Sunday, February 23, 2014
a Catholic take on mission today
I spent Saturday among folk from the Catholic ArchDiocese of Adelaide, speaking for about 90 minutes at the Orientation day for Ministry Formation Programme. It is the 3rd time I’ve spoken to Catholic groups, in this case lay leaders for church ministry, since I’ve been in Adelaide. It was not something I expected when I arrived, but a real privilege.
I was asked to offer something in relation to mission and ministry today. After some internal to-ing and fro-ing, I decided to repeat my Getting on the Mission presentation which I did a number of times at Refresh, around South Australia in 2012, plus in Melbourne with Manningham Uniting.
Being a mate – This expression of mission is best seen in the story of the woman at the well (John 4). An encounter with Jesus turns the Samaritan into a storyteller. What is striking is how she, not Jesus, is the primary agent in mission. Even though only minutes old in faith, she is willing to verbally share her moment of encounter with her neighbours who know her so well.
Having a yarn – This expression of mission is threaded throughout the book of Acts, thirty six times in which faith is presented verbally to a group of listeners. What is striking is how different each speech is – in setting, in illustrations, in ending, in effectiveness. There is never a “one-size-fits-all” repeated stock sermon or generic alter call. Instead there is a deep sensitivity to a listening audience and the unique cultures that shape their hearing.
Crossing the ditch – In Acts 8, mission occurs as the gospel jumps continents and the church in Africa is birthed. Ditches are being crossed. They can be cultural. They can also be generational. What is important is who takes the initiative in Acts 8. The primary agents are not the one on mission (Philip), but the Spirit and the Ethiopian. By implication, the first act of mission is thus an act of listening, of finding out where, and how the ditch is being crossed.
Sharing the load – In John 10:11, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life. Mission emerges in the context of “knowing a voice”, of relationships of depth and honesty. Mission takes shape not in words, but in sacrificial actions. When linked with Luke 15:3-7, we are reminded that mission expects shepherds to be wandering far from the walls of the church.
In summary, in the Biblical narrative, mission in the Bible has little to do with imposition, corporate programmes or manipulation. Instead it emerges in relationships, through listening and the sharing of life.
What was intriguing for me was first, their responses to the “detox” question and second the engagement around fresh expressions (part of Crossing the ditch).
The “detox” question comes at the beginning, when I ask people to name the words that come to mind when they hear the word mission. Normally these are overwhelmingly negative. This group were no exception. Intriguing was how similar the conversation was to Protestant groups – linked with Stolen Generations, Billy Graham Crusades, lay-clergy divides, overseas, fire and brimstone.
It both saddens and intrigues me how raw and unprocessed is church responses to mission, when the discipline of missiology has so much to offer. Part of me thinks its a natural consequence of Colleges not employing missiologists. It means that our Biblical and theological thinking within our communities is being refreshed, but we remain stuck with antiquated attitudes toward mission.
Second, in preparation, reading contemporary Catholic debate around mission, revealed some interesting conversation around the theme of new evangelization. Here is Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Louisville, speaking at Conference on new evangelization, Mexico 2013
We need a new order, new expression and new methods.
Thursday, February 06, 2014
from Waitangi to Walking on Country
Today is Waitangi Day in my homeland. On this day in 1840, a Treaty was signed between Maori people of New Zealand and the Queen. While it is a times a contested document, it stills stands as a seminal moment in the history of New Zealand and in how two people’s might relate to each other. Over the years of my time of ministry in New Zealand, it provided a rich ground for reflection – in sermons, in prayer, in communion.
Today, here at Uniting College, in Adelaide, Australia, is the start of Walking on Country. It might be coincidence, but I don’t think we’d be Walking on Country without Waitangi Day, without the energy that Rosemary Dewerse and myself, both New Zealanders, both Missiologists, both shaped by being Kiwi, being Christian, both now here at Uniting College, have poured into this.
Today a group of about 20 people headed off to the Flinders Ranges, to the land of the Adnyamathanha people. They will be led by local indigenous leaders, to be in their world, to hear their stories. It is the 2nd year we as a College have run this. (See here and here and here).
