Thursday, September 30, 2010

was tallskinny (even though a) kiwi wrong? a theology of names

Kiwi’s come in different shapes and sizes. Some come tall, others come short.

Kiwi’s can take different approaches, including to recent mission history. So with gentle reverence at the most amazing ministry of Andrew Jones AKA TallSkinnyKiwi, I’ve left a comment on his far superior blog, offering him a theology by which to repent of his decision to drop the name “emerging”!

names. in the Bible it starts with Genesis 2, humans are invited to name, to use words tdescribe what they see.

and so humans name what they see. but wait – the word “elephant” shuts out a mouse, the word “dove” shuts out a “hawk.” do we drop the words? seek the generic “animal.”

but wait. that exludes plants.

was is wrong to name – in Genesis? in recent church history? wrong to seek to describe a cultural shift? a new way of being church? an outward posture?

or might naming invite the elephant/postmodern/modern/social entreprenuer to be comfortable in their skin?

be a way of creating dialogue, extending the diversity that is God’s Kingdom dream?


(For those who like words to augment poetry, I’ve written a fuller, more personal account regarding being Kiwi, being emerging here.)

Updated: my minister adds some thoughts here.

Posted by steve at 05:06 PM

church in the city: inspiration beyond our walls

After two excellent days of input at the City Church conference – first from Tim Costello (on leadership and the city), second from a group of city planners (City as Contested space) – it was my turn today! (A little mutter at this point about lack of blog response when I asked for help!)

I divided my time around 3 church:city questions and 10 possibilities.

For those interested here’s my visuals (video’s edited out, you’ll need to see the notes below for URL’s)

and here is my – Inspiration outside our walls: Being church in the city – handout (more…)

Posted by steve at 02:01 PM

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

cities as contested spaces and some church possibilities

Outstanding presentation by Jason Ting, from Planning SA, this morning at the Church in the City 2010 conference. Under the theme “Cities as contested spaces” he made the following points.

1 – Our cities are growing – A world milestone a few years ago, with more than 50% of world’s population in urban settlement

2 – Our cities are aging – 75% of elderly live in cities and this needs to be placed alongside a rising age dependency ratio (the number of people retired compared to the number of people working)

3 – Our cities are diversifying – (even) Adelaide is diversifying. In Australia, 85% of immigrants choose to live in cities.

4 – Our cities are becoming more expensive

5 – Our cities are sprawling – Australian cities are 3 to 4 times the size of comparable population sized cities in Holland

6- We fragment our space – He apologised for 20th century urban planning frameworks, which had separated residential from industrial from economic. This was driven by the human love affair with the car.

7 – We sanitize our space – The irony that especially the middle-class like to keep spaces clean. However graffiti and grunge for some, including youth, means edgy and exciting

8 – We commodify our space – Public spaces are often paid spaces. For example shopping centres which do not encourage seating in order to move on “non-paying” customers.

He then argued for three innovations:

  • Spatial innovation – What spatial entrepreneurship could church contribute to? Possibilities include places to sit, to cycle, to walk, spaces that are not commodified.
  • Social innovation – Possibilites mentioned included urban community farm, deck chairs in parks, pedestrian friendly footpaths (outdoor table tennis tables that I saw near Liverpool Station, London)
  • Spiritual innovation – how can churches encourage diversity in this area?
Posted by steve at 12:40 PM

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

what do you need to be a pioneeer leader?

Tim Costello, currently CEO of World Vision, Australia, kicked off the Church in the City 2010 conference today. He spoke about his experience at Collins Street Baptist in Melbourne and the formation of Urban Seed. It was a mixture of challenge and inspiration.

During discussion was when Tim really (for me) excelled, a great mix of practical wisdom, reflection and astute cultural observation. He talked a number of times about the place of leaders as both prophet and leader, as taking risks and challenging the status quo. He ended with a fascinating quote (from my notes):

Our leadership issues are not to do with our structures. They are more to do with our spiritual intelligence. And our emotional intelligence.

