Thursday, July 20, 2017

Faith development for girls: more than just a guy thing

I’m doing a workshop at Connect this weekend. I’m taking some friends – Mary, Elizabeth, Anna – to help me explore Faith development for girls: more than just a guy thing. Workshop participants will have a chance to make a Mary/Elizabeth/Anna ‘action’ figure.

Unknown-1

This workshop explores gender in discipleship. What can we learn from teenagers in the Bible like Loruhamah and Jarius’ daughter?  It is an important question given most material on faith development has been written by men. Voices of contemporary pre-teenagers will be placed alongside Biblical voices in asking how we encourage faith development for all God’s people.

Posted by steve at 03:45 PM | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

sacred welfare

How to nurture mystery in the practical act of giving plants?

An Australian magazine, Zadok Winter edition, carries a 900 word article they asked me to write on the future of church-based welfare. I’ve called it Sacred welfare. I start with a ministry story and examine it in light of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. I then reflect on an Old Testament image of mission, in Micah 4:4, alongside the work of Roland Boer The Sacred Economy of Ancient Israel, on ancient Israelite economies. Finally, I return to my ministry story to coin a new term “sacred welfare” as a way to understand mission and social service.

Here’s the article in full:

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Posted by steve at 06:32 PM | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Theologies of redemption and the ‘secondary-victimization” impact of sexual violence

I’m presenting at ANZATS 2017 tomorrow, on Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation. It is a weighty, yet essential topic. Much sexual violence occurs in the context of kin and family. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse leaves no doubt that sexual violence also occurs among the family of God.

28U44ck

In my paper, I consider the impact of sexual violence, particularly ‘secondary-victimization” in relation to Christian understandings of redemption, in conversation with one of the four doctors of theology of the church, Irenaeus of Lyon. His theology has been summarised by Orthodox theologian, John Behr, The Way to Nicaea (2001) as continual presence, making visible and full maturation. (See also Behr, Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement, (2000)).

This is a table summarising my data:

sexualviolencedata

Given the data, I conclude:

the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 offers an understanding of redemption grounded in the reality of family and kin. In Matthew 1 and in the crucifixion, the invisibility of sexual violence is made visible. Jesus, of the line of David, in Gospel narratives of compassion and truth-telling, acts in full maturity, recapitulating on behalf of other “less than mature” males in his ancestor line.

In resurrection, Jesus is revealed as fully present, both backward and forward, calling Tamar and Rahab as witnesses to the ‘economies’ of God in “each generation.”  Recapitulation provides ways to redeem the ‘secondary-victimization” impact of sexual violence.

Posted by steve at 12:22 AM | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Wonder Woman as female Christ figure: a theological film review

ticket-1543115-640x480 Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 120 plus films later, here is the review for June 2017.

Wonder Woman
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Wonder Woman is fun. My three female companions loved it. Each appreciated a strong woman, doing what is right without needing a male savior. For one, there was delight in connecting with 1970’s childhood TV memories of Lynda Carter fighting crime with one golden lasso and two bullet-deflecting arm guards.

Wonder Woman was a comic character, created in 1941, for DC Comics. The opening scene of the Wonder Woman movie pays homage, with a Marvel van delivering a package. Inside is a photograph. It is a smart scene, connecting Diana (Gal Gadot) with the comic genre, locating her in contemporary time, yet with a photographic history that includes World War 1.

Wonder Woman was created by American psychologist and writer, William Moulton Marston. He sought a superhero who would triumph not with fists or firepower, but with love. “Fine,” his wife said, “but make her a woman.” (Lamb, Marguerite, “Who was Wonder Woman? Bostonia). In seeking inspiration, Marston looked to early feminists, including birth control pioneer, Margaret Sanger.

Given these feminist ideals, it is interesting to then ponder Wonder Woman as a female Christ figure. Historically, Christian theology has offered a number of ways to understand the work of a male saviour. Three have dominated, including Jesus bringing victory over evil, offering a moral example and as a substitute for sin. (There are other Biblical trajectories, including Jesus as our representative, as faithful witness, as adopting us into God’s family, as embracing us like the Prodigal Son and with us in solidarity.)

