Wednesday, July 15, 2009

the church as culturemaker? yeah? right?

(This is the introduction for the paper I’m delivering at the International Conference on Baptist studies, July 15-18 in Melbourne.)

The story is true, but the names are changed in order to focus on the question at hand, that of the interface between Baptists and others. In 1995, members of First Baptist, began to murmur. As a church in the city centre, they owned, through a Trust, nearby property. A long term tenant was of foreign descent and had, in recent times, began to display their gods in the shop front window. Prayer among church members began to focus on the need to remove the idols, and the shopkeeper, from the building. This is one response, that of condemnation and critique, in a Baptist relationship with an/other, both ethnic and religious.

Down the street was “Fresh expression” Baptist Church. Formerly a dying City Mission, a new minister had begun to experiment with liturgical and ecclesial innovation. Contemporary culture was to viewed in a more positive light and a growing group of young adults had began to gather. Both churches were Baptist in name and shared over 100 years of history in the inner city. Yet both churches embody contrasting approaches to the interface between Baptists and others.

Andy Crouch, in his accessible book, Culture Making, summarises a range of contemporary stances toward culture:
- condemnation
- critique, with the emphasis on intellectual analysis of culture
- copying culture, in which a subculture develops around the imitation of forms from contemporary culture
- consuming, in which “most evangelicals today … simply go to the movies … [and] … walk out amused, titillated, distracted or thrilled, just like our fellow consumers who do not share our faith.” (89)
- creating
Crouch argues that the first four are problematic and that the “only way to change culture is to create more of it.”

Posted by steve at 10:36 AM

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

post+pray+card for building project

Here is the creative work from our creative pastoral team. A photo of the building project and some words, being sent out to 20% of the church, so that everyone gets a post+pray+card in a 5 week cycle. About 19 cents/copy at the local stationery shop. A way of inviting prayer, of connecting people, of sharing progress. Prayer requests can change each week as the project develops. Isn’t it great.


Back: with room to print address labels

Now, what about a series of 10 post+pray+cards next year on various community ministries? And then another set the year after on various art pieces?

Posted by steve at 11:27 PM

Sunday, July 12, 2009

winter spirituality week 2

“It’s not every church you get to play twister while singing the final hymn” was one piece of feedback on our 10:30am service.

We’re into our second Sunday of s-l-o-w-i-n-g down, winter spirituality. We Kiwis tend to hurtle from February to December and then collapse in January. So we’ve suggested to our congregations and small groups that they take 2 slower weeks in early July. So at 10:30 am the focus was on winter spirituality and along with a winter call to worship, dedication, baptist and a winter spirituality sermon, part of the worship was a time to “sabbath.” People “sabbath” in a variety of ways, so a range of options were scattered around the church:
- lego
- “kicking tires” of the building project
- card making
- browsing church library
- checking out spiritual practice resources
- helping put together our flu packs (seen over $750 donated for these in last 2 weeks)
- reflecting on winter visuals
- catching up with people
- twister!!
ending with Great is thy faithfulness. It was great looking around, seeing the spread of generations, the mix of people, the laughter and care and creativity, hearing the conversations around what sustains and nourishes our inner life.

If we’d had more energy and the new foyer cafe that is part of the building project had been completed, it would have also included hot chocolates all around. But what we did was enough, slowing the pace, reminding us of a whole-person spirituality and our diversity as a group of people.

Posted by steve at 10:50 PM

earth whisperers as film church

Earth Whisperers/Papatuanuku is a new movie by Kiwi Kathleen Gallagher, currently showing in selected cinemas around New Zealand. It’s beautifully shot and profiles 10 Kiwi “green” saints. I’ve just sent my monthly Touchstone film review off. My main criticism is that all the saints profiled are “bush” bound”, all living the rural idyll. In contrast the reality is that most humans are urban dwellers. So I wish they had interviewed a few suburban community garden owners, or teachers in local schools pursuing enviro-awards.

In the review, I suggest that Earth Whisperers/Papatuanuku would make a great “film-church” night. It’s available on DVD from the director. All you then need is a spare night, a set of couches, some candle lit tables, a stack of recycled paper on which to print invitations and some well-chosen discussion starter questions.

Here are four questions for starters:
1. Of the ten people interviewed, who did you feel most drawn to?
2. In what ways has the green movement changed your attitudes and behaviours, whether positively or negatively?
3. One way to describe these ten people is as contemporary Kiwi “environmental” saints. Are there any Bible characters, or people in Christian history, that you consider could also be “environmental” saints?
4. Francis of Assissi famously wrote in The Canticle of Creation: “Praise be to You, my Lord, for our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and keeps us.” How practically, on a regular basis, might we as humans pay attention to the whispers of the earth in ways that might sustain and keep us?

Posted by steve at 06:47 PM

Saturday, July 11, 2009

tweenlight: crossing cultures to the hannah montana party

I’ve just been with youngest Taylor daughter to the Hannah Montana movie.

A cross-cultural experience indeed as she showed me to my seat. Too easy to smirk, I thought as I settled into the “Lets go crazy” teen chatter.

It’s easy to see this as another manifestation of consumer culture. It is.

