Wednesday, December 30, 2009

one day while sorting

The last two days I’ve been in my Opawa office – sorting, filing, junking – in preparation for the move to Adelaide. It’s been a bitter/sweet time; we’ve been part of some really cool stuff here at Opawa, yet we’ve also had to fight some battles and as I shredded all those notes, some of it seemed so petty.

What was fascinating was to find my initial letter of application. Dated March 2003. (I would produce it exactly, but when I turned my back, the packers packed it!)

How I sat at Opawa during Baptist Assembly in 2002 and sensed the possibilities, in creative worship, in citywide ministry and in being part of a working class area. How I was evangelical, but not conservative. How I wanted to be part of a multi-layered community, that in worship and in ministry, offered many ways for people to grow and belong.

And reading my application letter some 6.5 years later, to realise that those dreams were fulfilled. Sunday was a classic example, both folk being baptised were not in church before Opawa and acknowledged the importance of the range of evening courses and congregations in their finding of God. Deeply satisfying.

With thanks to all those who walked with us, made life so much richer and warmer in the process.

Posted by steve at 03:38 PM

Sunday, December 27, 2009

the last Sunday: mission and church today

And so dawned my last Sunday at Opawa. An ending after six most excellent years. Emotionally it was going to be tough.

Normally the last Sunday in December is the quietest Sunday in the church year, what with the post-Christmas slump and summer holidays. But this service was to include two baptisms, three people welcomed into membership and the commissioning of one missionary. Which was a wonderful way to end.

But it also made the service very awkward to curate, especially with non-churched friends and family turning up for the baptisms. In the end I decided all I could do was acknowledge the parts of the service would mean much for some, but not all, and to ask for Christmas cheer.

I also used boats – origami on seats as people arrived, and the invitation to write a prayer for a person they came to support, or for their own journey. And during the final song, people could come and sail them on the pool that had been made at the front.

Being my last Sunday, I wanted to remind Opawa of our journey mission. Again, not very “unchurched” friendly. But it’s not every day you conclude six years of ministry in a pretty major change project.

So for those interested, here is what I said in terms of mission, church and change. Not attractional, nor super-Christian, simply …. (more…)

Posted by steve at 10:33 PM

Saturday, December 26, 2009

neat (liturgical) way to celebrate Christmas

From Wales, a church taking nativity outdoors, with various stations scattered around their community.

Because the Holy Trinity Church in Greenfield is closed for building works, we had a choice this year to do nothing, or to take the opportunity to do something different to mark Christmas in the community.

We wanted to give the community the opportunity to be part of the story, rather than just listening to it or sitting through a service done for them by others. Everyone had a part to play in our Living Nativity and it included the whole community because we walked the streets of the village telling the story. As well as traditional readings and carols we heard from the not-so-wise ‘wise man’ shopping for the baby Jesus, we heard the tale of the farmer, irate that the shepherd would leave his sheep and go into town, we heard from the ‘village gossips’ about Mary and Joseph running away together because of the ‘illegitimate’ child. The story, as well as Jesus, was brought down to earth this Christmas in Greenfield.

…. I believe the event showed that Christmas is not just about presents, tinsel and turkey, or even about going to church once a year, but about something which is shared out amongst the community.

Good stuff. Christmas started outdoors. Then there was the Francis of Assisi inspired first ever outdoor nativity sets. It’s such a shame to Christmas re-captured by church buildings.

Posted by steve at 02:46 PM

Friday, December 25, 2009

the christmas eve christingle caught on fire

So I thought, being a Baptist, I’d have a crack at the Christingle idea. As Baptists can do, with our liturgical freedom to sample, make do, grab and borrow. And it being the 7pm Christmas Eve service, and built around a nativity tablaeu, the story told through carol and reading, meaning it only needed a short summary.

