Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The week day church as a hermeneutic of the gospel: an action research project integrating faith and work in a local church

A book chapter proposal for a proposed special journal edition on ‘Mission, Faith, Work and Economics.’ I wasn’t expecting to write this on sabbatical, but last week I found 900 words of notes and resources from a workshop I led last year.

The week day church as a hermeneutic of the gospel: an action research project integrating faith and work in a local church

A distinctive feature of Christian spirituality is the commitment to sacralise the secular. Martin Luther asserted that “household chores are more to be valued than all the works of monks and nuns” (Christian History: An Introduction, 2013, 169). John Paul II argued that the church must “form a spirituality of work which will help all people to come closer, through work, to God” (Laborem Excercens, 1981, 24). So how does a local church help participants integrate their faith and work?

This chapter will outline an action research project, that of my own participation in leading one local church in the integration of faith and work. Intentional actions wil be described, along with documentary analysis of liturgical innovation.

Three areas of ecclesial life will be examined. First, liturgy, including sermons, creative Eucharist, monthly work-place pastoral prayers and engagement with a secular festival (Labour Day). Second, small group practices of discernment and action-reflection. Third, mission structures, in the form of annual commissioning days and the development of mission collectives to encourage integration of faith and work.

The data will be examined in light of Lesslie Newbigin’s claim that the re-missioning of Western cultures requires the congregation to be a hermeneutic of the gospel, “men and women who believe it and live by it” (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 1989, 227). Newbigin develops this hermeneutic in six domains: of praise, truth, neighbourhood, engagement in public life, mutuality and hope (227-233). These domains provide a theoretical, and missiological, framework through which to examine the liturgy, group life and mission structures of a particular faith community.

The argument is that action-research in local church can sacralise the secular as it provides contextual resources that invigorate mission as faith-ful work witness.

Posted by steve at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

Monday, March 04, 2019

structuring outside study leave

When the Presbyterian Church formed KCML in 2006, the goals for the College included research. KCML is to be responsive to trends and training needs and to foster and facilitate high quality research into these needs and trends. It makes sense, in a time of rapid change, to create capacity for action-reflection on ministry and mission. Such reflection, especially if it is to be high quality, takes time and so to embody the tasks assigned by the church, KCML Faculty are allocated outside study leave, 15 weeks every 3 years.

I was due October 2018, but delayed mine – what with other Faculty already on study leave and to ensure teaching over Spring and Summer block courses. However as of today, I have 13 weeks to engage in high quality research. Over the last few weekends, I’ve been setting up an office at home, making a writing space, printing the various chapter drafts to date and bringing home books I might need.

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Given a need and a trend within the church involves new forms of church, the focus of much of my research will be on sustainability and innovation. In order to make sure the research is accessible to the church, I have signed a book contract with SCM Press. The provisional title is First Expressions: emerging movements in mission and the contracted publisher is SCM. It will bring my action over 25 years – planting a fresh expression, leading a church that planted fresh expressions, developing a “have-a-go” pioneering qualification at UCLT, developing New Mission Seedlings here at KCML, into conversation with theory on mission and innovation. In order to keep it give it a wider “action” frame than my own experiences, it will draw on my longitudinal research on new forms of church ten years on in the United Kingdom. I’m particularly interested in what we learn from those who try/play/experiment and how we theorise the tension between durability in cultures of continuity and fail fast in cultures of discontinuity.

Connecting with SCM was a delightfully random part of last year. I had been keen to pitch them the book project but had lacked the time to polish up a proposal. However, when the editor heard I was going to be in Scotland last year, doing a bit of teaching for the Church of Scotland, he asked to connect. I said that actually, well, I had been wondering about showing them a book proposal and if I gave it a quick polish, could I send it before we met … and the rest is history. It feels so good going into a sabbatical with a specific project, with 10 distinct chapters already in draft form, with chapter summaries of each to give me focus.

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To help me write, I need structure. I also know it is not healthy for me to write all day. So I have allocated other activities to break up my days. So each day is divided into five parts.