In relation to Wonder Woman, the act of sacrificial love is performed by the male, as Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) offers his life for the sake of the world. Diane takes another approach. In a climatic final scene, she presents in a crucifix position, arms outstretched, radiating white love from her heart to conquer darkness. It is an act chosen after an extended wrestle with the implications of free will.

It is a complex moral question, carefully explored over an extended final action sequence. Will you give someone choice, when they have the ability to choose evil? For Diana, the answer is resolved in remaining love.

“And now I know… that only love can truly save the world.
So now I stay, I fight, and I give – for the world I know can be.
This is my mission now, for ever.”

Confronted with the human potential to bring darkness, she triumphs not with fists or firepower, but with love. In so doing, redemption chooses to participating with humanity, active in a mission in which love wins.

Wonder Woman is packed with action and fun-filled humour. It provides connections for fans new and old. For new fans, Diana’s Amazon origins are describing, while for old fans, she appears in the opening scene in the same clothes as she wore in the much loved 1970’s TV series. At the same time, Wonder Woman is a serious examination of a female Christ figure who responds to the complexity of free will with a remaining love.

Posted by steve at 07:21 PM | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 01, 2017

conference bound

After 2 sleeps at home, I am on the road again, heading to Australia for two academic conferences.

The first conference – Australian Association of Mission Studies – is in Melbourne. I am presenting a paper titled – Converting Kings? theologies of church and state in the encounter between British and Maori. I am looking at the story of Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana. I am biography as theology (drawing from James McClendon, Biography as Theology: How Life Stories Can Remake Today’s Theology) and feminist research on home-making (drawing from Sef Carroll’s chapter in Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific), to appreciate how his use of the book of Ephesians acts as a public theology of Empire resistance. There are over 10 folk from Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand attending, with 4 KCML faculty presenting. That is an excellent turnout.

The second conference – Australia New Zealand Association of Theological Studies – is in Adelaide. I am doing two things.

First, I am presenting a posterStructuring Flipped learning: The use of Blooms taxonomy in the classroom experience. I’ve had some playful fun putting together the following.

postertogo

Second, I am presenting a paper on Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation. I’ve worked on this with a colleague at University of Otago, David Tombs and we will be testing some ideas about pastoral theology.

Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation
ANZATS 2017

Much sexual violence occurs in contexts of kinship, including tragically the family of God. This paper tests notions of recapitulation when lines of kin are stained by sexual violence. Tombs has previously argued that Jesus is a victim of sexual abuse. How is this good news for victims in history?

The genealogy of Matthew 1 connects Jesus with the royal line of David. It names women either sexually mistreated or vulnerable to sexual violence. Tamar is dishonoured by male sexual practices, resorting to prostitution. Bathsheba is sexually preyed upon by a powerful ruler. Rahab as a prostitute is likely to have experienced sexual mistreatment. Ruth’s vulnerability is evident in the encounter with Boaz. A further victim is anonymously present, given David is Tamar’s father, raped by Amnon. The Matthean genealogy thus locates Jesus as a descendant: of men who violate and of women violated. At stake is the depths to which redemption is possible.

Irenaeus offers an essential link between theology and anthropology. For Behr, The Way to Nicaea (2001), these can be summarised as continual presence, making visible and full maturation. (See also Behr, Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement, (2000)). These ground redemption in humanity experience. Jesus makes sexual violence visible when framed as from the Davidic line. In full maturity, Jesus acts justly toward victims of sexual violence. Gospel episodes of compassion, vulnerability and solidarity become a recapitulation, a contrast to actions of the males in the line of David.

What emerges are starting points for ways to respond to sexual violence, including solidarity, visibility, acting humanly and tending bodies broken.

David Tombs and Steve Taylor
University of Otago and Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership: Flinders University

It will be good to be back in Adelaide, which was home for us for 6 years.

Posted by steve at 12:55 PM | Comments (1)

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

a fake films film review: Their Finest

ticket-1543115-640x480 Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 120 plus films later, here is the review for June 2017.

Their Finest
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Their Finest is well-made entertainment, directed by Danish director, Lone Scherfig. Scherfig has won previous acclaim, with An Education gaining three Oscar nominations and applause in Touchstone (November, 2009) as “a triumph for the directing skills of Dane Lone Scherfig.” Scherfig seems able to draw exceptional performances from women leads. In 2009, Carey Mulligan gained as Oscar for her performances as Jenny in An Education. In 2017, Gemma Arterton shines as Catrin Cole in Their Finest.

