Friday, October 19, 2018

happy Steve being cited on teaching and learning

A week ago, happy Steve celebrated having two book chapters on research-led learning published in Wondering about God Together from SCD Press . (The story of how this came about is told here.)

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A closer read of the entire volume, all 460 pages, reveals my earlier research is being referenced in two other chapters. This is really quite cool, being cited and a useful resource in helping other theological educators reflect on the theory and practice of theological education.

In chapter 25, Integrating Theology in an age of Questioning, Les Ball uses my work which I presented at (Higher Education Research Group Adelaide), HERGA Conference, in Adelaide in 2015.  Titled – A class above: Evidence based action research into teaching that is connected, mobile and accessible in a higher education context).  Over two pages (420-421) Professor Ball uses my research on teaching and learning in relation to fostering dialogue. He affirms my work (both teaching and reflecting on that teaching) as an example of the vital role of the teacher in fostering integrative dialogue.  He also notes how I my work (both teaching and reflecting on that teaching) shows how “intentional teaching of such principles can be incorporated into the standard curriculum of any course – in systematic theology just as well as in field education” (page 421). In other words, I am providing an example/influencing the field of teaching in “the whole range of Bible, theology, history and ministry” (421) as well as more practical subjects. Applying my work (both teaching and reflecting on that teaching) can “help to produce graduates who can appropriate such principles and take them into their ministry and general life.” (421).

In chapter 24,  Theological education in context: Exploring the Delivery of Theological Education in a Multi-cultural setting, Bruce Allder uses my work in reflecting on teaching theology in Fiji, with the aim of offering a “missional approach to theological education that keeps contextuality as an important element alongside content, character and competency” (393).  Allder uses my research in  “Embodiment and transformation in the context of e-learning,” Learning and Teaching Theology: Some Ways Ahead, edited by In Les Ball and J. Harrison, Morning Star, 2014, 171-18.

Allder noted my argument that e-learning enables the student to remain in much closer proximity to their ministry context and thus increased the possibility of application (403).  Using my research, Allder concludes that “integrative learning does introduce a degree of complexity not found in a decontextualised approach.” (404) Reflecting on his own teaching, in realised that video conferencing “promoted student engagement and has improved the quality of work presented.” (404).  This is because it was used by students to discuss assessment together, which “minimised feelings of being overwhelmed.” (404).

So happy Steve – not only in writing two book chapters for Wondering about God Together, but in realising that my earlier work is being an exemplar and an encouragement to others in their journey of teaching theological education.

Posted by steve at 05:44 PM | Comments (0)

Friday, October 12, 2018

3 years in: a KCML post-it progress update

I began as Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership 3 years ago today. This very day – newly back in New Zealand, new to Dunedin, new to the Presbyterian Church of Aoteroa New Zealand, I nervously approached the large, foreboding doors of the Hewitson Wing.

My first day/lectionary text is recorded here, my first staff devotional here and my end of first week “three words” reflections here.

An anniversary is a good a time as any for reflection, so I took a bit of time to write some poetry this morning, while this afternoon I pondered the KCML Strategic plan. The Strategic plan was approved by Council of Assembly in June 2016 and was effectively my first 9 months of work, across the 5 geographic Presbyteries and 3 Synod’s, engaging, listening, testing various parts.

The KCML strategic plan involves 4 key directions.

  • contextually agile ministers (Nationally ordained) – ensuring training prepares people for a diverse New Zealand, across cultures and generations.
  • innovation through New Mission Seedlings – building capacity across the church by forming long-term local site partnerships between Presbytery, KCML and various funding groups in order to nurture fresh expressions of faith as locations for training of ministers, leaders and learning for the wider church
  • national learning – finding ways to provide leadership resourcing for all ministry agents in the Presbyterian Church
  • lifelong learning – resourcing existing ordained ministers as the world changes rapidly

Since then, the decisions of General Assembly 2016 have added a further direction

  • the resourcing of Local Ordained Ministers

Three years in; and just over 2 years on from gaining the green light from Council of Assembly, there has been progress across all areas. Each post-it is an explanatory blog post in its own right, but there is a pleasing spread of colour and activity. There is also increasing overlap, as Lighthouse innovation incubator weaves into the New Mission Seedlings and the livinglibrary website becomes a locator for both national learning and lifelong learning.  There is much that beckons into 2019.

