Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Learn local

God is up to something.

My research into how churches are responding to Covid-19 has included analysing interviews with ministers from a range of denominations in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and the United States. A recurring theme is the ways in which churches are returning to their neighbourhoods.

In lockdowns, we live and exercise locally. God’s love has been made visible as churches have slowed, localised, walked and (appropriately) blessed. I’ve heard socially distanced stories of laypeople being equipped, commissioned and released as neighbour connectors. I’ve seen and experienced worship in which local parks, suburban crossroads and mailboxes have become invitations to pray.

Amid constrictions, ancient spiritual practices have been expressed in new ways. There has been a creative localising of disciplines of discerning, spiritual direction, serving, and prayer walking (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, IVP, 2005, 99-103; 115-7; 145-7 and 253-5).

Learn local connects with what God can do locally. Learn local visits local mission initiatives to experience grassroots mission, hear stories of local community engagement and consider different expressions of Christian mission practice. The first Learn Local begins in Dunedin and visits the Seedling and Student Soul on Saturday, October 9 (10 am – 5 pm). This experience (a soundscape will be available for those at distance), is followed by 4 online Thursday evenings. These 75-minute sessions provide theological, practical and relational resources to encourage individuals and churches in local mission.

Supported by the Southern Presbytery and a gift from the Synod of Otago and Southland, Learn local offers hybrid learning – there are face to face and online options – to cope with the complexity of rapid level changes. Numbers for the Saturday experience are limited to 15 and priority will be given to those endorsed by their Church Council.

For queries->Steve Taylor, kiwidrsteve@gmail.com.
To register-> tinyurl.com/learnlocalnz

learn local advertising

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Mission For A Change 2021

Mission For A Change is a bi-monthly resource showcasing recent research and new ideas. Steve Taylor, Director AngelWings Ltd, provides short, sharp upgrades to learning. To register for updates and more content -> here.


Mission for a change Enliven
– explored social research and church vitality with Dr Ruth Powell

Mission and conversion – explored conversion and faith-sharing with Dr Lynne Taylor

Mission for a (climate change) – explored faith and tikanga with Rev Christopher Douglas-Huriwai.

Mission and gender – explored gender, mission and reading Scripture for liberation with Dr Rosemary Dewerse and Dr Cathy Hine.

Mission and indigenous cultures – explored indigeneity and mission with Rev Dr Hirini Kaa

Posted by steve at 05:43 PM | Comments (0)

Friday, August 27, 2021

Learn local: a mission learning opportunity

Want to meet Christians passionate about their local community? Want to learn about grassroots mission? Want to grow skills in starting and sustaining a new initiative in mission?

learn local advertising Rev Dr Steve Taylor, a creative and experienced mission educator, and former Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership is facilitating mission learning opportunities in Otago/Southland. The aim is to explore mission not in a classroom but in local communities. This involves opportunities to visit local mission initiatives to experience grassroots mission, hear stories of local community engagement and consider different expressions of Christian mission practice. The Saturday experience is followed by online learning, four sessions in the following weeks, which help participants connect local learnings with best practices in mission.

The aim of learning local is to discern practically grounded insights into mission and ministry and to encourage mission dreams, imaginations and experiments through the Presbytery. Numbers for the Saturday experience are limited to 15 and priority will be given to those endorsed by their Church Council. (For online participants, a soundscape can be made available 48 hours after).

The first learning Local is Saturday, October 9, 10 am – 5 pm and involves visits in Dunedin to The Seedling and Student Soul. Lunch and snacks are provided and participation is free, thanks to the generosity of Synod of Otago and Southland.

Online sessions are Thursday’s 14, 21, 26 October, 4 November, 7:30-8:45 pm.

