Sunday, March 30, 2014

Together toward life: when The Shaping of Things to Come is much more bleak

The Australian Association of Mission Studies tri-annual conference is in Adelaide in October 2014. With Anthony Gittens the guest speaker, it promises to be a rich mission feast. The theme is Margins, Mission and Diversity and the conference will also acknowledge the tragic death of Ross Langmead.

Here is my proposed paper in which I try to connect the conference theme with my research on sustainability and fresh expressions:

Together toward life: when The Shaping of Things to Come is much more bleak.

The 2013 Commission on World Mission and Evangelism statement on mission encourages the local church in Spirited experimentation, (Local Congregations: New Initiatives). This could be argued to be a discernment of the Spirit’s activity on the margins of the church, for the sake of the world.

Such a (marginal) call is not new to Australia. The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church (2003, first edition) is considered a seminal Australian text in missiology. In chapter two, titled “Hope of Post-Christendom”, Frost and Hirsch present six stories of new initiatives in mission.

Investigation ten years reveals that three of these “hopes” are now closed (two incurring significant financial loss, a third misrepresented).

Such levels of failure in experimentation are consistent with data emerging from New Zealand and United Kingdom. Of the five communities described in Threshold of the Future: Reforming the Church in the Post-Christian West (Gospel and Cultures) (1998) none now survive. In the United Kingdom, of twelve communities researched by the author in 2001, only five now survive.

If new forms of church are the shaping of things to come, how might we respond missiologically to such data? Three responses will be explored. First, Biblically, in the mission of Epaphroditus in the letter to Philippians. Second, historically, how The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died understands the rise and fall of Christianity. Third, theologically, how a hermeneutic of surprise, emerging from Romans 8:15 (The Message) and the Pixar movie Up, values adventure over sustainability.

Posted by steve at 08:14 PM

Friday, March 28, 2014

Beyond Education: Exploring a Theology of the Church’s Theological Formation

I’m in Melbourne today and tomorrow as part of Beyond Education: Exploring a Theology of the Church’s Theological Formation, sponsored by the Uniting Church’s Centre for Theology and Ministry and the University of Divinity. The aim is to try and construct a theology of theological education. On Saturday I’m presenting a paper: Theological education in leadership formation (abstract here)

That has been the focus for much of my week. As part of my research, I compared our current 2014 Bachelor of Ministry degree, with our 2009 Bachelor of Ministry degree. Their have been significant changes, as this table shows

In other words, in 2009, we changed our name, from Parkin Wesley College to Uniting College for Leadership and Theology. Sometimes changes in name are simply cosmetic, a rebranding in which the ingredients remain the same. Looking at the Bachelor of Ministry, we see significant change, including

  • A new stream structure that has brought to the fore leadership and formation.
  • More options through specialisations.
  • Space created for formation (4 new topics in SFE and Integration) through the change of 7 topics (in theology, Bible and Pastoral care) from compulsory to optional
  • New topics written especially in leadership and Discipleship and Christian Education
  • Opportunity for “have a go” innovation through BMin practice, with increased SFE and the use of context as primary.

In the second half of my paper I will then ask whether these changes suggest it is either theological education
or
leadership formation. Or using the work of cultural theorist Mieke Bal (Anti-Covenant) and theologian Graham Ward (Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice), this allows theological education in leadership formation.

Posted by steve at 10:06 AM

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dispersed Lent Journal Project 2014 at distance

One of the dispersed Lent Journals 2014 returned today. It has been travelling by post, moving around rural South Australia, among our distance students. It was a great joy to see it return, complete with post paid bag as students decided to pay themselves rather than let College pay.

The story behind the Dispersed Lent Journal Project 2014 is that we at 34 Brooklyn Park are a dispersed community – students, staff, teachers; post-graduates, under-graduates; studying for audit and for credit; face to face and distance.

At the start of Lent, four journals were released into the community – in lectures, in library, in student common room. Folk are invited to journal what Lent means to them, and pass it onto another in the community. (Full description here). We wanted a way to connect our dispersed, mobile community.

Distance students were keen to participate and here is one now returning after being posted around South Australia. Which means it is now able to be handed onto another student. Connections are being created among the dispersed, spirituality nurtured and nourished among those who gather and scatter.