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Alongside the visibility of post-it notes of progress, there has been lots of other activity as the KCML team have sought to be faithful to the call of the church. In some ways, this has been the most complex thing to navigate. The strategic plan has come on top of existing activity. Without additional people resources – in fact with diminished people resources – we’ve struggled to balance priorities from the past alongside the pressures of the present and the possibilities of the future.

Posted by steve at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)

First expressions book contract

Another happy Steve moment.

signingbook

I’ve recently signed a book contract with SCM Press, for a book on sustainability and innovation. The provisional title is First Expressions: emerging movements in mission. It will be drawing on my longitudinal research on new forms of church ten years on. 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.

I’ve had the empirical data for a while and the UK trip in June included the opportunity to connect with SCM editor, David Shervington who reached out on twitter and then graciously accommodated my lateness as the British Library refused me entry because my suitcase was too large.  A book proposal and 2 draft chapters, some back and forth and SCM said yes a few weeks ago.

I never imagined writing one book, yet alone three, so I’m pretty pleased.  I’m due for some sabbatical time February through May 2019, so the timing is perfect, with the full manuscript due to SCM in May.  In the meantime, I have a few other deadlines to complete (ducking to hide from Jione Havea and Christine Woods).

Posted by steve at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

2 book chapters on learning and teaching

Wondering about God together, edited by Les Ball and Peter Bolt has just been published. At 460 pages, it is an extraordinary resource.  In the 2007-2012 period, the Australian Council of Deans of Theology had a research focus on learning and teaching of theology in Australia.

“much of that literature reported on earnest aspiration …. What is particularly heartening about this current volume is the growing report of active implementation and initial attainment, a sense of: ‘This is now actually happening’. (xxii)

Two of the book chapters are mine. So I’m happy.

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One chapter  (“Researching the future”) explores the role of research in teaching practice.

Another chapter (“Curiousity and Doubt”) analyses the role of flipped learning in theological innovation.  One of the editor’s Les Ball waxes eloquent, describing this chapter as a

“worthy conclusio to the entire conversation … incisive insights … skillfully demonstrated … warrants close and repeated attention .. as a finale … cogently continue the conversation in pressing the case for ongoing reform towards student-centred curricula.” 

So there we are. That’s me.  Incisive :).

My 2 chapters took shape as 2 keynote presentations I was invited to give in Sydney in April 2017.  Two academic keynotes is a lot of work but I had two deposits I wanted to mine. The first was my 2015 Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching. That had required a 5,000 word submission and I was looking for a way to do “double work” on those words, to use the work done for a panel of judges in another context. That was the basis for the “Curiousity and Doubt” chapter, which includes 6 pages of appendices of my teaching resources (in colour!).

Second, the Award included $5000 to spend on things teaching related. So I asked if I could use that in relation to research assistance, particularly in relation to the chapter on “Researching the future”, in which I wanted to have a literature review of recent outputs on research in teaching practice.  This involved working with a colleague, Rosemary Dewerse and hence the two chapters are co-authored with her.

The book has 26 chapters and is available from Sydney College of Divinity (also Book Depository).

Posted by steve at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

Friday, October 05, 2018

KCML speech at General Assembly 2018

As a member of National staff, I am offered 5 minutes to visit General Assembly and speak about KCML.  Here is what I said to GA 2018 on Thursday. (Here is what I said on GA 2016).

Tena koe, e te moderata. Tena koe, e te waewae tapu, honoured ecumenical guests. Ko koutou nga uri o Te Tahu Ngahere, tena koe.

