Monday, November 30, 2009

film reviews: topp twins, earth whisperers, blessed, up, an education

The assignment: 500 words, monthly, offering a Christian perspective on contemporary film, paid, for Touchstone (Methodist) denominational magazine. Here are (some more of: Four holidays, Doubt, Gran Torino, Pink Panther 2 already posted here) my 2009 reviews for the year to date.

The Topp Twins. Untouchable Girls. This is a joyous movie, a healthy yodel to life well lived. Centre stage are Jools and Lynda Topp, filmed in concert, singing their songs, reminiscing among friends, telling the stories that have made them one of New Zealand’s most recognisable entertainers … for more

Earth Whisperers/Papatuanuku. Confession time. Watching Earth Whisperers/Papatuanuku increased my global footprint … for more, including film church discussion guide

Blessed. “Blessed” is a gritty exploration of parenting today … for more

Up. Get down to Up. Take your children. Then ask your neighbour’s grandchildren. Whatever you do, do not forget your church leadership team … for more

An education. “An education” is a movie about a moment. It captures a life coming of age, a decade poised on the threshold of sex, drugs and rock and roll and the intellectual struggle between the school classroom and the university of life. The result is a movie so satisfying it is easy to lose sight of what is essentially a sordid tale … for more

Posted by steve at 04:50 PM

Sunday, November 29, 2009

advent blessings creative prayer stations

Updated: based on the interest in this post, I’ve added another post with four more creative advent ideas, this time more do at home, type stations.

We kicked off Advent at Opawa today. Someone noted how much work is involved. “Too right,” is my response. It’s like adding a tablecloth, some flowers and mood music to an everyday meal. It draws attention to the church seasons and gives distinctive shape to the church year. It’s an essential spiritual practice to the Christmas consumerist frenzy.

This year we are tracing Incarnational themes through four church blessings/benedictions. The hope is also to add some content to what we hear regularly as church services end, plus ensure a real God focus as I conclude my ministry at Opawa.

Alongside the first Advent banner (which looks stunning against the black background curtains), three “blessing” stations were presented. Physically, they are marked with black wooden stands, draped in cloth. They will be with us for the weeks of Advent, with the “blessing” texts changed each week.

Scriptural prayer: (Spark from here) Consider the words from Numbers 6:24-27. What strikes you? What questions would you like to ask the writer? In the white space, around the words, write or draw your comments and questions.

Intercession bowl: Write or draw the names of people and places you want to see blessed this Christmas. Place them in the bowl.

Fridge magnet prayers: (Spark from here) The Bible is written in Hebrew and Greek. As words are translated, they take on different shades of meaning. This provides an opportunity for prayer and reflection. First, consider words of similar meaning.

(spread on table — lord/protector/saviour/redeemer/provider/the/and/you/us/his/her/with/in/be/bless/benedict/kiss/impart/watch/guard/keep/strengthen/sustain/protect/shine/glow/highlight/enlighten/illuminate/magnify/reflect/gracious/kind/merciful/give favour/hug/lift up/hold/extend/face/peace/shalom/tranquility/whole of life)

Second, arrange the words into your prayer of blessing. When you are satisfied with your work, write your prayer in the Advent journal. Please note that by writing out your prayer, we are asking your permission to display it publicly, perhaps on the church website or projected at a service or in an outside art installation.

So here are three of the “fridge magnet” blessings. (more…)

Posted by steve at 05:31 PM

Friday, November 27, 2009

creativity and commerce: Steve Lillywhite

Believe in your heart and not in your eyes. So many people look at music. Everything is on a screen now. That’s important but it’s also important to go where your heart goes and go where your ears go.

Interview with Steve Lillywhite, long-time music producer, including being there at U2’s start and current.

Not sure why the quote struck me. Perhaps because I’m in a career transition and walking around a brand new building, looking with my eyes, I keep thinking – this is nuts, why am I leaving? So the reminder to look with heart not eyes.

Perhaps because I’m co-teaching Sense making faith. It’s a course that explores how the five senses enhance the spiritual search, and we’ve just done the session on sense of sight, and explored what it means to use our eyes well.

