Thursday, October 13, 2011

a visual theology for mission 1

Sometimes theology comes with words. But why not visuals. How about this?

a theology of mission

And further, what words would you offer? What are the needs in your local community? What are people wanting to “rip” off? More overtly theologically, what is the gospel, good news, in your community?

Posted by steve at 05:01 PM

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Reading Scriptures missiologically

Chris Wright has an essay Truth with a Mission: Reading the Scriptures Missiologically, currently free for download here. It is a really good, concise introduction to the idea of the Bible as a missional book. It starts with the concept that mission is something we do, because the Bible tells us so. Wright argues that this is not because of a few favourite key texts, but because the whole Bible is itself a “missional” phenomenon. He suggests that

  • the very Bible is a product of God’s mission
  • evangelicals have been good at reading the Old Testament in light of Jesus, but poor at reading the Old Testament in light of mission
  • God with a mission; humanity with a mission; Israel with a mission; Jesus with a mission
  • a critique of Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission; because of his failure to find mission in the Old Testament, because his understanding of mission, as boundary crossing, is simply too narrow
  • so a look at the missiological implications of Old Testament themes of monotheism, election, ethics, eschatology.

This is a really helpful introduction to Wright. At 15 pages, it is much more accessible than his 580 page The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative; or his The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission, which my missional Masters students have worked through this year.

(Hat tip via here)

Posted by steve at 10:21 AM

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

what are we leaving as a legacy? a Lindisfarne monastic reflection

Buildings? Artifacts? Environments? What are we leaving as a legacy?

lindisfarne priory While on Holy Island, Lindisfarne, I wandered past the priory (lovely photo here). The first monastery at Lindisfarne was founded by Irish monk Saint Aidan around AD 635. In the face of Viking attack, the original buildings were abandoned in the late 9th century, at which time the relics of St Cuthbert was carried to Durham Cathedral. Then in 1093, it was rebuilt (and this is what is now visible) as a Benedictine house, before being abandoned again in 1536. So this is one legacy, buildings.

From this building emerged another legacy, artifacts. This centres on the Lindisfarne Gospels, when some time during the early 700s, an illustrated Latin copy of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John was produced. This is exquisite, the detail extraordinary. It is a fine example of “glocal” (a fusion of global and local). For example there are blue hues which are probably lapis lazuli transported from Central Asia, mixed with detail that includes the sea creatures around Holy Island. So this is another legacy, artifacts. They can be extraordinary, like the Lindisfarne Gospels, or more mundane, like a takeaway after a service of a set of Advent postcards (for a 2009 example see here, for a 2005 example see here). They are what I in my The Out of Bounds Church? book explore under the heading of Spiritual tourism, ways to resource the spiritual journey beyond a gathered place. They are a key way of doing mission in our 24/7 world today.

bird on st cutherts cross Exploring Lindisfarne, I came across a third legacy. The Island is famous for it’s bird life, being landfall for migratory birds from across the oceans. Since the Spirit of God is like wind (John 3:8), then watching bird is one way to reflect upon the activity of the Spirit. So one of my disciplines at Lindisfarne including going bird watching, as a way of pondering God’s Spirit in me, with me, through me. So when I noticed a bird hide, I climbed inside and noticed the following:

This body of water … was probably created by the first monks of Holy Island in the 7th century to provide a ready supply of water and fish. Covering an area of approximately four acres, it is home to a variety of birds, animals and plants.

So this a third legacy, an environmental legacy. Life not in relation to a stone wall, or an artifact but in creating a pausing place, a resting place, a sustainable feeding place. I have been pondering this in relation to my question yesterday – What would an indigenous Australian mission order look like? and the sub-question – How would a “training college” partner with it? A college has partnered traditionally by offering courses. Which is important. But is there an environmental piece to consider – not just courses, but the entire habitus, the set of socially learnt dispositions, skills and ways of acting, that are often taken for granted, and which are acquired through the activities and experiences of everyday life? What would these be to leave a missional legacy for folk called by God to leadership in mission in Australia?

Posted by steve at 01:40 PM

Monday, October 10, 2011

an indigenous Australian mission order

As I walked during study leave, one (of the many questions I pondered was this)

What would an indigenous Australian mission order look like?