Greetings to everyone one of you, as people of the burning bush. As people of the burning bush, we follow a God revealed in Exodus 3 as a God who listens, who hears. To listen has been a priority for us as KCML in the last 2 years. Through the Thornton Blair Research project we’ve listened to over 285 Presbyterian leaders, as individuals and in Presbytery focus groups.

We’ve heard that you want resourcing in Faith, Community, Witness, Leadership and Innovation. We’ve heard you want this delivered not only in classrooms in Dunedin, but delivered in ways that are flexible, accessible and varied. In response, we’ve built a website. Perhaps for the first time ever in church, you’re welcome to pull out your cell phones. Check out living library.

(The website will be open for the duration of GA. Then closed again for a few weeks while we attend to your feedback – what works; what could be improved).

The website is shaped around what you said you needed resourcing in – Faith, Community, Witness, Leadership and Innovation. For each theme there are resources – videos, courses, books, short interviews. We offer this website as a resource for all leaders, all people across the PCANZ.  Thank Synod of Otago Southland and Thornton Blair Trust for making this website possible.

We’re people of the burning bush – Ko koutou nga uri o Te Tahu Ngahere -

Once God listens; God then sends.  KCML continues to send ministers; by training LOMs and NOM’s

  •  Can the NOM interns here among us – stand; and any LOM’s probationers, I also invite them to stand.
  • Every intern existing in a training partnership. If there are any mentoring ministers of those NOM or LOM – I invite you to stand
  • If there are any supervisors these NOM or LOM – please stand
  • If there are any churches who host these NOM or LOM – please stand.

So as the PCANZ – we together as people of the burning bush – continue to send ministers into ministry

(Thanks be seated.)

In the last two years, KCML has reviewed curriculum – every lecture, every assignment – against NOM core competencies. In the last two years, we’ve offered a LOM refresher course and we’ve worked with NAW on increasing cultural competency. As KCML, we’re deeply aware that we’re sending leaders into a very different mission context.

If I had 5 more minutes I’d tell you about

  • New Mission Seedlings – KCML partnerships with Alpine and Southern; placing NOM interns in placements where there is no church – into mission field – be formed for new mission context
  • Listening in mission – online support for ministers around NZ
  • Lighthouse – offers invite only coaching for lay people in mission experiments
  • Snapshots in mission 18 – in your bags – taking best of current Presbyterian mission thinking and gifting it to every church in PCANZ

I stand on behalf of a core KCML team of gifted servants; of Mark Johnstone, Geoff New, Susan Peters, Kevin Ward, Malcolm Gordon.

Thanks for funding – historic investment, Assembly assessment, from local intern churches, Synod Otago Southland and PDS.

Thank the boards who govern and advise us as KCML – Advisory Board; Leadership SC; Resources SC; Council of Assembly – who help us as KCML as we seek to fulfil our Book of Order mandate 9.6.3 – to be a national resource and structure – for listening and sending in mission.

Thankyou.

Posted by steve at 04:19 PM | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

built for change workshop

I tried a new approach to teaching today. I was asked to provide a keynote address in Northern Presbytery as they began a more regional approach to leadership training. I had my book Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration but wanted to move beyond talking head and instead offer  an interactive, engaging workshop task.

As everyone arrived, they received a handout, a summary of my notes. Each handout also had a different coloured sticky note (one of 6 different colours). As I spoke, in introducing the Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration  material, I linked the (6) different colours to the six images of leadership Paul offers in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4.