(I am co-teaching the course, part of training up people to continue’s Opawa’s mission when I leave. There are 9 of us doing the course and it’s great. And I do want to keep teaching it in Adelaide next year, perhaps starting not with church folk, but with spiritual searchers and see where the Spirit leads).

Perhaps because it’s such an acute analysis of contemporary culture, in which so much music is in fact a visual excursion (titillation?), rather than an aural experience.

Posted by steve at 10:23 PM

sustaining mission life

It’s been a really exciting week here at the church. There has been an outstandingly generous response to our foodbank crisis. Advent preparations are in full swing – with Advent blessing postcards arriving and looking fabulous and a new set of advent banners about to be launched in the auditorium. New carpet has been laid in the new building and internal access doors installed. From Sunday, our kids will be using the new area, while preparations are in full swing, for a move into the new offices on Wednesday. (That signals the completion of part a, still leaving parts b, c, d – the cafe kitchen, foyer extensions and disabiity toilets.)

Amid all this, we try to sustain our mission life. For us at Opawa, this has to be more than frenetic doing. It has to be more than individual. It also needs to be relating, praying, resourcing, sharing. So four times a year we gather for input, resourcing, sharing. So mission collectives, happening over this weekend.

LIVING collective – for those passionate about lifestyle mission in workplace and across our backyard fences, Friday, 27 November, 7:30 pm, Bad Back Shop, 303 Colombo Street

CREATING collective – to pray, and be updated, on plans for Christmas journey and Santa parade float. Gather at Latimer Square lampost at 7:45 pm, or Bicycle Thief, 21 Latimer Square at 8:30 pm, Saturday 28 November.

LOVING collective – for those interested in mission in Waltham community, 345 Eastern Terrace for a BarBQ, Sunday 29 November, 12:30-2:30 pm. Salads supplied, if people could bring their own meat, that would be great.

That’s one way we sustain our mission life across the church. How do you sustain yours?

Posted by steve at 12:06 PM

Thursday, November 26, 2009

creativity in ministry book list

I spent today working on a first draft book list on the topic of creativity in ministry. It is for a course (a Spirit of wonder: imagining a church creatively immersed in culture) I am part of in Adelaide in March, along with Jonny Baker and Cheryl Lawrie. I suggested that the input, which knowing Jonny and Cheryl will be first-rate, if supported by a reading list and a post-graduate qualification (me!), could also be a Masters paper.

So today was spent looking through my book shelf, looking for books on creativity, ministry and mission. Here’s my first draft. I’d love to know what you, my blog readers, might add. (more…)

Posted by steve at 04:00 PM

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

peacemaking: three local (Canterbury) bi-cultural peace stories

Sermon from Sunday evening Grow, part of a three week series on Grow in peace.

In Romans 12: 18, we are told “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Which leaves the question: what might this look like? A few weeks ago visiting speaker, Mark Grace, speaking about Parihaka (a North Island story), challenged us to look for local peace stories

So I went to the library. It’s a very Pakeha thing to do. If you were Maori, you might talk to your elders. But I’m a Pakaha, so I went to the library, to the New Zealand archives section.

This was what I found out, the story of three local peacemakers, and some bi-cultural mission history here in New Zealand (more…)

Posted by steve at 08:28 PM

Monday, November 23, 2009

an ordinary day in pastoral ministry? trapped in Psych unit

Yesterday I found myself trapped inside the Acute Psychiatric Inpatient Unit. It began as a fairly routine pastoral visit. A phone call from the day nurse, asking me to visit.

Juggled my time table and by 5:30 pm I was outside the Psych unit. It was a quiet Sunday and it took me about 10 minutes to gain entry, standing in an empty main foyer, ringing the ward number.

Admittance, with instructions: This is a secure unit. No patients can leave. Whatever you do, give nothing, anything, to those inside.

I met the person I was visiting. And spent time listening and talking. By now it was 6:20 pm. I was due to preach in 40 minutes, so made my goodbyes. Being a secure unit, the nurse showed me to the door, unlocked it, and let me through.

I walked about 5 paces. Found a second door, opening onto the main empty foyer. Which was locked. Turning to ask for help, I realised I was alone. The nurse who had let me through the first door was now gone, returning to her work station.

