best Irish film. Despite these accolades, the movie requires persistence. Time is slowed by sounds– the cuckoo’s call, the clock’s tick, the cry of a baby. Set in Ireland, with much of the dialogue in Irish, the occasional subtitle is lost.

First-time director Colm Bairéad works hard. The camera work is superb, capturing the summer splendour of rural Ireland. The plot is skilfully strengthened through delightful parallelism. Rhubarb appears twice, puncturing domestic tensions with garden humour. Runs recur, initially away from school, then timed toward letterboxes and back, finally toward embrace.

The acting is superb, particularly Catherine Clinch as the quiet Cait. Her vulnerability and growing joy as she finds the freedom to play are a delightful reminder of the transforming power of love. There are equally strong performances from Carrie Crowley as Eibhlin Cinnsealach and Andrew Bennett as Sean Cinnsealach. While Cait is the quiet girl, Sean names the wisdom of silence. In the face of a neighbour’s probing and destructive questions, he offers insight. “You can be quiet.” Sean’s sage advice provides needed wisdom as Cait returns to her family.

A movie set in Ireland tends to offer plenty for the theologically imaginative. “The Quiet Girl” is no exception, with religion evident in the rosaries held in dead hands and the priests who request their communities to pray for rain.

Light also does theological work in “The Quiet Girl”. The reflection of light and forest as water is scooped from the well evokes the wisdom of thirteenth-century English mystic Julian of Norwich. In Revelations of Divine Love, Julian wrote of how all of creation is enclosed in every little thing. Whether a small hazelnut or, in the case of “The Quiet Girl”, a scoop of water, we witness visual evidence that God made it; God loves it; God keeps it.

Another way to work imaginatively with film is to bring gospel stories into dialogue with specific scenes. As Cait returns home, Athair Chait (Michael Patric) announces, “The prodigal has come back.” His use of Biblical language sets up the emotionally charged final scene, in which, like the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:20, the Quiet Girl is enveloped in the loving embrace of Sean Cinnsealach. Her one word, “Daddy,” is enough. A relationally impoverished childhood lost has been redeemed through persistent acts of care and attention. It is a rewarding and richly satisfying ending, a fitting reward for the patient viewer.

Posted by steve at 10:18 PM

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

“God in place” tins as Learn Local mission resourcing

It was great this week to kick off a new educational innovation: “God in place” tins.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been checking out opportunity shops. I’m looking for metal tins: square or round, long or thin. Inside each “God in place” tin, I place the following instructions:
• Walk your place each week (each place will vary from person to person).
• Collect signs and symbols that suggest God is in this place.
• Bring your tin to each gathering for show and tell.

“God in place” refers to Jacob’s encounter in Genesis 28:16. ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ The tins are an invitation to the spiritual discipline of discernment. What does it mean to follow Jacob and look for God in our local places, streets, and neighbourhoods?

“God in place” tins are a further creative development of Learn Local, a Synod-funded learning initiative that began in October 2021. With the uncertainties of COVID, I’ve paused Presbytery-wide gatherings. Instead, I’ve focused real local, working with Student Soul.

I met weekly with students on campus. Over four weeks, we bring what we’ve collected in our tins into conversation with Scripture. Not only Genesis 28:16 but also Jesus’ promise to Nathanael in John 1:51: “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” And the Emmaus Road encounter in Luke 24:31: “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.”

“God in place” tins are a way of paying attention to your local place. They invite us to catch up with what God is already doing in our place. The idea was sparked by Concentrates of place and several geography teachers.

I hope to post updates over the next few weeks as the first “God in place” pilot unfolds.

Posted by steve at 07:07 PM

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Whina: a theological film review

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 165 plus films later, here is the review for August 2022.

Whina
Reviewed by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Dame Whina Cooper towers over Aotearoa. Aged 80, she trod the 1,000 kilometres from Panguru, the land of her birth, to Parliament. Joined by 5,000 others, Te Matakite (the Māori Land March) gathered 60,000 signatures to a memorial of rights, asking the Crown to honour Te Tiriti and preserve Māori turangawaewae. Whina’s cry “not one more acre” inspired generations of Maori.