  • Servant – light yellow
  • Garden – green/blue
  • Build – red
  • Resource manage – pink
  • Fool –dark blue
  • Parent – bright yellow

The workshop task involved dividing the room into three around three church change projects.
A – If you wanted to care for creation in your local community …
B – If you wanted to engage your wider community through social media …
C – If you wanted to diversify your Church Council – younger or more culturally diverse …

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Each person was asked to speak to their selected change project through the standpoint of the colour of their sticky note

  • Servant – light yellow
  • Garden – green/blue
  • Build – red
  • Resource manage – pink
  • Fool –dark blue
  • Parent – bright yellow

Tasks:
1. Think of ways that Paul’s image/the colour of your sticky note is needed in this change project.
2. Think of what would happen to the project if Paul’s image/the colour of your sticky note was not part of this change project.
3. If you finish, see if there is an actual church change project in the group you could brainstorm

There wasn’t time to debrief the groups. But watching the groups, I was struck by how quickly mutual patterns of leadership emerged, with groups looking around going “OK, which colour is next.” And so quickly, every person was drawn into the change project, rather than privileged voices.  Listening into the groups, I heard comments like “oh wow, I can see how all these 6 work together”.

A workshop exercise worth developing.  Invite me :)

Posted by steve at 05:01 PM

Friday, September 14, 2018

the burning bush conference abstract

A conference abstract, on what we learn from objects, in this case taking some of my current thinking, regarding a Presbyterian symbol, the burning bush, into an a more academic, musuem, context. (If accepted) …

The symbol of the burning bush as an object in global exchange and local adaptation

The burning bush is an essential signifier of Scottish Presbyterian identity, an allusion to the Biblical narrative of Exodus 3. This paper will undertake visual exegesis and archival research in order to examine the symbol as it has moved across cultures as part of colonial migration.

Two sources of data are important. One is the archives of the Presbyterian Research Centre, which offer a repository of documents, including sermons, liturgies and newsletters, which open windows into how the burning bush has undergone evolution in the migration from Scotland to Aotearoa. Another is Presbyterian church buildings, including the branding of churches in the Maori Synod (Te Aka Puaho), stained glass windows in St Johns Papatoetoe and a hand-crafted book mark in a pulpit Bible of a Dunedin church.

Analysis of the burning bush as a “thing” over time points toward local appropriation of this colonial symbol of religious identity. As the burning bush has been re-presented – as a twisted vine or adorned by hibiscus flowers and migratory birds – there is evidence of local cultural appropriation. In the craft inherent in graphic design, stained glass and embroidery, there is evidence of the importance of domestic craft as a mechanism through which global exchange and local appropriation occur.

This suggests that a religious symbol, despite historic and colonial origins can undergo transformation through global exchange. In other words, a historic symbol, designed to centralise identity, has become through migration, a subversive affirmation of cultural diversity and vitality.

Posted by steve at 08:42 PM

Thursday, September 13, 2018

wrestling with strange worlds

Today, I facilitated a group wrestling with Luke 10:1-12. A text that initially felt hard, from an alien world, one that had no immediate relevance for New Zealand today. Out of discussion and honest questions, some shared themes began to emerge. After an hour, we paused and each person was invited to capture in words the insights: what does Luke Luke 10:1-12 mean for mission today?

Here are my words:

The mission of God begins with being sent. Those sent begin to participate by looking for spaces and places in our society where relationships are nurtured. We speak peace to these spaces and places.

If we are not welcomed, we don’t hang around and be whiny and annoying. Instead we respect people and step back.

If we are welcomed, we stay. We listen. We are human. We laugh and enjoy life. We anticipate that in these relationships of being human and present, God will work and there will be healing/change/transformation. We hope/expect/long to find the words to will connect good news with the healing/change/transformation we see. Hence mission today is about being totally reliant on God to be ahead of us.

Posted by steve at 05:06 PM

Monday, September 10, 2018

Craftivism as prophetic mission

I’m speaking – Craftivism as prophetic mission – engaging with Dorcas, Lydia, yarnbombing and make spaces. This Sunday 16th September, Christchurch Anglican Cathedral.

craftivism

Posted by steve at 10:55 AM

Thursday, September 06, 2018

The burning bush and mission revealed

The revelation of God begins with the orthodoxy of “I am”. This God of the ancestors is then revealed in three verbs. The One who has observed the misery of the oppressed (3:7a); heard their cry (3:7b) and knows their sufferings (3:7c). The listening (orthopraxy) ends with knowing suffering (orthopathy). If this empathy is an expression of orthopathy, then Moses is being called to follow the trio God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, God of orthodoxy, orthopraxis and orthopathy.