  • create – two golden hours of writing – picking up on the research around the value of 2 golden hours
  • make – some tactile engagement with the wider world, in particular craft and the Bible
  • complete – to help motivate during a major project, there are a range of smaller, almost complete projects – rejected journal articles from last year to try in another journal, a couple of spoken lectures to turn into a publication
  • deepen – reading and research, including in the wonderful Hocken, which I find a wonderful re-creative space
  • connect – time to attend to email, rock up to random lectures, blog, administer

I’ve even made time sheets to help me keep track of progress.

Finally, there are the carrots. If I meet the mid-May deadline, I hope to have a few weeks to hikoi with Te Aka Puaho and the whanau of Wiremu Tamehana communities or perhaps go walkabout to visit Aunty Denise Champion in Port Augusta, Australia, and complete with her a joint journal article we began a few years ago.

I can adjust the schedule as I go, or if I fall behind. But it is a start, a way of enabling me to step through the gift that is the space to be responsive to trends and training needs and to foster and facilitate high quality research into these needs and trends.

Posted by steve at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

Friday, March 01, 2019

For this Sabbath time

light

For this Sabbath time
A stroll in life’s light
Illuminated in silence
Divine with human

In steps
Of writing
First expressions
Tracing the light in dark of community, institution, structure

A path
Hewn in love
God’s marks of mission
Tihei mauri ora
-Now read again, from bottom to top

Posted by steve at 02:24 PM

Friday, February 22, 2019

Redeeming a Past: An Ancestor Perspective

launch It is a great privilege to be part of the launch, and a contributor, to Listening to the People of the Land: Christianity, Colonisation and the Path to Redemption, edited by Susan Healy.

Susan contacted me in April 2018, asking if I could contribute some words. I had a range of deadlines looming, but I also had been doing some thinking about colonisation in light of the challenges of post-colonial literature. How do we tell stories in which the primary actors are not the colonisers? In the words of a wise kuia, Aunty Millie Te Kawa of Tūwharetoa: “Everyone talks about the famous missionary who worked among my people. But who taught the missionary the language?”

So over a number of months, with great patience from Susan, I wove together some thinking, scattered a range of different pieces I was working on. My chapter is titled: Redeeming a Past: An Ancestor Perspective

Posted by steve at 08:40 AM

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Children of the waters journal article

Children of the waters: whirlpools, waiora, baptism and missio Dei

Keywords: Missio Dei, baptism, indigenous, Māori, early Christian art, environment

Abstract: From space, the Pacific glitters in ocean blue. What might the world’s largest ocean contribute to missio Dei? A spiral methodology is used to trace connections between the baptism of Jesus, early Christian art, recent legal (Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal) research and indigenous knowing, including ocean voyaging, ancestor understandings of whirlpools, Māori water rites and oral history of river beings (taniwha).

The argument is that indigenous Oceanic (Māori) understandings of water, in conversation with baptismal narratives, present missio Dei as an immersion in God. Mission is located not in the activity of the church – and hence mission expansion as part of European colonisation – but in the being and becoming of God. Creation and redemption are interconnected and an environmental ethic is expected. Children of the waters (ngā tamariki o te Moana nui a Kiwa) listen to creation’s voice (taniwha speaking) and act for the life (waiora) of water.

Posted by steve at 05:04 PM

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Decolonising the (theological) curriculum through place- based pedagogies

IMG_7087

After teaching Theological Reflection on Saturday – on place-based methodologies – I spent some time reflecting on the experience. It was shaping up to be a hot afternoon, so in the morning I worked up a new activity, inviting the class to walk the local botanical gardens in order to break up a 3.5 hour lecture slot. It began out of compassion, but as I reflected, there were some interesting learnings happening. A potential reflective-practice journal article abstract began to take shape

Decolonising the (theological) curriculum through place- based pedagogies

A Theology of Place from :redux on Vimeo.

