Monday, November 22, 2021

Applied Research Abstract – Theological education as “being with” the future church

I am delighted to have an Applied Research Abstract accepted for the Review of Religious Research.

Title: Theological education as “being with” the future church: applied research among local leaders in an Australian Baptist denomination

Keywords: theologies of change, future church, theological education

The Review of Religious Research is a journal that publishes empirical social science research on religion as a forum for applied and academic research across multiple disciplines and approaches. This means that they publish not only original research but also short summaries of applied research with practical implications for denominations and religious bodies. Given this focus on applied research with practical implications for denominations, I was able to write up a summary of a 2-month piece of research I did earlier this year for Whitley College and the Baptist Union of Victoria.

It was a project done entirely online, which was a fascinating experience over Zoom (and worth a research reflection on its own right!)

It was an excellent exercise turning what was a 55-page report on interviews, a mix of 1-1 and focus groups, with some 55 people for a College Council, into a short summary, in the format of a structured abstract with Background, Purpose, Methods, Results, and Conclusions and Implications. I’ll include a link once the Applied Research Abstract is published.

Posted by steve at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

on being an indie educator

“Indie” as a noun involves what is small and independent. “Indie” as an adjective involves not belonging or affiliated to a major record or film company.

Which means I’m an “indie” educator. I’m running independent educational events. These are not connected to any major academic organisations.

Because I’m indie

  • I don’t work in a classroom. Instead, I offer educational experiences in cafes and community centres and online
  • I forge different participation relationships, choosing to work in teams to enhance accountability and interaction and diversity of voice
  • I do my own advertising. I use Zoom and Vimeo to make short videos that introduce and invite
  • I handle my own registrations. I use google docs to handle enrolments and seek to clarify  expectations
  • I don’t have a library. So I look for children’s stories read on Youtube and use Scannable app to add key resources. I use Wakelet and look for links to other public square resources
  • I conduct my own student evaluations, gaining feedback using post-it notes and evaluations

For example, one of my current “indie” educator events is Learn Local. It involves a Saturday immersion experience, followed by 4 online evenings. I worked to form accountable relationships with local ministers and sound artists. Some of the video’s are here and here and the Learn local Wakelet course resources are here.

The evaluations from Saturday asked people to identify learnings and explain Learn Local to a friend and in response, they said things like:

stimulating, informative, thought-provoking;
a way to develop thought processes, develop relationships that enable you to discover your own answers;
a good way of getting ideas for mission in our community;
a curated theological reflection group

I’m an indie educator. I’m not sure how long it will last but I’m enjoying meeting people I’d never meet inside existing academic organisation. Above all, I’m learning as I go.

Posted by steve at 07:20 PM

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Learn local walking with short explanatory video

“because I’m an educator, let me read you a story ..”

A short video introducing Learn local as a mission education experience + walking as a local practice.

  • 3 reasons to walk local – because Jesus walked, because early church walked, because pilgrimage is a Christian practice
  • 2 experiential ways to learn
  • 1 children’s story – The Listening Walk by Paul Showers

Participation in Learn Local is possible face to face and online. Register here. Enquiries to me at -> kiwidrsteve@gmail.com

Posted by steve at 01:11 PM

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Learn local

God is up to something.

My research into how churches are responding to Covid-19 has included analysing interviews with ministers from a range of denominations in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and the United States. A recurring theme is the ways in which churches are returning to their neighbourhoods.

In lockdowns, we live and exercise locally. God’s love has been made visible as churches have slowed, localised, walked and (appropriately) blessed. I’ve heard socially distanced stories of laypeople being equipped, commissioned and released as neighbour connectors. I’ve seen and experienced worship in which local parks, suburban crossroads and mailboxes have become invitations to pray.

Amid constrictions, ancient spiritual practices have been expressed in new ways. There has been a creative localising of disciplines of discerning, spiritual direction, serving, and prayer walking (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, IVP, 2005, 99-103; 115-7; 145-7 and 253-5).

Learn local connects with what God can do locally. Learn local visits local mission initiatives to experience grassroots mission, hear stories of local community engagement and consider different expressions of Christian mission practice. The first Learn Local begins in Dunedin and visits the Seedling and Student Soul on Saturday, October 9 (10 am – 5 pm). This experience (a soundscape will be available for those at distance), is followed by 4 online Thursday evenings. These 75-minute sessions provide theological, practical and relational resources to encourage individuals and churches in local mission.