The burning bush of Exodus 3 has 5 branches. They are the 5 faces of mission. Each branch looks different – as it produces fruit, giving witness to proclamation; nurture; responding to human; seeking transformation; creation care. Each branch draws from the one source of life; from I am who listens to those who suffer. Our response is to feel the earth of our local context, for the ground, our turangawaewae, is now holy.

The God of the burning bush listened – deeply – to the suffering of those in bondage in Exodus 3. That God continues to be revealed as the deep listening God. That God invites those who want to reveal God to in turn be deep listeners, as a first step in mission.

KCML offers online Listening in mission courses annually, to ensure that those who commit to deep listening are supported, sustained, resourced, so that deep listening never stops.

Posted by steve at 11:10 PM

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

peer-reviewed in an international journal in a discipline not my own

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“Religious piety and pigs’ brains”: the faith of zombies in Burr Steers’s Pride, Prejudice and Zombies,” Persuasions On-Line 38 (3), 2018.

So I’m celebrating having a journal article in an international, peer-reviewed journal (Persuasions Online) in a discipline not my own.  It’s quite an achievement to be published, let alone internationally, let alone in a different discipline.

I’m chuffed. 

It has been a strange and demanding journey.  Flinders University has a Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities (FIRtH) which encourages collaborative and cross-disciplinary research across a wide range of fields in the Humanities and Creative Arts. In 2017, it was the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen. This is a big thing – her appearance on a new 10 pound note in England and Hampshire staging a year-long series of events across the county in 2017. And in Australia, FIRtH decided to make Austen a focus.  Given I still have connections with Flinders University, as I supervise four PhD’s to completion, I was invited to contribute a piece on religion, popular culture and Austen. My teenage kids at the time were enjoying Pride And Prejudice And Zombies the movie.  I was aware it included a communion scene and in response to the FIRtH invitation, began to watch, looking at how the Christian practice of communion was being portrayed.

I provided some thoughts in a cross-Tasman video, was offered an airfare to a symposium presentation, followed by an invitation to develop my work for a special edition of Persuasions Online, a digital, peer-reviewed publication of the Jane Austen Society of North America.   This was very new territory for me – English literature, Jane Austen, international. 

But it gave me a chance to reflect on sacraments and the Gospel of Luke.  It enabled me to think more deeply about post-colonialism. I have also published a range of pieces on U2 and so this was a chance to expand my thinking into zombies.  It also was a chance to test in practical reality a theoretical piece I wrote in 2009 (a chapter in The Spirit of Truth: Reading Scripture and Constructing Theology with the Holy Spirit) in which I argued for the presence of God in popular culture. It sounded good in theory, but would my theory stand when applied to zombies?

I researched and wrote with a constant voice: is this a good use of my time as Principal of a theological college. In the midst of a funding crisis, was this a good use of church resources? 

One way to respond was to do much of this in my own time. I took leave to attend the symposium in October 2017, used days in lieu in March 2018 to complete the first draft and drew down on holidays in June to respond to reviewer comments.

At the same time, I also believed this was public missiology.  Missiologists talk a lot about engaging culture, yet very few seem to work in popular culture, the songs and movies which are the soundtrack to the lives of so many. Missiologists also talk a lot about crossing cultures. So why not cross into another discipline and place my thinking before the critical eyes of Austen lovers (the society has 5,000 members!) and people who care deeply about the English language?

I did however, underestimate the demands involved in moving across disciplines. The last few months have become particularly pressured, as I navigated multiple peer reviews and the challenge to write for literary lovers rather than theologians. The result has been a string of “thanks for your patience” emails, to PhD students and in relation to other writing deadlines.