It is also the music, narratives and characters by which my tweenager, and many others, will sift their values, one expression of the contemporary search for identity, a window onto growing up today and of what it means to juggle and adjust the competing narratives of family, home and being known.

(More considered film review to follow at a later date.)

Posted by steve at 10:26 PM

Thursday, July 09, 2009

a visual bible: updated

use of Wordle to provide a visual on the Bible. This is the Biblical text for Sunday morning. (Hat tip).

Wordle: series mark

And really easy to slap this up when a lectionary text is being read, so that visual learners have something to look at. Updated: So Sundays’ lectionary reading looks like this:
Wordle: lectionary readings 1 tim

Posted by steve at 04:48 PM

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

passionate disciples and nota web tech for co-learners

Playing with a new web tool called Nota. (hat tip): “a unique, cutting-edge collaborative web platform that allows users to create, share and collaborate on presentations and virtually any other form of online material … instantly integrate text, video, maps, clip art, photos from web album or on the local computer, or license-free images from Flickr … instantly embed their work in Facebook or blogs, and can share and collaborate with friends.”

Here’s a page from one of my sessions at Saturday speaking to Salvation Army Youth leaders; I’ve loaded up the youtube video’s I used, some of my framing questions and resources, some of what I learnt as we did lectio together.

And the wondering is: as I start to use this stuff in a range of contexts over the next 12 months – classes, conferences – what are the possibilities in terms of being collobarative – with people adding stuff as we go?

Posted by steve at 03:47 PM

practical praying for building project

Starting a building project can be way more than just a construction site.

What about we take photos of the work as it progresses? And every week we send a progress photo to people in the church (dividing church into 10 groups, and cycling through the entire church over a 10 week period). On the back of the photo we provide a list of what might be happening with the project that week, and ways people can pray.

A simple way to keep people informed, to encourage connection and enhance prayer.

Posted by steve at 02:36 PM

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

20 minutes encouraging “winter” sabbath

So you have been given 20 minutes in a standard morning service. The Bible text is about encouraging sabbath and the “worship” aim is to give people some time and space to “worship by sabbathing”, ie to provide a range of options/stations which a diverse, inter-generational group of people could enjoy. All ideas need to be easy, to ensure that those running the service are not stressed at the expense of those who are enjoying.

(For example, hot chocolates would be great, but a lot of work for 140 people when you don’t have a kitchen in the building).

What would you put into the time/space?

Posted by steve at 04:30 PM

Sunday, July 05, 2009

winter spirituality

It’s the middle of winter here. Short nights. Cold, cloudy, grey days. Buildings are cold. We’re trying to recognise this as a church, by building in a change of pace, encouraging our congregations to go slower for a two week period.

So tonight, our Soak service swapped individual stations and lectio divina for soup and community. Four large dinner tables were set up, adorned with candles, fragrant oils and winter sweet. One had a jigsaw, another had cushions.

Three different home soups were on offer, complete with sour cream, parsley, bacon bits (TVP). Discussion questions lay around:
- where was/is warmth in your house?
- what nourishes your soul?
- how do you (your family) unwind in the winter?

It provided a very different sort of spiritual nourishment, a pleasing change of pace, a relationally warm time, a uniquely winter spirituality.

Further posts:
Personal winter spirituality here.

Posted by steve at 11:02 PM

Saturday, July 04, 2009

application block/bung: updated

Text for Sunday: Jesus said, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!” He went on, “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.” Mark 2:19-22

So I’ve got the introduction and backstory: conflict in Mark 2, the wedding image – in the Old Testament, in Jewish culture, in Revelation. God as party God, Christian discipleship as “friends of bridegroom”: a fabulous picture.

But I’m blocked/bunged up with verse 21-22 – the wineskins part. If I was all emergent/esque it would be easy – I’d just trash talk the old. You know the drill: old, wrinkly, leather past it’s due by date. New wine is coming, all youthful and goateed and hip and fine silk.

But is that really what Jesus would be wanting to say at Opawa on Sunday morning: a 98 year old church, visitors for a baby dedication of a child from a historic and faithful family, to a congregation that has given space for new wineskins of Grow and Side Door and espresso and the gathering to develop. What is the application?

I need to dash to talk to 90 Salvation Army community and church youth workers, so thoughts please while I’m gone ….

Updated: Thanks to those who commented and emailed. You were each helpful and encouraging. Here’s how I finished: (more…)

Posted by steve at 01:18 PM

Friday, July 03, 2009

the day a man attacked our church with a hammer

I arrived on Saturday afternoon to find a man with a hammer attacking the church walls. So began the practical part of church renovations. It took about 6 months to make a decision as a church. (Unanimous!). It took about 9 months to reach our fundraising goal 80% of a $500K project. It took 12 months to secure council consent!

This week it began …

So for the next 12 weeks, staff are working around diggers, hammers, skill saws. Oh joy!

For those curious, we put together this 8 minute video for our 2008 church meeting, as an attempt to communicate and link our mission and ministry with the practicalities of our building changes. Enjoy!)

Room by Room – Opawa 08 from opawa mac on Vimeo.