Supported by the Southern Presbytery and a gift from the Synod of Otago and Southland, Learn local offers hybrid learning – there are face to face and online options – to cope with the complexity of rapid level changes. Numbers for the Saturday experience are limited to 15 and priority will be given to those endorsed by their Church Council.

For queries->Steve Taylor, kiwidrsteve@gmail.com.
To register-> tinyurl.com/learnlocalnz

learn local advertising

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Mission For A Change 2021

Mission For A Change is a bi-monthly resource showcasing recent research and new ideas. Steve Taylor, Director AngelWings Ltd, provides short, sharp upgrades to learning. To register for updates and more content -> here.


Mission for a change faith and migration
– explored Squid Game and bubble tea, then internalised racism, policing and the way the Gospel transforms identities with Grace Lung

mission for a change faith and migration.mp4 from steve taylor on Vimeo.


Mission for a change Enliven
– explored social research and church vitality with Dr Ruth Powell

Mission and conversion – explored conversion and faith-sharing with Dr Lynne Taylor

Mission for a (climate change) – explored faith and tikanga with Rev Christopher Douglas-Huriwai.

Mission and gender – explored gender, mission and reading Scripture for liberation with Dr Rosemary Dewerse and Dr Cathy Hine.

Mission and indigenous cultures – explored indigeneity and mission with Rev Dr Hirini Kaa

Posted by steve at 05:43 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.

future church reference

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

Thursday, June 03, 2021

journal article acceptance – Theologies of fulfilment in a reciprocal study

Stoked with news this week of journal article acceptance in International Bulletin on Mission Research. The journal is “an unparalleled source of information on the world church in mission. The editors are committed to maintaining the highest possible academic editorial standards.” I used to browse the journal as a wide-eyed undergraduate, never imagining I’d ever be a contributor.

My article will likely appear in pre-print later this year and in print 2023 – which suggests a pretty popular journal! This is the first academic output of the AngelWings season, written over the last few months, following presentation at the World Christianity virtual conference in early March and after reading Hirini Kaa’s Te Hāhi Mihinare | The Māori Anglican Church back in February in preparing Mission For a Change. At the same time, it began as part of lecture while I was Principal of KCML, and it’s really gratifying to have this sort of international benchmarking of my lecture content.

Theologies of fulfilment in a reciprocal study of relationships between John Laughton and Rua Kēnana in Aotearoa New Zealand

Abstract: The crossing of borders of religion presents challenges and provides opportunities. This paper presents a contextualized case study from Aotearoa New Zealand, examining the life-long relationship between Presbyterian missionary, Rev John “Hoani” Laughton (1891-1965), and Māori leader, Rua Kēnana (1969-1937). Photography, as a tool in discerning lived theologies, suggests a side-by-side relationship of reciprocity and particularity. Relationships across differences are revealed not in theory but lived practices of education, worship, and prayer, life, and death. The argument is that Kēnana and Laughton are enacting theologies of fulfilment, grounded in different epistemologies, one of matauranga Māori, the other of Enlightenment thinking.

Keywords: fulfillment theology, matauranga Māori, new religious movements, Presbyterian

Posted by steve at 09:38 PM

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Mission for a (Climate) Change with Christopher Douglas-Huriwai

Mission For A Change is a monthly resource showcasing recent research and new ideas. It offers 45 minutes of prayer, interview, Q and A and conversation about the “so what.” The aim is to provide short, sharp upgrades to learning.

In May the focus was Mission for a (Climate) Change and explored faith and tikanga with Rev Christopher Douglas-Huriwai.

“If I had no Māori blood .. You need to research where you’re from … and use whatever mountain is there, whatever loch is there and use that as your pepeha.”

“It’s not about you feeling connected. It’s the fact that you are connected … your ancestors once called that place home.”

“A theology of climate change, a theology of pepeha, is a theology of creation.”

Rev Christopher has written a chapter on pepeha and climate change, in the rich resource that is Words for a Dying World: Stories of Grief and Courage from the Global Church. Mission for a (Climate) Change excerpts from the interview with Rev Christopher are here. The interview includes Rev Christopher Douglas-Huriwai playing the taonga pūoro.

Mission for A Change runs monthly. Previous months have included

To register to receive further information, monthly zoom links and reading resources go here. For enquiries, contact Steve Taylor, Director AngelWings Ltd, by emailing: kiwidrsteve at gmail dot com.