It was a few days that had more impact on our life as a College in 2013 than any other few days that year. New insights, new relationships (including Pilgrim Uniting), new sensitivity. Thanks Waitangi Day, for pushing us toward Walking on Country.
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
The Seven Disciplines of Evangelisation
There is a lovely paper by Bishop Steve Croft on the Seven Disciplines of Evangelisation. It emerges ecumenically, from his participation as the Anglican Fraternal Delegate to the Synod of Bishops in Rome: a three week gathering of Roman Catholic Cardinals and Bishops with Pope Benedict to explore the single theme of the new evangelization.
(Three weeks on evangelization! I’ve never heard of a Protestant denomination gathering their key leaders for 3 whole weeks on mission topics)
The paper suggests seven disciplines
1. The discipline of prayerful discernment and listening (contemplation)
2. The discipline of apologetics (defending and commending the faith)
3. The discipline of evangelism (initial proclamation)
4. The discipline of catechesis (learning and teaching the faith)
5. The discipline of ecclesial formation (growing the community of the church)
6. The discipline of planting and forming new ecclesial communities (fresh expressions of the church)
7. The discipline of incarnational mission (following the pattern of Jesus)
It’s a helpful framework for me to now look at our curriculum as a College, seeing if we’re helping folk engage with this breadth.
And it makes me glad that we as a College are involved in A Clear Call conference, followed by an Evangelism, Conversion and the Mission of God intensive. I’ve looked at the course outline and I’m excited that the focus on the discipline of evangelism will be an entry point into all seven of these disciplines.
Friday, January 31, 2014
a loose collaboration of experimental journeyers
Over the last two days, I’ve been at the National Fresh expressions and mission-shaped ministry 2014 conference. Today, I provided a brief public explanation to those gathered of the story to date.
The conference emerges from a loose collaboration of experimental journeyers. Back in 2010, I heard a number of people around Australia saying, “It would be good to offer more focused training and resourcing in mission.” I suggested a conversation and the result was a decision to use the mission-shaped ministry course as a focus. We decided to seek to collaborate together to develop and contextualise this for an Australian context.
The focus would be on local delivery by local partners, with the blessing of the original designers – mission-shaped ministry England. Together we would be a resource as fellow travellers. Anyone could offer a course, as long as it was local, ecumenical and within their capacity, professional.
Seven groups initially said yes
- Anglicans Canberra
- Anglicans Adelaide
- Lutherans SA , NT
- Uniting Synod SA
- Uniting Synod Vic Tas
- Uniting Synod NSW, ACT
- Uniting College
New members could be added at any time. They simply need to ask and to pay a $1000 fee – designed to give us a start up fee. We whacked up an agreement, to be reviewed annually at national gatherings. We’ve since met four times
- Pilot workshop – May 2011
- Training with the Dranes – Nov 2011
- National peer learning – Nov 2012
- This conference – Feb 2014
Today I chaired the “annual meeting.” The energy in the room was palpable. There are new partners keen to join us (we’re now a grouping of 12 different entities). We’ve made decisions to keep meeting. First, a 1.5 day gathering, of pioneers and practitioners, to share and storytell, November 2014, in Adelaide. Second, November 2015, in Melbourne, a two-part gathering, to continue the contextualisation project re mission-shaped ministry and to again gather pioneers and practitioners.
A few years ago there was just a dream. Now there’s an energetic, dispersed, coalition of experimental journeys.
It’s also really practical example of ecumenism in the 21 st century. I counted 5 denominations around the table today – all with a shared passion for mission, drawn together by projects.
Friday, November 15, 2013
crowdsourcing evangelism in Australia today
In April 2014, Uniting College are hosting a one week intensive, titled Evangelism, Conversion and the mission of God. In preparing for this course, I thought it would be helpful to gain some wider feedback on what people consider to be the issues that need to be explored in such a course.