I’m sure this question has been asked before. So I hope Australian readers can point me to previous thinking on this. It also ushered in a subset of questions

  • What practices would shape it?
  • What Australian saints would inspire it?
  • What Australian metaphors and images would challenge it?
  • How would a “training college” partner with it?
Posted by steve at 05:48 PM

Friday, October 07, 2011

Study leave report September 2011

For those interested, here is my September 2011, Study leave report. In some ways it is a summary of the UK Adventures blog series. But it also develops a bit more clearly some of what I reflected upon and raises some possibilities that might be part of 2012 (more…)

Posted by steve at 03:33 PM

Thursday, October 06, 2011

emerging Baptists and the other that is contemporary culture

In 2009, I presented an academic paper at the International Conference on Baptist studies in Melbourne. In late July I received notification that my paper had been accepted in a volume of publications (Interfaces: Baptists and Others) arising from the conference. My chapter is (currently) titled – Baptist Worship and Contemporary Culture: A New Zealand Case Study.

In the chapter, I outline a Baptist understanding of theology and church identity. (Note: For mainline church readers who might not know much about Baptist ecclesiology -

Martin Sutherland (“Gathering, Sacrament and Baptist Theological Method,” The Pacific Journal of Baptist Research 3, 2 (October, 2007)) argues for a distinct Baptist way of doing theology, based on the dynamics of church as becoming. He argues that for Baptists, “the gathering is the sacrament, the moment of Christ’s presence, the telos at once for the church and the world.” (53) Baptist theology thus becomes “the dynamic interplay of two stories – the contemporary, local, ‘gathered’ one, and the Christ story as revealed in scripture … The story itself calls us forward and outwards rather than backwards … Theology’s task is to facilitate this harmonization, to bring us into consonance with Christ.” (54-5) For Sutherland, Baptist theology is to be found not in dialogue with philosophy, but embodied in local life, in things such as the church members meeting or in the formation of church structures.

I then employ this Baptist method to first, analyse an act of worship of a particular “emerging” Baptist Church. I argue that a creative and engaged approach to contemporary culture provided huge resources for this congregation. Second, I engage this “Baptist theology” with current discussion on the relationship between gospel and culture, including Graham Ward, Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice; Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling; Kathryn Tanner Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology and some articles by Miroslav Volf. I sketch a “sampling” approach to gospel and culture, and the implications for place, imagination and how tradition is understood.

The volume, edited by David Bebbington (Stirling University) and Martin Sutherland (Laidlaw College), part of the Studies in Baptist Thought and History, is due to be published with Paternoster Press, in September 2012.

A collection of essays which includes relations with other Christians, other faiths and other movements such as the Enlightenment. What has been the Baptist experience of engaging with different groups and developments? The theme will be explored by means of case studies, some of which will be very specific in time and place while others will cover long periods, and more than one country.

With 400 years of history, and over 150,000 churches and 37 million members spanning 6 continents, and with conference speakers from England, US, Australian, New Zealand, Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea, Aboriginal, Nigeria, India, Burma, the volume should be a rich deposit of history and Christian practice.

Posted by steve at 07:56 PM

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

it’s the edits that kill me. any helpful hints?

I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to get my head into edits of written material in preparation for publication. Here’s how I currently experience the writing process

  • Speak – I use conferences and keynotes to present my research. I have an aural learning preference, so speaking stuff verbally helps me process my thinking. Plus I get interaction with the wider academic community. There’s a deadline and it’s a buzz.
  • Write – Then I write the work up. Conferences tend to only want 20 to 35 minutes, ie never the full paper. Further, someone reading a written paper is hard to listen to. So having spoken, I then take the time to lengthen and strengthen, often building in the spoken feedback. It’s hard to find the time, but it feels creative.
  • Contract – The written piece then goes into that black hole, in which publishers do their work. What every writer thinks is their world changing work gets weighed in regard to viability. Markets can scanned, trends get considered. What you though important, unique, fresh, your work is tested. If unsuccessful, then you look for another source. When successful, you get an email, often with a contract form to sign.  You then proceed into the stage that is currently killing me.
  • Edits – At some point, your written work comes back. Changes are suggested. Alterations are asked for. This can be up to 2 years after your initial submission. Generally the request is unannounced and suddenly arrives. Generally all have short deadlines.  And the accompanying note that this is a final step before publication.