Posted by steve at 08:44 PM

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

the suspense of tomorrow: “Something was here but it got deleted”

As you can see from my diary, I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. “Something was here but it got deleted” is my first appointment for the day. I have no idea what it is. I have no recollection of what was “here” before it got deleted. Nor do my hardworking on conscientious administrative team. It’s a mystery.

I’m ready.

I’m waiting.

I’m wondering.

We’ve checked with various people.

If anything or anyone appears, I’ll let you know … tomorrow

Posted by steve at 10:01 PM

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

we’re hiring: Business manager

With the retirement of Peter Gunn, our Educational Resources Manager, we at Uniting College are looking for a Business Manager (full-time, permanent). This is a vital role in helping us manage forward the many changes we are making and undergoing. So if you know someone with exceptional business and financial management skills, a strong commitment to the vision of Uniting College and an ability to be an integral part of a committed team offering relational and efficient service in a tertiary education environment, then please let them know …

Description:

Uniting College exists to develop life-long disciples and effective leaders for a healthy, missional church, who are passionate, Christ-centred, highly skilled and mission-orientated practitioners. We offer a range of ways to learn and grow as a person and as a leader: through accredited course providers’ Adelaide College of Divinity and Flinders University and also through non-accredited courses for the Uniting Church.

If you consider you have exceptional business and financial management skills, coupled with a strong commitment to supporting the fulfilment of the purposes of the Uniting College, then this could be the position for you. This position is an integral part of a committed team offering relational and efficient service in a tertiary education environment.

The Business Manager will work closely with the Uniting College faculty and staff, Executive Officer and staff of Adelaide College of Divinity, and the Finance Management team at the Uniting Church SA Synod Office. This diverse and challenging position will be responsible for strategic business planning and innovation of the Uniting College and for building collaborative business relationships with other education providers.

The successful applicant will need to have demonstrated experience in the management of staff. Overseeing and leading the transition of the development of systems, processes and resources to support faculty in the delivery of courses, is crucial to the success of this position.

A degree qualification in Business, Accounting or other related discipline, together with a commitment and participation within a Christian congregation or faith community, are essential criteria.

A Position Description / Person Specification is available here or by contacting the Human Resources department on 8236 4234 or 8236 4278.

Please forward applications addressing the selection criteria of the Position Description / Person Specification to humanresources at sa dot uca dot org dot au by no later than 4pm Monday April 7, 2014.

Posted by steve at 01:15 PM

Monday, March 24, 2014

Please, tend the green zones

I was asked to be the opening, after dinner speaker at the National Presbytery Ministers conference here in South Australia. With folk arriving from all over the country, tired, carrying heavy workloads, it was a difficult assignment. I decided to offer two stories.

My first story was my experience of an Adelaide Fringe Festival show, Henry Lawson goes to Princeton. I built on my blog review and after further conversation with the artist – Ian Coats, suggested that the show was a God at the fringe moment, a rich example 21st century mission – how will we live, told contextually, told publicly, with an invitation to consider God.

I also told a 2nd story. Since Presbytery ministers have significant church leadership responsibility, I told them about my research into Rowan Williams and how he provided leadership, first as Bishop, second as Archbishop, in Fresh Expressions. Based on my research (hauling out a draft chapter from the book project), I suggested that Rowan had

  • a clear theology – grounded in the life of the church;
  • intentional practices – to spend time on the fringe
  • a change strategy – tell stories of how the green zone changes him.

In between I offered Al Roxburgh lifecycles of an organisation as a frame by which to reflect on the two stories.

The Three Zone Model … visualizes the organizational cultures congregations and denominations form at various periods in their lives. It represents a dynamic of continuous change in organizational culture relative to the external environment. Church systems living in the discontinuous change now characterize Western societies will be continually shifting through these zones

After two stories and one frame, I made one request: Please, as leaders, tend the green zones.

So much of the life in Uniting Church congregations is red. So much of our Synod whole church life is blue. Please don’t get stuck there. Please go looking for the green. Please bring those stories, in my case Henry Lawson at the Adelaide Fringe, into conversation with the centre.

Posted by steve at 10:45 AM

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Emigration to New Zealand

The Emigration to New Zealand – A poem by Henry Lawson (1893)

I’ve just received a letter from a chum in Maoriland,
He’s working down in Auckland where he days he’s doing grand,
The climate’s cooler there, but hearts are warmer, says my chum,
He sends the passage money, and he says I’d better come.
(I’d like to see his face again, I’d like to grip his hand),
He says he’s sure that I’ll get on first-rate in Maoriland.