Strange, I thought. I gave the outside door another pull. It didn’t move. I looked for an exit button and found it. But it needed a key to turn. Probably the same key the nurse had used.

I returned the 5 paces to the door the nurse had let me through. By now, it was shut firmly behind me. I pushed it, but sure enough, it also was firmly locked. This was, after all, a secure unit.

I peered through the glass, but the corridor was empty. The walls looked soundproof. I felt foolish. I felt like banging on doors and yelling, but wasn’t sure if this was the best behaviour to exhibit in a pysch unit.

I remembered I had my cell phone. So I scanned the walls, looking for a number. None. I had phoned from the main empty reception, so returned to the exit door.

I peered through the glass into the main area. But the phone numbers were out of eyesight, around the corner. It was becoming hard not to panic. Still noone in the corridor leading back into the ward from which I had come from.

I tried the exit door again. Pushed. Pulled. Being Sunday, there were no staff in the main reception area, so it was useless banging on that door.

I breathed deeply and looked at the door closely. When I pulled hard, the door did bend. Enough to let me see that the metal glasp was down. Enough of a gap to get my fingers in. A bit of a fiddle, poke and prod and I managed to push the glasp back.

And this time gave the door a push, not a pull. It swung up. I was out, free, walking through the empty main reception. Fresh air smelt good. It was difficult not to run, not to feel guilty that I was somehow escaping.

Definitely not an ordinary day in pastoral ministry. But the experience has become a metaphor for prayer. Despite momentary panic and heightened anxiety, I could leave. Not everyone can. Some people find themselves permanently trapped, locked behind closed doors, feeling alone, entrapped.

God, be in their head
God, be with their carers, their loved ones, their doctors
God, hold their faith while they mend. In time, open their doors to life,
to the full

Posted by steve at 05:42 PM

Saturday, November 21, 2009

open home open year opawa 2009

As I type an artist is chalking the outside of our Opawa building, giving concrete expression, on those concrete block walls, to the names of the Opawa family.

You see, in the church calendar, tomorrow is the last Sun/day of the church year. Being Baptist allows us to express this in our own, unique way; a certain freedom to play with the tradition in light of our context. Hence it becomes our open home, open year church service, in which we reflect back on the “church” year past. Including the light, life and colour that we as Opawa have sought to make public beyond the walls of the church (ie, the chalk!)

Open home open year works particularly well in a Southern Hemisphere, where so much of the year – school, university, clubs – ends at Christmas. It works even better at Opawa, where our annual church meeting is February. So at Open home, Open year, we celebrate the year past. Advent focuses us on Christmas and the Christ at the energising beginning and centre of the church story. We refresh with summer holidays and then, come February, we have a church meeting to face the year ahead.

A major event for Opawa through 2009 was the church building project. We are moving into the new office area in 10 days (cafe and toilets still under construction), so open home open year becomes a perfect opportunity both to thank God for building progress and to commission the new area and the ministry that will flow from it.

So tomorrow as part of our worship we will open the door and prayer walk the offices. Various stations allow people to pray. Here is the thanks and prayer walk instruction sheet we have created, which we hope communicate, enthuses and draws forth thanks and prayer. (more…)

Posted by steve at 01:30 PM

Friday, November 20, 2009

kingdom living as grassroots business realities

active intent….
I believe that we are created to live the Kingdom of God in our world, not apart from but within society. I am a representative of God’s Kingdom here on earth. I live and speak for God’s rule as an attractive member of the Kingdom, not against the world but for God’s Kingdom, His Good news in Jesus transforming the world.

From the blog of Phil, one of God’s gifts at Opawa. Last year, I invited Phil, and a number of others, to keep a blog as a spiritual practice, a way of being intentional about attending to God’s Kingdom flutters (and further here). It meant that as I preached on the Kingdom during the month, ordinary folk in our church were modelling what this might look like. So it looks like Phil has continued to blog. What’s more, it’s become a fantastic set of grassroots, mission reflections. Not from a pastor, but a businessperson.

