Tuesday, August 31, 2010

rolling our story with God’s story: Biblical story cubes

Storycubes has got all sorts of church and worship possibilities. The instructions are simple:

Roll the Cubes. Begin with ‘Once upon a time’ and tell a story that links together all 9 face-up images and spark your imagination.

The possibilities are endless.

  • throw them and invite people to weave some of the symbols into their story.
  • throw them and invite people to weave some of the symbols into a Biblical story.
  • Play a what happened next, using the symbols to storytell an Acts 29, or a Mark 17 ie the chapters after the chapters that are written.
  • You could make your own cube, for example an angel for the gospel of Matthew, lion for Mark, the ox for Luke, the eagle for John. Then throw the gospel cube plus the nine and invite people to think of, and then share, a story from the gospel that uses that symbol.
  • Or your own cube that has an angel, a mountaintop, a forest. Use these to invite personal/group sharing – a mountain top moment ie when you were at your best, a dark forest moment ie when you were at your most scared, an angel moment ie when something happened you couldn’t explain.

Why? It invites creativity and imagination and humanity around the weave of God in our lives and the Biblical story.

I think I might just buy one for the upcoming National Biblical Storytelling gathering here in Adelaide (Sept 24-25). It would be a fun addition to my workshop, helping people tell their story and God’s story.

Posted by steve at 06:59 AM

Monday, August 30, 2010

evaluating fresh expression birth narratives

In a few weeks I’m due to head to the UK, to take part in the Evaluating fresh expressions research consultation in Durham.

Which means some preparation! Back in 2001, as part of my PhD study, I interviewed various UK folk in regard to the alt.worship movement. Questions like

  • outline your involvement
  • in what ways do you see contemporary culture influencing you
  • how accessible is (should) worship be
  • how would you describe the place of mission and faith contextualisation

I ended up attending 10 UK alt.worship services, interviewing 17 people/groups (early pioneers like Late, Late Service, Visions, Dave Tomlinson) and talking to 9 more. It was fascinating stuff, but in the end my PhD simply got too big, and so I had to leave all of this research behind.

Now some 10 years later, I’m wondering if this stuff might be useful.  So I have begun to dig out the tapes.  I’ve heard the scrape of coffee machines in London cafes,  footsteps echoing through church halls in Hackney and tea being poured in Northern England.  Sure, 2001 is so last century. But I’ve found some great quotes:

“One of the things we learnt was that you need quite a lot of determination and quite a lot of encouragement if you want to be given the space to do something new within the church.”

“The very fact [evangelicalism] has been formed by the book speaks volumes about the kind of cultural baggage evanglicalism has.”

And some great questions being raised: What does sustainability look like and who’se responsibility is it? Does it matter if new forms are not longer with us? Is “surviving as Christians and living faith authentically within late-twentieth century London” less missional than “being a compassionate local presence working for peace and justice within the community”?

Whether I have the time to turn all this primary data into a research presentation I’m not sure.  Whether I have the time to construct a thesis that can honour these voices, connect with the Fresh Expressions literature that began to emerge 5 years later and still say something helpful remains to be seen.

But today I feel like I’ve been at table with some real heroes, some outstandingly creative, missional pioneers.

Posted by steve at 03:41 PM

Saturday, August 28, 2010

art and faith Australian style: the window that is the Blake prize

This is a fascinating resource: the Blake Prize, exploring the religious and spiritual in art.

The Blake Prize is one of the more prestigious art prizes in Australia. Since 1951 the Blake Society has been awarding a prize for works of art that explore the subject of religious awareness and spirituality.

Here are all the art entries for 2009, and here are the art finalists. Then the catalogue of winners is here, stretching back to 1978. There were over a 1,000 entries in 2009! That’s a lot.

The 2009 winner was artist Angelica Mesiti for a silent video work entitled [Rapture (silent anthem)].

(silent video! edited – 40 seconds of a 10 minute original)

Filmed from a concealed position beneath the stage at a rock concert, it caught the judges eye for its beauty, emotional intensity and technical virtuosity. “An enigmatic work that operates on many levels, Rapture depicts the joy of being alive while also hinting at the darker aspects of religious emotion.”

I find it fascinating because it is art acknowledging the place of pop.culture. First in medium – video winning an art competition (See the Sydney Morning Herald byline: How videos killed the painting stars). Second in theme (crowds at a rock concert) in religion and spirituality. While there is some Christian thinking in this area, it still remains a bit of a challenge to us in our churches and theological colleges!

Anyhow, I will be using this in my Sociology for ministry paper. And perhaps in the future as an introduction to my attempts to sketch a pneumatology for pop.culture. And there is a journal article in this, using the finalists in the competition over the year, to explore the development, or not, of religious and spiritual in Australian culture.

