Tuesday, May 07, 2013

breath prayers as communion

At communion yesterday (as well as offering a missional introduction), I wanted to try and embody the great prayer of thanksgiving. It is a prayer that is often patterned on salvation history, moving from creation, through the people of Israel, to Jesus, with the saints. One way to offer embodiment, and experience embodiment, is through the simple act of breathing.

I’d also been thinking about brains. As you do!

projectors magnetic field

projectors magnetic field

And the fact that apparently connections between neurons in the brain produces an electrical charge. With every electrical charge comes a corresponding magnetic field. And that although magnetic fields rapidly lose their force, they never completely dissipate. So every thought and memory ever produced still lives, as an infinitesimal magnetic trace. So how to engage with that reality at communion?

Deep breath.

God we breathe in air. As we do, we thank you for creation, for the air we breathe, the birds that sing in the morning, the colour of the gum trees.

Deep breath.

God we breathe in air. Air breathed by others. As we do, we thank you for those who’ve gone before, for the prophets and saints who’ve showed us how to live life and seek justice.

Deep breath.

God we breathe in air. Air breathed by others, including the God-man Jesus. As we do, we thankyou for the humanity of Jesus’ breath, the places he walked, the people he healed, the grace he offered, the words he said.

And so we pray together the prayer, Jesus invited us to pray …. and we recall the words of Jesus, who took bread ….

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 08:23 AM

Monday, May 06, 2013

missional communion

An introduction to communion that I shared today, working with our candidates, faculty and visiting ministers, gathered around the topic of self-care.

There is a story of some ministers gathering. Much like us today, to wrestle with ministry. In the question time, a question is raised. A person aware of their world, concerned about the church. How can we bring people to the altar?

The response is made. Is the question how do we bring people to the altar? Or is the question, how do we bring the altar to people?

An important reminder as we gather. It is not that we come to communion, but that in communion God comes to us. In this we are invited to participate in God’s mission.

Yes, it is about our care. In communion God feeds us, centres us, re-values us around grace and redemption.

But it is more than that. It is also about care for the church. In communion God feeds the church, centres the church, re-values the church around grace and redemption.

But it is more than that. It is also about care for the world. In communion God wants to feed the world, wants to centre the world, wants to re-value the world around grace and redemption.

And so we pray; Spirit, fall on us, that these elements of bread and wine may be for us a participation in your life, love and mission, your bringing the altar to people.

Posted by steve at 03:25 PM

Sunday, May 05, 2013

original of the species

for my kids

One of the optional events at the U2 conference in Cleveland included a discussion of U2′s music by Rev Kurt Wiesner, an Episcopal priest and U2 fan. He took a reader response approach, that a song can mean more than it’s original, authorial intent. On that basis he showed the video, noted that it was written by Bono for the daughter of a friend. He then asked a number of questions that generated a rich discussion. These included a key phrase, what might the song be saying about growing up, what if the voice of the singer was God talking to us?

Posted by steve at 11:51 AM

Friday, May 03, 2013

Festival spirituality stories: Spin and Fibre Festival

I’m starting a research project, wanting to collect stories of Festival spirituality. It is an extension of a brief idea I sketched in my The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change (emergentYS) and which I recently developed further.

Festival spirituality (working definition): an occasional period of community gathering for celebration, in which Christians intentionally participate, seeking to make the shalom of God more visible.

This Festival spirituality story – Spin and Fibre Festival comes from Frontier News, May 2013, 8-10. It relates to the 35th Bothwell International Highland Spin In and Fibre Festival, a biennial event held in Tasmania and comes from an interview with Rev Meg Evans, Patrol Minister, Midlands, Tasmania.

Held every two years, Meg is the unofficial chaplain for the festival, which was started by a group of Uniting Church women who were spinning wool to raise funds to restore the church tower. Bothwell is one of the smaller communities in the Patrol located in the Central Highlands, 70 km northwest of Hobart. It has a long history in Merino wool production and the festival remains a huge event for both local and international visitors showcasing crafts and skills associated with superfine wool.

“On the Friday, we shear a sheep for the fleece, and then we hold a ‘Blessing of the Fleece.’ The wool is given out to people to spin during the weekend. On the Sunday I hold a service in the school gym, surrounded by all this wonderful creativity. It is just a great community celebration.”

“People come and tell me how much they enjoy it. I think the fact that the Church is there speaks to people.”

Some interesting things to note

  • gift – the involvement of the church begins with “Blessing”. This suggests a thankfulness. What is blessed (the Fleece) is then given away to participants
  • risk – This clearly involves risk, that the gift might not be “unwrapped,” might not be utilised. Or it might be “wrapped” in a way contrary to the values of the giver.
  • theology of creation – the connection to wool, as the product of local industry, as the lifeblood of what this community, this land, produces. A celebration both of the gift of wool, but also of the creative gifts that surround wool – “crafts and skills associated with superfine wool.”
  • being church as spun (interwoven) presence, first in being close enough to the land to be aan initiating participant, second in being a worshipping presence through the festival, both from the initial blessing through to the service, third in the theology of Meg, “the fact that the Church is there speaks to people.” The church began this event, but was willing to give it away. The church is willing to be one of many participants, many strands, in the fibre of this event. It does not need to own it nor control it.

So this Festival spirituality is mission as chaplain, celebrating creation, with particular attention to presence, participation, gift and risk.

Questions for discussion

  1. I wonder what things might be worth celebrating in your community – what gifts of “creation” and “creativity” you could bless?
  2. I wonder how you might take risks and invite people to participate in these gifts?
  3. What might an authentic presence look like? Think about this both from your perspective as a church and from the perspective of visitors and locals.
Posted by steve at 11:08 AM

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Pop culture, Steve Averill, U2 and the Incarnation

Steve Averill, Senior Art Director at AMP Visual, was one of the keynote speakers at the recent U2 conference. He was introduced as speaking on what it means to turn sound into a vision. It was an important statement, a reminder that music is so much more than sound.

Steve Averill has designed nearly all of U2′s album covers. Many have won industry awards. He structured his talk around album covers, working his way through the U2 album sleeves he has designed. As he discussed colours, font styles, images and influences, you became aware of how much thought, care and imagination go into what we hold, the CD cover, what we wear, the concert T-shirt, what we see, the branding on the U2 publicity.

He noted the quirky eccentricities of the covers – that Bono wanted Bible verses on the cover of All you can’t leave behind, and so they added them in via the airport gate signs, that the picture used on No line on the Horizon was by artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. He was not willing for their to be any branding on his art. The solution was to etch branding onto the plastic CD sleeve.

He showed us the album covers that were influential, the album sleeves the band own, they listen to, they like – The Ramones, The Beatles.

Dr Jason Hanley, who holds a Ph.D. in Musicology, introduced and interviewed Steve Averill. He began by noting that rock and roll is a material culture. When you look at it, when you research it, when discuss it, you are learning about yourself, about your world, about your culture.

This should make sense to Christian theologians. The Incarnation, God coming in human body, is an honouring of the human body, of the senses, of what we see, feel and touch. Pop culture should thus be an easy and obvious area of theological research, both as an exercise in Incarnation, and as a way of helping us see ourselves, our culture, our world.

Posted by steve at 10:02 AM