So, could you give me a few minutes, to provide, from your perspective –
What are the 3 biggest issues regarding evangelism, conversion and the mission of God in Australia today?
Responses by Tuesday 19 November please …
Sunday, November 03, 2013
the changing landscape of agencies and mission
David Bosch is one of the worlds finest thinkers on mission. His Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission is a remarkable book, surveying 2000 years of mission. The book is divided into five paradigms. Bosch borrows here from Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm theory
- Primitive Christianity
- Patristic Period;
- and Ecumenical (or postmodern)
Bosch argues that as a paradigm changed, mission changed. In changing times, the mission of the church took different shape. His argument is strengthened by the research he does, asking what Scriptures were being quoted in these paradigms to motivate mission. He argues that each paradigm was shaped by a different dominant Biblical text.
- Primitive Christianity – the letters of the New Testament
- Patristic Period – John 3:16 in the patristic Period; the love of God, seen in the sending of Jesus, is extended by God’s messengers
- Reformation – a shift from Luke 14:23 in the Middle Ages; compel them to come in! to Romans 1:16; God’s rightliving means grace and mercy, not punishment
- Enlightenment -the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)
With regard to the ecumenical/postmodern, Bosch suggests the immense challenges of our contemporary world are signs of a transition into a new period. This has huge implications for churches thinking about mission today. There is widespread agreement that culturally we are going through another paradigm shift. The world of today is vastly different from the world of 40 years ago. So any discussion of church and mission today needs to keep stepping back, keep watching the paradigms.
Stanley Skreslet (Comprehending Mission: The Questions, Methods, Themes, Problems, and prospects of Missiology and Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission). He notes how not only the motivations (the Scriptures used), have changed, but so also have the forms of mission. So, pushing Skreslet into the paradigms of Bosch, we get something like this
- Primitive Christianity – the radical communal compassionate care for the sick
- Patristic Period – the monastery
- Reformation – religious orders
- Enlightenment – the voluntary society, based on the shareholder model, by which lay people became voluntary participants. And the institution, the large scale constructing of schools and hospitals, which offered care and cure.
Which of course, raises the question, what might be the modes for the ecumenical/postmodern period. Skreslet argues for the NGO – the Non-government organisation. He cites examples like Greenpeace and Amnesty International. These offer a physical presence, based on a extensive networks and clear, instant lines of communication. These NGO’s harness public opinion, building pressure to bring about change. They thus offer a very different model for mission.
Over the last few days, I’ve been part of debates about the changing landscape of agencies and mission. All the time, I kept wondering if these debates are part of the same worldwide questions about the forms of mission into a new ecumenical/postmodern paradigm. Bosch writes:
“The transition from one paradigm to another is not abrupt … This produces a kind of theological schizophrenia, which we just have to put up with while at the same time groping our way toward greater clarity … The point is simply that the Christian church in general and the Christian mission in particular are today confronted with issues they have never even dreamt of and which are crying out for responses that are both relevant to the times and in harmony with the essence of the Christian faith …. The point I am making is simply that, quite literally, we live in a world fundamentally different … The contemporary world challenges us to practice a “transformational hermeneutics”, a theological response which transforms us first before we involve ourselves in mission to the world.” (Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, 188, 189.)
What will it look like to see the shape of the church and mission formed by NGO models? To prioritise smaller bodies, with a premium put on their ability to be nimble, to cultivate networks and communication? Skreslet notes a number of advantages of the NGO paradigm: “a new model of mission would also have its own distinctive organizational structure” (“Networking, Civil Society and the NGO: A New Model for Ecumenical Mission,” Missiology 25 (1997): 307-319, p. 310). These can apply globally, to international mission. They can also apply locally, to how a local church might operate in their community. Networking as a mode of action contrasts with the worst parts of colonial mission. It encourages behaviours that are flexible, egalitarian and wholistic in orientation. They allow multiple partnerships, at local, regional, national, global levels.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
A Clear Call mission and evangelism conference + intensive
Next year, Uniting College are delighted to be partnering with the National Assembly Mission and Evangelism working group – in a conference and intensive on mission and evangelism.
