Friday, September 30, 2011

The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson

35 hours travel, from Cliff College back to Adelaide, does provide quite a bit of time to read – including the 2011 Australian/Vogel Literary Award winner, Rohan Wilson’s The Roving Party.

It is a sober read, set during Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania)’s Black War, fought between 1804 and 1830, when indigenous and settler clashed. The book accounts for what amounts to acts of legalised genocide, as the colonial Government paid for local militia to exterminate indigenous people. This is a harsh and violent world, set in stark contrast to the beauty and bounty of the land (aided by some simply gorgeous writing). It is a very impressive literary debut (Wilson’s first book): well paced and thought provoking.

And with plenty of time to ponder, as my plane flew over mile upon mile of Australian outback dirt, I wondered: How to do mission today, in a land with this sort of history? Is reconciliation simply for current events, or can it also extend to historic violence?

Posted by steve at 05:39 PM

Thursday, September 29, 2011

UK adventures 8 – striking toward the end

And so the adventure, like all adventures, comes to an end. As you read this, I’m either about to be, or probably actually, stuck in a metal tube at 30,000 feet. It is a tube that will encase me for around 25 hours. :(

I face the possibility of a Qantas strike in Sydney, with baggage handlers set to down tools around the time I am in transit. We will see …

It’s been a fabulous trip … reconnecting with friends like the Edsons, the Dranes, Pete Ward, John Swinton, Stuart Murray-Williams; returning to some familiar places like Durham; finding new research partners in the Ecclesiology and Ethnography network; exploring and renewing at Lindisfarne; talking mission; experiencing the beauty around Cliff College.

Thanks to all those who’ve made it possible – my family who’ve let me go, those who’ve hosted me and drank with me and engaged with me, my own Uniting College who encourages study leave and research.

Boarding passes please ….

Posted by steve at 12:01 AM

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

UK Adventures 7 – mission research with Cliff College

Yesterday I had a great afternoon/evening with the Master of Mission students. I rolled out what for me was some new stuff, providing a global ie non-Western frame on new forms of church. It was a good chance to develop something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but lacked the time. A mix of storytelling and history, it seemed to provide a lot of energy and stimulus and move the emerging/fresh expressions conversation into some really animated mission type discussion.

Today I am with the PhD students. I have been asked to reflect with them at two levels. First to provide some of my recent research and second to reflect with them on the research journey ie the processes by which it all emerges. For me, this quote captures my approach

“I am an inquisitive and chaotic traveller … I have not attempted to devise or discover a systematic method … My only excuse is that I was guided not by an theory of art but merely by curiousity.” (Alberto Manguel, Reading Pictures: What We Think About When We Look at Art, ix.)

I only have 2 sessions, so I am having to select from some of my recent work (some published, some in process, some conference papers that need some time to write up), which I have sorted under four headings. It ended up being quite a list. For those who are interested (more…)

Posted by steve at 05:09 PM

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

UK adventures 6 – cliff college, emerging and fresh?

I’m at the lovely Cliff College. The views are fabulous and there are some lovely trees to hug. I’m here for two things.

First, to input into their Master of Mission programme, in particular their Emerging Church stream. Which has produced a fairly healthy twitter stream of folk debating how to define emerging church cf fresh expressions. Obviously quite a contested field in this part of the world!

I have gone with a world/God/church formulation; which provides a way to frame the Gibbs and Bolger definition –

communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures (Emerging Churches, 33).

I am then taking a mission perspective on that, using the six paradigms of mission in David Bosch’s Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (American Society of Missiology Series). I will animate that with six mission stories, ways that the world/God/church formulation has been made concrete in history. Which I hope will generate some real mission thinking around “emerging.”

The second reason I am here is to help kick of their new PhD in Missiology. This sounds an exciting development, a professional research degree in mission and to their first cohort, I’ll be offering them some of my recent research. More on that tomorrow. For now, I must pop outside once again and enjoy sun, views, trees. With a cup of tea!