While the events of 1975 are a central and recurring theme, the movie brings all of Whina’s justice-making to life. Born the daughter of Heremia Te Wake (played by Wayne Hapi), the young Whina (played by Miriama McDowell) is arrested for passive resistance. Aged 19, she filled in drainage ditches to halt a Pākehā farmer draining her local mudflats. She works with Sir Apirana Ngata (Ngāti Porou) on land development schemes in the Hokianga, then the centenary celebrations of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. As the first President of the Māori Women’s Welfare League, Whina became a pan-tribal Māori leader, honoured as Te Whāea-o-te-motu (Mother of the Nation).

Like all mothers, Whina is far from perfect. Rena Owen, who played the older Whina says she struggled as she learnt some things about Cooper. The advice from directors Napier Robertson and Paula Whetu Jones was necessary: “Just remember Rena, you are portraying a very flawed person.”

Yet flaws can form. Acting Dame Whina also led Rena Owen back to Mass. “I went to confession … I prayed a lot during those seven months because it was so important to me to get it right” (CathNews, Monday, June 13, 2022). Such was the faith that shaped Whina as Te Whāea-o-te-motu.

While Whina is a profoundly Aotearoa story, it cleverly works with global dynamics. We see the fatal impact of global pandemics as Whina’s father dies from the Spanish flu in 1919. The impact of World War 2 on the young men of Panguru shapes Whina’s building of a meeting house.

A highlight of Whina is the immersion in Māoritanga. Much of the dialogue is in te reo, while the creative dynamism of matauranga Māori is clearly evident. Whina challenges patriarchy by building a meeting house, not a marae so that women can speak. Describing Te Matakite, Whina reframes the march. “Māori only march for war. We march to wake the conscience of the Pakeha.” This is a dynamic approach to culture, demonstrating agile and creative approaches to tradition in the seeking of justice.

As Te Matakite march gathers support, it inevitably attracts protest. The final steps toward Parliament include an attack by young and angry white men. Whina falls, a poignant witness to the frailty of this 80-year-old woman.

The fall also provides a striking witness to her faith. Whina remains Catholic, despite the cultural ignorance of the movie’s only prominent Pakeha character, Catholic Priest, Father Mulder (played by Erroll Shand). Three of the fourteen Stations of the Cross involve Jesus falling. These stations illuminate the cost of Jesus marching toward peace. As Whina falls, the crucifix around her neck twisted by the violence of the impact, Te Matakite becomes an indigenous expression of Christian pilgrimage.

Posted by steve at 03:42 PM

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Top Gun Maverick: a theological film review

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 165 plus films later, here is the review for July 2022.

Top Gun Maverick
Reviewed by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Time and tide wait for no man. Not even a fighter pilot catapulted off a naval aircraft carrier can outfly time’s inevitable creep. Top Gun Maverick offers a stunt-fueled ode to the inevitability of time and tide.

Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise as Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, was the highest-grossing film of 1986. Songs written for Top Gun, like Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” and Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone,” launched the movie’s soundtrack to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums.

Top Gun Maverick opens with the melodramatic sounds of the 1980s. “Danger Zone” blasts as the elite of the US Navy power off aircraft carriers and into action.

But we live in the 2020s, not the 1980s. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell – still a Lieutenant, still played by Tom Cruise,still a lone ranger – is facing extinction. Funding for Mitchell’s hypersonic “Darkstar” program is being redirected to drone programs. Drones, as Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain (Ed Harris) informs “Maverick,” do not need sleep or toilet stops.

Recalled to North Island, the largest aerospace-industrial complex in the US Navy, Maverick’s age awaits him. The presence of a new generation of Top Guns, quick with nicknames like “Pops,” suggest a disturbing ageism.

Amid the action scenes, Top Gun Maverick draws on the past to provide emotional depth. One of the Top Guns that Mitchell must train is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Mitchell’s best friend, killed in action during Top Gun. Former girlfriend Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), now a single mother, is a North Island bar owner. Former rival, now mentor, Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer), has been rendered speechless with throat cancer. No matter how many stunts we pull, mortality confronts us all.

While Top Gun Maverick works harder at emotions and character development than Top Gun, both movies sound an anthem in support of the American military machine. America’s Department of Defense has an Entertainment Media Office, which assists filmmakers in crafting military stories. Alongside props like fighter jets and aircraft carriers come script suggestions.

