Thursday, August 23, 2018

Writing August

andrew-neel-308138-unsplash I write to communicate, to make public internal connections, to clarify internal dialogue. As I write, it becomes a spiritual practice, as I examine my internal world, step into into conversations and respond to provocation – sometimes external, often internal.  Part of my writing is personal, through the reality of a journal in which I reflect on my inner world. Another part of my writing is public, reflecting on change, leadership, mission and innovation.

My writing in the last month has felt pressured, personal and piecemeal. It’s not been a space I’ve enjoyed. There has been a range of external deadlines that have pushed, pulled and twisted my priorities. A constant pressure has been a string of final edit emails in relation to an academic journal article.  In a discipline not my own, for an international publication, it’s been a project that kept bouncing back, as the editors worked diligently. I was grateful.

Grudgingly.

At the same time, I’ve been juggling a number of deadlines for shorter pieces of work in more accessible formats. These have become pieces that are intensely personal and immensely satisfying.

  • 2000 words Redeeming a Past: An Ancestor Perspective – for a book on Christianity in New Zealand. I explore my PNG experience in light of a range of other projects I’ve been working on.  I’ve suddenly realised that my work on indigenous readings of Jesus genealogy and decolonisation in writings that connect to Papua New Guinea and atonement theologies of Irenaeus are in fact part of integrating my present with my past.
  • 1000 Snapshots – children of Tangaroa (wai) – for the annual KCML making research accessible publication. This has involved writing with someone who has become my tuakana, an elder brother, guiding me in reading the Whanganui River Waitangi Tribunal report theologically.
  • 600 words SPANZ – “Ko koutou nga uri o Te Tahu Ngahere,” a missiology of being Presbyterian in the burning bush
  • 900 words Zadok – You can’t eat lilies: the future of precarious work column – a reflection on the words of Jesus in light of workplace restructures, Artificial intelligence, indigenous cultures, Immanuel Kant and The Odyssey

With these deadlines met through August, I can return back to a book chapter on migration and theological education. This was due the end of June and my inability to engage, because of the above deadlines, has been demoralising.

I don’t like missing deadlines.

But this week it was a joy to be back in the project.

And then perhaps, by mid-September, some clear space, in order to begin (editorial board meeting in September) what I’m hoping will be a third book, on sustainability in fresh expressions of church.

Posted by steve at 10:17 PM

Thursday, August 16, 2018

identity: pondering the interplay between indigenous and hybridity

What I think is at stake is how identity is constructed. In modern colonial worlds, we construct either-or (for more see Robert Young, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race). At the heart of The Mountain, by Drusilla Modjeska, is an exploration of hybridity. It is done through the use of a word from Tok Pidgin, that of hapkas. Here is a great piece of dialogue from the book:

“Hapkas. It’s a great word. My kids use it all the time. They call themselves hapkas. I’m from the Sepik, their mother’s from Milne Bay. It’s a point of pride. Makes them interesting … Haven’t you heard of hybridity.” (The Mountain, 278).

So in contemporary PNG, rather than either-or constructs, hybridity is nurtured. The interplay between identity, being indigenous and hybridity is also the heart of author Modjeska’s struggle. Can she, from another place, write about PNG? Or can only indigenous people write about PNG? But then what is indigenous? Is one indigenous by blood, birth, or social construct? If social construct, who has defined it? Most likely the coloniser; as a term to construct people who are ‘other.’ And in so doing the term indigenous homogenises. Perhaps not in countries with one indigenous culture (although even in those countries there seems to be tribal identities that suggest distinctives). But applied to countries with diverse cultures, it becomes a piece of linguistic trickery that is difficult to sustain. How can a person from Milne Bay, one of the 800 plus languages, write a PNG perspective that speaks for all those 800 languages? They can’t, yet the category of “indigenous” as applied to a nation, of PNG, suggests this is possible. We need ways to escape binary worlds and to name the fluid patterns of migration and cultural exchange which have always categorised human identity. This is what make notions of hybridity so generative.

