Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Coding as pattern making

Coding. Definition – assigning a code for the purpose of identifying.

coding

One of the research projects I’m involved in explores faith formation in church schools. I have several rich 7,000-word interviews with school chaplains. To identify learnings, I am coding. Often I code with highlighters.

This time I am coding with Word document highlighters. On the right, the Word highlighter printed out to increase my efficiency. In the centre my codes by colour and in writing. On the left and on screen one of the 7,000-word transcripts (partially obscured to preserve confidentiality) and with various colours visible as I use the Word highlighter to mark bits of the interview. Plus the Word comment function for me to write notes. Cut and pasted these notes are becoming draft results and discussion – identifying the patterns of faith formation present in the lived ministries of school chaplains, as shared through interviews as they reflect on their practice.

Slow work. Rich and listening work. Fascinating patterns emerging.

Posted by steve at 08:10 PM | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 05, 2022

innovation capture – a 2022 AngelWings Ltd international collaboration

A new AngelWings Ltd research project, and so a new journal – green, A4, lined. This research project, which I’m calling “Innovation capture,” is for the Diocese of Brisbane (Anglican) and with Complexability Australia. It’s a mini project, initially likely to be between 2 and 6 days. As with much of my work, it will be done remotely, from Ōtepoti (Dunedin).

The task of “Innovation capture” is to collect grassroots innovation case studies. This involves interviewing local parishes who participated through 2021 in a Diocese initiated Adapting Ministry in Complex times course. My task is to listen to their stories of action and change and then write up stories as learning case studies, with links to course content. The aim is to encourage and teach through storytelling.

It’s a project I committed to back in February 2022 but have been unable to get to, due to a range of other research contracts. So it was a relief to finally open a new journal and begin – conducting a 90-minute conversation and then drafting up a 1,000-word case study. This included discussion questions, along with links from the local story to various themes in the course content.

This is the fourth AngelWings Ltd small research project for 2022, alongside an evaluation of a student ministry in New Zealand, an evaluation of a community chaplaincy for a group in Australia and an educative course design weaving emergence and complexity theory with theology.

Posted by steve at 01:07 PM

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

“God in place” tins as Learn Local mission resourcing

It was great this week to kick off a new educational innovation: “God in place” tins.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been checking out opportunity shops. I’m looking for metal tins: square or round, long or thin. Inside each “God in place” tin, I place the following instructions:
• Walk your place each week (each place will vary from person to person).
• Collect signs and symbols that suggest God is in this place.
• Bring your tin to each gathering for show and tell.

“God in place” refers to Jacob’s encounter in Genesis 28:16. ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ The tins are an invitation to the spiritual discipline of discernment. What does it mean to follow Jacob and look for God in our local places, streets, and neighbourhoods?

“God in place” tins are a further creative development of Learn Local, a Synod-funded learning initiative that began in October 2021. With the uncertainties of COVID, I’ve paused Presbytery-wide gatherings. Instead, I’ve focused real local, working with Student Soul.

I met weekly with students on campus. Over four weeks, we bring what we’ve collected in our tins into conversation with Scripture. Not only Genesis 28:16 but also Jesus’ promise to Nathanael in John 1:51: “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” And the Emmaus Road encounter in Luke 24:31: “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.”

“God in place” tins are a way of paying attention to your local place. They invite us to catch up with what God is already doing in our place. The idea was sparked by Concentrates of place and several geography teachers.

I hope to post updates over the next few weeks as the first “God in place” pilot unfolds.

Posted by steve at 07:07 PM

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Prayer in local place

I preach monthly at our local Presbyterian church. They are a small group and as a visiting preacher, I’ve wrestled with how to engage them in meaningful and contextual ways. How to enable their unique local voice to be expressed in gathered worship? This year I have turned part of the thanksgiving and confession time into a time called “Prayer in place.”

I provide a photo of a well-known local place – the school, the local garden, the town hall and local park. I do a bit of research prior and craft a draft prayer.