Critics call this the Military-Entertainment Complex. Following the release of Top Gun, Navy recruiters set up stands outside cinemas. Applications reportedly jumped 500 per cent as Top Gun recruited a new generation of wannabe Top Guns.

In 1990, Tom Cruise announced that Top Gun glorified war. A sequel, said Cruise, would be irresponsible. Yet time, tide and the persuasive pitch of Director Joseph Kosinski mean the wait for a sequel is no more.

Reportedly, the lure for Cruise was Kosinski’s suggestion of a reconciliation movie. Push aside the glorification of war, wade through the machismo, ignore the ageism, and Top Gun Maverick offers a reminder of the human need to face together our times and tides. As Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky whispers to Mitchell, the pilots “need you.” In time, every maverick needs to fly in formation.

Posted by steve at 09:10 AM

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Prayer in local place

I preach monthly at our local Presbyterian church. They are a small group and as a visiting preacher, I’ve wrestled with how to engage them in meaningful and contextual ways. How to enable their unique local voice to be expressed in gathered worship? This year I have turned part of the thanksgiving and confession time into a time called “Prayer in place.”

I provide a photo of a well-known local place – the school, the local garden, the town hall and local park. I do a bit of research prior and craft a draft prayer.

But before I pray, I show the photo and ask if there are memories and stories and experiences of this place. This generates a buzz of conversation and a lovely sense of interaction, as folk share with me – the visitor – some of their local knowledge. Community is encouraged. The sharing also gives me some local and communal texture. I can pray, weaving some of the phrases and memories that are shared into the prayer.

“Prayer in place” takes about 15 minutes. It is a relatively simple exercise yet it is proving to be a great way of generating sharing and locating the worship in the unique texture of this community.

Here is the prayer from Sunday, for the Lady Thorn Dell Garden, in Port Chalmers.

As we pray, we recall the words of Scripture, from Colossians 1:
The invitation for us to see God’s original purpose in everything created
And so today, we look at the Lady Thorn Dell Garden
We see your original purpose in creating gardens of beauty, places of peace, moments to walk and wonder and draw aside to hear your voice in the garden more clearly.

Gardening God,
We say thanks for the beauty of flowers and the gift of rhododendrons
The hope as we see the buds begin to thicken
Promise of spring and colour

As we say thanks for the creation we see,
We also say thanks for creation that we cannot see,
Microbes and the worms and the agents of compost at work in the Lady Thorn Dell Garden
The leaves that play their role in CO2 absorption
Every individual leaf playing their small tiny part

We say thanks for special places
For how they help change our view of the world, how they offer a sense of peace and give special memories – of picnics and weddings and Carol services and Garden parties

We say thanks for people from the past who provided the Lady Thorn Dell Gardens, those who quarried the stone that made so many of the buildings we now admire, Lady Thorn, a former Mayoress of Port Chalmers, who dreamt of turning the quarry into a garden, the hard work by the local Lions Club, cutting the paths and planting the rhododendrons.

And so we pray that you will help us live out the original purpose that you created us for
Whether it is large, like building a garden
Whether it is small – like a smile or a caring comment or an unseen prayer for our grand children or picking up some leftover rubbish – help us share in your message of love and compassion and care for creation, Amen

Posted by steve at 09:33 AM

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

publishing contract for Making matters and practical theology in researching mission online

Signing a publishing contract is always a great way to start the day.

This piece of writing began as a conference paper delivered at the 2019 Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference. In the audience was Mary Moschella, who is Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, at Yale Divinity School. At the time she was revising her book, Ethnography As A Pastoral Practice: An Introduction and emailed after the conference asking if I might consider writing up my research journey.

I had used Ethnography As A Pastoral Practice: An Introduction in some of my classes at Uniting College (a short blog review is here). The commitments to listening and living theologies made sense of how I approached leading change, especially during my time as Senior Pastor at Opawa Baptist. So I was delighted to rework the conference paper to make more visible my researching journey – my contribution titled “When Christmas Angels Tweet: Making matters and practical theology in researching mission online.” The revised edition of Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice is due out with Pilgrim Press in the US and SCM in the UK.

Posted by steve at 09:26 AM

Monday, June 27, 2022

writing – from beginning to end in 1 day

Today’s work covered the full span of the writing process, from beginning to ending.

At the beginning, I was providing peer review, asked to offer constructive feedback to an international press seeking blind peer review feedback on a proposed book.