How to teach place-based theologies to those who might feel shallow-rooted? My practice-based research sought to investigate place-based teaching in the context of theological education among those being formed for the vocation of ordained ministry. I sought to decolonise the curriculum, introducing indigenous theologians, who document the way that identity is formed through  generations of relationships connected to place.  Richard Twist (Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way) emphasises the need to do theology in relation to a primal sense of connection to birth place, Denise Champion (Yarta Wandatha) examines the interplay between land and people, while Maori approaches to pepeha develop identity in relation to landmarks like mountains and river. 

The challenge was that the cohort was not indigenous. As migrants, or descendants of migrants, experiences of a sense of relationship to place can be limited.  In addition, the class was experiencing dislocation, gathered from various national locations into a context not familiar to participants.

The space between indigenous knowing and migrant experience was presented as an opportunity. The writing of Alifeti Ngahe (Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight) was instructive, providing vocational examples of how he migrated into new communities and developed place-based theologies.  Students were invited to locate themselves as “other” and in that epistemic rupture (Rosemary Dewerse, Breaking Calabashes) find a posture of investigative curiosity.  The class was sent in groups to examine statues in a local Botanical Park. They were provided with a short history of various monuments and instructed to see if they could do what Alifeti had done, make theological connections with place. 

Each group reported a range of insights. Work was then done as a cohort to shape the insights into prayers of approach for use in the context of vocational ministry. The liturgical movements of thanksgiving, confession and lament provide room to examine a range of important movements in the journey of decolonisation. This enriched the place-based reflection and provided vocational application.  

The argument is that practice-based pedagogies inform the practise of place-based ministries. Outdoor experiences, paying attention to local monuments, naming epistemic rupture and listening to indigenous theologians provide important resources in place-based teaching.    

Posted by steve at 10:33 AM

Sunday, February 03, 2019

theological reflection as integrating the journey’s of life

An introduction to theological reflection. A 3 hour class to begin a learning community, orientate interns and introduce assessment. In preparing the class, I had 7 different definitions of theological reflection. I decided to lie these down the hallway leading into the lecture space.

walkingin1

This meant that we began the class not in the room, but in the hallway. I introduced myself and noted that we would all be bringing our stories, our life experiences, our learning to date, into the class. The task of theological reflection was to work with our lived reality. As interns, we were preparing for ministry and that meant that all those we ministered to would also be bringing their stories, their life experiences, their learning to date, into our churches.

walkingin2

I invited the interns to walk slowly down the hallway, to take their time and engage each definition. In a few minutes, we would choose the one we liked the most and the one we disliked the most. This generated good discussion. People signed their names to various definitions, owning their understandings of theological reflection that they brought into the room.

But the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand is a diverse church culturally. It has a covenant relationship with the Maori Synod, Te Aka Puaho. So out of respect for that relationship, I showed a 4 minute video clip, an introduction to the tukutuku panels that adorn the front of Whakatane Maori Presbyterian Church. We glimpsed a very different approach to theological reflection, one expressed through art, that worked with tradition and culture in new and different ways.

And so I invited the class to return to where we began. To walk back out of the classroom and into the hallway. To slowly walk back in, past each of the definitions of theological reflection. And to ask themselves

which definition of theological reflection best sums up this example of indigenous theological reflection?

The students returned with very different definitions. One definition that initially was disliked the most was suddenly liked the most. A definition that made no sense suddenly was clear. It was an illuminating moment as we realised afresh that what we bring – culturally – shapes our theological reflection

An excellent beginning to theological reflection.

Posted by steve at 07:49 PM

Friday, January 25, 2019

the burning bush and cultural transmission

Today I spoke at the Otago Museum, giving a conference paper (abstract here) at the Held in Trust: Curiosity of Things symposium. My “thing” was the burning bush (an image central to Presbyterian church identity) as it has been crafted and crossed cultures from Hemispheres to Aotearoa New Zealand.