Posted by steve at 12:44 PM

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

innovation in central cities

Definition – Fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church

Definition – Inherited or traditional form of church

In the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4, Paul describes his mission and ministry using 6 metaphors. I’ve written about them in my book, Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration. So one way to think about the future of Central City churches is by using these six images.

The first image that Paul uses is in 1 Corinthians 3:5 and again in 1 Corinthians 4:1 is that of servant. Ministry is serving the Corinthian church. This is the beginning of ministry and mission: serving God, serving each other, serving our communities. So whatever decisions are made about the future of church, they begin with a focus not on ourselves but on who and how we can serve.

The last image that Paul uses is that of parent. Healthy systems in mission have parents. Different denominations have different systems: some a Pope or bishop, others elders. These are people who parent, gathering groups together as a family, providing guidance. Parents connect us in mission. They ensure that we are not alone, but together, sharing the future of ministry in Central City.

In the Central City conversations about the future of mission usually involve buildings. The conversation usually goes something like “Someone in the past has been a builder. This means we have somewhere to meet. We need people to fill the space.” As a result talk of mission quickly becomes about the people joining the existing inherited form of church in a certain type of mission. Either that, or a different conversation begins, about the one-off opportunity to sell our buildings. Central City churches are thus, by way of inheriting a building, asset rich, which means they have one chance to lever that for mission. So buildings invariably occupy a lot of space in a mission conversation. When Paul says he is a builder (1 Cor 3:10), it is giving dignity to Central City conversations about how buildings shape our mission.

Having buildings also means that central City churches are resource managers. They have inherited a building, this gift from the past. It is thus something to maintain, something that people drive by, something that might, or might not serve our mission. Again when Paul says he is a resource manager (1 Cor 4:1), he is giving dignity to our conversations about how we resource manage our buildings as we think about our mission futures.

That leaves gardener and fool. In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul is a gardener, working with other gardeners in God’s garden. It is for this reason that KCML has begun to talk about New Mission Seedlings as our way of seeking to explore fresh expressions within a New Zealand context.

New – something not done before. Not constrained by the inherited forms of church

Mission – focused on people who currently don’t come to church; on what God is already doing.

Seedlings – starting small, needing to be tended, shaped by their environments.

nms-graphicver2

KCML has partnered with a range of funding group and Presbyteries and begun to garden, by planting new forms of church. We began a New Mission Seedling in Christchurch in 2017 and in Dunedin in 2018. Both are taking quite different shape, as they respond to local contexts. New Mission Seedlings make lots of sense as an approach to Central City conversations, given the diversity of city communities and networks, which provide such rich possibilities for mission.

KCML New Mission Seedlings are about being a gardener. They are also about being a fool. In 1 Cor 4:10, Paul describes himself as being a fool. It is an unlikely metaphor for ministry. But it is important for Paul, and makes sense of his ministry, because of who Jesus is: riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, taking a risk of being misunderstood, doing something unexpected. So a fool asks “What is the unexpected, surprising thing that God might be doing, that we can pay attention to?” It might fail. It might not work. But like Jesus, the risks are taken.

So applying Paul in innovation and Central City churches:

We are all servants and we need parents in mission to gather us together. Inherited churches focus on mission as builders and resource managers. Fresh expressions becomes partners in this shared mission, by working alongside as gardener and fool.

This invites some immediate next steps.
1. Inherited and fresh expressions agree we are better together
2. A parent gathers inherited and fresh expressions together in shared learning.
2. Fresh expressions conduct a listening exercise in the community.
3. Insights are shared back through the regular gatherings.
4. Some risks are taken, guerilla planting New Mission Seedlings, outside the existing buildings, but in partnership, because we are sharing the six metaphors of innovation together amongst us.

Posted by steve at 05:05 PM

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Bird prayers: contextual Spirit at Pentecost

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I was asked to do a workshop at the NZ Association of Religious Education Teachers and School Chaplains (NZARETSC).  The theme was On the Thermals of Grace, so given the theme, I offered Bird prayers – a workshop which reflected on the theology of the Spirit by looking at bird images in the Bible and then pondering NZ birds in order to invite folk to write contemporary-Kiwi-Spirit-as-bird-prayers.