I couldn’t agree more. Starting things is about seeing both what is and what might be. That takes honesty and vision. And faith, to believe in what is not yet. And the ability to align that with the stories of Jesus. In other words, spiritual intelligence!

And between what is and what is not, is the status quo. And inertia. And people who like the status quo. So to see change means challenging people. And leading through change. And dealing with conflict. That takes emotional intelligence!

So many times I feel when speaking to leaders the desire for easy answers and quick fixes. It’s hard to say, “There aren’t any. It’s just hard work.” The quote by Tim today gives me another frame and an affirmation, that of the need to deepen one’s spiritual and emotional intelligence, to let the slow processes of composting – emotional and spiritual – happen.

It made me glad of the Missional Church Leadership course I run, which seeks to offer spiritual practices, and to focus on Biblical narratives, especially Luke 10:1-12 and Luke 1:39-45. No easy answers, just invitations to listen, to discern i.e. spiritual and emotional intelligence.

Here at Uniting College, we’re working on three further ways (alongside the Missional Church Leadership) to access pioneer training

  • a one year Mission-shaped ministry course, hopefully taught ecumenically, introducing mission, church, leadership
  • the new Bachelor of Ministry which will include an “innovation” focus, allowing have-a-go learning
  • a Masters in Missional Church Leadership, which offers in-service training, with a mix of coaching, peer group support, reading and a praxis/theory thesis in which people work, over 4 years, on missional leadership in their own context

Tim’s input was a great reminder that in the midst of all of these changes, the greatest gift that can be offered is fostering spiritual and emotional intelligence.

All in all, a great start to the Church and the city 2010 conference.

Posted by steve at 08:05 PM

Monday, September 27, 2010

needing help: church in the city 2010

I have a tough gig on Thursday. I need help. I have been asked to speak on the theme of mission as it relates to being church in the city in 2010. The conference is a first-ever and it’s a GREAT idea – to resource city churches in mission.

I’ve applauded the idea from day one, such a practical way to gather a unique mission group. City churches have unique mission challenges. Their location is both crisis and opportunity. Their history is both crisis and opportunity. It’s a delight to be involved. But I still need help.

The other keynote speaker is Tim Costello. Following Tim is a tough enough gig! And yes, I have taught before around celebrating the city and urban mission. But I feel like I need something fresh, some stories of hope, something that might inspire a bunch of hard-working, inner-city ministers.

So, perhaps my blog readers can help: what stories do you know of city churches doing contemporary mission well?

And ideas: if you were a city church minister, with all that heritage and all that opportunity, what would you do, to be part of city transformation?

Posted by steve at 06:48 PM

Dear Jack Johnson

Email just sent to Jack Johnson

Dear Jack,

We are writing to you to thank you for your song Banana Pancakes, from your 2005 album Between Dreams.

It has been a constant soundtrack to our lives as a Taylor family. Today, after being away touring in the UK for 10 days, and then storytelling at a weekend camp, I awoke to the song. Our ten year old was up, setting the table, shaking the pancake mix and playing your song.

I’ll make you banana pancakes
Pretend like it’s the weekend now

It was a lovely moment.

We suddenly realised that you have no idea of the way your music enhances our lives, so wanted to write and thankyou. If you are ever in Adelaide, we would love to make you banana pancakes for breakfast,

The Taylor family

Posted by steve at 10:18 AM

Friday, September 24, 2010

storytelling: including some quotes from Coupland’s Generation A

I’m off to the annual Network of Biblical Storytellers Conference. This is one area where Australia is way ahead of New Zealand, in having a network and a gathering around the sheer imaginative and relational possibilities created by story. It’s the 10th anniversary, and the first time in Adelaide, thanks in large part to the energy and creativity of Uniting College student Sarah Agnew.

I’ve got my storytellers hat.

Found in an opportunity shop back in the 1990s. At the time, I was doing theological training and planting a community of faith. And my peers in training, well, sorted gave me lip for wearing it! “Who do you think you are Taylor.” I’ve kept it, and kept it and kept it. Always knowing it’s moment might arrive.