Posted by steve at 01:10 PM

Friday, August 27, 2010

fresh expressions adelaide vision day: putting legs on the local

Key words: dreamers and sponsors, wonderers and strategists
Key sense: taste
Key question: How can fresh expressions emerge within and alongside local congregations, agencies, schools ?

Had an excellent 90 minutes planning a (1st ever?) local Adelaide Fresh Expressions vision day with the Synod Fresh Expressions Core team. Put a ring around November 27, 11-3:30 pm, Christ Church Uniting, Wayville. Having had a swag of outside input on Fresh expressions, this day is ideal for local communities thinking about putting local legs on local fresh expressions.

Programme (draft):
11-12 pm – Introducing Fresh expressions: Who, What, Where, Why, How – Steve Taylor. Being Uniting, being emerging? a CMS team

12-1 pm – Local lunch – people are invited to bring local produce to share

1-2 pm – Putting legs on the local – interviews with three diverse local fresh expressions. A rural story, an art story, a justice story (TBC). Exploring how dreamers and sponsors work in life-giving partnerships.

2-3 pm – Conversational workshop – share challenges and opportunities in conversation either with local dreamers or local sponsors.

3-3:30 pm- Space with candlelight reflections community.

Posted by steve at 09:53 PM

Thursday, August 26, 2010

the ethics of living At home

My recent thinking about hospitality and mission, food and faith has also been finding itself shaped by Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life. (I find Bryson both engaging and infuriating. He’s a great storyteller, but his books are so long!) At home is still a fascinating book. Having scoured the solar system in A Short History of Nearly Everything, At Home invites us into Bill’s home, the place where dwells in Norfolk, England. Each room gets a chapter, 19 in total, and only Bill Bryson could write chapters on a hall, a kitchen, a fusebox, a cellar, a passage, a garden, and so on. It’s packed full of fascinating information and the message:

“Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”

Which links so superbly with hospitality as mission and the banquet meals in Luke 14. Faith becomes domestic. Christianity sits at table. It’s just profoundly challenging, yet profoundly empowering to realise that how we live, what we eat and who we eat with is Kingdom living, a world loving way of being. Or in the words of says Silvija Davidson, chair of Slow Food UK.

“The world food crisis is making people think differently about what’s on their plates,”

To be practical, like this sort of list from the slow food movement: (more…)

Posted by steve at 08:11 PM

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

party meals with Jesus

Sitting with Luke 14 over the last few days has reminded me of a creationary-type resource that is offered in my The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change book. On page 106, as part of chapter of mission and community, an invitation to a spiritual experience of eating your way through Luke.

Levi’s banquet (Luke 5) :: bean and meat casserole

Disciples eating corn (Luke 6) :: corn, roasted, and served with mustard-infused butter.

Son of man, eating and drinking (Luke 7) :: stuffed quail

Feeding 5000 (Luke 9) :: fish fried in dill

Parable of Rich Fool (Luke 12) :: deep fried locust in minted yogurt dip

Parable of Great banquet (Luke 14) :: Jewish vintage

Zaccheus’ house (Luke 19) :: roasted chick peas

Last Supper (Luke 22) :: baking Jewish bread

Emmaus Road (Luke 24) :: leeks sauteed in saffron

It is sort of playful, but also quite serious! Christianity is a domestic faith.

Posted by steve at 11:23 AM

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

resources used in hospitality for mission weekend

This post also might be useful for those working on Luke 14 lectionary text ie the Banquet Parables.

In order to create curiosity and pre-engagement with the your place or mine? hospitality as mission theme, I invited people to send in cell phone pictures of their tables. During the weekend I made this into a Quicktime movie which looped. It was very useful in terms of reminding us of the diversity of tables we dwell at, in which our “hospitality as mission” takes shape.

Luke 10 talk – theme hospitality as mission at their place

  • The story of Brendan and it’s link to mission came via Mark Berry’s Safe Space community and the words for the soundtrack being played are available here.
  • Boats, on which to write the name of your church and the “word of mission” for you, are here.
  • Lots and lots more information about the story and development of Opawa and espresso can be found here – start at the end and work forward!

Luke 14 talk – theme banquets as mission, their place and ours

  • Quiz was taken from a book about meals from around the world
  • The images of “church at table” were from Steve Collins website, particularly here.
  • The Benched video, which was used as a way of reflecting on hospitality in shared community projects.
  • Benched from Brandon McCormick on Vimeo.