But before I pray, I show the photo and ask if there are memories and stories and experiences of this place. This generates a buzz of conversation and a lovely sense of interaction, as folk share with me – the visitor – some of their local knowledge. Community is encouraged. The sharing also gives me some local and communal texture. I can pray, weaving some of the phrases and memories that are shared into the prayer.

“Prayer in place” takes about 15 minutes. It is a relatively simple exercise yet it is proving to be a great way of generating sharing and locating the worship in the unique texture of this community.

Here is the prayer from Sunday, for the Lady Thorn Dell Garden, in Port Chalmers.

As we pray, we recall the words of Scripture, from Colossians 1:
The invitation for us to see God’s original purpose in everything created
And so today, we look at the Lady Thorn Dell Garden
We see your original purpose in creating gardens of beauty, places of peace, moments to walk and wonder and draw aside to hear your voice in the garden more clearly.

Gardening God,
We say thanks for the beauty of flowers and the gift of rhododendrons
The hope as we see the buds begin to thicken
Promise of spring and colour

As we say thanks for the creation we see,
We also say thanks for creation that we cannot see,
Microbes and the worms and the agents of compost at work in the Lady Thorn Dell Garden
The leaves that play their role in CO2 absorption
Every individual leaf playing their small tiny part

We say thanks for special places
For how they help change our view of the world, how they offer a sense of peace and give special memories – of picnics and weddings and Carol services and Garden parties

We say thanks for people from the past who provided the Lady Thorn Dell Gardens, those who quarried the stone that made so many of the buildings we now admire, Lady Thorn, a former Mayoress of Port Chalmers, who dreamt of turning the quarry into a garden, the hard work by the local Lions Club, cutting the paths and planting the rhododendrons.

And so we pray that you will help us live out the original purpose that you created us for
Whether it is large, like building a garden
Whether it is small – like a smile or a caring comment or an unseen prayer for our grand children or picking up some leftover rubbish – help us share in your message of love and compassion and care for creation, Amen

Posted by steve at 09:33 AM

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Ordinary knitters: theologies of making

From the ethics application:

I am researching whether Christians can witness through acts of making. Artist and theologian Makoto Fujimura argues that the theological journey includes seeing the importance of our creative intuition and trusting that the Spirit is already at work there. Such claims invite three research tasks. First, to capture the theological journeys present in creative intuition. Second, to discern the Spirit’s work in these journeys. Third, to develop a missiology of making.

To do this, I want to begin with knitters and how they might (or might not) see their making as a spiritual practise. Jeff Astley urges the study of ordinary theology, the need to value the everyday faith understandings of the whole people of God (Ordinary Theology, 2000). Applied to making, what theologies are being made by “ordinary knitters”? In the words of Fujimura, what role does creative intuition play in the theological journey? What are knitters thinking, praying even, as they cast on and off?

I want to interview knitters in several countries who have participated in knitting projects. Firstly, I also want to interview knitters of scarves for the Common Grace Knit For Climate Action in Australia. I hope to interview knitters either together or alone and explore why they participate and what meanings they make. Second, I want to interview knitters of Christmas Angels. These include groups in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Again, I hope to interview knitters either together or alone and explore why they participate and what meanings they make.

I will communicate to Christian organisations, for example Common Grace Knit For Climate Action and churches, that I am seeking participants. I will set up a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ordinaryknitters that has an advertisement along with details by which people can contact me. I will utilise a “snowballing” technique where participants could tell others about the project by referring them to the information about the project.

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 similar) and are willing to be interviewed about your experiences, we would love to hear from you.

Contact Steve Taylor (kiwidrsteve@gmail.com) or read more here or on the Ordinary Knitters facebook page.

Posted by steve at 03:28 PM

Friday, February 25, 2022

making endings visible

Part of my current life includes research projects for industry partners. Organisations have questions about their future and I set about finding ways to explore those questions. I conduct feasibility studies, undertake co-design or interview people for reviews. It’s the type of work I love – in rapidly changing times, finding creative ways to help organisations clarify their futures.

