Tuesday, July 29, 2008

finding your singing voice

Theory one: most modern church worship music has been written by very gifted people who sing WAY better than me. If it’s too complex, too good, people find it difficult to enter in.

Theory two: this type of music is best done by a band. With amplification, and with technology, this now offers a different type of worship experience. It’s more like sonic participation. They sing, those gathered listen. They are so loud, those gathered can’t hear themselves sing.

Result: people can lose their congregational singing voice.

So I found this article interesting.

“THIS IS AN article about singing. It’s about you singing. I am writing this because I want to encourage you to sing. A few years ago my friend and I realised that we both loved singing but didn’t do enough of it. So we started a weekly acapella group with just four members. After a year we invited others to join. We didn’t insist on musical experience – in fact some of our members had never sung before. Now the group has ballooned to around fifteen people.”

I’m fascinated by the hints they offer:

1. Some drinks, some snacks, some sheets of lyrics, a strict starting time and a warm up.
2. Song choice. “The songs that seem to work really well for us are those based around the basic chords of blues and rock and country music” .. C, F and G; G, C and D.
3. Song choice: Again! Songs that don’t have big empty spaces between vocal line, songs with rhythm, songs with tone!
4. I quote again, “We have a simple rule in the group: we never perform for anyone else, and we never record ourselves.”

Implications for worship? Start worship with snacks. Chose some single songs. Throw away the musical instruments. Find someone with a good voice. Enjoy!

And we just might rediscover community worship!!

Full article here.

Posted by steve at 06:35 PM

Friday, July 25, 2008

exciting church meeting as we discuss family hub ministry

“A church meeting I will never forget” and “so exciting” where some of the comments as people left the church meeting on Wednesday evening.

We commissioned a missionary into long term service, a part-time youth worker and a part-time community chaplain.

But what caused most excitement was the discussions and dreaming around what we are calling, for a lack of a better word “family hub.” In essence, we want to try a new form of mission/church, in which the concerns about being a family are a starting point for spirituality. We want to provide a focus of energy around life, and life to the full, body, mind and soul, for families, particularly into our local suburb which has the highest % of solo families in all of Christchurch. We want to provide resources to help families table talk and build faith, to support each other through the hard places and sleepless nights.

Key steps that have guided us this far are as follows:
1. The interest in parenting, both inside and outside the church, generated by my sermon last year on “Would Jesus smack?” and here. There is a need, both in the church and outside the church, to provide family resourcing.

2. A clarifying conversation with a New Zealand Families Commissioner who, on hearing about our church building plans, commented “Oh, Opawa could become the family hub of your community.”

3. Talking with Board, staff and ministry leaders over April to July.

4. In June, we reach our $400,000 fundraising target needed to start Stage 2 of building project (cafe facilites, more multi-purpose foyer space, more staff offices, toilet upgrade, fire and building code compliance). This means we need to start thinking about ministry into Stage 3 of the building changes (childcare and youth facilities).

5. A gifted individual, sensing a new season in their pastoral ministry, hears about the “family hub concept and is “excitedly cautiously curious.”

6. On Saturday, in a pastoral conversation, I mention that I might have a gifted person, but not the money. A significant financial offer from community business networks is made, giving the “family hub” project time to seek further funding.

And so there was a rush of talking and processing over the last week, which allowed the concept to be considered on Wednesday evening. (I attach the vision paper and the first draft job description. They simply mark a point in the process, not necessarily the finished product: Download file). We feel like things are going WAY to fast, (and boy, were the southerly winds blowing on Wednesday nite as we prayed as a church) but sense that we need to be willing to trust God in this season of seemingly rapid change for the church. The decisions at the church meeting were unanimous: keep following the wind of the Spirit.

Posted by steve at 12:12 PM

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

making it look easy!

I am on study leave, huddled in a library corner, avoiding the distractions of my normal work offices, trying to find some connections between head and fingers. Only to read the following:

“nothing can be more time- consuming or effortful than the work required to make a piece of writing seem simple, lucid, and effortless. “ Introduction to the Atonement movie script, by Christopher Hampton.

Probably applies to good sermons, good coffees, good presentations, good children, good church meetings, good meals, good friendships … the list goes on ….

Posted by steve at 12:31 PM

Saturday, July 19, 2008

a stuffed saturday mouth or preaching what about the canaanites?

You know the feeling.

It looks attractive. So you take a bite. A big bite actually. Bigger than was necessary. And now you’re stuck chewing.

Not enough mouth space. Needing water but no room to drink. Swallow too quickly and you’re digesting unprocessed lumps sure to give you cramps.