In the middle, I did final edits and submitted major revisions of a journal article. Over the last few weeks, I have been working my way with colleague Dr Dustin Benac from Baylor University) through thousands of words of constructive blind peer review feedback. This is for an article presenting research into innovation and spiritual practices in NZ and United States during the pandemic.

Toward the end, I was responding to a sharp-eyed copy editor who has been polishing a chapter I wrote back in 2019 about how to research making as Christian witness. This is for a book by Mary Moschella from Yale University, a 2nd edition of her wonderful Ethnography as Pastoral Practice, that is about to be submitted for publication with 2 publishers in UK and USA.

Also toward the end, I chased up a page reference as part of checking final proofs for a journal article about to come out with International Bulletin of Mission Research.

Finally, receiving the 3 monthly statement for book sales on my The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change which is still selling the occasional copy 17 years after publication!

So there we are. From proposals to proofs to publishing! Five different parts of the writing process – all for international publications, all in the same day.

Posted by steve at 09:57 PM

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Duke film review: a secularised ubuntu theology

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 165 plus films later, here is the review for May 2022.

The Duke
Reviewed by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

The Duke is heartwarming drama. Set in Newcastle, Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent) writes plays, hoping for BBC fame. At the same time, he also protests TV licenses. For Kempton, television reduces isolation and should be free for pensioners. Shaped by socialist beliefs, Kempton is imprisoned for refusing to pay his TV license. Freed, he is outraged to hear that the British government is spending taxpayer dollars not for pensioner TV license relief but on purchasing a painting for the National Gallery.

The film is based on a true story. In 1961, Newcastle man Kempton Bunton was tried at the Old Bailey for the theft of the “Portrait of the Duke of Wellington.” It makes the central character a silent character. Hidden in the spare room wardrobe, the Duke of Wellington becomes a silent observer of Bunton family life.

Character contrasts drive the plot. Dorothy, married to Kempton, is superbly played by Helen Mirren. Her dogged determination is a splendid foil for Kempton’s mercurial wit and political passions. Trying to make their way in the world, brothers Jackie (Fionn Whitehead) and Kenny (Jack Bandeira) embrace different approaches to law-breaking and law-abiding.

Amid the family tensions and building courtroom drama, The Duke offers a poignant meditation on grief. Marion Bunton is another central yet silent character. Killed in a bicycle accident aged eighteen, Dorothy mourns in silence while Jim needs to talk.

These different expressions of grief clash with Dorothy’s anger at “The girl on the bicycle,” the title of one of Kempton’s plays. For Kempton, these plays are a way of talking, and for Dorothy, this is “Making money from her memory.”

This festering sore in their relationship finds resolution as Kempton waits in prison. As the jury deliberates on guilty or not, Helen reaches her own verdict over Marion’s death. “You’re not to blame,” she declares. Her words of forgiveness offer healing from the past, even as the jury applies law and logic to Kempton’s present. Taking time to talk brings needed release.

On the witness stand, Kempton describes what shapes his plays and politics. As light illuminates his head, he professes faith; “A faith in people, not in God.” Washed out to sea as a teenager, Kempton waited. Floating, he trusted a neighbour might see his abandoned clothes and have the courage to come looking. This faith in neighbour saved his life. Since then, professed Kempton, “me-with-you” has shaped his life.

Hence The Duke offers a secularised ubuntu theology. Ubuntu is a distinctly African way of being. People and groups form their identities in relation to one another. Desmond Tutu, a South African bishop and theologian, located these relationships in God. For Tutu, “me-with-you” and “I am because you are” are possible because all persons are made in the image of God. The result was a practical theology of healing, seen most clearly in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Tutu believed that a “me-with-you” talking in the community could meet the needs of the victims, offenders, and nation. Taking time to talk can bring release.

Posted by steve at 04:50 PM

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Ordinary knitters: theologies of making

From the ethics application:

I am researching whether Christians can witness through acts of making. Artist and theologian Makoto Fujimura argues that the theological journey includes seeing the importance of our creative intuition and trusting that the Spirit is already at work there. Such claims invite three research tasks. First, to capture the theological journeys present in creative intuition. Second, to discern the Spirit’s work in these journeys. Third, to develop a missiology of making.

