Friday, October 29, 2004


i am off … a weekend with my wife in Wellington. The Church Board said I was working too hard and ordered a weekend off.

I hear and obey…. coffee … Te Papa … movies ….. tee he…

Posted by steve at 10:32 AM

Thursday, October 28, 2004

spirituality of place

I visited the arthouse here in Christchurch this week, where a local New Zealand artist, J.S. Parker, is exhibiting. The exhibition is a series called Plain Song: referring to medieval Gregorian chants and the fact that his work captures a spirituality of place, drawing on the Plains of Canterbury and Marlborough. (It’s also an allusion to Parker’s painting techniques; in which he uses the 2-dimensionality of planes as a core motif.)

I have been reflecting recently on the relationship between spirituality and place, both given my geographic moves this year, and given that I am working on a theological article on indigenous landrights in relation to the New Zealand sea-bed and foreshore issue. I suspect that Western theology has been placeless due to its abstract notions of the Trinity, and so we are divorced from a spirituality of place.

A final quote from the Parker exhibition stood out for me: Parker “has always had a spiritual basis to his work and feels this may be one explanation for the recent, strong resurgence of interest in his paintings.” It is nice to see resonnance between my ponderous theological ponderings and the contemporary New Zealand art scene.

Posted by steve at 10:53 AM

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

women and the future of the church

I have been teaching a class on preaching in the postmodern. It has been a huge success, as I re-worked an existing seminary course with an in-service training option.

The class has totaled 26 participants. 8 of the students are training for ministry, while 18 are in ministry, most pastors, grappling with communication in our changing world.

Of the 18 in ministry, only 3 are women. Of the 8 training for ministry, 5 are women.

Is this hope? Or is this a reality check; that for women a huge gulf exists between dreaming and training and between the reality of ministry?

Posted by steve at 10:51 PM

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

labour day worship

This weekend in New Zealand was Labour Day Weekend, with a public on Monday in celebration of the 40 hour working week.

In order to let this weekend shape our worship, I taped 25 metre long and 30 cm wide rolls of paper to the floor, down the centre of the church aisles. The whiteness of the paper was broken by Micah 6:8; See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey God, and caused discussion and comment as the community gathered.

Leading up to the offering, I invited people to write on the Post-it stickers “ways they had laboured”; and to “post” these onto to the white paper rolls close to them. (playing Dido’s Life to Rent)

Then as we collected the offering and brought it to the front, there was a sense that we were gathering up not just money, but gathering up all our lives and all the ways we labour. The offering became a tactile and communal response, embedded in a New Zealand celebration of Labour Day.

The white sheets, now brightly decorated with our “labours,” can now be hung at the front of the worship space.

Posted by steve at 02:42 PM

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Christian moralising

I’m stuck and I need some help. Last night I spoke to about 30 young people aged 8-18, most non-Christians. It was a “God-spot” at the local youth drop-in. I had 5 minutes. It went well, but I came away feeling stuck within my own communication.

Since I was asked to do a God-spot, I used that as my jumping off point. I asked where the God-spot was. Well, apparently a God-spot was not the paint spot on the floor, but me talking about God.

I told them about the ancient Celts who used to create “God-spots” for their protection. I laid out a circle of white stones on the floor


Posted by steve at 03:47 PM

Friday, October 22, 2004

labour day music and workplace spirituality

New Zealand is celebrating Labour weekend, with Monday as a public holiday. The origins of Labour Day are in the struggle for an eight-hour working day, and New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to claim this right. So at the core of Labour Day is a commitment to justice and fairness.

During the offering on Sunday, I am wanting to link our labour with Labour Day and Micah 6:8; “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey God.”

I have rolled a roll of white fax paper down the floor of the church. People will be invited to write on Post-it notes the ways they labour; and attach this to the roll of paper. We will then take up the offering. I need some music …. linking work and justice and God. Any bright sparks out there?

Posted by steve at 04:31 PM

in the beginning it was not the word

After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. Colossians 4:16

The letter to Colossians is to be read, and it is to be read in community.

Then the printing press changed the world. It made the Bible available to many individuals. But in doing so, it changed the Bible from being located as oral and in community, to written, private, individual text.

What does it mean for us to, in the spirit of Colossians, read the Bible orally and in community? And if our world is becoming image-based and digital, how will this re-shape our interaction with the Bible?

Posted by steve at 02:44 PM

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Is the Trinity placeless?

I blog this earthed in a cafe, with a headache, under pressure from a particular set of embodied circumstances and relationships. I blog this in Canterbury, with a particular landscape and seascape. The view from my table shapes my thinking, blabbing, blogging. Place shapes theological reflection.

The work of Miroslav Volf positions the Trinity within the context of 9/11 and ethnic cleansing. It argues that in the face of religious tribalism God embraces us, then releases us to the possibility of being fully human. This becomes a model for human relating; we must embrace the other, we must release the other to face being fully human. This sounds great. It is practically sharpened by the fact that Volf grew up in Yugoslavia and so writes of embrace and freedom and consequence against the bitter backdrop of ethnic cleansing. What do I do with the violator and oppressor; asks Volf? I must embrace because God embraced me. I must release, trusting the love of God and people.