Their Finest draws on the third novel (“Their Finest: A Novel“) from the pen of Lissa Evans. Movies about movies are a well-worn cliché, with over 100 listed on one IMDB database. In war-torn England, a secretary finds herself a script writer. In the aftermath of Dunkirk and the blitz on London, England needs stories of hope. But in the world of cinema, truth soon finds herself playing second fiddle to politics. Is fake news in fact a historic reality? The lines between truth and propaganda become blurred as womens’ roles are cut and new characters inserted, in search of favour from audiences home and American.

The result is a set of ethical questions. Is British propaganda more virtuous than German propaganda because winners are grinners? Is making movies about the process of making movies clever? Or is the whole industry self-referencing narcissism? And is that the point being made by Their Finest?

While Their Finest is based on an exceptional performance by Gemma Arterton as Catrin Cole, both men in the developing love triangle (Sam Claflin as Tom Buckley and Jack Huston as Ellis), are less than loveable. A chain smoking mansplainer and a philandering artist suggest their is little nobility in wartorn English manhood.

What becomes clear as Their Finest rolls on is that for some, war will be more of a liberation than a deprivation. With a shortage of men, women (like Catrin Cole) who want to script write find themselves achieving in domains previously unattainable. Hence war becomes a theatre in which the emancipation of women is enhanced.

The movie mixes comedy and war time drama. Sometimes the mix is smooth, including the scene in which the German bombing of a London fashion reveals bodies not of humans but of dummies. At other times, the mix is barely believable. A central scene (spoiler alert), concludes with a war-time tragedy that abruptly ends a romantic relationship. As the body is rushed to hospital, the camera remains focused on Catrin Cole. It makes good cinematography, centralising every ounce of grief in one lonely figure. But leaving a victim alone in shock and grief seems a scarcely believable response, in war or peace.

Perhaps this is the dilemma at the heart of Their Finest. The war offers liberation, but only for individuals present in moments of opportunity. It seems a less than fine approach to feminism and opportunity. Does feminism need individual women grabbing opportunity, only to find themselves making fake news? Or does it need a societal restructure, in which solidarity together brings needed change? Their Finest offers entertainment and a pleasing range of puzzling ethical complexities.

Posted by steve at 01:55 PM

Sunday, June 04, 2017

The emerging church in transatlantic perspective

Just out in the latest edition of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2017: 1-11) is a really interesting article on the Emerging Church by Matthew Guest, of Durham University. Matthew did his PhD in the area and we shared a joint article in 2006. (“The Post-Evangelical Emerging Church: Innovations in New Zealand and the UK,” International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church 6 (1), 2006, 49-64).

In The emerging church in transatlantic perspective, Guest offers a first attempt at sketching the “global dimensions” of the Emerging Church movement (1). He notes that such cross-national analysis remains “substantially under-researched.” (The exception is Marti and Ganiel, The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity (2014), which examines only the relationship between US and Ireland). As a result, appreciation of the sociological influences of global flows of economic and cultural capital are underdeveloped.

Guest notes the now extensive number of existing sociological studies that have adopted a case study approach to the ECM at a local, regional or national level. These now provides a “wealth of empirical data” from which to theorise the movement as a global phenomena (2).

“A global perspective calls for a theorisation of its contours that takes seriously the particular cultural and historical experiences that framed its emergence” (2).

The ECM is defined as prioritising a conversation over a body of doctrine, valuing an authenticity in dialogue with culture, offering a creative ritual expression that tends toward pick and mix and fostering inclusive spaces for those damaged by mainstream Christianity (2). Guest points to a “single master narrative” (1), that of postmodernity, used as a trope to emphasize the novelty of the movement (1). This trope is enhanced by the “expert theorisers” whose “intellectual capacities in critiquing church and culture contribute to the illusion that they … have effectively disentangled themselves from the institutional and cultural constraints that limit the efforts of the mainstream.” (2, citing The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity ( 2014:81)). The ECM becomes an extension of the entreprenurial tendencies of contemporary evangelicalism, made distinct by this positioning in relation to gospel and culture. Having established this commonality of “entrepreneurial evangelicalism” (3), Guest however argues for national differences, shaped by different denominational structures and local histories.