IMG_7018 My talk drew on some different pieces of my thinking/talking/researching over the last few years

  • block course intern teaching on the Bible in Presbyterian identity (in June 2017)
  • introducing New Zealand Presbyterians to Scottish Presbyterians (in June 2018)
  • keynote at Connect18 on burning bush as basis for a Presbyterian theology of mission (in July 2018)
  • guest speaker at Knox Church AGM (in October 2018)

It was rewarding to take previous work already presented in a range of contexts and find ways to weave it together and offer it in an academic context. It was great to take the rich resources of the Presbyterian Research Centre into a museum setting and to have their support (shout out) during my presentation.

In developing the paper and thinking about the transmission of identity as belief across cultures, a key conversation partner was Webb Keane, Christian Moderns (The Anthropology of Christianity). Here is my final section:

Anthropologist Webb Keane studied transmission of Christianity in Indonesia – over 100 years from Dutch colonisation to post-independence. As part of his research, he did an object study of a Sumbanese house as a paradigm of cultural ordering. He argued that when text is detached from objects, new aspects of the object come to the fore. The result can be “different representational economies” and different modes of objectifying” (Christian Moderns, 269).

Which seems to be is what is happening with the burning bush. The Presbyterians brought words: many words in the Books of order and Westminister Confessions. They also brought a symbol. An object – a thing – which could be re-presented; as craft and taken across cultures in the complexity of communication. As text and object are detached, new aspects come to the fore and multiple “representational economies” come to play.

This highlights the essential role of local agency in global exchange. In the glowing vine of Te Aka Puaho and the stained glass windows of St Johns Papatoetoe, a Scottish symbol has been re-framed. It is being interpreted through different Biblical narratives – Christological for Te Aka Puaho, creation-centred Moana voyages at St Johns Papatoetoe. Burning bushes can be frangipani: Sinai wilderness can be oceans in which “I am is revealed.”

Local agency opens the doors for objects to be become subverting symbols. Imaginations can be re-narrated and fresh currents in theological production become possible.”

Thanks to the conference organisers for having me, to the Presbyterian Archives and staff for being so helpful and to Otago Museum and University of Otago Centre for Colonial Research for being such generous hosts.

Posted by steve at 12:15 PM

Thursday, January 17, 2019

a learning community devotion as the year begins

One of the Gospel readings for this week is Mark 1:14-20 and includes the story of Jesus calling Simon, Andrew, James and John to a learning community, sharing a journey of growing together.

Since this is a text about the beginning of something, it invites us (as KCML Faculty) as we begin the year, to consider our experiences of being called, those moments in life when we sensed that God was looking at us, communicating with us, inviting us.

As we hear the text read aloud, I invite you to reflect on those moments.

  • where (geographically) where you “found”? (In the text, it is by the Sea of Galillee (1:16). Where was it for you?)
  • what was your “work”? (In the text, it was fishing (1:16) and net mending (1:19). What where you doing when you were called?)
  • what were your “fathers and hired hands” thinking? (In the text, they left their father Zebedee and the hired men (1:20). It might be an imaginative exercise, but who was watching you? What were they thinking as you set out to follow your call?)

(Let’s share these together as a team).

These three questions are carefully chosen. They are designed to locate us. First in place, in specific geographic locations. Second in our stories, the specific skills and abilities that we were honing. Third, they are social questions. They locate us in families and in cultures. They invite us to consider our genealogy, the role of ancestors (“they left father Zebedee” 1:20).

I offer this reading and these three questions for a number of reasons.

First, as the year begins, motivation can be hard. If you are like me, you might rather be on holiday, enjoying a beach, a second cup of tea at a slower pace in order to choose whether to look forward to the pleasure of a day with a book in the shade or walk the bush or book that catchup with friends. This text re-calls me, reminds me of the grace and challenge of call.

Second, to remind ourselves of who we are as a team. When we were first called geographically none of us probably imagined that we would be here at Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, serving in this way. We bring this past, our specific geographic locations, our past skills and abilities and competencies, our families and cultures. They make us who we are and we work alongside each other as humans, with these shaping experiences. We work with each other, each of us having experienced grace and challenge.