An’ tho’ he makes the best of things (it always was his style),
You mostly get on better in a new land for a while,
An’ when I see the fading line of my own native shore,
I’ll let it fade, and never want to see it anymore.
I’m tire of Sydney pavements, and the Western scrub and sand,
I’d rather fight my troubles for a change in Maoriland.

I’m off to make inquiries as to when the next boat sails,
I’m sick of all these colonies, but most of New South Wales,
An’ if you meet a friend of mine who wants to find my track,
Say you, “He’s gone to Maoriland, and isn’t coming back”.
An’ should it be the landlord or the rates, you understand,
Just say you’ll find him somewhere knocking round in Maoriland.

Posted by steve at 02:43 PM

Friday, March 21, 2014

pioneering a pioneering week

It’s been an intensely busy, but very productive week.

We’ve had Dave Male from the UK with us. Each evening we’ve engaged in storytelling around pioneering. Four folk have told local stories – one of early cross-cultural encounter in Australia, one of community gardens and how they change church, one of participation of individuals in new forms of church, one of transitions. Each has been videod. Around each story was woven group processes to deepen encounter. This included creative worship (like St Patrick on St Patricks Day) and the perspectives of Dave and Heather Male.

During the day, Dave Male has been working with us on developing material for a distance course. This includes 6 key modules needed for pioneering, accompanied by a range of resources (readings, video grabs of Dave Male, powerpoint, stories). The 4 local stories will add richness, all enhanced by the soundbite video clips and quotes we’ve been grabbing all week from those who participated in the evening sessions.

The result is that we’ve been able to develop what will be an online Pioneering topic that will be available in both our Diploma and Bachelor of Ministry.

It also makes possible a Diploma of Ministry in Pioneering, a one year equivalent period of study, that can be done full-time or part-time, face to face or by distance. A Diploma neatly integrates into the Bachelor of Ministry for folk who want to study further. But not everyone wants to do three years, so a one year Diploma, or a one semester topic, is an important addition to our training options as a College.

As Dave commented after we’d shown him the syllabus -

“This is a fantastic course that equips missional leaders for the present and the future of the church. I would encourage any leader to consider coming on this. It has some of the best material and teachers in the pioneering world.”

There is still some work to put all this together as a finished product but it’s been a very productive week.

Posted by steve at 07:10 PM

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Learning and Teaching Theology: Some Ways Ahead

Delighted first with the news this week that my chapter “Embodiment and transformation in the context of e-learning” has been accepted to be published by Mosaic Press later this year. Edited by Les Ball, titled Learning and Teaching Theology: Some Ways Ahead, the book will publish papers delievered at the conference in Sydney last year on teaching and learning theology.

Delighted second that the chapter was accepted with no revisions needed. That’s a huge relief.

Delighted third to be able to find some space in a pretty busy life to have been able to reflect, over 6000 words, on so many of the changes we’re exploring here at Uniting College – in blended learning and in flipped classrooms. This chapter was my asking Why? Why are we doing this? Not why technically or economically but why theologically?

Delighted mainly, because the September conference was the first major conference I spoke at after Dad died. As I returned to finally edit the chapter last week, emotionally I was taken right back to Dad, to the days of his death. I was back writing in grief. So this chapter is dedicated to my Dad, a teacher who taught me so much.

Here’s the abstract of the chapter:
This chapter argues that e-learning is a theological necessity.

Four themes, of theological teaching as embodied in “living libraries,” as nurturing hospitable space, as verbal driven in pedagogy and as cultivating communities of inquiry are outlined. Within each of these themes, a dialogue is conducted between Luke 5:1-11, Transforming Theology and e-learning literature.

The argument is than applied specifically to the task of teaching and learning, with three categories of pedagogical design grounded in a case study of a recent Introduction to Theology class.

Finally, a theological note is made regarding the implications when the Incarnate One is read as the Ascended One. This suggests that the move, from face to face, to digital at distance, is actually a following of the trajectory of Jesus, the miracle of Resurrection and Ascension in which both place and space are redefined. Or in the words of this project, transformed theologically.