That’s me. Last Sunday was the first crack at a 6 week series on Deuteronomy. A book about change, about how the people of God respond to change, how they refuse to stay desert bound, but commit to explore new practices in a new place. Great series for a church in change in a changing world.

Gleefully I had announced the series. That would include “What about the Canaanites? How can a God of love kill the Canaanites?”

Why? Yes I know it’s an important question. Yes I know it’s a question all thinking and caring Christians need to face. But really, why did I need to take that bite. I’m still chewing. It’s Saturday. And Sunday’s acoming.

Updated: I think it came together well. Some good feedback. Good interest in the extra handouts I prepared on reading the “law” and ‘what about the Canaanites. The question I am left with is: should I even be preaching this stuff. Joyce Meyer’s in town and is “so inspirational.” And here I am, preaching hard texts from the Old Testament. What the heck should we be doing from our pulpits?

Posted by steve at 03:53 PM

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

pastoring with a Phd

John Stackhouse has been writing about why do a PhD, and then a fascinating plea for more pastors who do PhD’s and offer a thinking, preaching, pastoral ministry. All of relevance to me, firstly, because I am a pastor with a PhD, who also lectures in a seminary. And secondly, because my seminary (BCNZ) employer has forced me to think about that combination as it affects my future.

Last week I went through the somewhat humiliating process of having to re-apply for my lecturing job and then the relief of being offered that job again. So after all the angst, it is steady as she goes, part-time pastor, part-time lecturer.

It’s given me lots to think about, in terms of how my gift-mix might mix with academy and parish. And caused me to write this on a recent winter’s morning.

“I have much to give thanks for. A pastoral job which gives me sabbaticals – time to reflect, write, think, refresh, pause. A pastoral job which keeps me close to the Bible – reading Biblical text and commentaries. A pastoral job which pushes me – recent sermon series on Old Testament minor prophets and now Deuteronomy have been wonderfully enriching intellectual and spiritual challenge. A pastoral job which people’s me – among real life pain and quest and hunger and connection. A pastoral job with team – the gifts and passions of Paul and Craig, and Ken and Dierdre, and Lynne and Dave – there’s much goodness in and among. A job with creativity – changing our auditorium space in May, communion last week with the haunting cellist, etc etc. It’s a rich and diverse job, even at 7 a.m. on a winters morning.”

Such are the upsides and so cause me to agree with John, the church needs PhD’s in the pastorate. If I have time and the inkling, I might note some of the negatives.

Posted by steve at 12:55 PM

Monday, July 14, 2008

communion, Grow with happy meals

Excellent kick off to Grow with a happy meal on Sunday nite. We are taking 3 weeks to explore the place of food in Christianity, with a particular focus on communion. With school holidays on, and with the theme being food, we are starting earlier (6:15 pm) and eating together. It was neat to have more kids with us, who seemed to connect well with the Grow congregation flavour – non-linear, multiple learning, style cafe congregation.

grow in july.jpg A highlight was the local Anglican vicar, who was asked to tell us about what communion means, and lead into fascinating contrast and compare discussion. Reminded me of this quote: “It has been said that heaven will be like having a Baptist sermon with Anglican liturgy; and hell will be like having an Anglican sermon with Baptist liturgy!”

Anyhow, for those who can’t imagine a non-linear, multiple learning, style cafe congregation, here is the run sheet for the evening….


Posted by steve at 11:13 AM

Saturday, July 12, 2008

faithful imaginative interpretation

I am starting a series on Deuteronomy. I have been struck by how this is a book for people in the midst of change, written as a guide for the whole of life. I love Brueggemann’s phrase: faithful imaginative interpretation

It fits so well with part of the welcome to membership prayer we pray at Opawa.
As your disciples may we know the freedom to move into the unknown and the untried,
To see the opportunities of the new day,
And to serve our present age with compassion, imagination, and courage.
(Taken from Terry Falla’s, Be Our Freedom Lord).

Anyhow, inspired by faithful imaginative interpretation, I thought it would be Biblically fun and coherent if I could weave Moses benedictions in Deuteronomy 32 into the order of service. So here’s my faithful imaginative interpretation of the blessing of Joseph (v. 13-16).

May you be blessed by God:
Blessed with sleep to wake refreshed in each morning
Blessed with a work-life balance that keeps you energised into the evening
Blessed with the sun to warm you on cold days
Blessed with star glimpses that open your mouth in wonder
Blessed with moments to lift up your eyes to the Port Hills
Blessed with all the best from Earth’s good gifts,
Blessed with the smile from God’s talking and God’s presence.