Third, we as KCML are about to welcome a new cohort of interns. Each of them will have a specific past, have been formed by specific geographies, bring prior skills and abilities and competencies, be located in families and cultures. Each of them has experienced, like us, grace of call. Each of them, like us, has said yes to the cost of discipleship. This is our privilege, as Faculty, to be working with these courageous and graced individuals.

As we begin the year, as we consider our blockcourse and the work before us, let’s pray.

Posted by steve at 08:59 AM

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Craftivism in (Transitional) Cathedral Extra

In September last year, I was asked to speak at the Transitional (Anglican) Cathedral in Christchurch. It was a 30 minute talk as part of Prophets in the Cathedral, a combined event run by the Diocesan Education Office and the Cathedral. I was delighted to be asked and I really enjoyed putting something new together. I wanted to look a fresh expressions of mission and in ways that a Cathedral congregation might find new possibilities and in ways consistent with their Anglican understandings of mission.

To my delight, the Dean was so enthusiastic about what I said that he that he emailed afterward asking if a summary of my talk could be used in the Cathedral Extra, the quarterly magazine, which goes to supporters all over Christchurch. It was quite an integrating (weaving) experience for me to knit (pun intended) reading and ideas together from various places in the last 5 years.

What I wrote appeared late in November. I got the back page and all!

craftivism

 

Craft-ivism is as simple as the joining of two words: Craft + activism. It is a form of activism, centred on domestic craft (Greer, Knitting for Good!: A Guide to Creating Personal, Social, and Political Change Stitch by Stitch, 2008). It tends to utilise needlework, including yarn-bombing and cross-stitch and value collective empowerment and creative expression. It has been linked with elements of anti-capitalism, environmentalism and solidarity.

For those who like practical examples, it is the knitting of Christmas angels. In the UK, in 2014, some 2870 Christmas angels were knitted and left in public places, with a message of Christian love. By 2016, this had risen to 45,930 (http://www.christmasangel.net). Domestic craft had become a way of spreading good news in public places.

In 2008 four women in a small Methodist Church in the middle of a housing estate near Liverpool, met to knit prayer shawls for the bereaved and those in hospital. Then they moved to blankets for the local women’s refuge, followed by hats for shoebox appeals overseas. Everything they knitted, they would lay hands and pray for those who would receive the finished items. Three years later, by 2011, that initial group of four women had grown to sixty, meeting weekly to knit and pray, many with no previous church connection. Many of these women were calling Knit Natter their church. The story of Knit and Natter is a fresh expression is analysed by Christine Dutton in Ecclesial Practices 1(1), 31 – 50).

These are contemporary stories. Yet craft-ivism is deeply rooted in the Christian tradition. In Acts 9, Dorcas crafts clothes for widows, an activity that mirrors the diaconal activity of Acts 6. Her craft-ivism builds a community of widow’s who have found a strong, clear and articulate voice, able to show a visiting Peter what the Gospel looks like in their community.

The Anglican church has five faces of mission and there are elements of all five faces in the work of Dorcas:

  • in nurture and teaching of people – and nurture is what Tabitha is offering to the widows; while teaching is there in the sharing of craft across generations
  • in loving service – and the robes and clothes offered to widows are a wonderful example of practical ministry
  • in proclaiming the gospel – demonstrating Christian community to Peter
  • in transforming society – given that in New Testament times, widows were poor and lacked protection, yet finding in Tabitha an advocate
  • in caring for creation – seen in the role of upcycling as garments are fashioned and re-fashioned

This example from the New Testament suggests that craft-ivism is rooted in Christian history.

Turning, to the Old Testament, God is a craft-ivist in Proverbs 22:2; “the Lord is the maker.” Drawing on the Old Testament wisdom literature, theologians like Paul Fiddes (Seeing the World and Knowing God: Hebrew Wisdom and Christian Doctrine in a Late-Modern Context)and David Kelsey (Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology (2-Volume Set)), argue that to be fully human involves being like God

  • practicing delight (crafting)
  • practicing wonder (making)
  • practicing perseverance (a discipline known to all crafters and makers)

Craft-ivism is thus a human participation with God the maker.  What is significant about Proverbs 22 is that God’s craft-ivism is then located in the context of justice and mutuality.  We see this in verse 9 – “Those who are generous are blessed; for they share their bread with the poor.” Hence Proverbs 22 provides a way to think Christianly about prophetic craft-ivism.