Anyhow, the piece has just been published – “Religious Piety and Pigs’ Brains”: The Faith of Zombies in Burr Steers’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies 38: 3, 2018.

Because I work in popular culture, the article has pictures:

pictures ppz

The article has headings: 
The meaning of zombies in academic discourse  
Applying zombie theory to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  
Afterlives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke 
(Un)sacramental theologies
The present problems of piety 
 

And here are some words, that point to what I was trying to do:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that art has the potential to disturb contemporary pride and historical prejudice.  Realizing this truth, however, requires us to locate the literary worlds so artfully created by Jane Austen in relation to the economic realities and colonizing impact of the British Empire around the turn of the nineteenth century 

The British empire was powered not only by economic and military might but also by Britons’ understanding of Christianity, including the claiming and exploitation of overseas territories.  Desmond Tutu famously declared, “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land.  They said ‘Let us pray.’  We closed our eyes.  When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land” (The Stolen Bible: From Tool of Imperialism to African Icon (Biblical Interpretation Series) 326).  Tutu’s challenge invites us to consider the religious practices of Austen’s England.  How might the sacramental practices of communion and the prayers and sermons heard by Elizabeth and Darcy make them complicit in the economic injustices that accompanied colonial expansion?  

Rather than dismissing zombies as an example of popular culture hubris, the argument presented here suggests the zombies in Steers’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies provide viewers with an ethical trope, post-colonial in both sense and sensibility.  Analysis of the zombie trope as socio-cultural phenomenon is followed by an examination of Steers’s film—a hermeneutic “zombie-gesis,” if you will—with particular attention to a scene in which zombies partake of holy communion at the Church of St. Lazarus.  This scene brings into focus the portrayal of Lazarus in the Christian Gospels, particularly Jesus’s parable in Luke 16:19–31 and what it means to consume the body of Christ.  It also arguably exposes the entanglement of Anglican religion and the English colonial project in Austen’s world, pointing to the culturally constructed conjunction of Biblical texts, Western Christianity, and the social world of Regency England.  

In this reading, the role of zombies in the movie is neither parodic nor simply a money-making device.  Rather, the movie inserts an ethical trope, post-colonial in sense and sensibility, that questions the economic system on which the literary world of Austen is built, the ways in which religion can use piety to maintain the status quo, and the complexities involved in seeking to enact justice in the present.  

A careful reading of the Exodus story, however, suggests that a third option is possible.  Exodus And Revolution argues that the promised land holds the hope of equality:  “if no member of the holy nation is an oppressor, then no inhabitant of the promised land is oppressed” (109).  Such an understanding provides a way for the proto-zombies to enact a disciplined freedom that would also be a way of applying justice in their present.  As inhabitants of England, the proto-zombies are a physical reminder of the need for justice.  By holding themselves back from becoming full zombies, they seek partnership in a promised land in which none, whether genteel English or zombie, is oppressed or oppressing. Their deliberate formation provides a critique of the actions of Darcy and Wickham and also of the mobilization of religion only in the future tense.  It suggests that Luke 16:19–31 can be read as an apocalyptic text.  The dualisms of proto-zombie and human can be respected.  

The film, read in light of the Exodus text preached at the Church of St. Lazarus, thus offers a vision of a new beginning for England as a place of justice for all.  The servants at Pemberley need no longer be silent; those who grow the finest grapes, nectarines, and peaches will be justly rewarded, and the soldiers at Meryton need no longer be deployed to maintain the power of a colonial Britain.  This future vision begins now, in the sharing of a moral formation in which all—colonized and colonizer, zombie and human—share a common set of standards and take responsibility for their own agency.

The presence of the zombies points to significant fault-lines that threaten the privileged and complacent social world of Austen’s time.  In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies they remind readers and viewers of the unsolved problem of social inequality and the ways in which religion and literature can both support and disturb the status quo, including the apparent certainties of Jane Austen’s social and religious world.