However, this presents the possibility of the Trinity as an abstract meta-narrative, a model for human relationships. And I wonder how such a potentially abstract model is shaped by place. How do the contours of land, of land displacement, shape a Trinitarian theology.

The typical answer is that in Jesus the Trinity becomes “placed”? As Jesus walks, so the Triune God walks. This makes all place important, as a localised, Jewish place, is universalized. However, there is a nagging sense that once again the Trinity has become an abstract meta-narrative, a model for human relationships; as God in one place becomes God in all places.

Or, from my place cafe table, I ask you at your place, is there more to Trinitarian placement?

Posted by steve at 11:23 AM

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

ironies of displacement

Mark emailed last week, markb.jpg wanting to use my re-reading the prodigal son sermon. He’s leading graceway, the church I planted.

It was very wierd sense of convergence; I’ve moved from Graceway – postmodern, cafe style, thinking, smaller – to a more “normal,” more “institutional” church. A prodigal sermon I weave in one (Opawa) place is requested in the other (Graceway) space.

A lot of emerging church blog-rhetoric speaks against the traditional, the institutional, the attractional. It’s a useful rhetorical device, but I increasingly suspect its an artificially crap division. And Mark’s request added to my growing conviction.

And it was a very nice sense of personally authentic linkage, that I am being me despite a changing context and that I can still bless a group of people very important to me.

Posted by steve at 10:39 AM

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

designer U2

I love the simple yet bold effect of the U2 Vertigo/itunes sample. (Download from here). When I see work like this, I am re-affirmed in my awareness that I am not a graffic designer …..

Posted by steve at 10:26 PM

Friday, October 15, 2004

church as holy internet

church as fluid and interlinked
church as honouring of the small, innovative
church of the Long Tail
the back catalog, older albums still fondly remembered by longtime fans or
rediscovered by new ones. There are live tracks, B-sides, remixes,
even (gasp) covers. There are niches by the thousands, genre within
genre within genre:
From Wired Magazine, available online at:

And for an potential image (warning 31K);
in The Holy internet: Communication between Churches in the First Christian Generation, Michael Thompson.


Posted by steve at 06:00 PM

Thursday, October 14, 2004

thanks mate

“do you have a personal trainer,” the student asked.

“No,” I replied, “My obviously resplendent figure is all natural!”

“Wait till you hit 40,” he muttered.

Posted by steve at 04:58 PM

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

spiritual formation and the emerging church

The church I pastor has been, for the last few months, searching for another pastor. We’re looking for someone who can grow people. I just have this hunch that growing people is a really important task. So rather than appoint a general purpose type role, we are looking for someone to coach and mentor and develop people.

At first glance this might not appear emerging. I mean, there are these buzz words around like missional, all dualistically opposed to attractional (not, of course, that postmoderns are meant to be into dualisms!:)) Yet spirituality is big in the culture. So is life coaching. So it seems to me that if we focus on growing people, we can actually move beyond dualisms of come/go; attraction; missional – and get on with growing people. Some will be in the church, some outside; it won’t matter because the focus is a mission discipleship that spiritually forms people.

Anyhow, since we started looking back in August, I have been quite amazed at the level of interest. We’ve had 5 applications and over a dozen expressions of interest. Of even more interest is that almost all have been younger, and there have been a pleasing number of women. It has been neat to take a punt, in what seems a fairly unique position, and to have such a good level of response.

We are in the final days of sifting three ideal candidates; pray for wisdom.

Posted by steve at 03:48 PM

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

trinity and mission

A while ago maggi posted on the Trinity and worship. All the recent talk about missional Church reminds me that the Trinity and worship risks remains self-indulgent without the Trinity and mission.

At the heart of the Trinity is three persons – Father, Son and Spirit – in the giving of love. Love is shared between persons, in an unlimited, ever-spiraling flow of love. The church fathers used to call this perichoresis – the divine dance of love. It is a beautiful metaphor; fluid, whole-bodied, dynamic.

What makes this missional is that this dynamic, fluid, flowing love is shared with the world, in creation, in Christ, and in the activity of the Spirit. This flow of love refuses to remain self-centred.

When God breathes breath into humanity, created in the image of God, we see the relational love of the Trinity shared. Love is never self-indulgent. In Christ, the relational love of the Trinity is shared. The sharing is so radical, so complete, so life-giving, that one person of the Trinity will die for the Other. The affirmation that the Spirit is in our world reminds us that love is always calling us, always inviting us out of our circles, out of our understandings of community, out of our walls and set practices. In this sense the Trinity is missional,

Further, the Trinity offers us unity and diversity, one love shared between three distinct persons. This also guides our mission. The missional church will be an expression of the shared love of God. Equally the missional church will be locally distinctive, a unique, grounded expression of the God-head.

Thus talk about church and mission needs to be grounded in our understandings of God as Trinity. A “missional church” is not new, but a recovering of very ancient understandings, in which we live, we create, we emerge, as an outflow of the shared love of God. We seek to express fluid, whole-boided, dynamic love. We honour the unity with other expressions of church, we applaud diversity, we celebrate uniquely grounded differences.

Posted by steve at 09:43 AM