Friday, December 31, 2010

new years spiritual practices

The day dawned fine, after a ripper storm, a genuine weather bomb that flooded many and changed river systems.

The beach was virgin, rain swept, untouched by human foot. But crowded with driftwood, the storm’s legacy.

Each bit of wood is uniquely shaped. It seemed to speak of the year that was. A careful search ensured, for the split fingers of dislocation, for the heavy stump of overwork, a wild pine for the wrench of relationships.

Each bit was handled. And then tossed vigorously into the sea. Putting the year behind me, throw by throw, toss by toss. Moving on …

Posted by steve at 01:47 PM

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My first Christmas pastor-free

enjoying breakfast
with family

being upright post-prandial
stuffed, but not
from Christmas service

but whether pastor
or -free

the Christmas task
of unraveling hope in tinsel-town
of finding heavenly peace amid family wrappings
of defining love and joy
as glue stronger than glitter

Life’s view thru babies eyes
Christ, that’s hard

Posted by steve at 06:13 AM

Friday, December 24, 2010

history and praxis of the emerging church in New Zealand

I’ve just sent off another book chapter, 3,600 words, on the history and praxis of the emerging church in New Zealand. I define the emerging church fairly broadly, as

experimental innovation that seeks to take forward the mission of God. It assumes a missional pneumatology, in which experimental innovation occurs in response to the Wind of the Spirit, who blows inside and outside the fences of church and culture

Kiwi listeners will hear echoes in the last sentence of Baxter’s Song to the Spirit, and I quote selections from the poem throughout the chapter in an attempt to provide a contextually Kiwi feel.

This is part of my conclusion:

In this chapter five expressions of the emerging church in New Zealand have been explored. In making waves, through Spirited Exchanges, in offering faith on-line, through house churches and in installation art, there has been a history of innovation, along with a challenge to existing church structures regarding their ability to engage in effective partnership with experimental mission.  A number of stories, clustered around themes of worship, community, mission and leadership, have also been told. Together these stories suggest that the emerging church in New Zealand has neither accepted the cultural quo nor chosen to become an alternative sub-culture. Rather, it has sought culture-making transformation, whether of the internet, or of city squares, or of networks, or among the urban poor.

This, as with all missionary encounters, raises the vital question as to “faithful transmission” as the Word seeks to become flesh in ever-changing cultures. In New Zealand, such a mission question becomes specific around the challenge of dwelling Incarnationally among “postmodern cultures” of choice.

It is for a book in honour of Eddie Gibbs, of Fuller fame, which surveys the emerging church around the globe. Given that US-centric nature of so much “emergent” stuff, the concept of the book is a wonderful breath of fresh air.

It brings to seven the pieces I’ve submitted for publication in this calendar year. An encouraging note on which to finish, despite all the changes and dislocation of the year past. As with all things being published, the act of submitting, simply means I’ve done what I can and it’s now in the hands of editors and publishers. Which is never guaranteed, especially in the current fiscal climate! Still, it’s good to be able to do what I can. For those interested, the seven pieces are (more…)

Posted by steve at 01:04 PM

Thursday, December 23, 2010

commercialism at Christmas? postures worth pondering (part 2)

Further to my commercialism at Christmas? An ancient story worth pondering, I came across this quote:

“Christmas celebrations …[are the] embodiement of consumer culture,” according to Russell Belk, 78.

So Christians need to be thinking carefully about how to respond to Christmas. As we plan, is our Jesus been co-opted, consumed even, by the marketplace? In the midst of canned carols, what’s our posture?

Anti: We choose to stand with the Gringe and moan. We wring out hands at the consumerism, the secularisation, the hype, the excess.  Despite such rhetoric, we will all continue to shop over the next days. Such is the enmeshment of the consumptive system we part of.