Posted by steve at 04:37 PM

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Writing August

andrew-neel-308138-unsplash I write to communicate, to make public internal connections, to clarify internal dialogue. As I write, it becomes a spiritual practice, as I examine my internal world, step into into conversations and respond to provocation – sometimes external, often internal.  Part of my writing is personal, through the reality of a journal in which I reflect on my inner world. Another part of my writing is public, reflecting on change, leadership, mission and innovation.

My writing in the last month has felt pressured, personal and piecemeal. It’s not been a space I’ve enjoyed. There has been a range of external deadlines that have pushed, pulled and twisted my priorities. A constant pressure has been a string of final edit emails in relation to an academic journal article.  In a discipline not my own, for an international publication, it’s been a project that kept bouncing back, as the editors worked diligently. I was grateful.

Grudgingly.

At the same time, I’ve been juggling a number of deadlines for shorter pieces of work in more accessible formats. These have become pieces that are intensely personal and immensely satisfying.

  • 2000 words Redeeming a Past: An Ancestor Perspective – for a book on Christianity in New Zealand. I explore my PNG experience in light of a range of other projects I’ve been working on.  I’ve suddenly realised that my work on indigenous readings of Jesus genealogy and decolonisation in writings that connect to Papua New Guinea and atonement theologies of Irenaeus are in fact part of integrating my present with my past.
  • 1000 Snapshots – children of Tangaroa (wai) – for the annual KCML making research accessible publication. This has involved writing with someone who has become my tuakana, an elder brother, guiding me in reading the Whanganui River Waitangi Tribunal report theologically.
  • 600 words SPANZ – “Ko koutou nga uri o Te Tahu Ngahere,” a missiology of being Presbyterian in the burning bush
  • 900 words Zadok – You can’t eat lilies: the future of precarious work column – a reflection on the words of Jesus in light of workplace restructures, Artificial intelligence, indigenous cultures, Immanuel Kant and The Odyssey

With these deadlines met through August, I can return back to a book chapter on migration and theological education. This was due the end of June and my inability to engage, because of the above deadlines, has been demoralising.

I don’t like missing deadlines.

But this week it was a joy to be back in the project.

And then perhaps, by mid-September, some clear space, in order to begin (editorial board meeting in September) what I’m hoping will be a third book, on sustainability in fresh expressions of church.

Posted by steve at 10:17 PM

Thursday, August 16, 2018

identity: pondering the interplay between indigenous and hybridity

What I think is at stake is how identity is constructed. In modern colonial worlds, we construct either-or (for more see Robert Young, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race). At the heart of The Mountain, by Drusilla Modjeska, is an exploration of hybridity. It is done through the use of a word from Tok Pidgin, that of hapkas. Here is a great piece of dialogue from the book:

“Hapkas. It’s a great word. My kids use it all the time. They call themselves hapkas. I’m from the Sepik, their mother’s from Milne Bay. It’s a point of pride. Makes them interesting … Haven’t you heard of hybridity.” (The Mountain, 278).

So in contemporary PNG, rather than either-or constructs, hybridity is nurtured. The interplay between identity, being indigenous and hybridity is also the heart of author Modjeska’s struggle. Can she, from another place, write about PNG? Or can only indigenous people write about PNG? But then what is indigenous? Is one indigenous by blood, birth, or social construct? If social construct, who has defined it? Most likely the coloniser; as a term to construct people who are ‘other.’ And in so doing the term indigenous homogenises. Perhaps not in countries with one indigenous culture (although even in those countries there seems to be tribal identities that suggest distinctives). But applied to countries with diverse cultures, it becomes a piece of linguistic trickery that is difficult to sustain. How can a person from Milne Bay, one of the 800 plus languages, write a PNG perspective that speaks for all those 800 languages? They can’t, yet the category of “indigenous” as applied to a nation, of PNG, suggests this is possible. We need ways to escape binary worlds and to name the fluid patterns of migration and cultural exchange which have always categorised human identity. This is what make notions of hybridity so generative.

