Sunday, December 30, 2007

planting community contact

So I am walking home last week. It’s about 6:30 pm, a clear, pleasant summer evening. I see a woman struggling to offload an item from a trailer. Offering a hand, we carry the item into her garage.

Her: Thankyou so much for your help.

Me: No worries. We moved house last week ourselves, so I know what’s its like moving stuff.

Her: Did you move somewhere close?

Me: Across the river. About 10 minutes walk. (She’s looking confused as to why I am walking this way if I live 10 minutes walk away so I explain). I’m the pastor of Opawa Baptist, so I this is my first go at walking home from work to my new house.

Her: Opawa Baptist. Are you the church that gave out plants recently.

Me: Yes. [Context for blog readers. When I arrived at Opawa 4 years ago, I suggested an annual Spring Clean as a way of our church community engaging with our local community. One day when we as a church offer a variety of ways to serve – around our church buildings, clearing rubbish from our streets, cleaning up local homes. Over 4 years the idea has morphed and grown, including gaining local government funding to offer a community barbeque lunch, and this year, seedling vegetable plants given out to homes in the community].

Her: That was so kind. I gave mine to a friend who was just moving into a new house. It was so appreciated.

I wander off, sort of gob smacked, pondering the fact that the church I pastor is now known in the neighbourhood as the “church that gives out vegetable plants.” What sort of God are we portraying? What are we needing to learn as seek to partner this God at work in our community?

Posted by steve at 08:51 PM

Friday, December 28, 2007

christmas worship treats 2007

A range of things that seemed to click in worship this Christmas.

1 – Advent beads: each a different colour, each with the Advent word (hope, peace, joy, love) glued onto their base. Given out, one for each week of Advent, an object of beauty, a tactile reminder of the journey toward Christmas.

2 – Something Beautiful: a song from Sinead O’Connor Theology album, played at 11 pm communion. It has lyrics including;
U who give life through blood
Oh I wanna make something
So lovely for U, ‘Cos I promised that’s what I’d do for U
With the bible I stole
I know U forgave my soul
Because such was my need on a chronic Christmas eve
. Sinead has such a beautiful and haunting voice, and the place was candlelit at 11:30 pm on Christmas Eve and we’re entering into communion as life through blood. You get the idea.

3 – Wheat prayers and communion: In Croatia they have a custom of planting wheat in small pots in early December. By Christmas Eve, the wheat has sprouted and the plants are tied with ribbon, and placed as a Christmas decoration. So just before communion, we had introduced the custom as a reminder, of life and growth, no matter how cold and dark and gloomy the winter.

We then prayed pastorally for young and old and placed the plants on the communion table. The wheat, bound with a red sash, sat amid bread and wine, a sign of the cycles of life and hope and potential. Which might help answer this question: as to why communion at the birth of Jesus. Because we are remembering the “One who gave life through blood.”

4 – Making animal noises: Yep. Animal noises.

We played “Day 2″ from here.

Yep. Animal noises. Then we divided the church up into cows, sheep and roosters; then rewrote the first line of the second verse of Away in a manger;
The cattle are lowing
The sheep are bleating
The roosters are crowing

and invited people to express their inner animal!

Yep. Animal noises. It ensured a range of random animal noises through out the services. All good fun. All a reminder of the humanity and reality of the birth.

5 – Blue Christmas tree with blue boxes: About 15 people turned out for our Blue Christmas service. I had created a central focus by spraypainting a Christmas tree blue which we hung from the ceiling (it was more blue in reality than in this photo).

bluechristmas3300.jpg Below the Christmas tree was a manger, empty, and draped in blue cloth. Inside were blue boxes.

bluechristmas1300.jpg We prayed the Magnificant, God’s promise to all those who are blue. I had set up a range of stations offering various resources – music, images, Biblical meditations, candles, blue beads – that might prove helpful. People were invited to pick up an empty blue box, walk the stations and place whatever resources they might want in the box, which was theirs to take home.

Posted by steve at 09:17 AM

Thursday, December 27, 2007

boxing day tears

Snowy, our family rabbit died on Boxing Day. Never thought I would cry for a rabbit, but he was beautiful, placid and a great friend for the family. We buried him in the rain and I watched our children process grief in very different ways.