Posted by steve at 11:17 PM

Monday, September 26, 2011

UK adventures 5 – loving Lindisfarne

quick internet connection to simply say I’m loving Lindisfarne.

loving the spaciousness, the history, the birds, the chance to rest and relax. appreciating the times to pray and to ponder, to read and to renew.

i’ve read Celtic Christianity through a missional lens, hugged St Cuthberts cross, cleared my laptop desktop and written a short story.

there is much to ponder here, about God and God’s purposes in me, my life, and history.

Updated: Pictures and reflections still to come :)

Posted by steve at 02:14 AM

Thursday, September 22, 2011

UK adventures 4 – fingering the margins in Lindisfarne

Today I take the train north, to spend the weekend on Holy Island, Lindisfarne. Founded AD 635, so soaked in history. A base for mission in North of England, so soaked in missiology. Site for producing the illuminated Gospels known as the Lindisfarne Gospels, so soaked in creative Biblical engagement. Linked with Saint Cuthbert, which is also the name of my father, so a place to reflect on my heritage. A island on the edge between land and sea, cut of by tide twice a day. A chance to soak in a marginal place.

I am there until Monday.

A time to pause.

To pay attention to God’s voice in myself and in creation.

Posted by steve at 09:32 PM

the two strands to fresh expressions

So there are two strands to Fresh Expressions. There is the official narrative, begun by Mission-shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions in a Changing Context report, sustained by msm courses, fronted by key figures, framed by the Share website.

Then there are the local expressions, the narratives of ordinary folk doing faith and life. The Ecclesiology and Ethnography has featured three research papers on these local expressions. In fact, there’s been more genuine research on fresh expressions at this conference than there was at the Evaluating Fresh Expressions research conference I attended in Durham last year. The papers at the Ecclesiology and Ethnography have emerged from participant observation of life over time, have charted and explored faith on the ground.

Which of course raises the question of how these two strands relate? A number of roles are possible.

  • Funder – in which the official gives resource to the local
  • Gatekeeper – in which the official sees, or is seen to, legitimise the local
  • Storyteller – in which the local needs the official in order to provide space of experimentation, in which the stories of the local to be shared with another local, in order to release imagination, especially when “church” is so powerfully shaped by history. (It means buildings, rows, Sunday, official leader).

What is intriguing is that these two strands are entwined. The official could only emerge because of the local. Mission-shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions in a Changing Context is based on collating local stories. It only emerged because of those stories.

Posted by steve at 12:07 AM

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Uk adventures 3 – Durham familiar

Monday I navigated my way from Manchester to Durham. I’m thousands of miles from home, yet there is some welcome familiarity – back in a place I was a year ago, back among networks: Pete Ward who examined my PhD, John Swinton who shaped my PhD methodology, Paul Fiddes whom I’ve met through Baptist worlds.

So there’s a welcome familiarity in knowing where to turn when leaving a train station, where to find coffee and wifi, catchup to be had.

I’m in Durham for the Ecclesiology and Ethnography network.

The what?

Yep, well, to quote Neil Ormerod in The Routledge Companion to the Christian Church, there is a “major divide in ecclesiology, between those who study … an idealist Platonic form in some noetic heaven, and those who study it more as a realist Aristotelian form, grounded in the empirical data of historical ecclesial communities.”

My interest, and the interest of the Ecclesiology and Ethnography network, is the latter. What actually happens in church? Research as ethnography, as talking to real people in real places?

Posted by steve at 11:22 PM

Monday, September 19, 2011

UK adventures 2 – answering the emigrants letter

I spent quite a bit of creative time today at the Manchester Art Gallery parked in front of James Collinson’s Answering Emigrant’s Letter.

The map on the desk is South Australia, and the painting is a snapshot of a UK family writing to a family members who’ve emigrated.

I love that the boy is writing the letter, not the parents. So many migrant dreams are invested in hopes for their children.