One of the realities of this work is that endings are fuzzy. Let me explain.

  • As a project ends, I write a report.
  • This is often sent to a key individual, for fact-checking. They need time to digest.
  • Often there is a follow-up meeting, for them to clarify the report.
  • Sometimes there are changes made.
  • Next the report is circulated to a group. They again need time to digest.
  • Often there is a meeting with that group, during which I present a brief summary and respond to questions.
  • After I leave, the meeting continues with decisions needing to be made. I often offer to conduct other work outside, in case they have a specific question. Sometimes this offer is accepted, other times not.
  • Sometimes I found out after the meeting what happened after, other times not.
  • Sometimes the decisions made include asking for more work from me, for example, conversations with those impacted by the review or preparing a public statement. Other times not.

So the endings are fuzzy. There is the adrenaline of the final draft, the finished report, the meeting. But when is the project ended? When do I actually celebrate a job I consider well done?

To help with fuzzy endings, I’ve taken to making the project personally visible in other ways. This involves going looking for an object, generally in a second-hand shop, that symbolises the project. It might be a pottery cup, a handmade brass jug, or a clay person. Ideally, it is cheap. Ideally, it is whimsical. Ideally, it captures something of the project. Here is a recent project symbol.

project symbol I like the unique handmadeness of this brass object. I like the slender fragility, how it was small in size, yet graceful in shape. The object is made for pouring and as I brought it, I prayed that the mission I was researching would indeed find ways to pour out grace and love for community.

I brought this around 3 February, the day I submitted a 23 page, 10,000-word review, to a funder. I scoped the project and wrote a brief in early October. The project was commissioned in mid-October, projected to require 11 days of work. Over the next 4 months, in between a range of other tasks, I interviewed 9 people, initiated an online participant survey and prepared an annotated bibliography summarising current best practices. I then spoke to the report on 24 February, responding for an hour to questions from the funding committee.

This object now sits on my desk. It reminds me of work done – the craft of interviewing, the skill of question selection, the creating of safe space in caring for participants, the organising of words to tell a story that is contextually located, the developing of recommendations to help sift future possibilities. It invites me to keep praying for the project. It feels good to make a project visible.

Posted by steve at 09:05 AM

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

the soul and the student experience

I was delighted last week, in my role as Director of AngelWings Ltd, to submit a missional review of a university campus church. This is the type of work that AngelWings Ltd loves to do – in rapidly changing times, helping organisations clarify their futures.

The initial request was to offer a missional vision for a campus church for the next season of their life. For me as a reviewer, it was a thrill to bring together a range of skills – gaining participant feedback, engaging key stakeholders, synthesising current research on the university student experience and generating future possibilities. This was about working ground up, listening local, in seeking to discern ways forward.

The review drew together interviews with 8 key stakeholders, an online survey of participants, a specialist conversation to clarify the feasibility of a specific recommendation, along with an annotated bibliography of current trends. This bibliography sets the local within wider trends and provides avenues for further reading and reflection.

The report was 24-pages in length, with 9 recommendations, submitted to the organisation that commissioned the research. The review even had some pictures, which I had commissioned specially for this project, summarising some of the data.

Posted by steve at 12:26 PM

Thursday, January 20, 2022

90 plus research interviews in 2021

As I head into the 2022 working year, I’m reflecting not only on writing done in the 2021 year gone. I’m also reflecting on research undertaken.

A highlight of 2021 was being able to conduct over 90 research interviews. This involved four different projects, for four different church denominations. In my role as Director of AngelWings Ltd I conduct quality research. In 2021, this involved requests to conduct research into future church and change, theological education, student mission and craft in mission. Most was by zoom, working internationally with folk in USA, Samoa, Fiji and Australia. There were also multiple interviews across Aotearoa both face to face and by zoom.

interviews

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

My rough rule of thumb is that one interview involves 4 to 6 hours of work, excluding travel time. There is about 30 minutes to write introducing the project, suggesting boundaries and seeking to set up an interview. There is about 60 minutes of interview. There is about 30 minutes to individually process the interview, to either walk or journal my impressions in a research memo. Then there is the interview writeup. For most of these interviews, I compiled not a transcript but a 2-3 page summary. This is sent back to the person interviewed, so they are aware of what was heard. This also includes time if the feedback process involves corrections or suggestions for improvement. (A full transcript takes a lot longer and very few industry groups see the need for that depth of accuracy). The write-up takes about 2 hours for a 1-1 interview, longer for a focus group.