To do this, I want to begin with knitters and how they might (or might not) see their making as a spiritual practise. Jeff Astley urges the study of ordinary theology, the need to value the everyday faith understandings of the whole people of God (Ordinary Theology, 2000). Applied to making, what theologies are being made by “ordinary knitters”? In the words of Fujimura, what role does creative intuition play in the theological journey? What are knitters thinking, praying even, as they cast on and off?

I want to interview knitters in several countries who have participated in knitting projects. Firstly, I also want to interview knitters of scarves for the Common Grace Knit For Climate Action in Australia. I hope to interview knitters either together or alone and explore why they participate and what meanings they make. Second, I want to interview knitters of Christmas Angels. These include groups in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Again, I hope to interview knitters either together or alone and explore why they participate and what meanings they make.

I will communicate to Christian organisations, for example Common Grace Knit For Climate Action and churches, that I am seeking participants. I will set up a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ordinaryknitters that has an advertisement along with details by which people can contact me. I will utilise a “snowballing” technique where participants could tell others about the project by referring them to the information about the project.

If you are aged over 18 years and have been involved in a knitting project (like Common Grace Knit For Climate Action or Christmas Angels or similar) and are willing to be interviewed about your experiences, we would love to hear from you.

Contact Steve Taylor (kiwidrsteve@gmail.com) or read more here or on the Ordinary Knitters facebook page.

Posted by steve at 03:28 PM

Monday, April 18, 2022

Bergman Island: a theological film review

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 165 plus films later, here is the review for April 2022.

Bergman Island is a delightfully plotted meditation on making. Director Mia Hansen-Løve offers creatively weaves reality and fantasy, probing the nature of imagination on the island of one of Europe’s finest filmmakers.

Creating as an act of fantasy and an embrace of vulnerability are central to island, plot and character. American filmmakers – Tony (Tim Roth) and Chris (Vicky Krieps) – ferry to Fårö Island. Each brings their creativity to the craft of film. Tony will bathe in the adoration of fans following a screening of one of his films. Chris will work on The White Dress, which becomes over time a film set on the island of Fårö.

The island is the central character. It offers the actors of Bergman Island and The White Dress places to play, including forests to wander, beaches for night swimming and summer showers through which to cycle. In real life, the island is Fårö Island, where Ingmar Bergman lived and made movies for forty years. After Bergman’s death, family and friends turned his houses into places for writers to work. For readers with writing fantasies, real-life application forms are here.

Films make worlds, and Bergman Island celebrates this making in light-hearted and poignant ways. There is the magical realism of wooden ducks that make noises and beach houses that suddenly appear. Some characters move between films. Hampus (Hampus Nordenson) guides Chris around the island, appears as she imagines The White Dress and returns as film (Bergman Island) and film (The White Dress) search for emotional resolution.

The weight of creative expectation is palpable. Any retreat to write has expectations. The pressures are magnified when one writes in the house of a man who produced forty-nine feature-length films.

These expectations allow a thoughtful probing of the origins of creativity. Searching for a new nib for her fountain pen, Chris flips through Tony’s journal. His hand-drawn pictures, misogynist in nature, suggest that for some creativity comes wrapped in unhealthy shadows. Much modern art is fascinated with the darker dimensions of being human.

When Chris shares The White Dress with Tony, her act of imagination seems diminished by Tony’s disinterest. Much postmodern art is preoccupied with the role of reception as a source of creativity.

Early in the film, Chris questions if faith played a role in Bergman’s creativity. A simple response is to visit his grave at the Fårö church. A more challenging response is to probe the place of retreat in the Christian imagination. Time away, to pray, to meditate, is often lauded as a Christian virtue. But what might the valorising of isolation say about the ordinary and everyday? As Cambridge theologian Janet Soskice writes, “What we want is a monk who finds God while cooking a meal with one child clamouring for a drink, another who needs a bottom wiped, and a baby throwing up over [a] shoulder” (The Kindness of God).

A final scene of Bergman Island affirms the everyday as a source of creativity. As Chris leaves her writing desk to be reunited with her daughter, we witness the domestic energy which inspires her making.

Rev Dr Steve Taylor is author of “First Expressions” (2019) and writes widely in theology and popular culture, including regularly at www.emergentkiwi.org.nz.

Posted by steve at 09:44 AM