Posted by steve at 10:15 PM

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

preamble communion words

Throughout this week, Uniting College has been participating in the Destiny Together week of prayer and fasting. This is a week to pray and fast for justice for the First Peoples. We’ve been praying daily at 9:30 am each morning as a College and chapel has been open over lunchtime for those who might want to fast. Today at Community worship we shared worship with folk from our local Congress Church – an embodiment of Destiny Together.

I was leading communion and aware of the occasion, wondered what words might shape the practice of communion. I began to wonder if the Preamble, which was drafted in 2009 as a way to constitutionally acknowledge Aboriginal and Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia might be of us. It became a rich journey, exploring how those words, based on extensive consultation with the church, offer a theology of truthtelling and in turn might now become Eucharistic life. To do this would surely be a step toward Destiny Together, a sharing of an agreed document and God in our past, present, future.

So, here is what I drafted, mixing Preamble phrases into a communion liturgy. I used the shape of Uniting in Worship 2, seeking for phrases from the Preamble to give shape. I think it ticks all the boxes – there is epiclesis, confession, Lords prayer, God’s action in history, eschatology, Words of institution (modified slightly but in keeping with other aspects of Eucharistic theology).

With the elements served to us by the Aunties. Wonderful.

Communion:

The Lord be with you

And also with you

Lift up your hearts

We lift them to the Lord

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God

It is right to give our thanks and praise

We bless you Creator for this earth, for the Dreaming and Song lines sung long before human

We thank you for the Spirit already in the land revealing God to the people through law, custom, ceremony

We bless you for the same love and grace that was fully and finally revealed in Jesus Christ

Who took bread, broke it, said Take, eat, in solidarity with those who suffer

Who took the cup, gave thanks, said This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out in hope of life to the full

We bless you for the church and all the storytellers and whisperers of hope through history, called to seek a renewal of its life as a community of First peoples and of Second Peoples from many land.

We lament the silence of the church in the face of broken relationships, Jesus lamb of God

Have mercy on us

We grieve the processes of dispossession, Jesus bearer of our sins

Have mercy on us

We confess the practices of colonisation, Jesus redeemer of the world

Grant us peace

We eat this bread as a foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation

We drink this cup, as a sign of our destiny together, praying and working together for a fuller expression of our reconciliation in Jesus Christ.

Pour out your Spirit on us, that these gifts of bread and wine, may make us one with each other and in ministry in the world

Lords prayer in Kaurna language:

Yeowa-rna Marngari-tti
Jehovah-’s request / pray-thing ‘The Lord’s Prayer’
Ngadluko yerli karralika tikka-ndi;
Our father on high sits ‘Our father sits in heaven’
Ninna narri tampi-rna, kuinyunda kumarta-ppi-rna;
You name acknowledge-let sacred apart-cause-let ‘Let your name be acknowledged, let it be kept sacred.’
Ninko yerlti-yerlti-nya pintya-rna;
Your advice/command create-let ‘Let your rule be established’
Ninko padloni-tti yerta-ngga wappi-rna
Your want-thing earth-on do-let ‘Let your want be done on earth’
Karra-ngga nammutannaintya-ndi
High-on resemble-ing ‘As it is on high’
Ngadluko mai yunggu-ndo!
Our food give-you! ‘Give (us) our food.’
Ngadluko wakkinna kumba-ppi-ndo!
Our sin remove-make-you! ‘Take away our sin.’
Ngadlu tangka waia-re-ndi kumarta-nna-ityangga wakkinna wappe-ndi
We liver move-itself-is separate-pl-with wrong do-ing ‘Have compassion for those who do wrong.’
Wakkinna-anna warti-tti
Sin-to draw-don’t ‘Don’t draw us into sin.’
Wakkinna-unangko tirra-tirga-ppi-ndo
Sin-from protect make-you! ‘Save us from sin.’
Ninna mattanya, taingi, wilta, burti burti tarkari tundarri.
You owner strength power gladness future forever
‘You are the boss, the strength, the power, the glory for ever and ever.’
Wappi-rna!
Do-let! (i.e. let it be done)
‘Amen.’

Benediction:

Go in peace to live a Destiny together

Posted by steve at 05:47 PM

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

st patricks day pioneer worship

Yesterday was both St Patricks Day and the start of our week of pioneer evenings with Dave Male. So it seemed appropriate to bring them both together.