Posted by steve at 09:06 AM

Friday, February 19, 2021

Mission For a Change introduced

Hosted by Rev Dr Steve Taylor (missiologist, researcher, educator)

Mission For a Change creates resources for those engaging in church mission, showcasing recent research and new ideas, as fresh thinking is applied in local contexts.

Mission For a Change is ideal for ministers wanting some short, sharp lifelong learning, students wanting to discuss fresh thinking and all who care about the future of the church’s mission. For 45 minutes, every month, there is time for prayer, interview, Q and A and conversation about the “so what.”

Participants have described Mission For a Change as

“real valuable. Good work”; “very insightful”; “informative and enlightening”; “a great Zoom session”

February’s Mission For a Change was a conversation with Rev Dr Hirini Kaa about his new book Te Hāhi Mihinare | The Māori Anglican Church. With Waitangi Day approaching, we discussed how the past can shape actions of the future church and the role of Christianity in Aotearoa’s future.

For a taster, see here

Upcoming Mission For a Change events

Wednesday 3 March, 4:45-5:30 pm (NZ time) – Gender, mission and reading Scripture for liberation

Is the history of Christianity full of “mansplaining”? Are there ways to read Scripture that give voice rather than create silence? What can we learn from Angelina Noble, Aboriginal mothers, Queen Sālote, Kate Sheppard, Hēni Te Kiri Karamu, Mary MacKillop and the Siwai mothers of Bouganville? As we approach International Women’s Day, how might Oceanic women help us tell stories of God’s mission?

Wednesday 7 April, 4:45-5:30 pm (NZ time) – God so loved the world and the environment in God’s mission

Wednesday 5 May, 4:45-5:30 pm (NZ time) – Imagining mission and the gift of creativity

Wednesday 4 June, 4:45-5:30 pm (NZ time) – Seeing mission, a quick tour of documentaries, films, images

For enquiries, contact Steve Taylor, Director AngelWings Ltd, by emailing: kiwidrsteve at gmail dot com.

To register to receive further information, monthly zoom links and reading resources go here.

Posted by steve at 02:47 PM

Friday, December 04, 2020

Healing amid crisis: an analysis of theologies of healing #APTO2020 paper

With the wonders of modern technology, I “flew” to Melbourne today, along with Dr Lynne Taylor, to “present” (online) at the Association of Practical Theology of Oceania virtual 2020 conference. It was made possible through video conferencing, with creative use of pre-recorded papers, watched by participants prior, followed by live discussion, open to all conference participants, of the papers.

Here is a brief introduction to our paper: Healing amid crisis: an analysis of theologies of healing in public prayer as local churches respond in gathered worship to tragedy and trauma

We are Steve Taylor, Principal, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership; Senior Lecturer, Flinders University and Lynne Taylor, Jack Somerville Lecturer Pastoral Theology, University of Otago.

Christians act. Christians act in prayer, witness and justice. Practical theology understands such actions as embodying lived theologies: theology lies behind and within them.

For John Swinton and Harriet Mowat (Practical Theology and Qualitative Research, (London: SCM, 2006), 5): Practical Theology is critical, theological reflection on the practices of the Church as they interact with the practices of the world, with a view to ensuring and enabling faithful participation in God’s redemptive practices in, to and for the world.

Working with this definition, we examined how churches prayed in gathered worship on the Sunday after the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings. What were the practices of the church at that time? How did they faithfully participate in God’s redemptive practices?

Some 153 churches responded to our questionnaire. In this paper, we analyse this data with a focus on healing.

A feature of the way churches prayed was their use of the Psalms, particularly psalms of lament. There was also evidence of other responses that were psalm-like, even if they did not draw overtly on the Psalms. Following Ellen Davis (Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament, (Lanham, MD: Rowmand and Littlefield, 2001), we argue that this use of the Psalms and psalm like actions was a move towards healing. It was a first step which was a truth telling through an uncovering of the wounds.

Churches named (uncovered) multiple wounds. One was the wounds experienced by primary victims and their families. Another was a wound to Aotearoa’s self-perception as a nation. A third wound was that of a culpability, recognising the potential for evil in all of us.

In the data we saw a lived theology that named wounds as a first step in journeys of healing and was part of multiple commitments to remember, find compassion and express solidarity.

(For more on our research – see “Praying for Christchurch: First Impressions of how local churches responded in gathered worship to the mosque shooting,” Stimulus: the New Zealand Journal of Christian Thought and Practice, due out online (and free), later this month).