So 90 interviews, each at around 5 hours of work, meant some 450 hours of work, over 11 weeks full-time equivalent for me in 2021. What a privilege, to engage, listen and learn from thoughtful, caring and passionate people.

Interviews make knowledge. You literally see wisdom emerge in front of your eyes, as people pause and say “I’d not really thought of it like this before but …” Such is the power of qualitative research to individuals and communities.

Interviews invite diverse voices to the table. When people begin with “I’m not sure I have much to say …” you realise that unless invited, so much insight is never shared. Such is the gift of qualitative research to organisations and groups.

In 2021, I was blessed to conduct over 90 interviews, across multiple projects and diverse cultures, as part of AngelWings providing quality knowledge and insight to individuals, organisations, church denominations and theological providers.

Posted by steve at 08:41 AM

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

a year today at AngelWings Ltd

A year ago today, I began at AngelWings Ltd in a more full-time way. AngelWings Ltd was a company Lynne Taylor and I formally established in 2002 to share demographic resources, research services, and writing across the church.

Through 2020, as we together reflected on the impact of Covid on the church, we sensed a hunger for resourcing and research. We observed how the enforced online environment drew on skills that I had been honing for many years. We also recognised that the continuous reviews at KCML – begun in 2018, still ongoing – were consuming creative time and emotion, while the “no new initiatives” frameworks made innovation from within KCML and the PCANZ very difficult. So we made the decision to take a leap and use the platform of AngelWings Ltd to offer experience, skill and passion more widely across the diversity of the church.

It’s been an exciting year.

As a snapshot, in the last week, my work included Advent online resourcing, preaching on mission in a local church, working on two different research projects for two denominations, individual minister supervision, preparing to export Learn Local overseas, agreeing to provide theological course design for an Australian denomination offering complex change resourcing, co-workshopping a column for a US magazine, and examining a PhD. Plus some probono input into the local missional community I’m part of, along with progressing a number of academic research projects on innovation and mission.

Over the week, the snapshot involved serving 10 different organisations in 4 countries among folk from at least 5 distinct denominations. It was an exciting week in what has been an exciting year.

Thankful for the year gone, excited about the year ahead.

Posted by steve at 07:20 PM

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Learn Local in Community Mission

Back in October, as part of AngelWings Ltd and with the generosity of the Synod of Otago Southland, I ran Learn Local as a mission learning opportunity. One of the participants, Lisa Wells, has written up some of her learnings, for her church newsletter and also for the Southern Presbytery newsletter.

For those who don’t get either newsletter, here with Lisa’s permission is her response to Learn Local. It includes her reflections on some of her visual attending (taking photographs) from the Learn Local experience ……….

Learn Local in Community Mission

Back in October, which seems so long ago now, I was one of the curious people who attended “Learn Local”, which is a new event, funded by the Synod of Otago and Southland, seeking to explore community mission through local story telling.

Led by Rev Dr Steve Taylor (former Principal of KCML and daring missiologist) and members of two local faith communities, the course involved a day spent in two communities and four weekly teaching and reflection on-line sessions.

It was a rainy South Dunedin day as we met with the people involved in “The Seedling”, a place-based mission experiment in South D, which is discovering different ways to be in community, be church and care for each other and the neighbourhood. The plan for the day was that course participants walked the streets of South D as Seedling members unrolled the story of how they came to be and how they discerned where God was already working and inviting them to join in. This approach is consistent with the idea of Missio Dei (God in the World). It is not about designing programmes and hoping people will come. In fact, it’s not about programmes at all. It is both contemplative and active. Walking, using all our senses, is not only a grounding thing to do, but it slows us down and helps us notice things we would usually hurry past.