First, he notes how ECM in Australasia emerged from Baptistic-type churches. This was made possible by their focus on the local expression of church, which gave space for innovation to happen and made sense as an early rapid response to cultural change. Many of these early adopters were central city churches and/or nourished by artistic communities. He contrasts this with the UK, in which many early adopters groups were attached to Anglican churches.

Second, he reflects on the gradual mainstreaming of the ECM. This is sociological, as groups have aged, settled into careers and had families. This has opened up a generational gap. Recent research among university students in the UK suggests that ECM’s priority on authenticity is not shared by today’s Christian young adults (5). “Faced with the much more visible, vibrant, and populous evangelical churches that affirm a clear, accessible and explicit theological essentialism, few young people are attracted by the subdued, small-scale, meditative tone of ECM worship.” (5)

Third, he examines national differences, in particular in the US. He notes the strong reaction against the religious right and megachurches in the US. This produces a stronger sense of identity among ECM adherents. Hence “the ECM localizes most coherently and most enduringly within contexts in which a dogmatic evangelical Protestantism is also a culturally salient presence” (7). This is enhanced by the strong voluntarist culture of the US.

In conclusion, Guest notes the global flows of entrepreneurial capitalism and conversionist Protestantism. ECM benefits from these cultural resources, including individual self-expression and the forming voluntary associations, magnified by the high levels of IT competence, artistic creativity and theological literacy. At the same time, Guest argues that clusters of cultural affinity as essential vehicles for the transmission of identity (8). He suggests a cluster of affinity between US and Northern Ireland, based on being a counter-sectarian response to dogmatic evangelical Protestantism. This is not shared in UK and Australasia, which share a more heavily secularised contexts.

I have a number of points of nuance and critique, but that is for another post. What is interesting is that the emerging church continues to enjoy academic research.

Posted by steve at 10:56 PM

Thursday, June 01, 2017

my research pipeline

Last year, I found a helpful article – “My Writing Productivity Pipeline.” A researcher, juggling a variety of academic commitments, began to imagine their research and writing as a pipeline, with work at different places. Proposals were at one end, published work at the other. The aim is to maintain work in every section of the pipeline and to keep that work moving.

I have found it a very useful tool. I took the categories from the “My Writing Productivity Pipeline” article and turned them into a table (click for a better image).

pipeline

Along the top are the various stages of the research and writing process. Down the side are the types of writing – separating book chapters, journal articles and books. This is about the time taken – it takes a lot longer to complete a book than an article, and also helps me look at workflow over a year and in relation to sabbatical projects.

The table sits on my laptop. It helps me keep track of various projects. It helps me to say yes and no; offering accountability in time management and focus in my research.

Posted by steve at 10:01 PM

Friday, May 26, 2017

two Steve’s in two places

Today, due to the wonders of technology, there are two Steve’s in two places.

First, there is diligent Steve, who is at National Assessment Weekend. I am working with 15 folk from across the Presbyterian Church. Every year, this group gathers in Torbay, Auckland, to discern those called to nationally ordained ministry within the Presbyterian Church. Over the weekend, there will be prayer, listening, questioning, engaging, as we seek to understand God’s call.

Second, with the wonders of technology, there is playful Steve. This person is working in Adelaide, South Australia. They are making a presentation in the Noel Stockdale Room, Central Library, Flinders University, between 2-5 pm. This is part of “Undisciplined Austen” a 2017 interdisciplinary research project run by Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities.

I will be making a presentation on the role of religion in contemporary popular culture portrayals of Jane Austen. (I described a few weeks ago how this has come about). This type of research is at the margins of my Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership role. So all work done has been after hours. Tele watching in the evenings! On Monday evening I watched Pride And Prejudice And Zombies. On Tuesday evening, I put together my presentation. This involved examining the movie, looking for Biblical references, the portrayal of religious practices and theological themes and language.

I confess to being quite surprised. I began quite playfully. Almost flippant actually. But as I examined the role of sacramental practice in Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, I found myself pondering anew what the Biblical account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke might actually be saying.