Posted by steve at 11:22 AM

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

2007 Christmas benediction

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Rejoice, for God’s Light has come for the whole world. Go now, bringing the joy of God’s love with you to all that you meet. Go in peace and may God’s glorious peace always go with you.

Posted by steve at 10:28 AM

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas pain

Station 5 of the Christmas Journey Peace Labyrinth in Latimer Square invited people to explore a moment of personal peace by posting a secret. They could do this publicly on a noticeboard, or privately into a confessional. Here are some of the public confessions.

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For more go here. There’s a lot of pain in our world. I wonder where those first Christmas angels are, those who announced “peace on earth” to the shepherds? Are they weeping over these cards? Or are they still flying, still singing, still hoping, still praying?

Posted by steve at 11:05 AM

Sunday, December 23, 2007

updated (with a womens voice): moving four advent candles

I have just reworked our use of the Advent candles, to try and capture the movement and journey that is inherent in the Old Testament narratives. As a church, we have just finished a series on the Minor prophets, so it also serves to tie that into our Christmas preparation. And to involve the children.

I quite like it, and the way it connects narrative, Bible, movement and symbol. You?

(more…)

Posted by steve at 04:06 PM

Saturday, December 22, 2007

emerging church postcards 07

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For the last two years I have sought to summarise the global emerging church by compiled a set of postcards reflecting on the year that was. I simply want to provide on-line a visual snapshot and digital diary of the emerging church. I did this for 2005 and for 2006, and I want to do the same again for 2007.

So I welcome contributions from any emerging church, anywhere in the world, whether you have done it before or not. Just send me at steve at emergentkiwi dot org dot nz;
a) 1 photo of your emerging community this (07) year;
plus a few sentences in response to these 4 questions;
b) green – what has grown? what has potential into a new year?
c) yellow – what has encouraged you? given you joy?;
d) black – what has been a risk? what has been hard?
e) red – what words describe how you feel? what have you liked? what have you not liked?

(we worked our way through these colours with our staff team over breakfast this morning and it proved an honest and helpful way to reflect on our 2007 year)

During January I will be post your image and responses as a series of postcards07 on my blog. (Feel free to use the emerging church postcards 07 image above and to spread the word.)

For a complete (historical) set of emerging postcards go here.
For why do an emerging church postcards series go here

Posted by steve at 12:15 PM

Friday, December 21, 2007

the Christmas journey Peace labyrinth begins at latimer square

I’m just back from the Christmas Journey Peace Labyrinth. It is fantastically beautiful at night, light by neon LED’s, the lampost over the central stable, clouds of smoke drifting through the night air. About 250 people have walked through in first 3 hours.

700 hay bales arrived at about 5 am this morning and a team of about 30 people have worked through the day, setting up a guided pathway using hay bales stacked one, two, or three high; with spaces for a range of stations, offering moments of peace around themes like peace at home, peace at work, peace in community, peace with the earth. There is a livewebcam you can access here, which is linked to the peace with myself station.

It’s just so accessible and so large, right bang smack in the middle of our city. It’s exactly where Jesus should be at Christmas, as party people wander past and the mentally ill mumble by. I’m so proud to be part of a church which has this type of capacity, imagination, courage and missional heart.

stickstable.jpg It is open 24/7 from tonight, Friday through until Monday 24th December morning at 8 am. Yep, 24 hours, so there are people from Opawa who have volunteered for shifts at 1-4 am; 4-7 am etc. Amazing. (For the promotional video, go here).

Posted by steve at 09:52 PM

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

having a blue christmas?

Amid the joy of Christmas can be pain and sadness, as we remember absent family, difficult circumstances, or the death of loved ones. You are welcome to attend our Blue Christmas service, Wednesday, 19th December, 7:30 pm, Opawa Baptist Church foyer, cnr Hastings and Wilsons.

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The service will take time to remember those we love. It will use recorded music and prayers, silence and symbols, to affirm that Emmanuel God-with-us cares and loves us in our “blue” times.