Posted by steve at 12:44 PM

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

innovation in central cities

Definition – Fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church

Definition – Inherited or traditional form of church

In the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4, Paul describes his mission and ministry using 6 metaphors. I’ve written about them in my book, Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration. So one way to think about the future of Central City churches is by using these six images.

The first image that Paul uses is in 1 Corinthians 3:5 and again in 1 Corinthians 4:1 is that of servant. Ministry is serving the Corinthian church. This is the beginning of ministry and mission: serving God, serving each other, serving our communities. So whatever decisions are made about the future of church, they begin with a focus not on ourselves but on who and how we can serve.

The last image that Paul uses is that of parent. Healthy systems in mission have parents. Different denominations have different systems: some a Pope or bishop, others elders. These are people who parent, gathering groups together as a family, providing guidance. Parents connect us in mission. They ensure that we are not alone, but together, sharing the future of ministry in Central City.

In the Central City conversations about the future of mission usually involve buildings. The conversation usually goes something like “Someone in the past has been a builder. This means we have somewhere to meet. We need people to fill the space.” As a result talk of mission quickly becomes about the people joining the existing inherited form of church in a certain type of mission. Either that, or a different conversation begins, about the one-off opportunity to sell our buildings. Central City churches are thus, by way of inheriting a building, asset rich, which means they have one chance to lever that for mission. So buildings invariably occupy a lot of space in a mission conversation. When Paul says he is a builder (1 Cor 3:10), it is giving dignity to Central City conversations about how buildings shape our mission.

Having buildings also means that central City churches are resource managers. They have inherited a building, this gift from the past. It is thus something to maintain, something that people drive by, something that might, or might not serve our mission. Again when Paul says he is a resource manager (1 Cor 4:1), he is giving dignity to our conversations about how we resource manage our buildings as we think about our mission futures.

That leaves gardener and fool. In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul is a gardener, working with other gardeners in God’s garden. It is for this reason that KCML has begun to talk about New Mission Seedlings as our way of seeking to explore fresh expressions within a New Zealand context.

New – something not done before. Not constrained by the inherited forms of church

Mission – focused on people who currently don’t come to church; on what God is already doing.

Seedlings – starting small, needing to be tended, shaped by their environments.

nms-graphicver2

KCML has partnered with a range of funding group and Presbyteries and begun to garden, by planting new forms of church. We began a New Mission Seedling in Christchurch in 2017 and in Dunedin in 2018. Both are taking quite different shape, as they respond to local contexts. New Mission Seedlings make lots of sense as an approach to Central City conversations, given the diversity of city communities and networks, which provide such rich possibilities for mission.

KCML New Mission Seedlings are about being a gardener. They are also about being a fool. In 1 Cor 4:10, Paul describes himself as being a fool. It is an unlikely metaphor for ministry. But it is important for Paul, and makes sense of his ministry, because of who Jesus is: riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, taking a risk of being misunderstood, doing something unexpected. So a fool asks “What is the unexpected, surprising thing that God might be doing, that we can pay attention to?” It might fail. It might not work. But like Jesus, the risks are taken.

So applying Paul in innovation and Central City churches:

We are all servants and we need parents in mission to gather us together. Inherited churches focus on mission as builders and resource managers. Fresh expressions becomes partners in this shared mission, by working alongside as gardener and fool.

This invites some immediate next steps.
1. Inherited and fresh expressions agree we are better together
2. A parent gathers inherited and fresh expressions together in shared learning.
2. Fresh expressions conduct a listening exercise in the community.
3. Insights are shared back through the regular gatherings.
4. Some risks are taken, guerilla planting New Mission Seedlings, outside the existing buildings, but in partnership, because we are sharing the six metaphors of innovation together amongst us.

Posted by steve at 05:05 PM