In a nutshell; Stage 1 and 2 involves
* renovations to our toilets, including disability access
* a dedicated cafe and kitchen area
* a larger foyer area
* that can be sub-divided to allow multiple use by multiple groups
* more office space for our staff team
* improved access to our children’s area
* as a foundation for Stage 3, which will include family hub ministry (for more see here and here).

for more go here

Posted by steve at 02:25 PM

Practical ways churches can respond to Influenza A part 4

While this pandemic is not as severe as it might have been, Influenza A (H1N1) could affect one third of the Canterbury population over the next few months. This could mean a peak week with 40,000 – 60,000 people may be ill with Swine Flu, with 6,000 – 8,000 needing some form of assistance at home. The existing health and welfare systems may not be able to respond to this level of demand.

If this happens, the church in Christchurch has a potential opportunity to be the practical hands and feet of Jesus. Many churches have started thinking about this already and are keen to explore ways to offer a response.

There is currently an attempt to bring together a coordinated response across the city via a web-based volunteer self-registration website which can be accessed by health and council coordinator roles. This would give an opportunity for churches and other community groups to come together in a coordinated way in response to needs that emerge in the community – often in ways that existing services struggle to deal with.

Ideally churches would:
1. Use our notices, websites, blogs and networks to point people to (here) or 0800 37 30 37 and encourage people to consider being volunteer in a range of practical ways, practically in areas like childcare and home visits. They can register here. Non-patient contact functions are available if people are more comfortable with this option. Altering health and council coordinators to the availability of volunteers will make a big difference.
2. As many are doing, prepare flu packs with items like – food, soup, lemonade, aloe vera tissues, alcohol hand cleanser, recent magazine, inside things for bored kids to do, some prayers for healing – this can be offered as part of the coordinated city-wide volunteer response on the website, or into your local communities as many are doing.
3. Consider helping at the local flu centre in a new role being explored as we speak. The work load at the flu centre could be further streamlined, allowing more people to be cared for more efficiently, if there was a team of reliable volunteers willing to work at the flu centre, prepared to partner with nurses, consider practical support needs and ensure adequate support as people return home.

Considering being a volunteer raises a lot of questions, so do check out the FAQ or email a question via the volunteer self-registration website. Please leave a comment if you are interested in the new role at the flu centre, or have questions/suggestions.

For a Biblical encouragement to get involved, see here.

Posted by steve at 12:56 PM

Thursday, July 02, 2009

fixing your Bible when it doesn’t make sense

What do you do when a book doesn’t make sense? Here’s one fairly harsh choice – you rip out the bits that don’t fit. (It’s a scene from the Firefly series).

It’s not a novel solution. Back in the first century, Marcion of Sinope decided the God of the Old Testament did not make sense with the God of the New Testament. (More on the God of Old Testament here). He kept Paul’s letters, ripped out all the Old Testament and cut and pasted together his own Gospel (called the Gospel of Marcion). The logical part of my brain wants to know what Marcion did when Paul quoted various verses from the Old Testament. Surely those should have been deleted, leaving quite a “holey” Bible.

What is interesting is to ask Why? Why does it not make sense? For River, it doesn’t fit her patterns of logic and symbolism. Which strikes me as ultimately quite arrogant. Why should a readers patterns of logic become the judge of the text of another?

Shepherd Book suggests to River another approach. “It’s not about making sense. It’s about believing in something. And letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It’s about faith. You don’t fix faith. It fixes you.” This suggests a certain humility. The reader remains open to mystery, to what is beyond their understanding. It also has the danger of a naive fundamentalism, a simple “The Bible says it and I believe it and that settles it.”

I love the tug of war that begins to develop. “Give me that”, says Shepherd as he tries to tug the Bible away from River. “You hang on to those then” he says as he gives up. Who should “own” the Bible. Shepherd? Or River?

Historically, Christianity has considered the Bible God’s gift to neither River nor Shepherd, but to the church. As Westerners, we like to assume individual ownership, when in reality, the Bible is the book of the community. This provides another way to think about what to do when the Bible makes no sense. It is to seek the wisdom of the community. This alternative does overcome naive fundamentalism, as the “I” decides to enter a conversation with the wisdom and insight of other readers.

The danger is that this notion of being a “gift to the church” becomes a power trip. The history of patriarchy is evidence of how one group in society can assume power over a reading. So this notion of “gift to the church” needs to be applied with care. This for me, is one of the most important insights of postmodernity: the suspicion of how power is used to supress absent voices. (For more on this, see here).

When a text no longer makes sense, frustration is inevitable. We face a range of options: ripping out pages, naive fundamentalism, claiming exclusive ownership, failing to appreciate the interpretative power we have. Which starts to make sense of the following prayer:

Our Friend, who is in heaven,
sacred is Your Word.
Your kingdom come,
Your Words be heard on earth as they are in heaven.
Forgive our neglect of them in the past
as we forgive those who neglect them around us.
Lead us toward an encounter with You
each time we delve into the Scriptures.
That Your presence, Your power,
and Your glory might be ever present among us
now and forever. Amen.

Posted by steve at 02:48 PM