Friday, September 20, 2019

Craftivism imaged: my paper in art

After my paper on Craftivism as mission at Ecclesiology and Ethnography, I was introduced to this piece of art.

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It is a Salvador Dali lithograph, owned by Durham University, which sits in the St Johns College dining room. It is titled “Illustration of the Bible, Jeremiah 1:5. Before I formed you in the womb I knew.” The suggestion was that this art piece “imaged” my research paper. I love the depiction of a woman weaving and perhaps God being imaged in relation to feminine images of womb and craft.” My “shot” is not a great picture, given the glare of glass and a sun and a crowded room.

Posted by steve at 09:32 PM

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Speaking twice at Ecclesiology and Ethnography 2019

Today I was scheduled to present a paper on craftivism as missiology at the Ecclesiology and Ethnography 2019 conference. By a strange quirk of fate, I found myself presenting my paper not once but twice.

Conferences tend to group presentations together and I was scheduled to present second at 9:45 am. I arrived at 8:50 am to set up. However by 9 am, with the session due to start, there was no sign of the first presenter. In fact, no-one in the room could recall seeing the first presenter at the entire conference.

Faced with a sudden and unexpected hole in the programme, the conference organiser invited me to proceed at 9 am, given there was another presentation happening at 9:45 am in another room that some folk wanted to hear.

Conference presentations involve simultaneous streams and sometimes people move between streams as part of pick and mixing. At 9:45 am, as I took the final question of my presentation and as I began to thank my audience, a number of folk arrived, expecting to hear my presentation, as scheduled in the programme, for 9: 45 am.

Since I had the time and since I have come quite a long way (half way around the world) and since I’m pretty passionate about the topic, I indicated I was willing to offer the presentation again – and as originally advertised.

Which I did. With enthusiasm :).

The feedback from participants at both 9 am and 9:45 am was some of the most positive feedback I’ve ever had on a conference presentation. ‘Wonderful paper” said a leading scholar from Yale. “This opens up new horizons for empirical research” said another. “Could you video it for my church?” said another. Two folk even stayed for both presentations.

The questions opened up new avenues of thinking and possibilities for further research. They included

  • In what ways were the angels making possible new ways to inhabit the earth?
  • What does it mean for theology when knitted angels are actors in the mission of God?
  • Could I use twitter to conduct a longitudinal research on participants, retweeting to them?
  • How had my participation in the research, particularly my learning to knit as part of the project, changed me?
  • If it was craftivism, then in what ways was it political? What was being subverted?
  • In what ways does my data ‘re-make’ existing understandings of communication as having senders of messages to receivers?
  • Is my model of craftivism emerging from the wisdom literature of the Old Testament in fact a Trinitarian patterning?
  • How to make sense of the complex layers of materiality – the wool, the making, the placing?
  • Can i provide a better account of gender from the data, accounting not simply for men and women but seeking to understand gendered trends, impacts, roles and relationships?

In my responses, I realised how much my thinking has developed since this paper was presented at ANZATS in July 2019. This included insights emerging from my focus group research with the organisors on Monday night and material from my first expressions book (SCM, 2019).

It was a privilege to present once, let alone twice and both times to sense the richness of the research I have done and how it connects both for academics and for local church pastors (hence the “Could you video it for my church?” comment). My thanks to the organisors for accepting my paper and KCML/PCANZ who made possible financially my participation.  And to my family for graciously giving me permission.

Posted by steve at 05:44 PM

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

first day back from sabbatical

Yesterday was my first day back from sabbatical. The day began in Glasgow and ended in Durham and involved four meetings, two in Edinburgh, followed by two in Durham.

First in Edinburgh, a conversation with Dr Carol Marples, who recently gained her PhD for research into creativity in worship, emerging from Carol’s training as an artist and work with congregations. We talked together about ways that she is seeking to cultivate collaboration in creative making in congregations, including developing short courses.

Next in Edinburgh, a conversation with Dr Alexander Chow, Lecturer in Theology and World Christianity at Edinburgh University. I was particularly interested in his use of wikipedia, requiring students to complete assessment that includes writing articles for wikipedia. It strikes me as a great example of making research useful.

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Then onto/back to Durham. The presentations I am offering here in the UK during this trip involves research on the church in the United Kingdom, in particular the impact of Christmas knitted angels. So I contacted folk who began the project and asked if they were interested in hearing about my research.

So a meeting with Dr Christine Dutton, who as Methodist minister encouraged her congregations’ involvement. I have also drawn on her research into knitting as missional practice and together we talked about ways we might conduct further research together, given her strengths and expertise.

Finally, a meeting with David Wynd and Rob Wylie, who had seen some creativity from the gifted Lou Davis, a Methodist pioneer minister and encouraged the Christmas knitted angels project. I interviewed them about their hopes and dreams for the project. Then I gave them a summary of what I had discovered from my research into how folk had experienced receiving an angel. Then we talked about the possibility of a Christmas angels downunder experiment, testing to see how knitted angels upside down – in summer – might work.