Alternative: “The very fact that consumerism continues to draw upon and inhabit religious ideas and events for its own ends also means that religion continues to quietly peddle its countercultural message … the sentimentalizing of the nativity story at the height of consumerist indulgence creates alternative spaces for different meanings.” (Martyn Percy, Engaging with Contemporary Culture, Ashgate, UK, 58)

In other words, we see a sort of symbiotic relationship, in which the very consumerism of the culture in fact opens up a space which makes elements of the Christian story more appealing, more present. In practical terms

  • the earlier the carols, the greater the importance of Advent themes, candles, resources
  • the more the stress, the more the chance for churches to provide quiet, reflective spaces
  • the more the pressure to spend, the more the chance to offer simplicity in card-making workshops or home-made gifts
  • the more the hype, the more the chance to offer community meals on Christmas Day
  • the more the family emphasis, the greater the chance to offer Blue Christmas services or carol sing to the elderly and lonely.

Such a posture still leaves us open to the charge that we are tilting at the surface, and not dealing with the systemic injustices of global consumerism.

Affirmation: Much exists in Christmas that Christianity might want to affirm. Charitable contributions peak at Christmas, while far flung families connect and reconnect (Russell W. Belk, “The Human Consequences of Consumer culture,” in Elusive Consumption, 67-86). All of these are reflections of God’s goodness in and through humanity and surely reasons for Christians to affirm parts of Christmas.

In a Western world, awash with consumption, what other “Christian Christmas” postures are you seeing?

Posted by steve at 12:10 PM

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Big news!

Government approval just in for our new Bachelor of Ministry. A lot of behind the scenes work in 2010 went into this! It includes two streams, one a more usual classroom stream, the other a practice stream, which allows people to “have a go” and learn as they go.

The practice stream is specifically designed for pioneers/social entreprenuers ie folk who want to start fresh expressions, enflesh justice projects, empower art collectives. (Here’s the brochure www). It’s not “priest plus” ie do existing Christian training and add a bit of learning in Mission-shaped church, but has a whole underlying pedagogy about how people learn and the place of practical theology in ministry formation. I think we’re unique in Australia on this one and we’re all pretty excited.

I’ll try to blog more over the coming days, but in the meantime do please pass the info onto those who may be interested.

Bachelor of Ministry – Promotional Video from Craig Mitchell on Vimeo.

Posted by steve at 01:41 PM

Monday, December 20, 2010

commercialism at Christmas? An ancient story worth pondering

A world-denying Jew heard the call to asceticism. He thought it a part of the commandments that he must do without good food, good wine, and the company of good women and friends in general. He took no place at their festive tables; he heard no good music and did without great art. All of this he did with an eye on the promise of paradise for the renouncer.

He died. He did indeed find himself in paradise.

But three days later, they threw him out because he understood nothing of what was going on.

Posted by steve at 03:19 PM

Sunday, December 19, 2010

a year apart = relational summer times

We’re having a great time catching up with friends and family. A year apart means pain and laughter, changes and sameness.

It’s so good to be home, among Kiwi accents, with people who know us, know our back story, share our sense of humour, have travelled some miles.

Posted by steve at 03:27 PM

Thursday, December 16, 2010

emerging churches 10 years on: major research project

Sitting in the international departure lounge at Adelaide Airport, enroute to Christchurch via Auckland, I got the news I’d been hanging out for, the granting by the university of ethics approval for me to conduct a research project, a study of the emerging church over time.

In 2000-1, as part of my PhD research, I conducted major qualitative research on new forms of church/alternative worship in UK and New Zealand. This involved interviewing leaders, conducting participant surveys and running focus groups. It became a 140,000 word PhD thesis.

Now, 10 years later, I was seeking approval to repeat the research – to ask the same questions, to conduct the same surveys, to repeat the focus groups. And in so doing, to begin to gain some concrete data on what has happened inside fresh expressions/new forms of church/alt.worship communities over time, in discipleship, in leadership, in sustainability, in life stage.

And so while the Taylor girls flew onto Christchurch, I stayed on in Auckland for another 24 hours. And turned on the tape recorder and conducted my first interview.

What I heard was far more interesting and useful than I expected (and I tend to have fairly high expectations!) Some fabulous data on what should be a really stimulating piece of research.

Posted by steve at 12:46 PM

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A poem. For a friend turning 30

(This is another entry in dictionary of everyday spirituality, under the heading M is for milestones.

How should I serve God?