  • I liked the orange – God so loved the world.
  • I liked the orange being rotten – a knife to get rid of the gung.
  • I liked the candle – the light of the world.
  • I liked the toothpicks pointing in four directions – God for all nations.
  • I liked the fruits on the end – that the light of the world changes us.
  • But I didn’t like the red bow – the blood of Christ. It’s Christmas Eve, not Easter. It’s God with us. So the bow got switched for a nappy. (And a piece of nappy also attached to the service sheet, to be used as a tactile, participatory prayer).

So I made the Christingle and the kids were really attentive and it was great. I gave the benediction and out came the Christmas cake. Lots of people hanging around, neat sense of community, lots of positive feedback. All these Baptists have never seen anything like this before!

I’m feeling quite pleased. Until I smelt a smell. (more…)

Posted by steve at 06:46 PM

Thursday, December 24, 2009

opawa blessings practically

There has been one more layer to our Advent blessing series. I work really hard on “layering” our mission and worship life, providing multiple ways for people to engage, see more angles. So there has been the

And each week there has been practical Advent Opawa blessings. Like

1. We have a missionary returning to Puerto Rico to work with the deaf community on 1st January. So one week we invited people to buy gifts for the kids she works with. We made up bookmarks that had some suggestions and some details. And during the notices, we asked if anyone wanted to give a gift to a 14 year old boy, or a 10 year old girl, etc.

2. We are holding a local community Christmas dinner, for folk in our community who would rather not eat alone. It’s more a participative, relational event than a charity dinner, in that everyone who comes is expected to sign up to do something – cook, or serve, or clean. So during the notices, we asked if anyone would like to give some new potatoes, or frozen peas, or cream, or crackers. And so those in the church who can’t come get to participate.

3. Each year on Advent 1, we make a combined church Christmas cake. At Advent 4, we cut up bits of the cake and put names and addresses of our old folk who are unable to join us for Christmas. During the notices we ask if there are people from the church who might be willing to take the cake and to pop in on Christmas Eve to say hi and remind them of Opawa’s love for them. It’s a neat, practical way of connecting the generations.

So those are Opawa blessings, that have made practical for us as a community the 4 Advent blessing cards, allowing us to participate as able and each uniquely, in our mission, home and away, inside and outside our church community.

Posted by steve at 10:02 AM

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

kiva loans for Christmas

I’m playing with Kiva loans and Christmas and mission. (More info here).

1. At our Christmas services we often create interaction by asking who’s come the furthest, who’s up the earliest etc, who’s had the most Christmas’s. We often give out a little prize. So why not give out a Kiva gift voucher? It would splendidly capture the spirit of Christmas and would connect local with global mission.

Updated: Church manager said yes. We’ve had financial gifts flowing in all week, for us to give as appropriate. Yee ha.

2. Why not give Kiva as a Christmas gift. Imagine the kids on Christmas afternoon, huddled over the computer, deciding who they’re going to loan to, and letting them align themselves with global mission. Much more Christian use of time than trashing some toy.

3. Use Kiva to kickstart micro-finance in your community. Give out 20 lots of $25 (total $500), to people in your church. A random surprise one Sunday. Some churches ask for money, we give money! After 6 months invite them to a Kiva evening, to share what they gave to and what has happened. Use that energy to ask questions:

  • Could we do micro-loans in our community?
  • What questions would we need to ask first?

Send people off to do research, and bring a recommendation to your church community. Give out locally, 20 lots of “microfinance.” After 6 months, meet for yet another, but this time local, Kiva evening, to share stories and see what the next step is.

What is Kiva? Glad you asked? Use this video (and below) on Christmas morning, with your kids and at your Kiva evenings.

Posted by steve at 10:03 PM

public kiwi mission: carols by glowstick

Some churches use public peace labyrinths. Some use controversial billboards. Some use carols, done well – high quality musicians; high quality graphics; quality networking to gain sponsorship from Auckland City Council, Vector Arena, DDB Capital; preaching; carols; prayer; offering.

