Friday, December 09, 2011

urban advent installations

Great urban Advent idea from Sanctus1 in Manchester. They have created 24 advent shrines all over the city centre. A different artist has taken responsibility for the 24 days of Advent and the “shrines” are then placed in different locations around the city centre.

This is for December 7th, located in the Midland Hotel.

This is the second of five shrines to be located at the hotel, occupying a no-longer-in-use phone booth. Hotels and inns have been places of gathering, shelter and hospitality for centuries. This shrine relates to part of the Christmas story, where Mary and Joseph were trying to find somewhere to stay in Bethlehem, but all the hotels were booked up. Pray for those needing shelter and warmth on these cold winter nights.

I like the transient nature of these, the sense of here today, gone tomorrow surprise that is engendered as these pop up around the city.

I like the vulnerability, the sense that these are precious art, yet could be damaged, graffiited, destroyed. That in itself is a Christian and Advent message, the sense of being given a precious gift, that we can chose to ignore.

I like the everydayness of these, that you are invited to pray not at special times inside a special building, but in the midst of your working, walking life.

I like the public nature of these acts of worship, the Christmas story started not inside a church, but in the public domain, in the bustle of life.

What remains unresolved for me in all these public spiritual installation art is the relationship between authentic presence in a branded culture. Or as I wrote a few years ago in relation to the Christmas Journey:

The tension between whether the [public spiritual installation art] should act like an interactive signboard or the foyer of a building. Should each [public spiritual installation art] stand alone, as a signboard? Or should the [public spiritual installation art] be like a foyer, that welcomes and points people toward church or Christianity in some way? The concept of gift is important. Many churches offer subtle switch and bait operations. Should the [public spiritual installation art] be offered as a gift, with no strings attached? Or should they come with a subtle price tag. (This could include invitation to church services, a Christian tract, a takeway resource). Yet society at Christmas is so dominated by consumerism and when the church offers “switch and bait” have we not bowed down to the gods of consumerism in our culture? Each year this is debated. In 2006 the [public spiritual installation art] simply offered a takeaway potential of a memorable moment.

In terms of resourcing this, it could easily be the main focus of the energy for a community, that is used first in public during the Advent season, but are then all collected and offered as gathered worship (come see all the 24 advent stations) for Christmas eve services, with space, mulled wine, artist floor talks, ambient music and carols. In other words, the creativity is shaped by mission but woven into the worshipping life.

Well done Sanctus1 (and thanks Ben for the hat-tip).

Posted by steve at 10:48 AM

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

What to Remember When Waking: a poetic opening into Incarnation

I’ve been sitting for the last two months with a poem by David Whyte (What to remember when waking). My supervisor gave it to me, first in response to some prayers I was writing: short tweets type prayers as I sought to turn into prayer my first waking moments. Like these:

Gentle patter of falling rain is a healing, relational gesture. God help me treasure your active participation in the world today.

Mist, a mystery, gently striding the hills, a humble quest suggested. God, courage please, for every question in that quest today.

Sparrows you flit, in effortless flight, through God’s wide world. Today, God may I share in playful participative play.

My supervisor connected my prayers with the first line of the first verse:

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake

As I say with it, it began to provide a way to pray as I considered the Principal role, especially the last verse:

What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Then, as we have moved into December, into Advent, as I’ve been pondering the Christmas message, the 3rd verse has become significant.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

It suggests a way of understanding Incarnation, God-in-flesh. God choosing to become visible in Christ, Christ carrying a gift of love to others, a gift not from this world, but from the Eternal, a gift defined not by these world’s values, but from the life and love of God.

It’s amazing how a poem can live on, find increasing depth, resonate with different parts of my life. Anyhow, for those interested here’s the poem, offered in the sense it might be useful to others in this Advent season.

Posted by steve at 10:08 PM

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

public theology indigenous style: Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra

“You put it on the spoon and then you put it in my mouth. Like a baby”

You stole everything from us and then you say to us, live like a white man, think like a white man … You are setting the rules for my children.

Where is my liberty? Where is my people liberty?

Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra is a Uniting Church minister. Here he is addressing the Australian Labour Party national conference, responding to the ‘second Intervention’ otherwise known as ‘Stronger Futures in the NT’, a new Commonwealth Government initiative which will maintain key powers introduced through the NT Intervention. This message was screened in Sydney on Saturday December 3.

Posted by steve at 06:07 AM

Monday, December 05, 2011

Mission and evangelism network

Over these 3 days, I’m hanging with the Assembly mission and evangelism network. It’s a gathering from around Australia of Uniting church folk who at a state level, provide leadership in areas of mission and evangelism.

The folk are mainly Synod workers and I’m the only person from a Uniting College. Not sure whether that is a random fact, or whether it says something about me or the network or the other Colleges or Uniting College.

The gathering meets twice a year and becomes a place for relationships, for sharing of resources and for engaging current issues. For me, it helps keep me grounded among the real life issues of the church and what it might mean to be a training place that serves those needs. Plus the group are fun.

Posted by steve at 08:28 AM

Sunday, December 04, 2011

this is the house that Up built

The Up house is for real. And for sale.

A house modelled after the home featured in the animated movie “Up” has been sold to a family who are self-described Disney and Pixar fanatics … Builder Adam Bangerter has said the blueprints for the house were drawn based entirely on details found in the popular movie. Much of the home had to be custom-designed. (here)

It’s amazing to consider how an animated movie, can shape real life.

It’s also amazing to consider how that animated movie has shaped my real life. It was September 14, 2009 and we had taken the kids to see the movie. We loved it and I blogged about it here.

It’s the plot that makes Up great; that good old-fashioned ability to engage an audience by telling a story, in this case of childhoon dreams lost, the pain of life and the possibility of imagination rekindled.

At the time, we were considering whether or not to move to Adelaide, as the founding Director of Missiology at Uniting College. I was getting cold feet, considering the pain it would cause for us, for Opawa, for our family and friends. Watching Up, I felt it had some messages for me. Would I be like the old man in Up, Carl Fredricksen, who had been too scared to actually put an adventure into reality? Or would I, and team Taylor, be willing to trust God and go on a new adventure? Which became worship that Sunday. And was a part of our discernment and journey toward Australia.

So again, an animated movie shaping real life. The power of popular culture. To quote Tom Beaudoin:

The fact that popular media culture is an imaginative palette for faith … the church has to take that imaginative palette seriously… if part of the pastoral task of the church is to communicate God’s mercy and God’s freedom in a way that people understand then you have to use the language that they’re using, you have to use the metaphors and forms of experience that are already familiar to them.

Posted by steve at 09:00 PM

Friday, December 02, 2011

current Australian attitudes toward religion and Christianity

There is a great resource just out, exploring attitudes toward religion and Christianity in 21st century Australia. It emerges from Olive Tree media and is based on focus groups and a national survey of 1,094 Australians.

Almost half of Australians consider themselves open to religious change
Key obstacles are not around belief, but around behaviour (like abuse, hypocrisy, judging attitudes). For example, some 76% consider themselves repelled by church abuse.

There is a high quality, attractively presented four page summary here here, while the entire report, 32 pages, can be purchased from here.

It’s a resource I will be using it in my Reading Cultures class, and will be weaving the data into mission shaped ministry.

Posted by steve at 04:11 PM

Thursday, December 01, 2011

mission shaped ministry Adelaide calls it a dawn

Endings became beginnings, as the Adelaide mission shaped ministry course concluded last night.

The evening began in celebration, with food and sparking wine. Around tables folk looked back, reflecting on what the course had meant. They looked forward, reflecting on first next steps and what ongoing relational connections they wanted:

  • coaching
  • learning networks
  • regular reunions

The evening concluded with worship, a thanks for all we had experienced and then a commissioning into the dawn that is God’s new possibilities.

Spontaneously the lights were turned out and the leaders thanked. Each lit candle represented a person from the course, better equipped to be light in their communities. Each unlit candle represented the potential of future courses, (Semester 2, 2012) to ignite more lights into the community. A new dawn.

Throughout the night we shot video, interviewing folk about what the course meant to them, hoping to create an Aussie accented mission shaped ministry promotion. The camera person commented how they were blown away by what people shared and the sort of life changes they were speaking of, which was really neat to hear.

Posted by steve at 06:16 PM