Posted by steve at 09:49 PM

Monday, January 14, 2019

maggi dawn in New Zealand

Arts and Cultures in Christian Ministry and Mission

Maggi Dawn – songwriter, theologian, worship curator – is in New Zealand to teach a 4 day intensive Tuesday, January 29 to Friday, February 1, 2019. Arts and Cultures in Christian Ministry and Mission looks amazing and I’d be their if I wasn’t teaching a KCML pre-intensive.  Maggi brings an wonderful set of skills.

  • gifted writer – 5 books including Like the Wideness of the Sea: Women, Bishops and the Church of England (2013), The Accidental Pilgrim: Modern Journeys on Ancient Pathways (2011), The Writing on the Wall: High Art, Popular Culture and the Bible (2010), Giving it Up: Daily Bible Readings from Ash Wednesday to Easter Day (2009), and Beginnings and Endings (and What Happens in Between): Daily Bible Readings from Advent to Epiphany (2007)
  • leads chapel daily at Yale University, as Dean of Marquand Chapel, working with students to provide daily worship to those from many denominations and different worship and faith experiences
  • a first career as a writer and performer in the music business. For example, I will wait (1993) (see here for a recording). Or Come Lord Jesus Come (here).

maggilarge

To help with grounding in Aotearoa and provide hospitality, Malcolm Gordon – Worship, Music and Arts Enabler for KCML will be present, offering input in the workshopping and design of events both gathered and public. Malcolm is a gifted singer and song writer, who has established the Illustrated Gospel Project and it could be that some of the art and creativity from the gospel of Luke is part of the intensive in an experiential way.

Input includes

  • Theology and the arts, language and literature
  • The naming of God in a post-blogging word
  • The arts in mission and ministry as gathered church experience
  • The arts and theology in public spaces, as worship meets missiology
  • The workshop and design of events both gathered and public

I’m particularly interested in the worship meets missiology in the design of arts and theology for public space.

The course is jointly offered by the Department of Theology and Religion, University of Otago, and the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership. It will be located at St John’s College, 202 St John’s Road, Meadowbank, Auckland, from 9-5 pm daily.

The intensive can be done for credit (as PAST 322 or MINS 414 through University of Otago, contact paul.trebilco@otago.ac.nz ) or audit (through Knox Centre for the Ministry and Leadership contact registrar@knoxcentre.ac.nz). It’s an exceptional opportunity, especially for those from mainline church settings, to reflect on creativity that is deeply theologically and humanly engaging.

(More information here) 2019 Intensive maggi dawn

Posted by steve at 01:58 PM

Sunday, January 13, 2019

writing in (church) season

Yesterday I emailed off a journal article to an international journal. It felt good – 10,000 words is an excellent achievement. It is a co-authored piece with an indigenous colleague. The work began a year ago, with an initial abstract (here). Over 2018, we have read together, talked, looked at some early Christian baptismal art, written some drafts and found ourselves agreeing on a shared outline.

However the way 2018 worked and with the usual end of year deadlines, the bulk of the writing needed to be done during last week, starting Monday 7th in order to meet a Friday 11th deadline. What was unexpected was the impact of the church season.

Sunday 6th was Epiphany, the celebration of the arrival of the Magi. As I blogged last week,

“So the Magi are best understood through the wisdom of indigenous journeys. The Magi are like the ancient navigators who guided canoes across the Pacific. They are drawing on ancient wisdom, shared from generation to generation, the lore of ocean currents, star patterns, migration of birds. This is a wholistic way of knowing, attending as fully present to earth and creation.”

