Monday, June 30, 2008

communion: a step too far?

This was what I did for worship at Grow last nite:


– white cloths to close off part of the church foyer
– two slide images, one titled “life”, the other a Coptic church icon,
– communion at end, lit by scented candle
– on black squares on way up were post-it stickers, naming various “black areas of our life” – various sins against creator, redeemer, sustainer
– on white squares on way back were another set of post-it stickers with various “white areas of our life” – fruit and gifts of Spirit
– we read a confession of belief
– then people were invited to walk up, considering the black squares and allowing Spirit to search them,
– to enjoy communion and
– to walk back, considering the white squares and the fruit and gifts of Spirit we might need for week ahead.
Updated: playing Radiohead’s “Everything in it’s right place”

I wanted to avoid a rush and squash, so suggested people walk up one by one, and those gathered pray for the person as they walked.

I was quite pleased with the space. But only about half the people responded. Which is not normal. Was it a step too far? too much focus on the individual? And if so, does it matter? Could there be times when we invite people into a more challenging practise of communion?

Posted by steve at 09:27 PM

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Grow your own

There has been lots of internet ink spilt in recent weeks by people seeking to define missional church. Save your words and simply go and watch “Grow your own,” a slow moving British comedy drama. Against a backdrop of gardening, a complex range of issues are explored.

grow100.jpg For those recently seeking to define missional, note
1. a story based in ordinary lives,
2. the conflict between comfortable pasts and painful new narratives
3. the ability to subvert existing unjust structures rather than start new shiny things
4. the power of what can happen when you trust yourself to organic processes
5. the importance of welcoming the stranger in whom are found the keys to unlock pain and grief and bring healing

That’s missional church.

Posted by steve at 06:31 PM

Thursday, June 26, 2008

baptist biblical imaginations

My particular interest is not so much in what Baptists do with the Bible, but how they do it. Modernity has deeply corroded our imaginations, reducing interpretation to the individual and the intellect. Ironically, postmodernity encourages an interpretive community (Fish et al), which has parrallels with our Baptist origins and it is reflection on the nourishment of such practices, their rigour and framing, within Baptistic congregations that I believe should be central.

Posted by steve at 09:12 AM

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

saving the army

Up to Hamner today, to engage with the Salvation Army South Island “officers” around mission and leadership. I’m taking a friend from church, whom I don’t see enough of, and hoping to have a really good yarn on the way up. Then tomorrow, I am hoping to have a good long relaxing soak in the Hamner hot pools and a forest walk, but this might change things.

Posted by steve at 09:15 AM

Sunday, June 22, 2008

balancing one and many

It’s been a really hard week. Personal stuff in my life. Personal stuff in people’s lives.

I work part-time for the church. I juggle preaching, creating mission spaces on the margins, managing a fairly complicated process in a 96 year old church, leading a team (all who are also part-time and all who are also juggling lives).

“Delegate” they cry, but you can’t really delegate a crisis.

So the margins get shaved. Less time for me. Less time for family. Less time for a sermon. It was a week in which Sunday morning got the minimum. I would simply preach.

Suddenly it is Sunday. I look at people as they arrive. I face the consequences of my week and of my decisions. Do these people deserve my minimum? So many faces, so much complexity. How to word a child dedication amid child crisis? How to speak of joy amid pain? When all I have brought is my minimal offering.

Today, I have no idea how to be pastoral, how to balance the one and the many, how to speak with the clarity that the week demands.

Posted by steve at 06:58 PM

kingdom signs discerned

The point of looking for Kingdom signs is not just the writing, but the reflecting. Over time, prayerfully, as one reflects on what is written, themes begin to emerge. It is often in these themes that Kingdom clarity becomes clear. Poetry Blender

So as part of the Kingdom signs project, I am suggesting that people only blog journal for 5 days in 7. That leaves a 6th day for reflection, looking back over what one has written and starting to prayerfully ponder. And a 7th day, for rest, for doing nothing. This is essential to any spiritual practise and common sense given that we are human – prone to sickness, busyness, etc.