I was fascinated by the two sources of heat and light – the fire and the light through the window. It is like the family is caught between them both. The comfort of a winter fire, of staying indoors, of being safe and warm. Yet the lure of the light, of heading outdoors, of taking a risk. It’s a fascinating polarity, and a call to discipleship for me.

Will I stay safe? Or take a risk, step toward an unknown?

Posted by steve at 06:05 AM

Sunday, September 18, 2011

uk adventures 1

The Adelaide-UK flight was the normal blurred, airplane food, cattle class experience that it usually is. Adelaide to Singapore allowed me time to complete a film review (Red Dog. The next Castle? Certainly some fascinating portrayals of Australian white identity.)

I also got a first complete draft of my Durham paper for the Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference done. Always a relief to have some words, in this case 3,700 words and a first attempt to bring some shape to an emerging church 10 years on project.

Arrived at Manchester about 10:30 am and am been splendidly hosted by the Edsons.

Friday afternoon I navigated myself around Manchester city centre, checking out a video installation at the Cornerhouse (Manchester’s international centre for contemporary visual arts and independent film), seeing the contemporary Stations of the Art at the Hidden Gem, visiting the John Ryland library, including seeing the oldest known New Testament fragment. Then real Manchester, dodging raindrops between the two cathedrals – Manchester Cathedral and the Arndale Centre.

An unexpected bonus was being able to catch up with the Dranes. We tried not to talk shop – their November visit to Adelaide. Although to tell the truth, being jet-lagged, I’m not at all sure what we talked about Friday evening.

John and Olive were in Manchester to teach on the mission shaped ministry course. Which meant another unexpected bonus, to watch a UK mission shaped ministry course in action, as a participant, rather than as a leader/speaker/host/worship curator. I got to experience being welcomed, to see a room set out and to watch sessions in action. An excellent experience, an encouragement that we in Adelaide are on the right track, are getting the balance between input and discussion about right.

And some ongoing general questions about msm, about how helpful the course is if you don’t have an actual fresh expressions context, about the place of lay education in mission, about the way that fresh expressions is being used. More to process and ponder in this regard.

Posted by steve at 03:30 AM

Thursday, September 15, 2011

leaving on a jet plane

Hi. I’m heading off today for the UK, particularly Manchester, Durham, Lindisfarne. It is study leave, a mix of research, presentation and spiritual retreat. The details are here. What this means is that this blog might be a bit intermittent, as I am having to rely on the wifi of another …

Posted by steve at 10:34 AM

John and Olive Fleming Drane Adelaide, Australia input

During the November period, John and Olive Fleming Drane are in Australia. Fellows of St John’s College, Durham, adjunct faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary, about to be Chaplain at International Christian College in Glasgow, Scotland, they are well known and appreciated as writers, educators and creative thinkers on mission. They are personal friends and some of the most creative and grounded people I know. While in Adelaide, these are some of the things they are involved in –

Spirituality 2 go with Olive Fleming Drane. Thursday, 17 November, 9:30-3:30, Uniting College. The day will explore the spiritual in everyday life, daily routines as opportunity for divine encounter. It will offer input, examples and space to explore. Topics to be covered will include – The craft of ritual, Transitions, Ordinary time, Extraordinary time. Cost – available as audit (cost tbc) or as Master of Ministry topic.

Reformed, Reforming, Emerging, and Experimenting: Insights from the church emerging in Scotland with John Drane. Thursday, 17 November, 3:30-5, Uniting College. Free.

mission shaped ministry training with John and Olive. Friday 18, Saturday 19 November. These 2 days are designed to offer training in order that people can offer the mission shaped ministry course in their own context. Content will include: The Story so Far, Getting a Feel for Things, Practicalities and Processes, Sampling the Course, Beyond an English accent. (For more on this particular event, download the brochure msm nov 2011 training brochure). Cost free!