For queries->Steve Taylor, kiwidrsteve@gmail.com.
To register-> tinyurl.com/learnlocalnz

FAQs
• Is lunch provided? Yes.
• Is the site visit experience free? Yes. All it costs is your time to register and participate.
• Can I bring others? Yes. Several folk from a church would enhance learning. But everyone must register -> tinyurl.com/learnlocalnz
• Can I come to just the site visit? Yes. Register and we will discuss with you other ways you can apply your learning local.
• Can I come to just the online learning? Yes. Register and we will discuss with you other ways can ground your learning local. For example, a soundscape of local participants sharing could be made available 48 hours after.
• Can I come if I live outside the Presbytery? Yes, both the site visit and online learning are open to anyone. However, to make funding work, there is a learning cost of $200 for the online evenings for those outside Otago/Southland. This contributes to making online learning happen. The local site visits remain free for anyone.
• What if you get more than 15 for the site visit? We will prioritise those with endorsement from their church council/leadership. We are capping at 15 to ensure a workable site visit. Numbers for the 4 online sessions are not limited.
• Will there be other opportunities? A second Learn local is planned for a Saturday in March and will likely visit in Central Otago.

Posted by steve at 01:42 PM

Sunday, August 22, 2021

John Wesley on knitting and the universal basic income

The ordinary knitters research project involves not only interviewing people who knit for projects for a Christian church or organisation. It also involves reading about the role of knitting in Christianity, including in history. This week, while examining a post-graduate thesis, I came across some writing that in passing noted an entry from 1741 in the journals of John Wesley:

My design, I told them, is to employ for the present all the women who are out of business, and desire it, in knitting. To these we will first give the commonprice for what work they do; and then add, according as they need. (The Journal of John Wesley, 7 May 1741).

In relation to the ordinary knitters project (full project explained here), there are two things that strike me about this. First, the church offering knitting as gainful work in response to unemployment, and thus the 2nd mark of mission (Loving service responding to human need). Second, what sounds like an economic imagination that involves a universal basic income (“commonprice”); and thus the 4th mark of mission (Seeking to transform society)

Posted by steve at 01:51 PM

Thursday, August 19, 2021

the seasons of research

Today I’m bundling up a pile of research, as another project is sent to a funder. The yellow notebook on the left-hand side is my field notes for this season of the project, some 280 pages from interviews and conversations. The yellow notebook on the right-hand side is untouched. It expresses my sense that the project is warmly welcomed by stakeholders, my hope that the funders will agree to our next step plan and that I might start another season of research.

This season of the project has been co-design, in which diverse voices across a denomination have shared their reflections on a proposed project. It’s potentially a far-reaching and significant investment in theological education, ministry training and formation, across multiple cultures. Hence the need for co-design. Over the last 6 months, there has been some 40 listening interactions, to around 150 people. The result is a report of some 12,000 words, spread over 26 pages, weaving dreams, realities, spirituality and wisdom. The funders met next week to decide next steps.

There has been some significant imaginative scholarship in this particular season. There has been the use of lectio divina as a research tool. There has been the use of a prayer as a way to code what is being heard. On Monday I ideated with a research colleague a possible methodology journal article, emerging from the research design invited by the project.

While the funders read and reflect, I clear the desk, boxing up all the work. I find myself thankful, for being part of a wonderful bi-cultural research team, for the richness of spaces in which I’ve been privileged to listen, and for the creativity possible in research. I find myself excited, at what might happen if I am able to open that shiny, fresh notebook on the right.

Posted by steve at 10:17 AM

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Coding and a prayer

I’m back coding this week. Over this year, I’ve been working with a colleague on a co-design that might discern the future of theological education and formation for a denomination. To date in this particular project, we’ve conducted 40 interactions with around 150 people, inviting their reflections on what the actual project could look like.

With an interim report due to the funders later this month, this week we’re pausing interactions in order to write up findings to date. How to summarise what is now over 130 pages of data?

In beginning the project, the funders offered us a prayer. It was a prayer we prayed as we began every interaction, reading the funders words as a way of respecting their hopes and dreams, beginning with their voice in the project.

Loving and embracing God,
We affirm our guardianship of the precious gift of creation
We have a vision, we have courage, we have your guidance

Prayer of the Moana, by Archbishop Winston Halapua

So we are exploring using that prayer in the coding. It provides some words to shape what we could look for in the data – God, guardianship, vision, courage, guidance. It invites us to interact with our data, in light of those words

  • Where is their God-talk and God-reflection?
  • Where is their guardianship, a valuing of things that need to be tended and nurtured?
  • Where is their vision, hopes for the future?
  • Where is their courage, naming of reality and things that are difficult?
  • Where is their guidance, insight into what is needed for the project to succeed?

