Friday, July 05, 2013

Chaplaincy everywhere

I like the sound of Chaplaincy Everywhere. It is mentioned on a recent post on Sanctus 1, a fresh expression in the UK, in which they are placing chaplains in shopping centres.

So this is more than historic notions of chaplains as at hospital or prison. We need ways to empower people to see themselves as chaplains in their streets, communities and workplaces. It is what we worked toward at Opawa Baptist at one point, calling them community chaplains, and we appointed three into the local community.

I suspect it requires another understanding of ecclesiology, in which the local church commissions and nurtures, rather than the wider (synod).

One of our DMin students at Uniting College is exploring a theology of street chaplaincy, based on his experiences over years as a Main Street chaplain. Plus there is the fabulous chapter in Darren Cronshaws book on ministry models in Australia, including Michael Leunig as a chaplain to the culture.

All by way of saying, I wonder what a Chaplaincy Everywhere course at Uniting College would look like?

Posted by steve at 07:16 PM

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

transition zones

I spent part of yesterday walking the Auckland Art Gallery. After an academic conference, art is exactly what I need.

I spend quite a bit of time contemplating Ralph Hotere’s Godwit/Kuaka. It was commissioned in 1977 for the Auckland airport. At over 20 metres, it is a stunning piece of work. The godwit is known for its migration patterns, flying thousands of miles, to land, exhausted, in New Zealand.

Contemplating the art gave me time to reflect on my flight patterns. First, just about to fly to Cairns for 10 days holiday with the rest of Team Taylor. Yeehaa. So a transition zone personally and as a family.

Second, having just finished being part of a conference, hosted at Laidlaw College, where I used to teach, catching up with old friends, so talking about journeys, hearing about journeys. And then spending the Tuesday and Wednesday with great friends from our Graceway-Auckland-church planting days.

Third, it was just over a year ago that I began as Principal at Uniting College. I drove to work with heart pounding, and settled into a whole new role. A year on, there is much to reflect upon, regarding the changes this role is making in me and requiring of me.

Here is the poem that sits beside the Hotere art work.

Death/exhaustion rises up
It is the rope, koakoa (the cry of the bird)
Binding you to here to me
The cry/chattering of the flock

Come closer together
From inside its throat – a marauding party
A godwit
A godwit that hovers

One bird
Has settled on the sand bank
It has settled over there
It has settled over there
They have settled there

There is such fascinating interplay in this poem between distance and closeness, between here and there. It is exhausting. Yet in the exhaustion, companions are found, the here and there is blurred. Such a deep sense of community and discovery is evoked. I left the gallery glad of godwits, of art, of journeys, of migrants, of settlers, of friends, both here and there, of communities old and new, new and old.

Posted by steve at 12:45 PM

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

born to sing: finding joy in U2′s pilgrimage

The Jesus Deck card for me today, drawn randomly from the deck, is 9, Luke. The text is “My soul magnifies the Lord.” The main character is Mary.

She is barefoot. She stands on a road, that loops, turns and seems ready to carry her forward. Her hands clutch her purple clothes close. She seems paused, ready to walk, ready to adventure.

It is a call to pilgrimage. It is pilgrimage, suffused with joy, for she us clothed so beautifully. From her head bursts stars, from her mouth bursts words that magnify. It is a wholebodied venture – feet to walk, mouth to sing, soul to respond.

It reminds me of the words from U2′s Magnificent – “I was born to sing for you” – The Falke Radio mix, from Artificial Horizon is the best, a dance mix that captures so much of the joy in the song. It’s aided by the rhythm of the beat, the regularity and pace of breathing.

I struggle with much religious music. But U2′s “I was born to sing for you” invites me to walk with Mary, to go on the journey of pilgrimage.

With joy.

Posted by steve at 08:10 AM

Monday, July 01, 2013

Where are the theologians?

This is the one of the three stories I used to begin my conference paper at the ANZATS Christians in Communities conference.

I am here among these working-class people in this post-industrial landscape because I want to hear their stories. I take their voices seriously. This is what research in religion means, I fume, to attend to the experiences and beliefs of people in the midst of their lives, to encounter religion in its place in actual men and women’s lived experience, in the places they live and work. Where are the theologians from the seminaries on the South Side, I want to know, with all their talk of postmodernism and narrativity? When will the study of religion in the United States take an emperical and so more realistic and human direction? Robert Orsi, Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them

It is used in Perspectives on Ecclesiology and Ethnography and so enabled me to engage this new series -Studies in Ecclesiology and Ethnography – from Eerdmans. The story also asks some important questions about theology. Who does it? Where should it be done? How should it be done? Who should it be for? Those questions essentially shaped the rest of the paper.  I began with three examples of ecclesiology and ethnography, including one from my fresh expressions ten years research. I offered a “down under” critique, drawing on the post-colonial work of indigenous researcher, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, to argue that research should be for the community, not the researcher of the academy. 

Finally, I explored how ecclesiology and ethnography could be theology, rather than simply social sciences with a theological cherry thrown on top at the end. This was, I felt, the most creative section of the paper.  I returned to my initial three examples, and argued that in them was a triptych of places in which theological reflection was found – in the researcher, in the community and in the subsequent reflection. By way of example, I then pointed to two places in the second Eerdmans volume, Explorations in Ecclesiology and Ethnography which I consider intriguing illustrations, of the unintended yet potential trajectories made possible through ecclesiology and ethnography. Thus each example returned us to my initial question – Where are the theologians? Because if they are, like Robert Orsi insists, with the congregations in mission, it sets off a rich train of questions about the nature and practice of writing, teaching and formation.

Working on this paper has been about stepping back from my actual ethnographic research into fresh expressions, in order to think more carefully about the very discipline I’m part of.

Posted by steve at 07:29 AM