Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Living libraries: a way of thinking about research and learning

Two words that I’m using with our post-graduate programmes that seem to really capture people’s interest and enthusiasm.

It’s based on an idea first developed in Denmark in 2000 in which people are able to borrow a living person rather than borrowing a book. This allows a conversation, in which communities are brought closer together and attitudes are changed. The idea came to Australia in November 2006.

In our post-graduate Master/Doctor of Ministry degree we have topics called Guided Readings. They are basically “boxes” in which a student can pursue some reading on a set topic and in order to be assessed, write a reflective response.

What I am suggesting to our post-grads is that they remain open to borrowing people not books. If you want to reflect on leadership, sure you can read books. But be open to the fact that you can also interview some leaders. If you want to learn about the emerging church, sure you could read. But you could also develop an immersion experience and visit a few communities. Obviously some guidance is needed to ensure as much time goes into reading books as reading “people.”

But it is surely too limited an approach to learning to assume that only books have wisdom. Especially for those interested in the practice of ministry, which, as I have written previously, is about a craft (here and here). As such, I suspect that for some (many?), deepening in this craft can come from interacting with people as well as books.

For more on the origins of the human library idea, see their website here.

Posted by steve at 08:25 AM

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

emerging responses to For the Parish, chapter 3 – mission and church

“For the Parish”, by Andrew Davison and Alison Milbank, is an extended critique of fresh expressions. Always good to listen to the critics, so I am engaging the book, chapter by chapter. The Introduction is here, Chapter one is here, Chapter two is here.

Before we plunge into round (chapter) 3 of For the Parish vs Fresh Expressions it is worth gaining an overview. Chapter 3 is a crucial chapter, which in a nutshell, battles over the relationship between church, worship and mission. Did Christus propter ecclesiam venit (Christ come for the sake of the Church)? Or the world?

Before I explore this chapter, I wanted to gain an overview of current debates on the relationship between church and mission. I turned to the The Routledge Companion to the Christian Church. Nearly 700 pages, of which chapter 36 is on the theme of church and mission (Ecclesiology and World Mission/Missio Dei, by Paul Collins, 623-636.)

Collins offers some history. First a history in which mission has been understood, based on Matthew 28:19-20, as going. By implication, mission becomes a task performed elsewhere. Second, a history in which the context of Christendom, which meant that “conversion and salvation, church and mission became inextricably bound together.” (624).

Collins urges the “understanding of the world church today [be] rooted in the experiences of the colonial and post-colonial periods of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” (623). He then links six themes – salvation, partnership, missio Dei, relationality, inculturation and pluralism – in dialogue with major church councils like Vatican 2 and World Council of Churches. His conclusion is that to be church is to be sent, to participate in God’s mission in the world. “Ideas of ‘mission’ in terms of conversion and recruitment to church membership need to be re-evaluated in the light of God’s cosmic mission: ‘that God may be all in all.” (633, drawing on 1 Cor 15:28)

This overview of global trends in thinking about church and mission, gives us some way to understand For the Parish. The book makes no reference to trends in world Christianity, nor to the conciliar councils. Instead the authors draw on European theologians like John Robinson, Sergei Bulgakov, Henri Lubac. They acknowledge the place of the Kingdom in the Gospels, but choose to place priority on the Pauline epistles to argue that “the goal of salvation … might even be said to be all church.” (48) They conclude that to suggest mission is a proper ultimate goal is “the ultimate heresy within the contemporary Church of England.” (54)

Heresy. A strong word indeed.

They critique Fresh Expressions for having

the fervour of devotees casting around for increasingly precious things to offer up to mission. The favoured sacrifices are the practices and traditions of the inherited church. To mission, every and any treasure must be sacrificed. (For the Parish, 54)

This chapter opens up a crucial, crucial debate. What is the relationship between church and mission? Does church exist for mission? Or for worship? It seems to me, given the overview provided in The Routledge Companion to the Christian Church that For the Parish is urging is simply continuing a Christendom, European understanding of church and mission.

Whether Fresh Expressions is doing any better is an equally valid question, which will occupy us in Chapter Four. But first, back to the piles of paper on my desk.

Posted by steve at 10:44 AM

Monday, February 07, 2011

kindling a new wave in mission?

Interesting news just out that Amazon are launching Kindle singles. I love the tag line –

Compelling Ideas Expressed at Their Natural Length.

