Thursday, February 07, 2013

sense making faith: an invitation to play

I’m playing at the edges in Adelaide after Easter. I’m using the senses to offer a journey of exploration, over 10 weeks. Start with experiences of God through sight, sound, smell, touch, taste and in light of those experiences, what might it mean for church, discipleship and mission.

People engage faith and mission in many ways. Some begin with the head. Others begin with the stories. All are valid. This is about beginning with the body.

I’ve gathered some learning guides – Mark Hewitt, Sarah Agnew – to help me play. It’s in a local church, but can be done for University credit through the channels.

A downloadable PDF is here – Sense Making Faith web.

Posted by steve at 12:44 AM

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

folded beauty: napkin folding and fresh expressions

I was in Bath on Sunday to do some research – attend an alt.worship event and interview a group I first met ten years ago, called Sanctuary.

Expecting to get lost, as has been my usual pattern to date in the UK, I left with time to spare. Unexpectedly not getting lost, I found myself with time to spare. Driving past a Museum, I decided to stop and have a look. On the second floor, I found Folded Beauty: Masterpieces in linen.

This is a mountain range – made out of folded napkins!

Here is a castle, complete with bird and rabbit. Again, made out of napkins.

The artist Joan Sallas is from Spain. Originally working with origami, he became intrigued by napkin and linen folding. It is a forgotten art, very popular in the 18th century, to decorate tables. So popular that richly illustrated books were produced. The art died. But Joan somehow became aware of it, did some research and learnt to master this forgotten art.

I’m still trying to work out why I found it so moving. Partly because of their beauty, these extraordinary, pure white creations. Partly because here was beauty made from the ordinary and domestic. Art from napkins! Creativity around food. Perhaps partly because it was a forgotten art and so it is another way of considering Fresh Expressions – a recovery of what has been forgotten. Doug Gay brings this out really well in his book, Remixing The Church: Towards an Emerging Ecclesiology. He argues that the “Emerging Church can perhaps best be understood as an irreverent new wave of grassroots ecumenism,” pointing to the rediscovery of the church year, set prayers, rituals, icons. So here is another example of fresh expressions.

Posted by steve at 06:04 AM

Monday, February 04, 2013

Sustainability in mission

Sustainability in mission is not about preservation, whether of mission, pioneer or denomination.

This is certainly so if you consider the use of the word “sustainability” in other disciplines. In Ken Greenberg’s Walking Home: The Life and Lessons of a City Builder he defines the term in relation to development. The term was popularised in 1983, by a United Nations body concerned about the environment. The commission asked all nations to establish sustainable development approaches. The invitation was “to take a completely new view of damaging practices we have developed.” What is needed is a “fresh vocabulary that is about synthesis and overlap. And conservation – using less in the first place, not consumption and planned obsolence.”

So when one begins to consider sustainability and fresh expressions, the focus must be on damaging practices. And the lens must fall on the entire system: denominations, training colleges, leadership both denominational, local and lay, church gatherings and the people of God in mission. The aim must be a fresh vocabulary and the seeking of synthesis.

This was brought home to me the first time I visited the mouth of the Murray River (see here and here, with some practical followup here and here):

Suddenly our guide bent down and started digging. In a few minutes, he offered us fresh water. In the middle of these desolate sand dunes, there was water. A bit further on, he showed us the piles of cockles, and the eating place of the Ngarrindjeri people, who have been the traditional custodians of these sand dunes for over 6,000 years.

I stood there astounded. Put me in that place, amid those barren sand dunes and I would die. Yet other humans have learnt to live within this environment.

I pondered the implications for spirituality.

It led to the change in my blog – to sustain-if-able – and to this study, of new forms of church ten years on.

Posted by steve at 12:25 AM

Friday, February 01, 2013

three R’s – Ridley – Rowan – Ripon

I’m off the Cambridge in a few hours. My first destination is Ridley Hall, where I will be with the Pioneer stream and Dave Male. It’s a first “flash” of my sustainability of fresh expressions 10 years on data. Very initial, but a chance to get some discussion going and get a UK take on the data.

Then an interview with Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and a key figure in the birth of Fresh expressions in the UK. It was John and Olive Drane who suggested I seek an interview. I laughed and said he was much to busy. But they encouraged me, so I did. And I will. :)

What it will do is create a 3 way dialogue – first between the communities on the ground, second between the Colleges who train leaders and are part of denominational systems and third, between the actual leaders of the system. In the fresh expression case, all are innovators. All are seeking to birth something. All have different roles.

Yet systems are funny things. Probably because they are full of people. Who do unexpected things. So, what happens when different parts of a system get involved in the same, yet different, innovation?

Then back to Ridley. For a weekend to recover from Bristol-London-Cambridge, from 7 interviews. And in between trying to keep writing up the other project – Innovation: Ethnography. I’ve managed about 5,200 words this week, so progress continues.

Posted by steve at 12:24 AM