Faith in stories. Mission and Discipleship in a Liquid Culture. People today are happier with stories than with abstract propositions, and knowing how to tell a good story—whether in traditional sermons or in cutting-edge evangelism—is an essential skill for effective Christian ministry. This intensive combines exploration of the importance of storytelling in the Biblical tradition and in post-modern culture with practical skills training in the effective use of stories in ministry and mission for the twenty-first century. A five day intensive (code-shared with Tabor College) Monday 21-25 November. Cost – available as audit (cost tbc) or as Master of Ministry topic.

For information about any of these events contact myself or Uniting College.

Posted by steve at 09:14 AM

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

mission in Acts from the otherside

Yesterday I blogged about That Deadman Dance: A Novel, by Australian indigenous author, Kim Scott, and the way it tells the story of early encounter between indigenous and coloniser through the eyes of Bobby, a young indigenous man growing up in a rapidly changing world.

Which got me thinking about what it would look like to tell the story of Christian mission, from the otherside, through the eyes of cross-cultural encounter and the indigenous folk.

I think of the Roman Centurion, who experienced the Spirit; Lydia, who provided hospitality and economic resources for the pioneer Paul; the man from Macedonia who said “come on over”; the demon possessed girl who found her true voice. Each of these are key players in the mission of God. They take risks with strangers, open their hearts and homes to something new and allow cross-cultural exchange to occur.

In That Deadman Dance: A Novel, Kim Scott concludes with a note on his method, the way he wants to speak of indigenous folk:

I wanted to build a story from their confidence, their inclusiveness and sense of play, and their readiness to appropriate new cultural forms—language and songs, guns and boats—as soon as they became available. Believing themselves manifestations of a spirit of place impossible to conquer, they appreciated reciprocity and the nuances of cross-cultural exchange.

What is interesting is how this resonates with contemporary trends in mission. For example, in regard to Luke/Acts, George Shillington writes (in a chapter on reading Scripture in a post-colonial world) that “The idea of imposing a Christian culture on a receiving culture is foreign to this text.” (Introduction to the Study of Luke-Acts, 90) He spends a number of paragraphs describing how the Biblical text speaks against colonisation, but rather encourages humility, listening and respect of the work of the Spirit in another.

Today I want to honour any and all willing to appropriate new cultural forms, inside and outside the church! This is the other side of Christian mission.

Posted by steve at 09:36 AM

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott

Part of coming to a new country, part of reading cultures, is enjoying the literature. That Deadman Dance: A Novel, by Kim Scott, is a fine example of Australian indigenous literature. It tells the story of early encounter between indigenous and coloniser through the eyes of Bobby, a young indigenous man growing up in a rapidly changing world.

It burrows down into the early settler mindset, offering some painfully honest reflection on how they sought to view and control the world. “He ascertained their bearings. Soothed himself, as any observant bystander could see, in the handling of compass and paper. The oilskin wrapping and journal.” The use of maps to control, subjugate, assume ownership. All the time, they are actually helpless, entirely dependent on indigenous wisdom and insight.

Yet over time, that worldview would overpower another, indigenous, worldview. “The old [indigenous] man claimed it was his right, that it was his town! Papa laughed recounting it, said it was true in a way. And it was also true, as [the young indigenous man] apparently claimed (shouted, she’d been told, and slapped the policeman), that the old man had received a ration of flour from previous authorities, and had even been dressed, accommodated and fed at government expense. Why? Because he was the landlord. It might even be true, in a way, but to what use do they put this ownership as against what we have achieved in so short a time?”

And thus different attitudes to land clash. What is fascinating is how the inter-cultural clash is framed. Not by bitterness, although that is deserved. Rather, their is a quiet dignity in the method, (a deep theology of hospitality), spelt out in the appendix-

I wanted to build a story from their confidence, their inclusiveness and sense of play, and their readiness to appropriate new cultural forms—language and songs, guns and boats—as soon as they became available. Believing themselves manifestations of a spirit of place impossible to conquer, they appreciated reciprocity and the nuances of cross-cultural exchange.

Some 200 years later, words well worth pondering – They appreciated reciprocity and the nuances of cross-cultural exchange.

Posted by steve at 09:54 AM