I’m not complaining. But I’m not finding it easy. My Myers Briggs personality type is strongly Perceiving, not Judging. In other words, deadlines and precision don’t energise me. So a final edit in which every word in a 6,000 word chapter will be committed to a printed page is scarey.  My Belbin profile includes being a plant ie I’m really good at starting things and initating change.

I’m also finding that the editing involves getting my head back into stuff I’ve left well behind. In the last month I’ve found myself editing a piece from December 2010, a piece from February 2011, a piece from April 2011 and a piece from July 2009. And the 2009 piece was a coupling together of some written work from 2003, mixed with some ongoing reading. It all means I’ve got to get my head back into stuff that is long gone.

I know in my head that the editing need not take long. Often I’m surprised by how little time it takes. But you  don’t know that until you start. And in the midst of everything else I juggle, it’s hard to craft that time. I don’t find it a creative process, so an early morning does not beckon. Work is busy, so there’s not often uninterrupted space.

In my head, my perfectionist tendencies fight with the 80/20 rule; the desire to be very careful vs the knowledge that I’ve done most of the important work, so how much does this matter. Yet, I hate finding a mistake in a book, and I don’t want to be shoddy.

So it’s the edit phase in the writing process that are currently killing me. I want to start some new projects, but I need to complete what I’ve started. I’m not complaining, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to publish. But I write this wondering if I’m alone and if any readers have any helpful hints on how they negotiate the editing phase, especially when one has multiple projects on the go and at different phrases and in the midst of everyday life?

Posted by steve at 03:39 PM

the contemporary spiritual search and the Blake Prize 2011

The Blake Prize is one of the more prestigious art prizes in Australia, awarding annual prizes for works of art that explore the subject of religious awareness and spirituality. It also courts controversy, including the recent attack by atheist John McDonald, concerned about the lack of clearly recognisable religious Christian symbols. Normally a charge made by the religious church, rather than an atheist critic.

Which has drawn a response from Rod Pattenden, Chair of the Blake Society.

McDonald reveals a complete lack of understanding of the role of images within the religious imagination, as well as the positive role of creativity in the expression of contemporary spirituality.

Looking at the 1140 submissions for this year’s Prize leaves me with the impression that the religious imagination of artists in Australia provides a visually exciting contribution to our cultural life that explodes McDonald’s understanding that this is simply the ‘self-indulgence of “spirituality”.’

Pattenden then goes on to offer an excellent reading of one Blake Prize entrant, Them and Us, by Malyasian Muslim migrant, Abdul Abdullah. He traces how a tattoo and a worn pair of jeans places us on edge.

The artist has in this image achieved two things. He has sympathetically helped us find our way alongside the skin of another. But, secondly, he offers us a way to bridge the space of separation by imagining something new – a Muslim Australian identity that broadens our sense of who ‘we’ are, that invites inclusion and an expansion of our definitions of identity.”

Pattenden then concludes with the delightful line, “Sorry John, your idea of God is too small.”

The entire article, let alone the 1140 submissions for the annual Australian Blake Prize, are fine examples of a way to explore the contemporary spiritual search. Once again we are reminded of the need to include new media – whether it be the video work of Angelica Mesiti, or the tattoos of Abdul Adbullah – in our search. And the question remains, whether the church and theological colleges, as religious body, dare “open our eyes wide enough to truly see”?

For the full article go here. For more of my reflections on the Blake Prize, see here and here.

Posted by steve at 10:07 AM

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

a T-Mobile theology of hospitality

Arriving passengers being given a welcome home to remember at Heathrow Terminal 5 (Just want to say this was NOT my experience recently in UK. While it was just lovely to see Ben Edson at Manchester Airport, he didn’t sing like this!)