And then there are the stories. I’m telling about ten in total. Some are Kiwi historical stories. Others are Kiwi ministry stories. Three are different angles on gospel stories. Two are brand new, one written in Durham, another in Tasmania. All are original to me, bar one. It’s been such fun preparing for this conference, digging around my hard drive, placing stories side by side, seeing how they move and talk to each other.

By a coincidence (?), on the way back in the plane, I read Douglas Coupland’s latest, Generation A: A Novel. Which unknown by me until after I brought it, is all about stories.

In some ways, Generation A returns us to Coupland’s first work, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, in which he wrote; “We know this is why the three of us left our lives behind us and came to the desert – to tell stories and to make our own lives worthwhile tales in the process.” (8) In Generation A, once again Coupland narrates a story in which (sort of), a younger generation are leaving their lives behind and in isolation, being invited to tell stories. A fascinating theme to return to nearly 20 years later, and in a book with the same title “Generations.”

Here are some quotes from Generation A: A Novel:

“a story – something that makes some sense of events you know have meaning.” (2)

“I do not want anecdotes from your life, Zack. I want stories. Stories you invent. Stories that have no other goal in life than to be stories.” (187)

“The brain uses stories to organize its perceptions of the world.” (195)

“Stories come from a part of you that only gets visited rarely – sometimes never at all. I think most people spend so much time trying to convince themselves that their lives are stories that they actual story-creating part of their brains hardens and dies.” (201)

“Instead of inventing and telling stories, I’m going to make my life a more interesting story.” (211)

If I wasn’t telling stories, I’d be looping these behind me on powerpoint over the weekend.

Posted by steve at 09:36 PM

home is

Peppers from seed now sprouted, squash from seeds with lots of new leaves. The lettuce from seed is also up, while the wysteria is in flower. All enjoyed with a cup of tea on the deck.

It was good to go. (At some point if any are interested, I might post my report). It is even better to be back.

It was wierd flying out of Adelaide and realising that overseas now meant a whole new lot of routines. Leaving from New Zealand it was generally through Auckland and I knew where the postbox was and where the stamps were, in order to drop the first postcard to family in the mail before I flew. And then knowing the location of the chapel, for the moment of prayer, which gave just enough time for the coffee.

But leaving from a new country, means a new set of routines. As does returning and it’s no longer a ‘welcome home sir’ through the priority “New Zealand” queue.

Because in Australia I am still “migrant.” And that was somehow OK, because home is defined by peppers from seed sprouting, squash from seeds newly leaved, all enjoyed with a cup of tea on the deck …

Posted by steve at 10:16 AM

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

a year ago: reflections on trans tasman crossings

It was during these September days a year ago that the Taylor family made public what was an enormously difficult decision, that of a transition to Australia: Baptist-on-loan; Kiwi-in-exile! It was a decision we’d been processing in a range of ways since May of 2009, with wise friends, with family, with Church Board, with spiritual directors.

It lead to a year of goodbyes and hellos, of last things and first things. A year shaped forever by the welcome to Australia teaching load that greeted me. To use gardening metaphors, of cutting roots and transplanting trees, of watering, watering, watering, watering in dry Aussie soils, of seeing first signs of new shoots. Of accents across denominations and countries.

We’re still taking root and as part of that it seems important to note the anniversary. To look back over the guidance and the dreams and the needs. All of the Taylors are looking forward – to a year when energy can go into simply dwelling, and not simply surviving through the summer heat of transplanting.

Posted by steve at 08:55 PM

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

loving eric: a contemporary theology of hospitality

An unexpected bonus of visiting the Tate Modern was re-finding the work of Shaun Tan. Si Smith, of 40 fame, first put me onto Shaun, by sending me The Red Tree. It was beautiful, hand illustrated with a lovely, unfolding short story.

While at Tate, I noticed another Shaun Tate, Eric. Delightful size. Once again beautifully illustrated. And the story, again lovely and unfolding. I am not going to summarise it in any way, because it would ruin it. Simply to say that it offers a fascinating theology of hospitality; what it means to give as a tourist and receive as a host.