codes It also expects that God might actually be present in the co-design. It means that this week, amid the post-it notes and colour codes and white sheets of paper and pages of data, there is a spiritual attentiveness, not just to words said, but in wondering what God might be doing

Posted by steve at 09:15 AM

Sunday, August 08, 2021

First Expressions a recommended book for Practical Theology 2021

practical theology journal I’m stoked to hear that my book, First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God is a recommended book for the Practical Theology journal June 2021, 278-279. The annual list of ‘Recommended Books in Practical Theology’ is based on input from Editorial Board members and readers. These books address the complexities of practical theology and ministry through interdisciplinary approaches to research and scholarship, offering fresh practical and theoretical insights to this field. Here’s the summary –

Taylor, Steve, First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God (London: SCM Press, 2019).

Steve Taylor’s work continues a decade of ecclesiological investigations by reexamining sites of ecclesial innovation in the United Kingdom eleven years later. Interdisciplinary in scope and poetic in tone, First Expressions provides a template for future studies of change within communities of faith.

Posted by steve at 05:42 PM

Saturday, August 07, 2021

spirituality of wetlands

This week a colleague and I wrapped up another round of interviews for a project on the future of theological education and ministry training. The interactions now number 40, with over 140 people, ranging from 1-1 to large group.

Next week we will read back through the summaries we have made of each interaction, preparing an interim report.

Today is a transition, from gathering data to communicating data, from listening to communicating. It was good on the way to the airport, to pause and reflect on this transition. It was good to stop in the sun and soak in the blessing of a wetlands tidal zone.

It is easy to rush past a tidal zone. I am on my way to the airport. There is a flight to catch. Yet here I am surrounded by transition and change.

In this wetland, there are different plants and birds. There are different paths, a boardwalk when the tide is in, but a dirt path when the tide is out. There are unique plants, adept at coping with distinct and different environments. This applies to wetlands. It applies to myself as an individual, negotiating a new season as a contract researcher. It applies to the interactions I have been privileged to be part in this research project. In all 40, there is transition and change, a deep unease with what is, a deep uncertainty about what the tides of society are doing.

It is tempting to want to rush back, to what was known. Or to rush sideways, to seize something shiny from a neighbour nearby. Or to rush forward to a brighter alternative. Yet there is life in a transitional zone. There are unique adaptations. There are different paths. There are different ways of existing.

Posted by steve at 10:39 AM

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Researching craft as Christian witness

I am researching whether Christians can witness through acts of making. Making celebrates the ordinary and domestic. Diversity is evident as different cultures make in different ways. Interest in handmade objects has risen in contemporary culture.

A first step was to research Christmas Angels. In 2014, two Methodist ministers in the North of England invited local churches to knit Christmas Angels. The Angels were tagged with a message of love and “yarn-bombed” in streets, train stations and schools. What began with a few churches knitting some 2870 angels in 2014, had by 2017, spread across Great Britain. Each angel was sent out with a Twitter hashtag #Xmasangels. Hence people who received the angels could respond online, using social media. Being a personal user of Twitter, I observed people tweeting their experiences of finding a Christmas angel. I was curious. Might people think a yarn-bombed angel was silly? Was this just Christians making a mess? This research became a journal article (“When ‘#xmasangels’ tweet: a Reception Study of Craftivism as Christian Witness,” Ecclesial Practices 7 (2), 2020, 143-62, (co-authored with Shannon Taylor).

A second step in the research was to learn to knit. I challenged myself to do more than think intellectually about my research. For this project, could I make my own Christmas angel? One of my children taught me to knit while my wife patiently untangled many a dropped stitch. I kept a diary of my experiences. In the joy of completing a row and the despair of splitting a stitch, I realised that research was not an elite mystery. Instead, it resulted from repeated practices: a habit, a way of being in the world. In researching craft, my understandings of research have been re-made. I wove these journal reflections into a chapter I was asked to write for a revised edition of Mary Moschella’s Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice (due out with SCM and Pilgrim Press in 2022).

A third step in the research is to listen to makers. Having researched those who received a Christmas Angel, I also want to understand more about the knitters. I want to interview knitters of Christmas Angels. I also want to interview knitters of scarves for the Common Grace Knit For Climate Action in Australia. I hope to form focus groups of knitters and explore why they participate and what meanings they make.