So there was something profound about working through the week with indigenous insights regarding water, placing insights from Waves of Knowing: A Seascape Epistemology alongside the poetry of Robert Sullivan in Star Waka: Poems by Robert Sullivan and the oral history of the voyages of the Te Arawa canoe – all while gazing in the wonder at the Magi story of those who had the courage in ancient times to travel by stars.

Sunday 13th was the baptism of Jesus. The article we were writing was using a spiral methodology to trace connections between the baptism of Jesus, early Christian baptismal art, recent legal (Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal) research and indigenous knowing. So the daily lectionary readings through the week, the way that John the Baptist pre-figures Jesus, gave fresh insight and encouragement.

When I began the project, I had no idea I would be writing so in sync with the church season. It was simply the need to juggle holidays and meet a deadline. Not (really) wanting to return to work (and to writing) from holiday, the insights from the Magi story provided encouragement and motivation as the week began. As the deadline loomed, as colleagues gave rigourous feedback on drafts, the movement in the church season from Magi to baptism provided constant encouragement. What I was doing wasn’t abstract academia but was central to the story of the church.

Such are the gifts of writing in (church) season. This week at least!

Posted by steve at 06:38 PM

Sunday, January 06, 2019

star gazing at Epiphany: an indigenous way of knowing

“we observed his star” (Matthew 2:2) And so for the Magi of Matthew’s gospel, following the stars is a way of navigating toward faith. Star gazing, star navigating, star following is an indigenous way of knowing.

Star hangs on ears of night, defining light …
The bottom line

is to know where to go – star points …
So guidance systems attached.”

writes Robert Sullivan in his poem, He karakia timatanga, (Star Waka: Poems by Robert Sullivan, Auckland University Press, page 3)

So the Magi are best understood through the wisdom of indigenous journeys. The Magi are like the ancient navigators who guided canoes across the Pacific. They are drawing on ancient wisdom, shared from generation to generation, the lore of ocean currents, star patterns, migration of birds. This is a wholistic way of knowing, attending as fully present to earth and creation.

Posted by steve at 04:49 PM

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Stretch marks on an ecclesial body: Gender and emerging expressions of faith in women and girls abstract

On the last night before going on holiday, with a mountain of work to do, why not write an abstract for a potential conference – The Faith lives of Women and Girls, Birmingham, 26-7 March, 2019. But it is, after all, Advent – a time of stretch marks when faith is being carried by the faith lives of Mary and Elizabeth.

alicia-petresc-1144261-unsplash Photo by Alicia Petresc on Unsplash

Stretch marks on an ecclesial body: Gender and emerging expressions of faith in women and girls

While birth is a significant issue for all humans, the impact of gender on faith development is under-researched. This paper examines the interplay between birth and faith development, paying attention through longitudinal research to stretch marks on the ecclesial body of an emerging church community in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Empirical data – gathered from surveys, focus groups and participant observation – showed increased rates of belonging and a sense of growth among women over time. In contrast rates of belonging and a sense of growth declined among men over time. What factors were shaping the faith lives of woman and girls in this ecclesial community?

Attention is paid in the first instance to artistic production, initially in a contemporary Stations of the Cross art exhibition, but increasingly over time through Advent in Art creative practices. Analysis of visual and verbal texts suggests a shift in faith, from deconstructed in death, to stretched through natality. For Grace Jantzen (Redeeming the Present), natality is essential to theology as it invites new beginnings characterized by embodiment, relationality, hopefulness and engenderment. All of these were more visible in Advent in Art than in contemporary Stations of the Cross.

At Easter, death and life are located in a linear and discontinuous relationship, while in Advent, life emerges amid the fear of death. At Easter, faith was resourced synchronously, with an art exhibition which gathered people at set times. At Advent, faith was resourced asynchronously, through postcards designed to be used as a daily resource in the midst of life.

The argument is that gender has an essential role in faith formation, particularly in relation to giving birth and human experience as a constructive resource. Natality becomes an important factor in theorising faith development, something that women can inhabit, yet men can only watch.

Posted by steve at 08:36 PM