Like most things related to community mission, plans had to be put aside and our physical walk became a virtual thing as we “walked” from one stage of the Seedling journey to another. And still it poured!

It cleared up after lunch and we were in North Dunedin, the University area specifically. We met at the café Student Soul uses for its weekly services. We heard how it had changed over the years and the amazing plans for the future, utilising Web 3 technology for teaching, discipling and pastoral care. We were invited to go out and listen and discover what Student Soul’s mission context was. These are some photos I took and how I wondered about them as a reflection of a student’s journey.

ignatian attending

I’ll tell you more about the on-line teaching someday, but I want to jump to the end! Each of us committed to walking in our own neighbourhood (both a spiritual discipline and a means of discernment) and sharing our discovering with the group. As we did this the seed of an idea took root in my mind.
What if … others might be interested in this too?
What if … it wasn’t about walking, but wandering and wondering?
What if … we looked at the small signs of God’s work?

For me taking photos of details and patterns is a way to keep my mind on what’s in front of me.)
Then … what would our story be? Is this a story God is opening up?

So now my curiosity and desire to be a learner has led me to more questions. Who would be interested in “wandering and wondering”? Can taking photos be a way to share God’s presence and creation?

Finding God in all things is at the core of Ignatian Spirituality and is rooted in our growing awareness that God can found in everyone, in every place and in everything. When we learn to pay more attention to God, we become more thankful and reverent, and through this we become more devoted to God, more deeply in love with our Creator.

So, I’m wondering … are there others who would like to see where this might lead?

Lisa Wells
(with Lisa’s permission)

Posted by steve at 07:40 AM

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

workplace whole of life resourcing with Advent Tiredly

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I recently initiated a new online offering. Called Advent Tiredly, I wanted to offer online spiritual resourcing during December for those feeling ragged as a tough year ends. It was an innovation as part of my role as Director of AngelWings Ltd.

Advent Tiredly promotion

In 30 minutes, Advent Tiredly offers space to breathe in, to pause (with Anna, Mary, Elizabeth and Wisdom) and to breathe out with a story of contemporary Advent innovation. I offered it on Zoom, with the invitation to bring a “light” of choice – it could be the light switch in your room, a desk lamp or a specially chosen candle.

Watching participants in the moments of silence, I realised that a number were connecting in from their workplaces. Their zoom backgrounds were not lounge room sofas or kitchen tables. Instead what was behind them were office noticeboards and workplace glass partitions. This meant Advent Tiredly was enabling me to read Scripture, the stories of Anna, Mary, Elizabeth and Women Wisdom, in peoples’ workplaces.

After the first week, one participant, Lynne Taylor, posted this photo on her facebook.

creative journalling

Notice the open work diary on the right, the computer keyboard front and centre, the monitor to the back. Advent Tiredly spiritual resourcing occurs within her everyday working world.

She wrote the following words on her facebook:

“Blessed by a moment to breathe. Advent tiredly … Leaving a reminder for tomorrow.”

As she enters her work the next day, spiritual resourcing will be remembered. Faith will greet her as she opens her office door.

This online resourcing stands in stark contrast to so much religious resourcing. As a church minister, I would normally read the story of Anna in a church building not in a persons’ workplace. If I was pastorally visiting during the week, I would most likely catch up with a Monday to Friday worker in a cafe. I’ve never read Scripture in their working office. Yet here, through online resourcing, I was holding sacred space for people amid their computers and filing cabinets and work place diary appointments. It was a wonderful reminder of the everyday and whole of life potential of online resourcing.

Advent Tiredly runs for the 4 weeks of December. Wednesday’s 1, 8, 15, 22 Dec, 30 mins from 4:45 -5:15 pm (New Zealand time). A $5 cost per session is suggested. To register click here.

Posted by steve at 08:20 PM

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

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