It worked for me at so many levels – tourist in England, alien in Australia, missiologist talking often about hospitality your place and mine!

Posted by steve at 08:13 PM

stories stories everywhere. mission and discipleship in Mark’s gospel

Today (UK Monday) has been a fun workday, preparing for the Network of Biblical Storytellers Conference annual conference, in Adelaide, this weekend coming. I’m down to do 3 keynote sessions, plus a workshop on storytelling in general. I’ve been looking back through the range of stories that sit on my laptop and framing them around three questions

  • What makes a good story?
  • Where do stories come from?
  • Where do stories take us?

My goal is to tackle these questions entirely by telling stories. It’s been so much fun. Stories allow one to be less linear and less structured. It’s been fascinating to lay different stories alongside each other and start to see how they talk to each other.

My thinking was that I would probably be in a more creative place before flying back on to Australia tomorrow.  So today was spent testing this theory. The big challenge today was writing a whole new story. The guts of my keynote sessions are stories emerging from the gospel of Mark. I had two already, which I wrote last year. At the time I had the creative germ of an idea for a third in the trilogy. So this conference was a chance to capture that creative germ.

I am fascinated by the fact that the world of Jesus was pretty small and his discipleship outside the 12 disciples seemed so haphazard.  So what might happen if a healed leper (Mark 2) had a chance meeting with the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5). Would the recognise the same Jesus in each other’s stories? Would they respect the potentially diverse discipleship path of each other?

Posted by steve at 01:52 AM

Monday, September 20, 2010

breathing slow in a world heritage centre

Today (Sunday UK) was a day off after a pretty hectic week. On Monday I was lecturing two classes in Adelaide, by Saturday I had spoken five different times between London and Durham. All the talks went well, with some really interesting interaction, which I personally found stimulating and thought provoking. Big thanks to all those who came.

I’ve enjoyed meeting some new folk, and re-meeting some old folk (including Jonny Baker, Pete Ward, Graham Cray, Olive and John Drane (here’s their forgotten blog). I’m still trying to gather my thoughts on the Evaluating Fresh Expressions conference, which I might post at a later date. Certainly some thought provoking papers, and to be honest, I came away with a few unsettling questions.

In the meantime, I’m wandering Durham, trying to pinch myself that I get to play tourist for just one day in what, I discovered when I arrived, is a World Heritage Centre! A highlight was joining Elvet North Road Methodist for gathered worship and to experience some alt.worship type stations, expertly linked to the rest of the service, offering movement and a variety of tactile ways to pray. Amazing to see the influences of alt.worship being played out in such Sunday by Sunday worship contexts.

Posted by steve at 01:28 AM

Sunday, September 19, 2010

ode to fresh expressions below durham cathedral

Long ago (1,100 years)
little Cuthbert wandered
shepherd share and prayer
left this legacy?

Durham Dominator
Cathedral (in capitals)
largely impassive
little moat crossers pale shadows
Solid Church (in capitals)

Fresh Expressions legacy
white people in white room
definitional impurity meets
mission seachange, tick
patient love buffs, buffeted in urban deprivation
hurt butts youthful can-do
as Durham bells ring
Solid Church
(in capitals)

Mission stories today
curate, VJ and coffee
little Cuthberts wander
left this legacy?

God forbid

Posted by steve at 11:59 PM

Friday, September 17, 2010

UK road trip Thursday

so much seen, so little time to blog …

my 3 lectures at Spurgeons seem to go very well. Lots of interaction, good questions, good engagement. When you’re a Kiwi kid growing up Baptist, Spurgeons is a bit like Mecca. So it was a pretty big thrill to be able to be part of their learning community for a few days and to sense the global mission heartbeat in their post-graduate offerings.

today was a day off, which I spent at the Tate Modern and National Art Gallery, before meeting up with Jonny Baker at the UK launch of Sweet Innovations. Great to finally meet Shannon Hopkins and be part of her social entrepreneurship. Great Kingdom vision.

train to Durham tomorrow, but for now I need to sleep (still a bit jet-lagged)

so much seen, so little time to blog …

Posted by steve at 07:43 AM