So a theology of hospitality

  • welcome the alien in your midst.  Not because you are the host. No, rather because you yourself were once yourself alien – in Egypt.
  • practice hospitality. But not in your space. No, instead look for public space, the third place (in this case an airport). It’s so easy for hospitality to default to us being nice in our homes
  • and these third spaces will then call for creativity, in the welcome, in how we engage

The result is public space being transformed into a participative, joyful occasion – a theology of hospitality.

Posted by steve at 08:50 PM

I’m part of music history! October 2nd! LOL

I’m part of music history on October 2nd, according to the Canadian Press!

Today in Music History – Oct. 2
The Canadian Press
Sun, 2 Oct 2011 00:15:00 CST

Today is October 2nd:
In 2009, North Carolina Central University hosted a full academic conference on the subject of the rock band “U2,” called “U2: The Hype and The Feedback.” Topics that would be covered included “Bono Versus Nick Cave on Jesus,” “U2: Identities Covered and Revealed,” and “The Evolving Live Concert Performances of “Bullet the Blue Sky.’”

Steve Taylor Bullet the Blue Sky That was me, at that conference and presenting a paper on “The Evolving Live Concert Performances of “Bullet the Blue Sky.’”! For those interested, my paper charted the changes in the live performances of U2′s Bullet the Blue Sky. The song, created as part of The Joshua Tree album, went on to be played live 646 times, spanning the years from 1989 to 2009. My paper explored how a song created in response to a civil war in Latin America could be adapted to resonate over a twenty year period. My paper was accepted for publication (through musical publishers, Scarecrow) and is due out later this month in Exploring U2: Is This Rock ‘n’ Roll?: Essays on the Music, Work, and Influence of U2.

I grew up wanting to be known for playing a lead guitar, but looks like I’ll end up simply being known for writing about them!

Posted by steve at 07:21 AM

Sunday, October 02, 2011

pilgrimage. a lindisfarne photo essay

Holy Island, Lindisfarne, where I spent a few days as part of my recent 2 weeks Study Leave, is tidal. Twice a day, it is cut off from the mainland by tides. During low tide, one can cross by road. Or walk via the Pilgrims Crossing, a set of poles struck across the mudflats, rumoured to be the route by which pilgrims for hundreds of years crossed.

Which I walked in one evening, reflecting on my life’s journey. The light was helpful, so I shot some pictures as I walked, prayed, danced and thought ….

Pilgrims begin,
off the beaten track

Skin bared, for immersion

poles to guide, front and afar

till tide turns
then shelter box
for times of troubled

im-prints, for life

Pilgrims come. Must go
past journey ends
so real life,

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary (in this case, visual images on themes of pilgrimage). For more resources go here.

Posted by steve at 09:48 PM

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Killing Bono film review

Killing Bono is a film about fame. Specifically, U2 band fame. It is a movie adaptation of Neil McCormick’s Killing Bono: I Was Bono’s Doppelganger, a book which seeks to paint parallels between his life and that of U2′s Bono.

Both boys attend the same school. Both boys form a band. Everything one band touches turns to gold, as they become the world’s biggest band. Everything the other band touches, turns to failure, lost in the Irish hills as U2 play Croke Park in Ireland.

The film bears little resemblance to the real book ie real life. Or so the author, McCormack would have us believe

each rewrite it became more detached from my life as I remembered it. Characters were compressed. New characters invented. Incidents exaggerated. The story started to take on a logic of its own. By the 14th draft, they had me running around Dublin with a gun, hunting down my old friend.

Cinematically, the movie struggles. It is hard to find much empathy for the main character (Ben Barnes as Neil McCormack), so driven is he by his preoccupation with fame. Which makes the entire project somewhat ironic. Who would buy the book or care about the film without the famous word “Bono” in the title?

Which does, in turn, provide some theological interest. The film is essentially an anti-film, a celebration of failure, of the inability of a person with obvious musical talent to pursue their dreams. In a world awash with celebrity, McCormick finds fame (in the book and through the film), through telling the story of his inability to find fame.

There are some moments of humour. Most rely on band jokes – references to Bono’s height, or recognition of band posters. In sum, while the film Killing Bono might be of interest to U2 fans (of whom there are many), it struggles to rise beyond being a band film, a poor attempt to cash in on the fame of another.

(NB the film includes nudity, violence and drug use).

Posted by steve at 03:34 PM