It is only a week, too early yet, but reading the Opawa Kingdom blogs (Regina; Phil; Judy; Viv; Allan) blogs, I am struck by the beauty and power within our everyday lives. God seems richly present: in creation, in sustenance, in Scripture, in healing, in sunshine, in life cycles, in hugs, in restoration.

PS Just a word about the kingdom signs selection – I simply asked 5 people from the church. They had to be lay, there had to be male and female, they had to come from a range of life situations, to be both long and recent in the church, they had to be people who were probably not doing this sort of thing already. All mixed with a bit of intuition, people who I just wondered if they would enjoy and benefit from the practise. All 5 said yes (one will start in a week or so). I also had material available on the Sunday after the sermon in case others wanted to join. (And I ran out of copies, which was grand).

Introduction here, instructions here and here

Posted by steve at 09:26 AM

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sense making faith

Sense making faith: a mind, body, spirit journey

For anyone interested in using the physical senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste in their search for God in the world surrounding us. Requires no prior knowledge of Christianity, simply a curiosity about the spiritual search.

530368_teddy_sniffs.jpg Thursday for 8 weeks, starting June 26, church foyer, 7:30 – 9 pm. First session is an introduction, with freedom to change your mind and pull out after that.

Posted by steve at 01:25 PM

Thursday, June 19, 2008

having each other

A research day. I was meant to be looking at Christ figures in film, most particularly, female Christ figures in film. What might we glean about Christology today from figures like Paikea in Whale Rider or in Vianne in Chocolat?

Got side tracked by Luke 10:1-12 and how the missionary becomes the guest, enjoying the hospitality of the tables of their culture. And the resultant evangelical angst over the danger of “selling out.”

Then this: “True justice only operates in obedience to the economy of friendship that recognises the question in every encounter, “Who is the stranger?”, and realises that answer is: “Neither of us – while we have each other.” Graham Ward, Hospitality and Justice toward ‘Strangers’: A theological reflection.

I watched this happen last nite. A gathering with old-timers and new-timers. A study of the parables, in particular the great banquet in Luke 14. A great discussion of the grace that is inclusion and the practices of hospitality that follow. The realisation that as a result, labels of in and out, old and new, have no place in a Kingdom of invitation and radical hospitality.

A word used that made the parable then a challenge for now. And the re-realisation around the group, that as a result, labels of in and out, old and new, have no place in a Kingdom of invitation and radical hospitality

You can apply this to individuals, we need each other. You can apply this to discipleship, we need each other. You can apply this to church and culture, we need each other. (Which does link back to my starting point, female Christ figures in film). This is the scandal of the Incarnation, God revealed in human cultures says something fundamental about the possibility of human culture in inscribing redemption.

Posted by steve at 02:24 PM

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

kingdom signs in Coldplay?

I’m loving the new Coldplay album. I’ve been, until now, more a listener than a fan. But their new album has converted me. It’s more complex, less traditionally rock in structure and I like that.


I also think there’s some serious theological work going on in the album. I’m not yet clear what it is. But when the album includes ruminations (Track 7 – Viva La Vida) on “I know St Peter will call my name,” well, the church had better be listening, cos there are millions of people going to be humming that line in the next year.

Posted by steve at 11:06 PM

Monday, June 16, 2008

kingdom signs

Regina is journaling here;
Phil is journaling here;
Judy is journaling here; Viv is journaling here; and outside Opawa, outside New Zealand — Eleanor is journaling here; Dan is journaling here; Jane is journaling here

… anyone is welcome to join them, introduction here, instructions here and here Poetry Blender

Posted by steve at 09:43 PM

Friday, June 13, 2008

discerning Kingdom signs as the practice of a community

Update: In response: Regina will be journaling here; Phil will be journaling here; Judy will be journaling here; Allan is here

Email I just sent out:
I am starting a 4 week series on Kingdom of God and I am asking for your help. My aim for the 4 weeks is to help us become better at finding the Kingdom in our ordinary and everyday lives as Christians. I am writing to ask if you would be willing to be part of a public experiment. And for the next 4 weeks, make a commitment to keep an on-line journal in which you write a paragraph each day on Kingdom signs that you are noticing in your everday life and work. Your journal, and those of 4 others in the church, would be advertised and placed on our church website. (I will also invite anyone who wants to in the church to join us, but I want a few examples to get us all going).