Posted by steve at 02:44 PM

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

innovation evaluation

One of my tasks this year has been innovation evaluation. As Principal of KCML, particularly in 2016 and 2017, I sought to develop New Mission Seedlings, local mission experiments in partnerships with wider church. The hope was to find spaces to encourage mission and the forming of leaders in mission.

With two New Seedlings developing in 2018, there was always a need to reflect on progress. So over the last 6 months, I’ve worked with one particular local seedling. Together there’s been a 360 design, finding ways to encourage grassroots reflection and generate missional reflection. Being 360, this needed to include children, along with those new to the various mission ministries. So there’s been some careful thought regarding language.

After the design was agreed, I’ve been busy interviewing folk, then compiling and feeding back to the leadership and external funders.

Tonight, there’s a further feeding back, to those invested in this particular seedling.  In preparing, I’ve played with shaping it in the arc of worship.  So tonight, everyone will get a coloured highlighter

IMG_8774

  •  if yellow, they are to look for things in the review to thank God for
  • if pink (purple/orange), they are to look for things in the review to seek forgiveness for (After all, to err is human, to forgive divine)
  • if green, they are to look for things in the review to ask God for help with

So after a bit of an introduction to the review, folk will get busy with their highlighter. This will allow us to move through praise and confession. Next, we will then gather around the Word – by considering some of the Jesus images present in the review, followed by the recommendations (response to the Word). Finally, those with green will be invited to offer prayers of intercession.

An evaluation of innovation, shaped by the arc of gathered worship, that should encourage the 360 participation of all involved.

Posted by steve at 04:28 PM

Friday, July 31, 2020

playing with faith formation with Port Phillip East Presbytery

Screen Shot 2020-07-30 at 9.18.23 PM

I was hosted “online” by the Port Phillip East Presbytery today, talking about
…. connection, interaction, contemplation, and engaging spiritual practices beyond Sunday worship.
… what leaders are trying and discovering about ways to form disciples in a dispersed community
… ministry as play, about creativity and risk and about how the Spirit takes us in new directions.

It is one of the extraordinary gifts of this time of “distancing”, that while it locks us down, it also opens us up. And so I get to “speak” in Melbourne without leaving my home, and to engage with some wonderful colleagues I used to minister with in Australia. The video is on the Port Phillip Presbytery East facebook site.

Screen Shot 2020-07-31 at 6.51.39 PM

It was interesting using two online platforms, Zoom to host a conversation and show the visuals and Facebook live to stream the conversation and enable access and comments. There was a bit of “breathe” holding and risk-taking as we experimented with an online lectio – reading, silence, participation through chat – but it seemed to engage participants. Certainly with 165 comments on the Facebook live feed during the 90 minutes, their was plenty of good interaction with the content.

The time broke into 5 sections

  1. what faith formation and faith practices (or spiritual or discipleship practices) mean
  2. what theological resources shape faith formation and faith practices
  3. how people have been experimenting with online faith formation in recent weeks
  4. the underlying pedagogies that shape my online teaching and learning and recent experimenting
  5. my use of improvisation, play and experimentation in relation to mission and leadership. Why is important to play during a pandemic? Is this normal or abnormal for the church?

I sought to offer theology, reflection and practical examples. Much of my thinking is in a chapter I have submitted for an edited book with Heidi Campbell, which is currently sitting with a publisher. My chapter is titled Lockdown ecclesiologies: the limits and possibilities of enforced online first expressions. I argue that enforced online first expressions are an invitation to appreciate ourselves as child-like, making visible the kingdom as we learn a new (internet) language.

The books I mentioned in order of appearance:

Avis, Paul. (2005). A Ministry Shaped by Mission. T & T Clark, 2005,
Rogers, E. (2009). The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings, Wiley-Blackwell
McCulloch, G. (2019). Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, Vintage
Taylor, S. (2005). The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change, Zondervan.
Taylor, S. (2016). Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration, Mediacom.
Taylor, S. (2019). First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God, SCM
Taylor, S. (2020). communities of practice as action-reflection tools.
Smart, J. (2020, April 28). Survey report: online facilitation and virtual meetings.