I videod this and sent it to the conference organisers. It will be played today. The interaction of participants and other presenters will be recorded and sent to me. This will then shape the writing of a paper, which along with the other presenters, will become a special journal issue, on the “Undisciplined” i.e. beyond English literature engagement with Jane Austen.

My presentation is titled “religious piety and pig brains: the faith of zombies.” This use of technology will enable me to be Adelaide today, in a somewhat playful space, at the same time as I am in a diligent space in Torbay, Auckland. For those interested, here is “playful Steve”, talking about the faith of zombies in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

steve taylor zombie theology from steve taylor on Vimeo.

I am glad to be both diligent and playful. I actually think this is part my continuing to discern my call, to seek to weave together my desire to keep encountering a God of surprise, in the midst of prayerful search for understanding. I am glad to be part of discerning call. I am also glad to think theologically about popular culture, to review films and consider how religious resources are being used.

Posted by steve at 10:58 AM

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Listening in mission 1: the value of chat

listeninginmission KCML in 2017 are offering a listening in mission practical learning course. It is an experiment for us, testing ways we can provide life-long learning opportunities for ministers in context.

The listening in mission practical learning course involves a listening project, in which participants gather a team of 4-6 from their church and engage in a provided guided listening project. So it is based on action, the church doing something. This is supported by a set of online sessions, in which there is listening to Scripture, engagement with readings in mission, sharing of resources, support and prayer. In other words, reflection.

After a no-strings attached introductory webinar on May 3, to allow folk to check if this was for them, the cohort got underway yesterday evening. The aim was to create links between the project and Scripture and mission and to be a practical resource for each other as we seek to get the listening project going.

For me it was a such rich and sustained engagement in the realities of mission and ministry. I loved the way conversation moved so freely between the readings, the listening practical project and our role as ministers. I loved the exchange of ideas as various folks shared from their current practice. It felt at times like being on holy ground.

Once again, it was a joy to teach without leaving my desk or entering a classroom. Instead, online technology makes possible a very different sort of experience. On the video, I saw children come in for a quick cuddle and partners begin to check about dinner arrangements. This was learning in lounges and around computer desks, threaded through with everyday realities. So different from a classroom.

One of the learnings for me in this particular experience of online learning is the value of the chat function. The online platform we are using has video, voice and a chat function. Three of the KCML Faculty are involved (all from different physical locations). With this shared leadership model, it means that while one is talking, the others can engage on chat. Key discussion themes can be highlighted and 1-1 questions engaged. Even better, the platform we are using allows us to copy and paste the chat.

So every class has the online participation through video, voice and typed chat. It also has the audio saved, to be listened to again afterward. And the chat, which serves as written notes, allowing further reflection on learning. The result is a rich set of layers for learning.

Posted by steve at 03:37 PM

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Objects of faith: Pulpit bibles and Presbyterian theologies of Scripture

“..religion is characteristically expressed in communities of worship.” Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought, Picador, 2005, 99).

Unknown-1 This is the pulpit Pew Bible of the now closed Andersons Bay Presbyterian Church. Embossed on the front cover are the words “Good News Bible. Today’s English Version.” It replaces an older Bible, a King James Version. It thus stands as a sign of change in the life of this church community. One wonders what motivated the change process and how it impacted on those used to the existing version.

Unknown-2 Inside is a handwritten inscription. “To the Glory of God. Presented by Robert Hamilton in memory of his wife, Adeline Maude, June 1985.” The Bible is thus personalised, fused with the life of this unique church community and the individual grief as a loved person dies.

Inside is also a bookmark. It is blue felt and has two hand embroidered symbols, both in yellow. One is of a cross, the other is of the burning bush. Both symbols speak of significant iconography, the Christian cross and the burning bush as the emblem of the Presbyterian Church of Aoteaora New Zealand. They suggest this church community is marked as Christian and as part of the Presbyterian Church.

These three markers – “Good News Bible. Today’s English Version,” the handwritten inscription and the hand embroidered symbols – suggest an approach to Bible reading that is open to change, entwined with individual story yet located within the Christian and denominational history. They suggest a Presbyterian theology of Scripture, embedded in the everyday practices of this community of faith. How consistent is this with other Presbyterian, other Protestant, other Christian approaches to Scripture?