Follow your thumbprint. You are the only person to have it. Look at it every morning. Thank God for what you’ve been gifted with.

How should I have a deep marriage?

Trace your wife’s fingerprint. Look at her print every morning. Thank God for what you’ve been gifted with.

How should I raise my kids?

Trace your kid’s fingerprint. They are different from you. They will not be you. Nourish their uniqueness. Help them appreciate their print every morning. Thank God for what you’ve been gifted with.

How should I become more like Jesus?

Follow his fingerprint. It’s all over you and all over the world. Look at it every morning. Thank God for what you’ve been gifted with.

For the index in the Dictionary of Everyday spirituality, go here.

Posted by steve at 04:30 PM

Monday, December 13, 2010

heading home

Much excitement in the Taylor household, as we head back to New Zealand today. Back to family, friends and all that is familiar. Back to our “spot” (beach house/bach/holiday house). Back to see our new born niece. We are in New Zealand for about a month, which is mainly holiday, but I also have a week of study leave in which I need to complete 2 pieces of writing.

One is a chapter for a book in honour of Eddie Gibbs of Fuller Theological Seminary. It is a global missions perspective on the emerging church/fresh expressions and I’m writing a chapter on the emerging church in New Zealand.

The other writing task is to write up for a book the paper I gave in Sydney in July: When non-priests pray: A conversation between Sarah Coakley and Bono Vox regarding incorporative pneumatology and priestly prayer.

Which means I’ve had to pack thinking about what books I might need for 2 quite diverse writing projects, all the while juggling clothes (will we need more for a Kiwi summer than an Australian summer?) and bottles of Aussie red for friends and family!

Which also means that blog posting could be less regular in the next weeks, both because of less internet access and because of that glorious gift – summer holidays!

It’s been a long, lonely, tough year. Bring on those holidays.

Posted by steve at 06:57 AM

Sunday, December 12, 2010

creationary: the journey of the magi

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

Yes, I know. Lectionary wise the journey of the Magi in Matthew 2 occurs after Christmas. But they must have been travelling before Christmas, and thus they can provide a focus in Advent.

Some creationary ideas on the theme of Magi:

  • Question on large screen for people to consider as they arrive: Ponder this … To get to church today, did you travel from the North or South, East or West.
  • Sing O Come O Come emmanuel and use different languages for the first line of each verse. We used English, Korean, Tagalog and Maori. Make a verbal link to the Magi story, people who no doubt spoke a different language in their “coming” to Jesus.
  • Make stars in four different colours. Display again the opening question (Ponder this … To get to church today, did you travel from the North or South, East or West). Get the kids to give out the stars, a different colour for each direction. It takes a bit of time, but the kids love it.
  • Invite people to write on the stars something that might distract them from their journey toward Jesus this Christmas.
  • Place four Christmas trees at the compass points around the church. Have an appropriate coloured star on each one to help people’s direction finder. Invite people to place their stars on the tree in the direction of which they are heading home after church, as a way of asking for God’s people to stay focused on the Christ-star during this Christmas. Sing some carols while people do this. This allows space for lots of people to mingle and move.
  • For the benediction, invite people to face “their” tree as they are blessed into their week of journeying toward Christmas.

For a potential sermon that might be woven in among these ideas, check out my recent advent reflection: are you travelling well?

Note: Some of these ideas emerge from an interactive all-age service done at Opawa in 2005.

Posted by steve at 05:42 PM

Saturday, December 11, 2010

the art and craft of missional leadership: masters year one

Further to my post on the art and craft of missional leadership, in which I suggest that leadership is a craft. By craft I mean that leadership is not a bunch of techniques. Rather it is a craft in that it is concerned about the cultures in which we flourish. Nor is it a program. Rather it is a craft in that it is a unique and individual blend of skill, commitment and judgment. Nor is it head knowledge. Rather it is a craft in the aligning of head and heart, intuition and intelligence, history and innovation.

So the application becomes: How do you develop leaders in their craft?

Which is what I’ve been working on through recent months – first a Masters in Missional Leadership.

