Saturday, July 31, 2021

researching knitting in Christianity

Ethics approval this week for this research project –

seeking participants for research on knitting in Christianity. If you are aged over 18 years and have been involved in a knitting project like Common Grace Knit For Climate Action or Christmas Angels (or something similar) and are willing to be interviewed about your experiences, they would love to hear from you. More information here or from Steve Taylor (+64221552427 or kiwidrsteve@gmail.com)

Posted by steve at 08:16 PM

Monday, July 26, 2021

Steve Taylor AngelWings

Rev Dr Steve Taylor is a public scholar working from Ōtepoti (Dunedin) for AngelWings Ltd in research consultancy, writing, teaching and speaking. He works with a wide range of individuals, organisations, church denominations and theological providers. Steve can be contacted at kiwidrsteve at gmail dot com.

Recent (2021) outputs have included:

future church

Future Church Feasibility Study – in July 2021, a 52-page report, followed by a 7-page slimline edition and a spoken Board report, synthesising 56 voices from 10 cultures into 9 recommendations for a theological provider considering how to train future church leaders.

Te Ara Poutama Tuahahi – in August 2021, a co-design project, working in a bicultural team to conduct 40 interactions across three diverse ways of being, generating 125 pages summarising past gifts, present realities and possible greenshoots, in seeking to clarify ways to discern, plan and develop the future of theological education and ministry formation.

Learn local – funding from the Synod of Otago and Southland to initiate grassroots lay training, learning from site visits to local community mission projects, deepened through online education in the weeks following.

Ordinary knitters: theologies of making research – an international research project, interviewing knitters who contribute to shared social justice projects, seeking to understand motivations and meanings

Posted by steve at 10:40 PM

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Psalms as builders of solidarity

Psalms are a prayer book. First the Jewish people, then down through the centuries in the Christian church, the Psalms have given voice to the full range of human emotion. There are happy Psalms, event Psalms, sad Psalms and angry Psalms. Psalms remind us that God is present in all of life; that no matter how we’re feeling, there are words that can give voice to all our emotions and feelings.

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

Psalms help us pray for ourselves. Psalms also help us pray for others. We can do this by reading a Psalm slowly, phrase by phrase, and by taking the time to let the words of the Psalm connect us with the experience of other people.

Let’s look at Psalm 107. First, verse 3, God has brought back from foreign countries. Now because of pandemic lockdowns, not many of us can say these words. Not many of us get to travel back from foreign countries. But there are plenty of people in our world this week who are travelling. So we use this Psalm to pray for travellers. We think of refugees and those looking after MIQ facilities. So the words of the Psalm help us build solidarity with the experience of other people, who are travelling even if we’re not.

Verse 4 Some wandered in the trackless desert. Again, I suspect that not many of us have got lost in the desert. But there are plenty of people impacted by the Tigray War in Ethiopia. Which includes reports of mass killings of civilians, and people forced to flee into the desert. So we use this Psalm to think of people in Ethiopia. So the words of the Psalm connect with the experience of other people, who are displaced by war even if we’re not.

Verse 10 Some were living in gloom and darkness, prisoners suffering. Again, I suspect that not many have been released from prison this week. But there were 649 people in NZ in 2020 who completed community work sentences and were freed into society. So we use this Psalm to think of New Zealanders who completed community work sentences. We pray these 649 people will be surrounded by good support structures in making good decisions.

Verse 17 Some were fools and there is suffering because of our actions. Again, I suspect not many of us are happy to stand and admit to each other that we’d been a fool and that people have suffered the consequences of our actions. But here in Dunedin we do have a problem with people running red lights. And there can be tragic consequences when we are foolish and break the road rules. So we use this Psalm to think about drivers. We pray that all drivers, no matter their age, will drive not foolishly, but wisely and in ways that don’t put other people’s lives at risk.

Verse 23, Some sailed. Again, I suspect that not many of us here this week have sailed the ocean in ships. But we do live just down the road from a major Port. So we use this Psalm to pray for every sailor in every ship that has birthed in our ports this week. We pray for protection for them, for good decisions during storms and safe return to their families.

So this is how Psalms help us think of others. They help build solidarity with migrants, refugees, those who suffer and those who sail. We do that by taking the time to let the words in the Psalm connect us with the experience of other people.

Posted by steve at 08:18 PM

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Deliver us from evil: theological film review

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 160 plus films later, here is the review for July 2021.

Deliver us from evil
Reviewed by Steve Taylor

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil – The Lords Prayer

Evil is a terrible thing to watch. Deliver us from evil, made by Korean director, Hong Won-Chan, subtitled in English, is filmed across Japan, Thailand, and Korea’s cultural diversity and complex histories. Former Korean special agent Kim In-nam (Hwang Jung-min) accepts one last job to find a kidnapped nine-year-old. Arriving in Thailand, he finds himself followed by his past, including Ray (Lee Jung-jae), seeking revenge for the assassination of his twin brother. The result is a rapid spiral into violence, torture and revenge killing. Yui (Park Jung-min), a trans-female, provides humour as she is paid to guide and translate.

While watching evil is terrible, pretending sin does not exist is a travesty. Vulnerable children deserve to play in safety after school. Trafficking in children and organ harvesting must be exposed.

The presence of evil presents challenges; experientially, to those who suffer and intellectually, to claims of God as loving and powerful. It is tempting to consign ideas of sin and evil to a premodern universe. We might tap along to “Into my Arms”, joining Nick Cave (The Boatman’s Call (2011 Remastered Version)) in singing “I don’t believe in an interventionist God”. Yet, the atrocities humans commit, whether ancient or modern, require some form of intervention.

The Lord’s Prayer is another response. The well-worn words turn the Sermon on the Mount’s beaut attitudes into lived reality. The Prayer names the reality of sin. Evil is something to watch for. The words Jesus’ taught his disciples recognise the personal and the systemic, the individual lure of temptation and the malevolent power of unexplained systems.

Prayers require an answer. Deliver us from evil (the movie) provides two different responses to the tragedy that is human trafficking. In-nam leaves a trail of bodies. The value of sacrifice, mixed with the use of violence, has been one way of understanding Christianity. Substitutionary atonement, poorly applied, can turn Jesus’ body broken on the cross into some sort of Divine revenge killing for human sin. But violence, even if sacrificial, should have no place among those who pray the beaut attitudes.

Deliverance can also occur through random acts of kindness. Yui is delightful. Initially paid as a guide, she demonstrates a depth of love. Wide-eyed, out of her depth, her persistent presence becomes essential for the redemption of nine-year-old Yoo-min. Wide-eyed kindness is another way of understanding Jesus. In the somewhat foolish act of riding a donkey on Palm Sunday, the human temptation to follow a crowd and the presence of evil is exposed even in religious communities. Jesus’ actions, mixed with his persistence unto death on the cross, form a new community. Those who see evil find new ways to care for each other. Such can be the wide-eyed hope for all who dare to watch and pray for deliverance from evil.

Rev Dr Steve Taylor is author of First Expressions (2019) and writes widely in theology and popular culture, including regularly at www.emergentkiwi.org.nz.

Posted by steve at 08:39 PM