A creative spark was the New Zealand bank notes, which each feature a different indigenous New Zealand bird.

$5 – Hoiho (yellow eyed penguin)
$10 – Whio (Blue duck)
$20 – Kārearea (NZ Falcon)
$50 – Kōkako (Blue wattled crow)
$100 – Mohua (Yellowhead)

So I printed off some different bank notes and put different notes/birds on seats.

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This meant that when folk arrived and chose a seat, they were choosing a bird, which they were then invited to use in writing a prayer at the end of the workshop. I wove in some Rupert of Duetz (in The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings), who weaves Spirit in creation, with Spirit in baptism and Spirit in mission. Plus the missiology of Kirsteen Kim, The Holy Spirit in the World: A Global Conversation who provides a person of colour critique of the Christian use of the dove, as promoting a whiteness which diminishes pneumatology.

the use of the dove alone is distinctly unhelpful in communicating the reality of the Spirit of God … The dove is very white … and does not do justice to all the dimensions of the Holy Spirit or to the nature of reconciliation that the Spirit brings … we have captured the dove of freedom and power and caged it.” (Kirsteen Kim, The Holy Spirit in the World: A Global Conversation. 180).

And so we turned to the birds of New Zealand:

Whakarongo! Whakarongo! Whakarongo!
ki te tangi a te manu e karanga nei

Listen, Listen, Listen
To the cry of the bird calling – chant by Eruera Stirling, in Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds by Anne Salmond

The result was some beautiful prayers, richly located in New Zealand experience. A fun workshop. Thanks for asking me NZARETSC. For those interested, my workshop resources are here: On the thermals of grace bird prayers workshop notes

Posted by steve at 12:49 PM

Friday, August 03, 2018

Listening in mission 2018

Listening in mission 2018 taster August 23, 4:45-6:15 pm

- “really helpful”; “practical”; “encouraging”; “inclusive”; “another follow-on please” –

Following feedback from 2017 participants, KCML invites ministry practitioners in the PCNZ into a listening in mission practical learning course. 6 online sessions (Thursdays 4:45-6:15 pm)

  • Aug 23 (info only)
  • Sept 6 (Mission as gift)
  • Sept 27 (Presence)
  • Oct 11 (Cultivate)
  • Nov 1 (Discern)
  • Nov 22 (Celebrate)

hosted by KCML mission Faculty who weave Scripture, community, mission alongside a practical, local task in which each participant gathers a group to listen local in the community as a first step in mission.

For online entry to the taster contact principal@knoxcentre.ac.nz.

For more into see listeningmission18final.

  • LIMimage
Posted by steve at 02:27 PM

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Lighthouse2018

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 5.25.43 PM

Go to the edge
Gain perspective
See more clearly
Seek light for a next direction
 
For Presbyterians embedded in a local context 
with a heart for their community
Who need a next step in mission clarified
 
The Lighthouse
Is a 48 hour set of steps
That yields 2 pathways and 1 next step
Unlike talkfests
We offer a working process that takes your opportunity to a next outcome

I’m stepping into an innovation space tomorrow, curating a weekend with two colleagues. We have 18 people joining us, as part of intentional processes in innovation incubation within the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. Over the weekend, we will weave 6 innovation images from Scripture (for more see Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration) with insights from Maori innovation (Artefact) and social innovation incubator processes.

It is the second weekend we’ve done and 2 weeks ago a participant from Lighthouse 2017 sought me out to say that the youth mentoring programme they had workshopped at Lighthouse 2017 was now running “And wouldn’t have happened without Lighthouse. So thanks.” It is that type of grassroots action we hope to innovate, as well as helping people find new travelling companions in the task of mission and nurturing the reforming DNA of being Presbyterian. It runs as a gift from Presbyterian Development Society and their passionate commitment to the communities of Aotearoa.

Posted by steve at 05:30 PM