Posted by steve at 02:09 PM

Monday, December 17, 2007

carpet wars: book of the month

Did you know that in Iraq farmers build towers for birds to nest in so they can collect the fertiliser? The Carpet Wars by Christopher Kremmer is a great read. I picked it up at Borders a few weeks ago and found it hard to put down. The book uses the history of carpet making in the Middle East to provide a rich tapestry by which to understand contemporary Islam. Chris writes beautifully, mixing his travels over ten years through Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India, with the personal stories of those he meets. Thus it becomes not only a celebration of creativity, but a really helpful introduction to the complexities and nuances of Islam today – including people, history and culture.

Posted by steve at 04:18 PM

Sunday, December 16, 2007

full stop on stoning the prophets

For the last 12 weeks we’ve been Stoning the Prophets. While we have preached the prophets in the morning, we have also offered a time to gather every week at 5:30 pm to hear the prophet read aloud, from Hosea to Malachi. Once the reading is complete, we have played a music track, giving space to reflect. Then we’ve picked up a stone and invited people to reflect on what struck us as we heard the prophet read. We have concluded with the Lords Prayer.

Never more than 20 people, never less than 10. A group of regulars, mixed in with different people.

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Today, after stoning the prophet Malachi, I invited reflection on what struck us, not only about Malachi, but about the entire 12 prophets. Here are the comments:

- God really, really cares. God would do anything to help them Israel come back.
- I struggle when someone else reads. I don’t hear very well. So I read the prophet as we go else I lose the thread. God spoke to me through each book. That’s amazing to me, that God speaks through the Bible every time.
- the minor prophets are so God-centric, so about what God will do.
- simplicity of what God is asking -justice and rightliving. It is simple yet seems so very difficult to live.
- I have so appreciated the patterns and rhythms of each book and over the 12 minor prophets. And the visual pictures – of flying scrolls and plumblines – such good use of words.
- Never know what God’s going to throw at you and this is seen in the minor prophets. God deals with each prophet in such different ways. We need to be real and trust God when stuff is thrown at us.
- the hardness of faith, of these 400 years of time, of the prophet’s message.
- in hard times, the promises of God were always present. God’s covenant is so present in these books.
- it was easier to listen as the weeks have gone on. It’s been a discipline. It has made me go back and follow up on each book and that’s been good.
- it’s been very bold. I’ve never heard of a church attempt to do this. To hear the Word has been good.
- So many phrases we sing in church come from the minor prophets. It’s not just the Psalms that shape the worship life of the church.

So, would I do it again? Absolutely. It got us talking together about God and life. It gave a new appreciation of the Bible as literature. It affirmed the need for awareness of historical context. It allowed all voices to speak, from 10 year olds, to new Christians, to seasoned saints. We so easily approach the Bible through the sermon, in which one voice interprets a text and so it becomes very worthwhile to engage the Bible by hearing and sharing in community. And that stretched us and asked new questions of how we as a church engage Scripture.

It is hard to sustain every week. So we will probably be back after Easter, linked with a series I want to run titled Pictures of Biblical witness, exploring not a Bible book, but a theme developed through Scripture.

Thanks to everyone who came, to the readers and to Pete and Joyce for the gift of the space.

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For more on Stoning the prophets: hearing Nahum, a description of the space, the initial concept and the advertising.

Posted by steve at 09:22 PM

Saturday, December 15, 2007

balancing life at the end of 2007

Two serious questions Steve. How do you do manage such a hectic schedule (i.e. family, church, teaching, own time etc)? Secondly, Why do you do it?? A comment made by Mark in relation to this post.

First a story. I moved to Christchurch at the start of 2004, to be senior/change agent pastor at Opawa Baptist 3 days/week and Lecturer in Practical Theology at Bible College of New Zealand 2 days/week. We were just about done with my 3rd interview with the Opawa Call Committee, when a Baptist Union consultant, who had walked the church through the Call process, said he had two questions.

The first was for me: Was I just using Opawa Baptist as a stepping stone to an academic career? The second was for Opawa: Steve Taylor had some competencies around emerging church. So would they share him? Those questions provide a frame for my current stage of life: grounded in the local church, yet shared.