    • The list of 4 hospitality practices which we used to evaluate the video (and thus our congregational life and hopes in general) was a summary of a chapter from Soul Banquets: How Meals Become Mission in the Local Congregation. This also has the (fantastic) story of the response of a New York church to 9/11. The specific practices (as I reworded them) are as follows:
    1. Practice: serving graciously by finding ways to encourage eye contact and genuine conversation.
    2. Practice: setting tables in ways and places that reflect God’s abundance and creativity.
    3. Practice: seek role reversals by finding ways for all to contribute (a diversity of gifts, each has its corresponding service.)
    4. Practice: committing to a long-term, intentional project.

    Luke 19 talk – theme the gospel at their place

    • For more about Richard Passmore go here, with the Abs and Flow story (which is one of the best example of Western contextualisation I have seen) here
    • The cartoons were from Dave Walker, in particular here

    Wrap up summary
    Information about Lumina Domestica, God’s light potentially transforming the ordinary and everyday of our hospitality, here.

    Two books I’ve found most helpful have been Amos Yong’sHospitality and the Other: Pentecost, Christian Practices, and the Neighbor and Soul Banquets: How Meals Become Mission in the Local Congregation

    Posted by steve at 04:36 PM

Monday, August 23, 2010

creationary: happy meals with Jesus/banquet parables in Luke 14

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. For more resources go here.

Personally I think the lectionary butchers the readings from Luke 14. In my support I quote Robert Tannehill, Abingdon New Testament Commentary – Luke who suggests two frames. First an inner frame from verse 15 on, in which the focus is God as generous host. Second an outer frame starting from verse 12 (just when the lectionary reading is starting to stop), in which the focus is how those with wealth might live as Jesus followers.

So as I read Luke, 14 I am thinking tables and meals.

I’d spread recipe books around. As people arrived, invite them to search the recipe books for something delicious. As part of the gathering, as thanksgiving, get people to share their favourite, followed by a refrain, “Thanks be to God.”

In relation to confession, I’d invite everyone is invited to bring a can from their pantry. As part of confesssion (or intercession), get them in 2’s around some questions like

  • Share your can with the person beside you
  • What is the country of origin?
  • What do you know about the issues the country faces?
  • What hands made have been involved in the preparation?
  • Was it fairly traded? If you don’t know, where could you go to find out?

Then I’d use the Good Samaritan in a CNN world prayer I wrote last week.

As an act of intercession, I’d find some “family table” stories. Here are two that are on my computer, stories from Australian tables (source unknown, sorry. Happy to add the link if I am made aware).

“What is dinnertime like in your home?” “I usually eat by myself. My parents are either not at home or they are upstairs playing on the computer. So obviously I rarely talk during dinner. But I like it that way.” (Matthew, an Aussie, aged 14)

“What is dinnertime like in your home?” “We never eat together. I eat about 5pm, always something different from what the rest of the family eats, because I am picky and hate a lot of stuff. While I’m eating I talk to my mum. Usually our conversation turns into an argument, which then fades and we watch the Simpsons. My mother and brother eat at about 6.30pm and watch Neighbours. Finally, my dad comes home at about 8.30 and eats whatever mum made and tells me about his day.” (Sasha, an Aussie, aged 14)

Read them, then invite prayer for these, and other families.

By way of benediction, I’d offer some “grace for meals” option: like Saint Brigids, or the Grace from New Hebrides or the Madeline grace or the Strangers blessing.

Posted by steve at 01:41 PM

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tasmania speaks: reflections on place and space

Tasmania is beautiful. Wet but stunning. I came a day early. I’m trying to explore how to do the whole speaking thing in ways that are more human. So rather than race in and out, I asked if I could come a day early and have a “still day.”

It made for a really, really stressed Monday-Thursday, but a very rich Friday. I worked on some exercises suggested by my spiritual director, I did an act of creative writing – the wounded picture – that has been lurking for some time. Then I changed track after lunch and worked on some research – evaluating birth narratives/how fresh expressions start (for the Sept UK conference trip).

Today I woke to this beach. The wind and rain had done their worst, and left a beautiful pristine slice of heaven.

There’s a metaphor in that. Storms are stink. Wet and depressing. But the days after can be magic. Such is the gift of a storm.

Posted by steve at 12:53 PM

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tasmanian hospitality?

I am spending the weekend with the Presbytery of Tasmania, speaking with them on the topic of Your place or mine: hospitality as mission, staying at Port Sorrell, which I am told is beautiful. (My initial scoping, with some really insightful comments is here).

I am speaking four times as follows:
– Luke 10:1-12: Aim: Introduction to a Biblical frame for hospitality as mission at their place, grounded with two congregational stories.
– Luke 14: Aim: explore practices of hospitality at tables, grounding with 3 practices and two stories for congregational life.
– Luke 19: Aim: speaking the gospel at another’s table and the challenge to contextualisation of God’s story.
– a workshop exploring a range of tools important for leaders and leadership teams in the journey of change.