One way to address these questions is to place the Andersons Bay pulpit Pew Bible alongside research by Joseph Webster (“Objects of Transcendence: Scots Protestantism and an Anthropology of Things,” Material Religion in Modern Britain: The Spirit of Things, Palgrave MacMillan, 2015, 17-35). He explores how Bibles are used in Scottish Protestantism.

First, Bibles are open (24). Second, Bibles are understood as a living word shaping the behaviour of individuals (25). Third, Bibles are an object that can mediate salvation (26). At work in each of these affirmations is a commitment to the “power of encountering tbe biblical object and its person-like qualities” (26). The use of this object of faith, the Bible, suggests the importance of providing “routes of access to the inwardness of this book (27). What matters is not only the actual text, but also the object, Scripture as an ever-present and potentially transforming reality. “”[T]he saved” become “living epistles” as their lives are conformed to the Bible (29).

Webster reads this alongside cultural shift, in particular the arrival of modernity. Webster argues that these understandings he observed in Scottish Protestantism are neither pre- nor anti-modern. Bibles are used, according to Webster, as consubstantiated hybrids (33). They are at the same time a collection of pages and the breath of God. This is made possible by a worldview of immanence and transcendence in which things are both material and enchanted.

Back at Andersons Bay, we see this materiality. There is the willingness to replace one material book with another, believing that it is not only in specific certain mystical pages that God is encountered. There is the weaving of individual biography, in which tradition is understood in relation to church members who have gone before. There is the craft of embroidery, consistent with a church known for this particular craft. These suggest a commitment to materiality, at odds with stereotypes of Protestantism as not of this world.

Yet we equally see transcendence, in the decision to change the Bible, presumably to enhance the living witness of this text. Also in the belief that in the craft of embroidery and the remembering of individual lives will come inward transformation of individual lives: routes of access in which “the saved” become “living epistles.” (Webster in Material Religion in Modern Britain, 27, 29).

Posted by steve at 12:06 PM

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Is the author actually alive?

For the last month, I have been working to complete a writing deadline. In June last year, I co-presented a paper on theological education in the Pacific at Woven Together, a conference on Christianity and development in the Pacific, run by the School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies at Victoria University. Titled The complexity of being woven together: A microhistory of Talua Ministry Training Centre, the paper involved research on the history of New Zealand Presbyterian involvement in theological education in Vanuatu, using archives held at the Archives Research Centre of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. Talua is a partner College of Knox Centre, so doing this research helped me understand and appreciate this historical partnership.

Following the conference in June, I was invited to develop the paper for publication in a book emerging from the conference. In order to broaden the research, over the last few months I have been searching more widely for materials. Doing a literature search at the Otago University Library catalogue, I discovered some potentially interesting titles were held at the Hocken Collections.

C8NjxTZUAAAWpcr

So in late March, I ducked into the Hocken Collections to look at an honours thesis, by Melissa Bray, and a lecture, by Neal Whimp. It was a lovely few hours, in the quiet of one of New Zealand’s wonderful archival resources, reading about mission in the Pacific, taking notes relevant to my research.

On Thursday this week I flew to Tauranga, to speak to the Kaimai Presbytery. I used the time airborne to write, putting the finishing touches to the chapter. This included re-reading the notes I had made at the Hocken Collections on the lecture by Neal Whimp and then adding the reference to the bibliography: The Church in Vanuatu since 1945 with special reference to its role in the move to Independence, 1980. I made excellent progress on the 110 minute flight to Tauranga and later that evening, I was able to send the chapter off to the editors (only 20 days behind deadline!)

On Friday, I was speaking in Tauranga to a group of Presbyterian ministers. Among the audience, asking thoughtful pointed questions, was a person with a name tag “Neal Whimp.” One question in the afternoon session included a very helpful probing about colonialism in mission. The nature of the question suggested that the person with a name tag “Neal Whimp” had some history and empathy toward cross-cultural challenges.