I began with a contemporary icon of St Patrick, painted by Scott Erickson at Ecclesia community.


What strikes us? What links do we make with our theme – pioneering? What image speaks to us?

I then introduced Breastplate, from the Eucharist CD. I noted the refrain – I bind unto myself today – and invited us, while the song played, to biro tattoo the image that speaks to us onto our arms.

By way of conclusion, as a communal act, we said the Breastplate together.

ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The strong name of the trinity
Right: By invocation of the same
Leader: The three in one and one in three

ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The great love of the living word
Right: The wisdom of my God to teach
Leader: His hand to guide his shield to ward

ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The virtues of the starlit heaven
Right: The glorious sun’s life giving ray
Leader: The fruits of earth so freely given

ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The power of God to hold and lead
Right: His eye to watch his might to stay
Leader: His ear to hearken to my need

ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The way of Christ in life and death
Right: The call of God to jubilee
Leader: In broken chains and cancelled debt

ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The strong name of the trinity
Right: By invocation of the same
Leader: The three in one and one in three

(Words attributed to St Patrick, translation Mrs C F Alexander, 1889, except v.5)

Posted by steve at 01:11 PM

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Happy 5th birthday Uniting College

We celebrated Uniting College being five at Presbytery Synod last night. Some thought it was a milestone worth a cake.

As well as the cake, we also provided 400 individual cup cakes for supper, all with our logo.

Before the cake and candles, there was a bit of an introduction to the journey of this five year old. It was laced with prayer; a highlight of being one, of being two, of being three etc, followed by an audience response, including rifting off a Paul Kelly song.

Here’s the liturgical responses

synod feb 2014

And for those interested, here’s the full script … (more…)

Posted by steve at 08:07 AM

Friday, March 14, 2014

Any other duties as required by the Principal

I have a great team … as we prepare as a College for Destiny together, a week of prayer and fasting …

Posted by steve at 10:13 AM

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pioneering Plan B: bite-sized education?

Last Friday, I was contemplating a pioneering disaster.

Last Friday, we only had one student enrolment for the March 17-21 Pioneering intensive with Dave Male. Despite a range of advertising, despite Dave being well known in South Australia, I was contemplating the difficulty involved in offering a decent educational experience to a class of one.

It was time for plan B. Annoying at the time, but in hindsight, totally consistent with a course on pioneering! We had shaped the original intensive with Dave to run mornings and evenings. So on Friday we decided to drop the mornings. Instead we will use the time to work one on one with Dave, designing a blended learning distance Pioneering package. What this will mean is that any person, any candidate, can study Pioneering with us at any time in the years ahead, rather than simply by intensive when Dave Male is in town. Which will be a really exciting addition to our Bachelor of Ministry degree, a permanent topic in Pioneering! (A first in Australia I think.) So that was the first part of Pioneering Plan B.

The second part of Pioneering Plan B was to take the existing week long evening programme and offer it in bite-sized chunks. Same topics. But advertise it not as a week, but as bite-sized. Come to one evening or more. Even all four.

The third part of Pioneering plan B was to emphasise that the existing evening programme is not about content but conversation. Rather than lecture, we are offering worship, drink and a story. Four stories actually, of women exploring pioneering in different ways. Which will start a conversation about the issues, the resources, what we are learning about innovation, leadership, mission and church. All stimulated by Dave and by all those who participate.

Some five days later, we have 13 18 20 RSVP’s. Which is a quite a turnaround from the solitary one.

It’s really got me thinking. What was the difference? The personal invite email? The fact the evenings are being offered for free? The deliberate naming of a shift from content to conversation? The shift to bite-sized, with folk able to give an evening, but not a week?

I’m looking forward to doing some market research but I suspect the biggest factor is the latter, the offer of bite-sized education. That one week is too much, but an evening (of four for some) is do-able. Which raises some intriguing questions for education in general. What might it mean to modularize a syllabus, to go bite-sized?

And the one enrolment? They are delighted at our flexibility. They will get some focused 1 on 1 time with Dave Male at the start and end of the week, in order to establish some specifically tailored guided reading, all mixed in with some evenings of rich conversation to help their own processing.

And for those in Adelaide, it’s still not too late to RSVP to steve dot taylor at flinders dot edu dot au. Here’s the bite-sized programme, come to one, come to more … (more…)

Posted by steve at 09:37 PM