And then more specifically, the shape of Year One

It’s for current ministers who want to grow in their leadership. Mention Masters ie post-graduate education and people tend to think of an individual pursuit in a library which involves lots of footnotes and even more words. Which seems opposite to this notion of the “craft of leadership”. Glancing back over the one page information blurb about Year One, using the lens of “craft” I note

1. It’s part-time, because leaders get better at their craft by practising their craft
2. The major thesis project expects participants to focus their craft in their own culture. It’s not a theoretical thesis, but a documenting over 4 years of an ongoing process of action/reflection (practising your craft). (This then raises a whole lot of theoretical and ethical questions, answered by the field of action research.
3. Program Seminars provides ways to embrace the strength and critique that comes from a community of crafters.
4. Leadership 360 creates a space space for people to gain a snapshot, shine on mirror on the practise of their craft and how they might improve.
5. Reading is assessed on integration, the implications for one’s own context.

Posted by steve at 12:12 PM

Friday, December 10, 2010

the art and craft of missional leadership

I sat with a group of church leaders during the week. They were concerned about their local mission. Could a lecturer with the title “missiologist” help them? During the week I continued to read Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman.

The book argues that the notion of craftsmanship, the desire to do a job well, for it’s own sake, should be the way we approach not just work, but life. In Chapter One, Sennett explores the arrival of Computer Aided Design. He notes how architects used to draw by hand, yet how with the advent of CAD, it posed new problems for thinking about buildings. A loss became possible, a detachment from the actual local site, a removal from the materials by which buildings are made. Sennett notes

“architectural sketches are often pictures of possibility; the the process of crystallising and refining them by hand, the designer proceeds just as a tennis player or musician does, gets deeply involved in it, matures thinking about it.” (40)

I would replace “tennis player and musician” with writer, worship curator, preacher, leader. There is “a kind of circularity between drawing and making and then back again” (40). Week by week worship is crafted, ideas are pondered, project are imagined, people are engaged, groups are formed.

As I read, I thought back to those church leaders. How much of the missional conversation might actually be CAD? When we look at other churches, when we seek consultants, when we read books, we are in danger of becoming detached from our own local site, our own local context? The reality is that the person who knows the most about the church are likely to be its leaders and the people who know most about their community are likely to be those who attend church and live local.

So the mission challenge becomes the passing on of a craft. It is to help these leaders and this church become better – more focused, more insightful, more reflective, more strategic, more deeply involved in – their thinking and acting in mission. The key to mission are these leaders, not the imported missiology expert or those books. Or to quote Alan Roxburgh, the future of God might really be among the people of God!

I will probably return to these leaders. I want to offer them some tools that could help them become more skilled mission crafters-in-mission. I’m wondering also how all this applies to the launch of the Missional masters next year. And how The Craftsman might actually be an important text for the first reading course. It might provide a way to understand leadership – as craft – that will encourage leaders in their growth and development.

Posted by steve at 08:41 AM

Thursday, December 09, 2010

leading worship, in 6 minutes, with communion

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

One of my tasks today is to lead worship. I have been allocated 6 minutes and this includes communion. Can’t be done right? Well watch this video.

A few months ago Maggi Dawn blogged about this. I thought it was a fabulous idea. I loved the mission dimension created by being outdoors; I loved the end, when the passerby pausing with coffee, attracted by the sound of singing.

I thought it would be a great resource for my church, ministry, sacraments class. Often those new in ministry can get worried about getting the words right, and so they tend to get quite slavish when it comes to words. So showing a church service that in 6 minutes that has all the major liturgical moments could be a good way to encourage freedom to focus on the essentials.

I mentioned this in the staff meeting and was met by some disbelieving looks. 6 minutes!

So when it came time to plan our end of year staff day, which will include some team building at local wineries, someone suggested we end with communion. And the request was made – Steve, what about the 6 minute communion.

So that is my task today. To lead worship, in about 6 minutes, including communion. Updated: It was timed at 6 minutes, 20 seconds and that included Bible reading, preaching, prayer, confession, passing the peace, communion, Lords Prayer and singing . For those interested, here is my run sheet/transcription of the 6 minute communion. I have slightly adapted it to include the lectionary text for today (being 9 December 2010). (more…)

Posted by steve at 06:59 AM