The current book has a certain genre – it needs to be so many words to be taken seriously and to make economic sense. Yet quite a few books I read are simply puffed and padded to meet the genre. Much better surely to let the idea dictate the size, rather than the various expectations.

They are talking about prices of less than a dollar and seem to be suggesting that anyone can submit a piece for inclusion as a Kindle Single.

So the Kindle single concept opens up the market for a different type of writing, the short story, the pithy essay, the developing case study, the storytelling of local mission in local communities, the short course – and thus some new possibilities for sparking mission thinking, reflecting, storytelling.

(Hat tip mighty (:) ) skinny Kiwi). For other commentary see Wired and Tech news.

PS What I don’t like about Kindle is the way that it is so linked to one seller. Why can’t we have open source e-reader? Wouldn’t that be a good investment for a number of sellers to pool R & D over?

PSS What would also be really useful is if Kindle allowed books to be unbundled. I sit here preparing distance material. Often I want folk to read not the whole book, but one or two chapters. It makes no sense to pay for the whole but I’d love to pay for a chapter plus distribution rights that I could then distribute to students.

Posted by steve at 05:51 PM

Sunday, February 06, 2011

creationary: Waitangi Day Resources

For folk in New Zealand, Sunday worship this week falls on the 6th of February, which is also Waitangi Day, a day to reflect upon the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between Maori and the Queen of England’s representatives in 1840 and the implications for our life as a nation going forward.

For those thinking about the implications for worship, here are some resources that I have created in previous years that might be of some use.

Female: Waitangi Day
Where Maori and Pakeha wanted to be one
Hoping for security
Dreaming of biculturalism

Female: We who are many are one body
Male: Ka whatiia e tatou tenei taro.

Male: Communion,
Where God wants us to be one,
Hoping for restitution,
Dreaming of full and final settlement

Female: We who are many are one body
Male: Ka whatiia e tatou tenei taro.

Female: Communion [raise bread]
Take this and eat it. This is my body,
Jesus, broken, that we might be one.

Male: Communion [raise cup]
Take this and drink it. This is my blood.
Jesus, broken, that we might be one.

Female: We who are many are one body
Male: Ka whatiia e tatou tenei taro.

Female: Waitangi Day – Divided Day
We hear the protest from our margins.
We hear the rage of the disillusioned.

Male: Communion. And so we are God’s body,
Caught in the projection of bread and wine,
We are bringers of peace. We are messengers of hope.

Female: Communion – brokenness that we might be one
Take this and eat
Take this and bring peace

Male: Communion – brokenness that we might be one
Take this and drink
Take this and live hope

Together: We who are many are one body.

(It works best if you have a large projected visual image which people walk into to partake of communion.)

Posted by steve at 12:28 AM

Saturday, February 05, 2011

a fabulous Lent and Easter resource

I’m working on a distance course for lay folk on the subject of Jesus Christ. In preparation, I’m reminded again of what a fabulous resource is Richard Harries The Passion in Art. It is part of the Ashgate Studies in Theology, Imagination and the Arts, which means that you not only get 33 full colour art pieces, but also a few pages of written reflection. Some words that probe theology, provide background to the piece, offer information about the artist and their techniques.

So in looking in this distance course for examples of people reflecting on the relevance of Jesus and suffering, what better resource than a few pages reflecting on the Isenheim Altarpiece, linked to the Holocaust.

In looking for ways people find hope in Jesus and reconciliation, what better resource than a few pages reflecting on Supper at Emmaus by Ceri Richards and the call to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

In looking for Jesus as liberator of all creation, what better resource than a few pages reflecting on the Carolingian Bookcover, depicting all of creation being integrated around Jesus.

I brought The Passion in Art a few years ago. At the time I was about 10 years in preaching Easter. I was getting a bit flat and needed some fresh resources. The Passion in Artbeen a fantastic help ever since, opening me visually, deepening me theologically, broadening me through exposing me to the global church.