There is more to this story. Earlier this year I asked Phil and his wife, Bronwyn, to lead one (of three) mission collectives, living. Four times a year, collectives are meant to gather us around God’s mission – to discuss, resource , pray. For us at Opawa, mission has taken concrete shape in

  • living, faith in our workplaces and among our neighbours
  • loving, the local streets around us
  • creating, the citywide creative capacity of the Christmas Journey and Pentecost.

It’s been an experiment, simply trying to build community and capacity around the green shoots that seem to be Opawa’s season at the moment.

So the blog now contains some of Phil’s reflections on this challenge – what living faith sharing looks like. Again, it is fantastic – grassroots, everyday, outside church walls. Go Phil. Go mission reality beyond Sunday, outside sacred/scared walls.

(By the way, Opawa’s mission collectives are meeting again next weekend, as follows:
Friday, 7:30 pm, November 27, 303 Colombo St
Saturday, 7:45 pm, November 28, Latimer Square
Sunday, November 29, 12:30 pm.)

Posted by steve at 04:25 PM

Thursday, November 19, 2009

kiwi creativity: mike riddell blogs the cinematic journey

I’ve been enjoying recently Mike Riddell’s blog: Interminable moon. It is a neat title, a play on words, the story of his journey to turn his fictional book: The Insatiable Moon, into a film. It’s been a 7 year journey, hence the apt title “interminable.”

At first the blog was simply a narrative of bureaucratic pain, the (losing) battle to secure funding. Mike, never known for taking no for an answer, simply decided to shoot the film himself. Now the blog is much more interesting, the daily journal of the filming in and around the streets of Ponsonby. Mike might have moved from text to screen, but he’s still a great writer and the blog is a delight, as well as a window into the sheer hard slog that is the creative process. I need that reminder: that creativity is 90% perspiration around 10% inspiration, a mix of skill and instinct, management and creativity.

Mike supervised my Masters, at Carey Baptist College, and my PhD, at University of Auckland. Both were the last tasks he would do at either place.

(In fact, every one of my post-graduate supervisors – Mike Riddell, Brian Smith, Gregory McCormick and John Drane – would leave the academy just as I finished my Masters/PhD’s. In my better moments, I’m sure this is coincidence, because it’s not all about me! Is it?)

So Mike calls me into his office at Carey College to tell me that I had better make my planned Masters thesis completion date, because the publication of the Insatiable Moon is the trigger which will see him leave Carey, leave Auckland, and move to Dunedin. Jump? Or push? Or a confluence of circumstances, including family and Rose’s career? Depends who you ask.

Which makes it interesting to then read the following Amazon review:

What makes this whole book more amazing (apart from a really, really good sex scene, covering six full pages) is that, skating right on the very edge of outright blasphemy, it was written by a Baptist Minister – and it hasn’t been decried by the Christian community. It’s accessible to believers and non- believers alike, and explores issues of faith, rather than poking fun at the concept.

Can Christians let people poke fun at them? (Tempted to include a sentence about insatiable “mooning” at Christians) Can we have art that gets us thinking? Where do artists best function in relation to the Christian community – inside or outside?

You, my reader, can ponder the heady questions. Today, I simply pen the following blessing:

May the moon rise above you Mike Riddell
and may the warm winds of Ponsonby blow upon your creative dreams,
May the cinematic gatekeepers rise and call your movie blessed
And the cash registers ring to re-fill your creative investments

Posted by steve at 12:12 PM

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

plagiarism or publicity: the unravelling of Witi Ihaemara

Last week the New Zealand Listener broke the story that one of New Zealand’s best known novelists, University of Auckland lecturer, Witi Ihaemara had been caught with 16 instances of plagiarism in his latest novel, The Trowenna Sea. Reviewer Jolisa Greenwood felt a number of sentences were clunky. A quick check using the power of google, revealed word for word usage from authors as diverse as Peter Godwin, Karen Sinclair and Charles Dickens. Faced with the claims, Ihaemara acknowledged his mistake.

Today he has announced he will buy back all remaining books from bookstores. Wow. That’s a big call. He intends to go away and rework the 0.4% of the book.

Coincidentally, just yesterday he was also announced as a Laurete by the New Zealand Arts Foundation. It comes with a $50,000 prize, for him to spend as he sees fit. Perhaps on buying back copies of his book!