= 6,000 people in attendance. For a writeup, go here.

Posted by steve at 07:32 AM

Monday, December 21, 2009

advent blessings bannering: from process to prayer

A fabric artist, visiting from another city, was just in the auditorium admiring our banners. It’s neat to have people in the church for “creativity’s sake”. All four banners are now up, and looking fine.

(poor shot, but it gives you some idea of the height, scope and colours.) The process is pretty team-like

  • Lynne did the design on publisher
  • emailed it to Lawence, who as an engineer works for a firm that has a photocopier that prints to A0
  • who gives the black and white banners to Carolyn and Jan, who add pastels
  • who gives them to Pete, who hangs them.

Cost. $16! Plus creative time. The response has been simply excellent and it’s given some real shape and energy to our Advent.

My spiritual director challenged me to weave the four Advent blessings into the lighting of the Advent candles. So here’s version 1.

In Numbers, Old
God faces
failed Aaron, and wrestling Jacob
shines grace
ALL: Old to New, in Jesus, come

In Corinthians, New
as Spirit waters prayerless,
hard edged prisons, now new,
graced spaces
ALL: Old to New, in Jesus, come

In Jude, future
face forward
new Adam builds blushing bride
ALL: Old to New, in Jesus, come

In Luke, Mary giggles – yes
Elizabeth embraces – out of bounds no
as Jesus moves heaven to earth
ALL: Old to New, in Jesus, come

Advent blessings – four; we await the face of God in Christ
ALL: Old to New, in Jesus, we say welcome

So there we are. I suspect a totally unique approach to Advent!

Posted by steve at 07:33 AM

Sunday, December 20, 2009

the logic of the Incarnation: Mary where’d you get your baby from

Here’s a snippet of Sunday’s sermon – in response to a bus-stop conversation last Christmas, and to the media coverage of a certain billboard put up by a church in Auckland.


Posted by steve at 05:10 PM

Saturday, December 19, 2009

wanted: church in Adelaide

I was driving this morning, thinking about the values that would mark the “ideal” church for the Taylor family in Adelaide. As a pastoral family, we’ve never had to “choose” a church before. We’re suddenly going to be “church shoppers.” Which is a seriously wierd experience. So what will we be looking for?

Here’s my first thoughts:
1. In a poorer area, and with an outward mission that we as a family could serve in. I really want the kids to be part of a family that serves, not just because we have been “church pastors”, but because we are Christians.
2. A community committed to growing our kids (9 and 12). This need not mean great children and youth programmes, simply a culture that is taking the growth of all ages seriously.
3. Existing worship that is thoughtful, culturally connective and whole-bodied
4. Space for the development (if necessary) of new forms of church

Am I asking too much? Is it fair to go into a church with an existing set of values? Am I just becoming a church-shopper? Are these things realistic?

And then I laughed. I suddenly realised that I know a church like this. It’s in our city, just down the road, called Opawa, the church that we are currently part of!

Thanks Opawa, for all you have done to be a GREAT place for the Taylor family. You are going to be so missed. And as we have sensed all the way through this call process: we simply have to trust that the God who has given us such great friends, family and church here in Christchurch, will do it again in a new space.

Posted by steve at 11:41 AM

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas blame: sex and the incarnation: updated

Last year, the leadup to Christmas found me in a rather bizarre bus stop conversation. The essence was a stranger telling me that Christmas was God’s fault, for not using a condom. At the time, I wondered how widespread was this rather crude notion of sexuality and the human/divine connection.

This year the conversation has returned. This time, starting not on the street, but from a church, with the following billboard going up in Auckland.

For St Matthews it is an:

ongoing effort to provoke conversation about spiritual matters … a Christmas billboard … that lampoons literalism and invites people to think again about what a miracle is. Is the Christmas miracle a male God sending forth his divine sperm, or is the miracle that God is and always has been among the poor?