Hence Ordinary knitters: theologies of making research – 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 something similar) and are willing to be interviewed about your experiences, I would love to hear from you. More information here or from Steve Taylor (kiwidrsteve@gmail.com)

Posted by steve at 08:57 PM

Saturday, July 31, 2021

researching knitting in Christianity

Ethics approval this week for this research project –

seeking participants for research on knitting in Christianity. 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 something similar) and are willing to be interviewed about your experiences, they would love to hear from you. More information here or from Steve Taylor (+64221552427 or kiwidrsteve@gmail.com)

Posted by steve at 08:16 PM

Monday, July 26, 2021

Steve Taylor AngelWings

Rev Dr Steve Taylor is a public scholar working from Ōtepoti (Dunedin) for AngelWings Ltd in research consultancy, writing, teaching and speaking. He works with a wide range of individuals, organisations, church denominations and theological providers. Steve can be contacted at kiwidrsteve at gmail dot com.

Recent (2021) outputs have included:

future church

Future Church Feasibility Study – in July 2021, a 52-page report, followed by a 7-page slimline edition and a spoken Board report, synthesising 56 voices from 10 cultures into 9 recommendations for a theological provider considering how to train future church leaders.

Te Ara Poutama Tuahahi – in August 2021, a co-design project, working in a bicultural team to conduct 40 interactions across three diverse ways of being, generating 125 pages summarising past gifts, present realities and possible greenshoots, in seeking to clarify ways to discern, plan and develop the future of theological education and ministry formation.

Learn local – funding from the Synod of Otago and Southland to initiate grassroots lay training, learning from site visits to local community mission projects, deepened through online education in the weeks following.

Ordinary knitters: theologies of making research – an international research project, interviewing knitters who contribute to shared social justice projects, seeking to understand motivations and meanings

Posted by steve at 10:40 PM

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Psalms as builders of solidarity

Psalms are a prayer book. First the Jewish people, then down through the centuries in the Christian church, the Psalms have given voice to the full range of human emotion. There are happy Psalms, event Psalms, sad Psalms and angry Psalms. Psalms remind us that God is present in all of life; that no matter how we’re feeling, there are words that can give voice to all our emotions and feelings.

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

Psalms help us pray for ourselves. Psalms also help us pray for others. We can do this by reading a Psalm slowly, phrase by phrase, and by taking the time to let the words of the Psalm connect us with the experience of other people.

Let’s look at Psalm 107. First, verse 3, God has brought back from foreign countries. Now because of pandemic lockdowns, not many of us can say these words. Not many of us get to travel back from foreign countries. But there are plenty of people in our world this week who are travelling. So we use this Psalm to pray for travellers. We think of refugees and those looking after MIQ facilities. So the words of the Psalm help us build solidarity with the experience of other people, who are travelling even if we’re not.

Verse 4 Some wandered in the trackless desert. Again, I suspect that not many of us have got lost in the desert. But there are plenty of people impacted by the Tigray War in Ethiopia. Which includes reports of mass killings of civilians, and people forced to flee into the desert. So we use this Psalm to think of people in Ethiopia. So the words of the Psalm connect with the experience of other people, who are displaced by war even if we’re not.

Verse 10 Some were living in gloom and darkness, prisoners suffering. Again, I suspect that not many have been released from prison this week. But there were 649 people in NZ in 2020 who completed community work sentences and were freed into society. So we use this Psalm to think of New Zealanders who completed community work sentences. We pray these 649 people will be surrounded by good support structures in making good decisions.

Verse 17 Some were fools and there is suffering because of our actions. Again, I suspect not many of us are happy to stand and admit to each other that we’d been a fool and that people have suffered the consequences of our actions. But here in Dunedin we do have a problem with people running red lights. And there can be tragic consequences when we are foolish and break the road rules. So we use this Psalm to think about drivers. We pray that all drivers, no matter their age, will drive not foolishly, but wisely and in ways that don’t put other people’s lives at risk.

Verse 23, Some sailed. Again, I suspect that not many of us here this week have sailed the ocean in ships. But we do live just down the road from a major Port. So we use this Psalm to pray for every sailor in every ship that has birthed in our ports this week. We pray for protection for them, for good decisions during storms and safe return to their families.