Books unmentioned but important for my thinking:
Gauntlett, D. (2018). Making is Connecting: The social power of creativity, from craft and knitting to digital everything (2nd edn.), Polity
Matapo, J. (2020). The vā that binds: a Pasifika education story during Covid-19
McNeil, J. (2020). Lurking: How a Person Became a User, MCD, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

My thanks to Craig Mitchell for the invite, Port Phillip East Presbytery for the hosting and Duncan Macleod for the technology and conversation on the day.

Posted by steve at 07:10 PM

Friday, July 17, 2020

of glasshouses and sandpits: mission and innovation

I spoke on mission and innovation at Central Presbytery earlier this week. By the wonders of technology, the minimum 90 minute flight took 9 seconds as I walked downstairs and turned on zoom. I offered 10 minutes on mission. What does good mission leadership look like, using art and Biblical reflection and the excellent Stanley Skreslet, Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission

  • leaving the pen, leaving the existing 99 (John 10: 14-17; Luke 15:3-7)
  • the simplicity of sharing your Jesus encounter (John 4:27-30; 39-42)
  • listening, of finding out where Spirit is already at work in the lives of strangers (Acts 8: 26-31, 34, 36-38)
  • afresh in every different cultural encounter (Acts 14: 14-17)

I then offered 10 minutes on innovation, first pointing out the way that the Presbyterian Book of Order encourages innovation (8.4.1p; 9.45-48; Appendix D-4-E-vii ), then using 3 metaphors

  • enforced
  • glasshouse
  • sandpits

innovationcentral

My argument is that COVID has “enforced” innovation and opened up the church to more change than it ever imagined. However, organisations don’t need to wait for enforced, external change. They can erect glasshouses, to protect and nurture innovation. They can create sandpits, to encourage random play. These are deliberate ways to allocate resource and focus. Mission gives these innovation activities a distinct focus. They are not about novelty, but intentional participation in God’s making of all things new.

The images of glasshouses and sandpits are a development of material in my First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God and a development of Stefan Paas, Church Planting in the Secular West: Learning from the European Experience.

After the benediction, about half the folk stayed online with ongoing conversation for another 30 minutes. That was excellent for teasing out the discussion and engaging more deeply. Since then, there has been ongoing requests for more resources in relation to innovation, including resources I’ve been testing the last few years

  • systems innovation evaluation framework
  • innovation evaluation process

All in all, a graced event. All due to “enforced” innovation. As I said in my talk, 5 months ago if Central Presbytery has asked me to speak and I’d said yes, but can I do it online please, it would have been seen as out of the question. But “enforced” is bringing change.

Full notes are here.

Posted by steve at 03:13 PM

Friday, March 06, 2020

making matters grassroots impact #Kiwiangels

Kiwiangels I really enjoyed presenting at St Lukes Presbyterian yesterday. It was great to have the opportunity to offer to a local church and nearby ministers some of my study leave from last year. I took my presentation from Durham Ecclesiology and Ethnography Conference in September. I added in a 15 minute introduction to the variety of ways the church might be “making” – for good and bad – in the world today. I also generated some “free range” activities, to mess with the usual question and answer time by adding things to see, do and make. It was gratifying to overheard conversations as the evening ended plotting Christmas 2020 projects and I came away with the sense of being directly useful to the local church.

Making matters: yarn-bombing and craftivism in contemporary Christian mission

There was some very rich discussion, particularly around the materiality of knitting. The discussion was rich enough to generate 900 words as I wrote this morning, reflecting on the Incarnation in light of the useless yet playful act of yarnbombing knitted angels.

One of the unexpected blessings was becoming aware of the impact of my writing in the lives of ordinary people in the Presbyterian church. In October 2019, I wrote a column for SPANZ, the publication of the Presbyterian Church. Under the title “Making matters,” I concluded,

Are there makers in Presbyterian churches? Yvonne Wilkie, our Church’s former archivist, recalls knitted nativities in Presbyterian history. But that was the past, and we all now live in the present.

The instructions are online (https://www.christmasangel.net/). They are simple enough that, as part of my research, I learnt to make one. Is anyone interested in making and mission, with a downunder #Kiwiangels hashtag? Or are Kiwi summers now too busy and too hot for making to matter?

Last night at St Lukes, I met a person who told me she had read the article and promptly knitted 30 angels, which she gave over Christmas 2019 to her friends and neighbours. Each was thoughtfully and carefully personalised, an act of love. It was humbling to be made aware my written words and study leave research had contributed to a kinder world. Study leave research generates grassroots impact 🙂 Yee ha.

Posted by steve at 09:58 AM