Posted by steve at 07:09 PM

Friday, July 11, 2008

grounded for study leave

The last 3 weeks have been really disruptive for me – personally and pastorally – made worse by some speaking/consulting commitments that have kept dragging my headspace away.

I really struggle with knowing where to put my time. Sometimes I look at my energy levels and think: “Surely this is not living God’s life to the full.” Yet what would I cut back on – Opawa? blogging? groups and denominations? lecturing?

Yesterday, I trust, marked a turning point. First, an easing of commitments outside Opawa.

Secondly, I handed in my semester marking. This means I am now released into study leave – six months with no BCNZ classroom involvement. Instead I turn my hand to research and writing.

Projects include:
– researching Christ images in film
– researching on relationship between popular culture and work of God’s Spirit, with a particular focus on Luke 10
– turning the leadership coaching teaching course notes I have developed into a missional church book that can be used by leaders anywhere in the world.

For 10 weeks of this time the Taylor family will be in Adelaide, where I am hosted by Parkin-Wesley Collegeand in exchange for some leadership coaching, get the space to write in a different context.

Perhaps the next 6 months will help me discern more clearly the unique shape of my charism.

Posted by steve at 04:47 PM

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Grow with happy meals

grow in july.jpg

Posted by steve at 10:58 PM

should Christians use copyright?

Not according to Keith. He has just emailed me the following: “I was just wondering why someone who has a heart for God’s people and would want marriages to have the best start ever would have such an issue with their message being used by others. Imagine if Jesus did that with the bible?”

I presume he is talking about this entry on my blog; where 4 years ago, I wrote the following: “[not to be reproduced in any form, including verbal, without permission. ie. creative commons does not apply to this post]” (Update: written on 1 post on this blog. The other 1230 posts are under creative commons use. ONE post, on which I simply wanted people to ask before they used it. And when people did, I simply said “sure and thanks so much” and got a wee thrill that my thoughts were being used. Feedback – its important for me you know. Part of the gift of encouragement.)

What do people think? Should a Jesus follower have an issue with their message being used by others without permission?

Posted by steve at 10:41 AM

baptist baptisms

Sunday including two of our younger people being baptised. Wonderful to be part of. I try and encourage individual baptisms, allowing each person to make it their own, and so it proved on Sunday.

The first was outdoors. Slightly cold, with snow on the hills. But with a fire on the beach and friends gathered around, it was a very spiritual moment.

The second was at our evening service, and took the name “Soak” to a whole new level. The Soak environmental team had, as usual, done a fabulous job and with candles lit up all the stairs, it was, again a very spiritual moment.

Posted by steve at 09:41 AM

Saturday, July 05, 2008

mary and elizabeth

I have been coaching leaders in Auckland and Hamilton over yesterday and today. We have been Dwelling in Luke 1:39-45 and have found it deeply nourishing as we reflect on leadership and mission today.

God, life-giver
like Mary and Elizabeth,
so many people know you are at work
without being told
among the ordinary and the everyday,
in the child and the unexpected.

God give us the good sense
to trust our intuition and our bodies,
the courage to act,
in haste and through disturbance

And so, God, may our we discover again that mission is joy,
and that we are
traders in hope,
nurturers, for life that is both now and not yet

Posted by steve at 03:38 PM

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

a shifting mission?

Currently, three evenings a week, smaller gatherings occur at Opawa. They provide a snapshot of our changing mission

: Tuesday is espresso, a conversational congregation. Over the last few years, it has provided a place for those inside and outside Christian faith to talk, argue, learn, laugh.

: how to read the Bible is a 8 week block course on a Wednesday, that includes a number seeking faith and wanting to consider the place of the Bible.

: Sense making faith is on a Thursday and has a different set of participants, who bring with them existing spiritual experiences outside of organised religion.

It is fascinating to realise how mission has shifted for us as a church: away from Sunday attractional services to smaller, more relational groups. Each group has a different interest, funds a different type of conversation, engages with a different way of spiritually searching – questioning place, thinking place, experiencing place.

In saying this I do not want to advance an Incarnational VS Attractional divide. Sunday remains important because it is our most visible place and people often start there.

The image I use is of a physical presence. Most businesses have shops, most clubs have clubrooms, most cafes have seats. Without these, you would struggle to find them. So mission as the funding spiritual search needs a place in which people can “land.” But what is key for us is the development of multiple spaces, so that when people “land,” they are not offered a one size fits all, but a variety of ways to continue their search.

Posted by steve at 10:55 AM