So this is how Psalms help us think of others. They help build solidarity with migrants, refugees, those who suffer and those who sail. We do that by taking the time to let the words in the Psalm connect us with the experience of other people.

Posted by steve at 08:18 PM

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Deliver us from evil: theological film review

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 160 plus films later, here is the review for July 2021.

Deliver us from evil
Reviewed by Steve Taylor

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil – The Lords Prayer

Evil is a terrible thing to watch. Deliver us from evil, made by Korean director, Hong Won-Chan, subtitled in English, is filmed across Japan, Thailand, and Korea’s cultural diversity and complex histories. Former Korean special agent Kim In-nam (Hwang Jung-min) accepts one last job to find a kidnapped nine-year-old. Arriving in Thailand, he finds himself followed by his past, including Ray (Lee Jung-jae), seeking revenge for the assassination of his twin brother. The result is a rapid spiral into violence, torture and revenge killing. Yui (Park Jung-min), a trans-female, provides humour as she is paid to guide and translate.

While watching evil is terrible, pretending sin does not exist is a travesty. Vulnerable children deserve to play in safety after school. Trafficking in children and organ harvesting must be exposed.

The presence of evil presents challenges; experientially, to those who suffer and intellectually, to claims of God as loving and powerful. It is tempting to consign ideas of sin and evil to a premodern universe. We might tap along to “Into my Arms”, joining Nick Cave (The Boatman’s Call (2011 Remastered Version)) in singing “I don’t believe in an interventionist God”. Yet, the atrocities humans commit, whether ancient or modern, require some form of intervention.

The Lord’s Prayer is another response. The well-worn words turn the Sermon on the Mount’s beaut attitudes into lived reality. The Prayer names the reality of sin. Evil is something to watch for. The words Jesus’ taught his disciples recognise the personal and the systemic, the individual lure of temptation and the malevolent power of unexplained systems.

Prayers require an answer. Deliver us from evil (the movie) provides two different responses to the tragedy that is human trafficking. In-nam leaves a trail of bodies. The value of sacrifice, mixed with the use of violence, has been one way of understanding Christianity. Substitutionary atonement, poorly applied, can turn Jesus’ body broken on the cross into some sort of Divine revenge killing for human sin. But violence, even if sacrificial, should have no place among those who pray the beaut attitudes.

Deliverance can also occur through random acts of kindness. Yui is delightful. Initially paid as a guide, she demonstrates a depth of love. Wide-eyed, out of her depth, her persistent presence becomes essential for the redemption of nine-year-old Yoo-min. Wide-eyed kindness is another way of understanding Jesus. In the somewhat foolish act of riding a donkey on Palm Sunday, the human temptation to follow a crowd and the presence of evil is exposed even in religious communities. Jesus’ actions, mixed with his persistence unto death on the cross, form a new community. Those who see evil find new ways to care for each other. Such can be the wide-eyed hope for all who dare to watch and pray for deliverance from evil.

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 08:39 PM

Sunday, June 20, 2021

raincoat prayers

The lectionary texts for Sunday included Mark 4:35-41 and Psalm 107:1-3; 23-32. Both texts introduce God as present and active in the storm. So in preparing for Sunday, folk were contacted during the week, asking them to bring a raincoat to church. This built a little bit of curiosity. During the sermon, I reflected on God as present during storms. I began with a story of when I was caught in a hailstorm, which enabled me to put on my raincoat, and so preach with my raincoat on. All helping to make the sermon more memorable.

As the sermon concluded, I invited a prayerful response, in relation to the raincoat that people had been invited to bring (while playing Tracey Chapman’s “I used to be a sailor,” from her Matters of the Heart album).

  • You could use the prayerful time to think about your own journey of following God. What does it mean for you to keep adventuring with God – to keep saying yes to the storms of life? As a way of saying yes you could put on the raincoat you were asked to bring.
  • Or you might use the raincoat to pray for someone you know who is going through a storm – perhaps a hard situation at work or a difficult relationship – that they would have the courage to keep finding the God of peace in the storm. Again, you could also put on the raincoat you were asked to bring, as a way of praying for them.

It was a tactile way to pray, first in the bringing into church of something from everyday life, second in the physical actions of putting on the raincoat, third in the memories that were created, which might well be recalled as the raincoat is used in the future.

Posted by steve at 01:47 PM