Posted by steve at 11:58 AM

Friday, February 04, 2011

whinging with U2 and Paul Kelly in Auckland

I’m in Auckland later next week, at a research conference exploring the cultural and theological implications of lament. The two day conference (Thursday 10th and Friday 11th) involves discussion of a range of papers on themes including:

  • Spiritual Complaint and Lament
  • Lament in the Global Village
  • Job the Lamenter
  • Lament in Music
  • Lamentation and Liturgy
  • Lament and Penitential Prayer
  • Contemporary Conceptions of Lament

I’m co-presenting a paper with my Old Testament colleague here at Uniting College, Liz Boase. We are bringing contemporary lament into conversation with Biblical lament. Specifically looking at how U2 (responding to the Pike River tragedy) and Paul Kelly (responding to 2009 bushfires in Victoria) “whinge” publicly before God.

I’ll also be catching up with one of the D.Min candidates I supervise, taking another research step in the emerging church 10 years on project and sharing a K1 Shiraz 2008 with good friends.

It should be a busy, yet rich time. (Apart from the humidity – Auckland in early February can be pretty awful)

Posted by steve at 10:54 PM

Thursday, February 03, 2011

the craft of ministry takes practical shape

Ministry is a craft:

  • as technique. Not mindless procedure, but the cultures in which we might flourish
  • as a unique and individual blend of skill, commitment and judgment
  • as the aligning of head and heart, intuition and intelligence, history and innovation

I’ve blogged about this themes last year, interacting with Richard Sennett’s book The Craftsman. And I then made some links to ministry training, ways to help leaders and their churches in their craft of thinking and acting in mission

Over the next few days, ways to grow in this craft begin to take practical shape here at Uniting College. Tonight (Feb 3, 5:!5-6:15 pm) there is an information evening that gives an overview of the Master of ministry. A chance for folk to kick tires.

Over the next weeks I am booked to sit with 13 individuals, existing “crafters” (students). I will be trying to find ways to turn what they see as their growing edges – their questions about their craft – into learning opportunities. Our Master of Ministry has such flexibility in this regard. We are not offering blocks of information taught by overseas experts, but able to flexibly craft unique assignments.

On Monday the Research intensive begins. We are partnering with other local post-graduate providers, which we hope will provide a richer experience. Research methods is a demanding course. But so essential for “crafters” to explore their tools of the research trade.

It looks like we will double our post-graduate numbers in our post-graduate ministry programme this year. This includes a jump in our Doctor of Ministry programme and interest (from around Australia and even New Zealand) in the new missional cohort we want to explore the craft of missional leadership.

God the crafter
enliven the craft of all who wish to craft with you,

Posted by steve at 11:22 AM

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

hard questions about Christian mission

Every generation has challenges. One of the challenges for our generation is how we respond to the injustice of the past. Last Wednesday was Australia Day, which is a celebration of a nation with a history of dispossession of indigenous people. Sunday in New Zealand is Waitangi Day and the subsequent failure by settlers to honour that treaty.

This has implications for being Christian. We talk of a God of reconciliation who heals the past. How do such claims make sense for this generation?

In recent days I have been reading Remembering Jamestown: Hard Questions About Christian Mission, which explores how the church in North America might live in the face of historic injustice and mistreatment of indigenous people.

The final chapter is by Amos Yong, a theologian, Malaysian born, now working at Regent University, USA.  I have engaged in this blog previously his extraordinary book on Theology and Down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity and also his excellent Hospitality and the Other: Pentecost, Christian Practices, and the Neighbor).

Yong argues that “it is important for us not to quickly forget the offenses that were part and parcel of the missiology” of the past. (163). He advocates a post-colonial theology of mission based on the many tongues of the Pentecost narrative.

  1. “As many tongues were empowered by the Spirit to speak about God’s deeds of power … so also are many languages required to bear witness to the glory of God today.” (164)
  2. This requires us to listen to many voices as a first move in mission.
  3. The expectation is that the encounter with those different than us will lead to “mutual transformation” of both parties (166).
  4. The many tongues of Pentecost assume a multiplicity of missionary modes of engagement, a diversity of approaches to being Christ today. “We need to creatively participate in the work of the Spirit to develop many more liturgical forms and other social practices that facilitate the healing and salvation needed to respond” to the past (166). (Anyone else hear echoes of the call to fresh expressions!)
  5. It expects a theology of hospitality in which Christians become not hosts, but guests. (Anyone else hear echoes of Luke 10? – for more on this go here and here and here and here and here and here)

Thought provoking stuff for all those who care about mission in Australia and New Zealand.

Posted by steve at 06:24 AM

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

fair dinkum Aussie sporting spirit

30 years ago today …

Posted by steve at 04:59 PM