All in all, it’s a sad story.

If you want my future-cast,
– people who have already brought the book are now sitting on a winner. Especially if they have an autographed copy!
– book sales of the book, when it comes out re-worked and re-packaged, will now do much, much better. Nothing like a tinge of scandal to attract the discerning public.
– a number of academic articles will be written, comparing the old Witi with the new Witi, and evaluating the extent of his editing. (Hence my first point, about the value of “original Witi’s)
– Witi will be insisting his publisher provide a new line editor. And wondering if this ever wood have happened in a world pre-google.

Posted by steve at 05:10 PM

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

advent blessings: worship 2 go 2009 resource

These are a draft copy of our 2009 Advent resources. It marks a different Advent approach. Rather than journey with either Christmas art (and copyright issues) or Lukan story or the Old Testament prophecies, it takes the theme of blessings.

Specifically, four blessings – Numbers 6:23ff, 2 Corinthians 13:14, Jude, Luke 1:42. Each blessing is also an ending, and so as the year ends, what does it mean for Christmas to be about blessings. Each with a reflection, an invitation to consider blessings of God and faith embodied. Each with suggestions for practical blessing to do during the week. A spirituality2go resource.

The art work is done to include the possibility of turning the cards into banners. This allows Sunday worship to interface with the cards. We are also working on a video, to be played in and around the blessings.

They go to the printers on Friday 20 November, 3 days away. So if you want to to share the “blessings” of shared costs, ie piggyback, you have 3 days to let us know. $2/set of 4, plus postage and packaging.

Posted by steve at 04:35 PM

Monday, November 16, 2009

if you need me to fed you

“how do we get fed? – You pick up a spoon! What are you… a baby?!” Great quote from Andrew Hamilton.

I had not come across this “need to feed” until I came to Opawa, when after a few months, I was told my preaching was not feeding some people.

Which on reflection, really got me scratching my head. It suddenly occurred to me that the people needing feeding had been around the church a long time. Some had even got to Bible Colleges. Presumably they’d heard a lot of sermons. And been to a lot of weekly Bible study home groups. Presumably matured.

If they needed feeding, then what did that say about all preaching, not only my preaching. And what did that say about their own patterns of feeding, daily?

Which raises again the perennial question – what is the point of preaching? And more pointedly, what is the point of preaching “in such a time as this”? To feed? To inspire? To open windows?

And leads nicely into this blog series by Scot McKnight, on preaching underpinned by a thoughtful, integrated educational approach. Scot’s approach intuitively rings some bells for me.

A very early influence on my preaching was a communication seminar I attended, led by an adult educator. Who asked a whole lot of educational questions about how people are formed. And then applied them to preaching.

So I like Scot McKnight’s instincts – refusing to throw out the baby with the bathwater by scorning preaching. But equally, refusing to somehow treat preaching as sacrosant, above educational insights. In so doing, he opens the door for us to begin to take seriously how all of our church life can be forming people – worship, small groups, billboards, websites, video …

Posted by steve at 09:07 PM

Saturday, November 14, 2009

a spirit of wonder: imagining a church creatively immersed in culture

This is one of the first courses, I’ll be involved with next year in Adelaide. Teaming with Jonny Baker, Cheryl Lawrie and Tim Hein pondering topics such as spirituality and the imagination, intuitive leadership, forming pioneering leaders….and plenty more.

When: 8-12 march 2010


* input on spirituality & the imagination, intuitive leadership, spirituality & contemporary culture, fresh expressions of church, forming ‘pioneer’ church leaders, worship ‘beyond the fringe’, scripture, spirit & culture
* artistic installation at Adelaide Fringe Festival event – “The Landscape of Desire”
* visit to CitySoul – new young adult faith community in the city centre
* involvement in the Adelaide Fringe Festival and Adelaide Hills wineries

Sponsored by Uniting College for Leadership & Theology in association with Pilgrim Uniting Church. The events may be undertaken as an Masters Ministry course (that’s been my contribution so far, suggesting a vehicle by which people can integrate their experience into formal, existing structures through reading and participation as action/reflection).

Cost & Registration details available from here.

Posted by steve at 02:38 PM