Well yes, but only if you are trading on a crude notion of Incarnation as a God sleeping with a woman. It’s certainly not orthodox Christianity, in which the Creeds affirm Jesus as begotten, not made. Words designed to avoid the notion of Incarnation as literal male God sleeping with Mary. So I’m not sure what “literalism” St Matthew’s think they are lampooning. Perhaps the crude notion I encountered last year.

The Catholics are angered, claiming that “for a church to put up a poster which implied the Virgin Mary and Joseph had just had sex was disrespectful to the church.” Well there is no timeline on the poster, so it’s a silly comment. It also continues the vague disquiet that the church seems to have with sex.

I couldn’t help reflecting, as I looked at the billboard, on the fantastic annunciation art that through history the church has produced: Botticelli, Da Vinci, Caravaggio, Henry Tanner. In the 21st century is the best we can do a billboard commenting on male sexual anxiety?

It makes me glad of the Christmas journey here at Latimer Square, offering peace amid the stress, open-ended meaningful amid the tinsel.

Updated: In the last 24 hours, the billboard had paint splashed on it, and then overnight was stolen. The spokesman for St Matthews is disappointed, surprised that some people can preach love, but not act in love. Which of course demands a mirror be raised: if for St Matthews, the standard is love, how does that stack up with there self-professed motive: to “lampoon literalism” (Dictionary definition “harsh satire usually directed against an individual”). I don’t condone theft. And two wrongs don’t make a right. But me thinks it’s a bit rich for St Matthews to claim the high moral ground that is love on this one.

Posted by steve at 11:48 AM

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

the gospel and land of promise

Some good news this morning …. another of my writings has been accepted for publication.

Back in July I presented a paper – Faithful Other or Guilty Other? a migrants reading of Genesis 28:10-18 – at an academic conference. The theme was the Gospel and the land of promise. Most of the papers looked at Biblical material in relation to the land of Israel. My paper did also, but by a somewhat meandering path. I started by reading the Jacob narrative through the lens of Aotearoa migration stories – Maori and Pakeha, Cook and Banks and Te Rangi Hiroa – which threw up some fascinating discussion around “land/s of promise.” What if “ownership” was a cultural construct? What if “promised” land was offered as already occupied land, both by animal and people?

Questions I’ve been chewing on for a number of years, and the conference was a chance to draw some threads together, put some thoughts into words. The papers were gathered. And a publisher has just said yes to making them available in written form.

So that’s a third publishable “thing” for me in this calendar year; with another 2 “things” submitted and awaiting. Plus there is a first complete draft of a potential book on faith:full family ministry, emerging from the Breathe conference I spoke at in August. All in all, it’s been a very encouraging year (for a part-time academic) writing wise. Now back to the laptop!

Posted by steve at 11:11 AM

Monday, December 14, 2009

mission-shaped training: Grow and go weekend

It’s this type of reason that I’m looking forward to being in Adelaide. I love the mission-shaped theme, the wide range of options and the sense of a training institution intentionally resourcing the wider church. Upcoming May 14-16, 2010. For more info, go here. (And for the record, the brochure is slightly ahead of itself! I am still 2 weeks away from concluding at Opawa.)

My last Sunday at Opawa is December 27 and it looks like being quite a Sunday: including the commissioning of two sets of missionaries, a baptism and a welcoming of new members. To quote:

“I want to come into membership on the Sunday before you leave, so that you, Steve, and Lynne, leave knowing the church is in good hands!”

Posted by steve at 06:14 PM

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Salvation as eschatology: mixing redemption, Advent, eschatology, Irenaus

The Bible text is Jude 24, 25

And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes.

Which generated the following reflection: a move between salvation, Advent, eschatology and Irenaeus. Complete with wedding vows. Perhaps not your standard evangelical gospel presentation. But surely Biblical, and perhaps thoughtfully, evocatively, transformative (more…)

Posted by steve at 09:29 PM