As I packed up at the end of the day, I had this feeling that the name “Neal Whimp” was familiar. Something clicked in relation to my writing the day before. Was the Neal Whimp in person on Friday the Neal Whimp on paper on Thursday? Surely not!? Could the lecture I read at the Hocken Collections actually have a living author? Surely not in Tauranga, surely not some 37 years later?

Before I could check, the person with a name tag “Neal Whimp” was gone.

On Saturday, I spoke again, to a larger group, still Presbyterian, but this time a mixture of ministers, elders and lay people. As folk began to gather, I kept scanning the crowd. Would he return? If he did, would I get to connect with him among a crowd of over 100, moving between multiple workshops and keynotes?

I was delighted to spot the person with a name tag “Neal Whimp” entering and made a bee-line. “Are you by any chance the Neal Whimp who in 1980, delivering a lecture titled The Church in Vanuatu since 1945 with special reference to its role in the move to Independence, 1980? Because if you are, I was reading your work two days ago and I’m delighted to meet you.”

Sure enough, it was the same person.

We had a great conversation. He was delighted to know his lecture was held at the Hocken Collections and was being read. I gained some more insight, albiet briefly, into his work in Vanuatu in theological education between 1969 and 1980.

And I left pondering this striking coincidence. Authors read in archives can actually be alive! A person I cite on a Thursday can be met for the first time on a Friday!

Posted by steve at 05:42 PM

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Undisciplined Austen

austen

Here’s my draft abstract in relation to the Undisciplined Austen research project at the Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities, and in which I am participating, in a slightly bemused sort of way (and in my own time!)

Faith of zombies by Dr Steve Taylor

My “undisciplined” discipline is that of popular culture. I plan to “read” the 2016 movie, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, in which zombies express faith through religious practice.  I will examine the religious service scenes in the movie, in dialogue with three sources. First, the established religion of Austen’s time, in the form of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (still the official Prayer Book of the Church of England). Second, the Biblical themes of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, in particular in relation to the book of Revelation. Third, in dialogue with analysis of Christian imagery generally in zombie movies, beginning with Kim Paffenroth’s Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth, Baylor 2006. The aim is to articulate the uniquely “undisciplined” contribution that Austen genre makes to zombie theology and in relation to current study of zombie theology.

Posted by steve at 09:03 AM

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

4 talks in 4 hours: Kamai Presbytery bound

I shut my office door at 1:30 pm this afternoon. I have to travel tomorrow morning to deliver 4 talks in Tauranga over the weekend.

Friday, 19 May, 10am-12pm: Discipleship and the mission of God – an examination of what it means to from disciples, including reflecting on the distinctive archival resources from Presbyterian history It was Innovation and the Mission of God

Friday, 19 May, 1-2pm: Preparing for mission and ministry today – the introduction of three art pieces, with the stories of how they have been central in shaping my ministry and their implications for innovation, formation and mission.

Saturday, 20 May, 10:30am-11:10 am: Innovation and the Mission of God – a workshop reflecting on six Biblical images that help us understand innovation as an essential practice of a healthy community. Two stories of change that help us appreciate that innovation is not the mysterious quest of a heroic leader, but a set of collaborative, practical actions.

Saturday, 20 May, 11:15am-12:15pm: Refresh! Renew! Rethink! How Scripture brings change in our communities, with particular attention to the justice-making of Wiremu Tamihana, Te Whiti and the Tamar project.

So with a 4 hour window clear of appointments, it was time to prepare. Thankfully each of the talks was something I’ve done before. Thankfully when I speak, I keep physical files of the various resources I use on the day. Thankfully when I speak, I prepare on a computer, which means I can easily make adjustments from one context to the next. So the preparation was a matter of sifting piles, compiling resources, checking and then copying handouts.

IMG_4892 By 4:45 pm this afternoon, I had 4 rows. Each row was in relation to each talk and included speaking notes, handouts and a range of creative resources, unique to each session, that I will use to enable engagement, imagination and interaction.

Now all I need to do is get the 4 piles packed and on the plane, trust nothing gets lost in the Dunedin -> Tauranga flights and make sure the right resource gets pulled out for the right session. I really enjoyed my time with the Kaimai Presbytery last year, and I’m also looking forward to connecting with current interns, recent graduates and perhaps some incoming interns!

Posted by steve at 05:20 PM