And people would be able, during the week to read and follow. Once a week, I would ask you to pause, to read back over the week and to write a summary paragraph, an overall discernment, a wondering about overall themes that might be emerging.

I can help you set up the online journal (it should take about 5 minutes). I will provide you with some guidelines on what you might look for and what you might write. I am simply asking you to be willing to
a) look for the Kingdom in your life
b) write a paragraph 5 days in 7
c) reflect on those 5 days once a week
d) make that public

Why do this? I suspect that many people lack confidence in looking for God. I suspect that the more we do it, and the more we see examples of others doing it, the better we will get. I suspect that watching other people, is a great way to learn. I suspect that examples from ordinary people is more helpful than pastors. I think it is a good way of using technology to help us relate as a church and to take Sunday into our life.

Resources being used:
1. A model for discernment: download file
2. Setting up a online journal: download file

Posted by steve at 02:08 PM

soak and space


We had an evaluation and planning meeting of our Soak service last nite. Soak is quite unlike any alternative worship thing I have been part of. It’s got stations AND sung worship. It’s in the main church that is beautifully lit with candles and draped with fabric. Which works stunningly well in creating a very rich space. We try to avoid theme-based stations, instead offering regular communion, confession and journalling stations, which lessens the intense creativity usually demanded by alternative worship.

Soak happens monthly on the first Sunday of the month. It starts with sung worship for about 30 minutes. It then offers a lectio divino Bible reading for about 15 minutes. The various stations are then introduced and people are invited to leave when they want to. A benediction is taped to the exit doors.

What this means is that Soak is what I, for lack of a better word, am calling an adult space. So much church spoon feeds you. Every minute is programmed and full. You are not required to do much. In contrast, at Soak, if you lack an inner world and don’t want to work that inner world, you get bored pretty quick.

Here are some of the unexpected learnings:
– some (not all) of our teenage boys love it
– people stay so long, regularly over 2 hours
– it’s genuinely redemptive with 2 people asking about baptism
– the Bible has been liberated, allowed to become a springboard for prayer rather than something to analytically dissect.

Posted by steve at 10:04 AM

Thursday, June 12, 2008

last lecture EVER?

“Dad, today could be your last lecture EVER at Bible College of New Zealand,” my daughter announced from the back of the car. She had put two and two together, the fact that I am on study leave in the coming semester (July 08-Dec 08) with the redundancy/reapplication process that all academic BCNZ staff are going through.

My other daughter, on hearing the news, said that she would be able to help financially by going out to work in 4 years time.

My family is a great family to be part of during turbulent times.

Posted by steve at 10:24 AM

Monday, June 09, 2008

some new friends

I made some new friends today. It was a day off, after a particularly busy weekend — leadership coaching in Auckland on Friday -> then Hamilton on Saturday -> return flight delayed by snow -> hence unexpected overnight, courtesy of Air New Zealand, in Wellington (which allowed us to catch up with my talented brother and sister-in-law) -> dash trying to catch another flight in order to present to lead the Sunday morning church service with perhaps 40 visitors present -> Sunday evening Soak service.

So the local 2nd hand book store called. Then later in the sun, on the back porch, over a cup of tea, I introduced my new friends to the better part of the emergentkiwi partnership.

In case your interested, here are my new friends … (which ends with the questions; How do you nourish your creativity? And what disciplines do you practise that invite the voice of the other to your table?


Posted by steve at 03:08 PM