This year I have had 21 speaking engagements outside Christchurch (on top of regular preaching amid a 5 congregational model and lecturing at BCNZ). That’s one speaking engagement a fortnight, and includes academic papers, preaching, coaching, conference and keynote speaking. So to the question – why do I do it? Firstly because I’m asked. It doesn’t mean I say yes to everything. I often ask questions to clarify audience and expectations and check it is in my “zone” – church and mission (I made one wrong call this year). Second because it’s good for the local church. It sends constant signals to Opawa that they exist with a Kingdom view, not only for their own sake, but for the sake of the world. I’m also committed to team, and that I think that needs to be modelled by both absence as well as presence. Thirdly because most times I learn and am enriched. Fourthly, because feedback seems to suggest that it is useful. I gauge that feedback in a number of ways – feel in the room, questions asked, talks over coffee, thankyou letters.

So how do you do manage such a hectic schedule? Firstly, all invites get passed by my wife and she helps me decide. Secondly, I work for BCNZ Wednesday and Thursday, and Opawa Tuesday and Friday and somehow that division of days gives me a framework to juggle invites and map out my schedule. Thirdly, Monday is day off and I very, very rarely, do anything on that day. Fourthly, I use the time in the air to journal and think. Last week on the way to Auckland I got my preaching plan for the first half of 2008 nailed. There is something about being uninterrupted at 30,000 feet which I find incredibly helpful. Fifthly, when I’m present, I try to be fully present. (And the flipside, when I’m gone, I’m gone). I try to practise Incarnation, to be fully looking for God among whoever I am with, be it in a church or a lecture room or a speaking place. Sixthly, I treat myself and the family. Most groups pay something and that goes toward a family book buying session at Borders, a CD, a painting, a dinner out etc – stuff that will enrich me for what has been given out. I talk lots with my kids about what I do and why. I pass on feedback to them. At times I have said no to things based on their input. Seventhly, I moved into this season having completed a PhD. The bibliography named near 550 books I had “read.” So part of this season of my life includes drawing down and integrating that type of input. That’s simply a seasonal thing. I am due for a sabbatical in second half of next year and that will be a micro-season in which I get to fill up some wells left a bit neglected, for example writing wells and reading wells.

Can I sustain this? Do I want to sustain this? I don’t know. Perhaps not long term. Essentially I have 3 roles: pastor, lecturer, speaker/thinker/writer. At some time down the track one of these might go. In the meantime, it is a very fertile mix. I am a better pastor because I think (as lecturer) and reflect (by being asked to speak), a better lecturer because I pastor and speak, a better speaker because I am grounded in a congregation. It’s a pretty unique mix. Even in missional circles, most books are not written by current practitioners. So I am keen to hold the mix as long as possible.

Hope that helps Mark.

Posted by steve at 05:55 PM

Friday, December 14, 2007

grow in Christmas cheer

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Grow in Christmas cheer kicked off on Sunday night at 7pm and was EXCELLENT. A highlight for me was seeing community youth gathered around one of our retired folk, making Christmas cards, and just watching generations learning together.

Grow honours the fact that people learn in different ways by feeding mouths and minds, hands and hearts, eyes and ears (publicity blurb), by offering a whole range of ways to learn, finishing by gathering in table groups around 3 questions: who is God; who are humans; how then we should act.

Practically, Grow in Christmas cheer offered video clip from Polar Express, a history of Santa, tips if you’re shopping for justice this Christmas, a demonstration of how to make your own creative Christmas card, top 10 quiz guessing lyrics lines from Christmas carols, Biblical wisdom from the life of Anna in Luke 2.

Here is what the table groups learnt. Grow in Christmas cheer (Week 2) happens again this Sunday evening.

Posted by steve at 05:53 PM

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

last flight out

I spent the day in Auckland at the request of the New Zealand Baptist family of churches, with a group of about 10 others, talking about leadership. It ended up being a frank and free-ranging discussion about what it would mean to take leadership development much more seriously in our Baptist context. We roamed all over the place: seminaries, training churches, internship schemes.

I talked a bit about my missional church leadership coaching courses, the Allelon Mission in Western Culture Project and the Opawa new forms of leadership scholarship (applications still open for 2008) and what that might mean.

Best of all, it was my last flight for the year. Yeah. A day closer to summer holidays. Yeah and yeah.

Posted by steve at 07:11 PM