So ended the first day back from sabbatical. Rich, full of meetings and hopeful of next step possibilities in research and mission in the church. Today, Tuesday, is my second day back from sabbatical. It involves a morning meeting about another possible collaborative research project and then the Ecclesiology and Ethnography 2019 conference which begins with lunch. Equally full, although thankfully with less travel.

Posted by steve at 09:50 PM

Friday, September 13, 2019

writing goalless in Germany

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This week was my last week of sabbatical and at 9 am on Monday, the computer was on and I was writing. I’ve not set myself any writing targets for this week. This is highly unusual. Writing time is so precious and I am normally very focused.

But not this week. For a number of reasons.

First, intuitively, the fact that I am highly focused in writing makes it worth exploring other modes. What would happen if I followed my nose? What might I learn about myself, about writing, about creating?

Second, practically, the major aim of the sabbatical was the completion of a book contract, an empirical study of innovation and mission. The deadline with the publishers was May. When my sabbatical was postponed in February, I absorbed the pressure of needing to meet a deadline with 13 weeks of sabbatical not 15. It meant working a few too many Saturday’s in May. But having met that deadline in May, on the other side in September, I had some weeks spare. It made sense to treat them as a treat. I’d already met the deadline for the 15 weeks, so whatever emerged would be a bonus.

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Third, I’ve decided to spend this week writing in Germany. My daughter is cycling the Rhine River and this was a chance for her to pause and for us to spend precious father/daughter time together. We had agreed that I would write in the mornings and we would explore in the afternoons and evenings. This meant that I would be writing in a totally new space. I was not sure what type of desk I would have to work at nor what books and resources I might need. Nor did I want to carry unnecessary weight half way around the world.

Fourth, this was a new mental space. The afternoon wanders might shake lose some creativity, create new connections, provide different perspectives. So having no goals allowed me to be free.

So as I opened my computer at 9 am on Monday, I had no goals, and thus no expectations. What to do? Where to begin?

I did have a deadline due in 10 days time on a small writing project for Upper room, a US publishing house. It is a collaboration with a research colleague who is currently quite busy. So I decided to draft some words, hoping that would kickstart our creativity.

As I completed that, I realised it was actually a potential conclusion to a longer project we had talked about working on. So I added the words as a conclusion and set up about turning a talk we had done together in July into a 4000 word journal article – researching contemporary practices of ministerial action.

Over the week the article grew. All the resources I needed were available. The afternoon wandering through different spaces set lose some fresh ideas.

As the week ended, the writing had become a complete draft. It needs to be slightly tightened and it needs an edit. But it is a complete draft.

Writing goalless work a week in Germany had resulted in
- 650 words for Upper room, for Devozine, a teenage spirituality resource
- a 4,300 word piece for a New Zealand ministry journal on how local churches respond to tragedy and trauma
- an encouragement. Toward the end of our week, an afternoon explore found me paying my respects to Hildegard of Bingen, one of the church’s finest theologians (Doctor), healer, composer, community builder.

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I have wrestled with my writing over the last 18 months. Is it a good investment of time? Or is it a luxury? Seeing the quill in Hildegard’s hand was inspiring. Writing can be a charism. It can be something through which the Spirit works. Writing goalless in Germany meant finding this encouragement: keep writing, keep creating …

Posted by steve at 10:06 PM

Friday, September 06, 2019

Germany bound

I’ve had a great week in Durham. The folk doing the Doctor of Theology and Ministry (DThM) from Durham University are a great bunch, doing some really interesting projects and clearly showing the value of practical theology in understanding the relationship between theology and practice.

My lecture on Craftivism as a missiology of making went really well and seemed to be greatly appreciated.

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I spoke for about an hour, working from the journal article I submitted a few weeks ago. The questions that flowed were excellent and showed there is plenty of avenues for further research if I want to continue to develop this project! Apparently there is at least one Anglican training event this weekend in which craftivism and Dorcas as an agent in the 5 faces of mission is now being included!

It’s also been great to catch up with folk and nurture some international friendships with which I am blessed.

Today, I headed down to York, to do some journal planning with Nigel Rooms. Together we are co-editing a new journal, seeking to nurture quality research on local Christian communities in mission. After International Association of Mission Studies in Korea in 2016, work has been done to ensure a new IAMS Study Group called “Christian Communities in Mission” as a stream for Sydney, 2020. In addition, work has been done, including raising some seed funding and securing a publisher, for a new journal. The journal will be called “Ecclesial Futures” and will be a double blind peer reviewed journal encouraging original research on local Christian communities as they join the mission of God. It was great to meet with Nigel and clarify our ethos. Nigel and I as co-editors talked about the journal culture we want to create, including a peer reviewing culture that embodies our missional focus – one that seeks excellence through postures of being hospitable, relational and generative.

Tomorrow, I head to Frankfurt, Germany, to meet my daughter, who has been biking the Rhine. After months apart, there might be a tear or three in my eye by this time tomorrow.

Posted by steve at 07:20 AM