It has been quite energising, yet quite demanding, putting it all together. Two books I’ve found most helpful have been Amos Yong’sHospitality and the Other: Pentecost, Christian Practices, and the Neighbor and Soul Banquets: How Meals Become Mission in the Local Congregation. Plus the Opawa story, cos hospitality and food were key in that missional story. I hope and pray it all clicks and in God’s unique ways, helps this part of God’s family.

Posted by steve at 12:46 PM

Thursday, August 19, 2010

prayer for those being bullied

Bullying happens in all sorts of ways – verbal and physical, perceived and real. It requires confronting, but sometimes that is not immediately possible. This is a prayer emerging out of being with some who feel powerless, as an application of Celtic “caim” or circle prayer.

Imagine you are in a bubble. It stretches all around you. Inside this bubble is a place for you to stand, to feel safe, secure, loved. Feel the security and safety.

This bubble has a window. This gives you a choice. You can let the words and people and actions in. Or you can imagine another choice. You can imagine that when words and actions and people hit the bubble, they simply bounce back.

Imagine words and actions bouncing back to those who might send them.

The bubble around you is God. Feel the security and safety. Take God’s love and protection with you into your day.

You might want to make this prayer your own, for yourself or for others you know. If so, one way to do that is to simply leave your initials as a comment.

For other everyday prayer practices, go here.

Posted by steve at 12:29 PM

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

UK trip update

A few weeks ago I mentioned the possibility of being in the UK for a week in September. A fair bit of discussion on the home and work front and lots of email conversations …. and here are the current tentative details

Leave Monday 13/Arrive London Tuesday 14
Wednesday 15 – Spurgeons D.Min programme
Thursday 16 – ? possibly Spurgeons M. Theol programme (TBC)
Friday 17 – train to Durham with Jonny Baker, comparing pioneer leader training notes.
Friday 17/Saturday 18Evaluating Fresh Expressions Research Consultation. I’ll be doing a paper – Evaluating birth narratives (TBC) – plus networking with various folk around pioneer leader training for both lay and ordained here in South Australia.
Saturday 18 – Coffee conversation – mission and the mixed economy – with Methodist leaders (TBC)
Airborne Tuesday 21/Arrive Thursday 24.

My Sunday and Monday are still up in the air, so if I could be of speaking/consulting help in your missional project, drop me a line. If not, I’ll tuck up at a Durham pub and write!

Posted by steve at 07:08 AM

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

creationary: Good samaritan prayer for those loving neighbour in a CNN world

I wrote this prayer out of a day spent sitting with the banquet parables in Luke 14, made tense by the call to love our neighbour in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, being woken by morning news updates of the flooding in Pakistan.

God who is closer than our neighbour
we thankyou for the places you plant us,
the comforts of home, the familiarities of place

God who call us to love our neighbour
we thankyou for variety,
our globality that gifts us spice and rice

God who points us to our neighbour in need
only till we turn on CNN,
to see,
the bigness of our world with 6 billion neighbours

And so we pray for aidworkers living love
Your hands, our feet amid flood and famine

God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills
we are grateful for the gifts of science
for researchers multiplying food to grow
We ask for honesty in the climate change industry
Our courage to make Your creation our moral issue

God who healed the ones among many
You gave every gift with it’s corresponding service

Grant us discerment,
the signs of our time – ourselves and your world
and so be your hands
of love of neighbour

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. (For more on what is a creationary go here; for other Creationary resources, go here).

Posted by steve at 09:08 AM

Sunday, August 15, 2010

a sociological reflection on the growth of fresh expressions

Interesting article by David Allis, exploring growth (numeric) in new forms of church/fresh expressions.  David is a Kiwi, who withdrew from the more Pentecostal end of church life to focus on a home church in his local neighbourhood. The article is a few years old (2007), but makes some good points. David suggests that when we look at new forms of church we need to realise that:

  • The drain created by existing models. “The existing church models are the norm, and people (both churched & unchurched alike) think this is the only way to do church.” This means that alternative models require people to have thought through new forms, or with new converts. Further, “It is difficult for a new small tree to grow under the shade of a large tree, as the large tree drains the nourishment from the ground and; also shades the light.” Yeah, all you light shaders! 🙂
  • Exhaustion. Potential leaders are most likely to come from people who leave the organised church structure. They are often more ready to want to ‘take a break’ from church activities, rather than throw themselves quickly into something new. (I can certainly relate to this one. I’ve struggled to stay afloat in the last 6 months, let alone have energy for something else.)

(The full article is here). I think the points are well made, and as always, value any comments.

Posted by steve at 08:40 PM