A Clear Call is a national conference engaging in how we share our faith contextually where we each live, love and have our being. It is for everyone who would like to share their faith and would benefit from conversation, information and practical examples. It is for all people: lay people, ordained, teams, young adults, all cultures and the full spectrum of theology of the Uniting Church. It will be be fun, deep, thoughtful, energetic, thought provoking and practical. It will approach faith-sharing from every angle. Speakers, program, registration is here.
The conference is followed by a week long intensive, Evangelism, Conversion and Mission of God. This course is designed to assist participants in forming and developing churches and faith communities in the task of evangelism. Participants will examine the nature of Australian society and its implications for evangelism and the growth of the Church. They will explore understandings of the value of evangelism as integral to the mission and ministry of the church. They will develop skills and practices in implementing local church evangelism. They will explore some of the important issues around evangelism, conversion and the mission of God, including pluralism and postmodernity. Content could include theologies of evangelism and conversion, the Australian context in history, contemporary challenges, models and practices of evangelistic churches, evangelism and special events and resources for evangelism today.
Taught by Olive Fleming Drane and John Drane for Uniting College of Leadership and Theology, they will use creative and inductive approaches, including storytelling, to help participants process and ground learnings for their own mission and ministry.
Course Costs: credit $1600 for Bachelor of Ministry; audit $275 (tbc); $1450 for Master or Doctor of Ministry
Course time/venue: 9-5 pm with an hour for lunch. Possibility of offering two evening rather afternoon sessions as opportunities for wider public engagement.
For more info, talk to Uniting College or register through Adelaide College of Divinity.
Saturday, September 07, 2013
being church in mission on election day
A few weeks ago, a local Australian pastor asked my advice. He’d heard a rumour that I might be creative and outward looking. So, he asked, “how can we as a church maximise the fact our buildings will be used on election day as a polling booth?”
“Give the money away,” I replied, knowing that many Australian churches offer a barbeque to folk lining up to vote and that many charge a gold coin for the sausage and sauce.
In fact I said, warming to my new role of creative mission advisor, “Why not choose 3 local charities. And have your own vote. Invite everyone to whom you sell a sausage to choose what charity they most want to support locally. That’s a very different way of being church. Participating in mission by serving the community.”
He looked slightly crestfallen, so I asked how much they earned last election. Around $700 he said.
“That’s around $200 a year. If you keep the money, you simply reinforce the message that all the church cares about is itself, it’s own concerns and agendas. If you give it away, you’re inviting your local community to participate with you in mission.
“That’s a very different economic policy,” I concluded.
I’m looking forward to meeting post-election and seeing how the vote for mission might have played out in that local church
Friday, July 05, 2013
I like the sound of Chaplaincy Everywhere. It is mentioned on a recent post on Sanctus 1, a fresh expression in the UK, in which they are placing chaplains in shopping centres.
So this is more than historic notions of chaplains as at hospital or prison. We need ways to empower people to see themselves as chaplains in their streets, communities and workplaces. It is what we worked toward at Opawa Baptist at one point, calling them community chaplains, and we appointed three into the local community.
I suspect it requires another understanding of ecclesiology, in which the local church commissions and nurtures, rather than the wider (synod).
One of our DMin students at Uniting College is exploring a theology of street chaplaincy, based on his experiences over years as a Main Street chaplain. Plus there is the fabulous chapter in Darren Cronshaws book on ministry models in Australia, including Michael Leunig as a chaplain to the culture.
All by way of saying, I wonder what a Chaplaincy Everywhere course at Uniting College would look like?
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
On Friday, I ducked away to a seaside cafe to do some writing (another 1,000 words on the Sustainability and mission project).
As I took a break, I looked at those around me in the cafe. At one table was a grandmother, struggling with two lively pre-schoolers. At another was a group of friends, grey-haired, sharing travel plans. At yet another was a similar group, obviously regular weekly gatherings.
The day prior, I’d been part of a presentation of NCLS data on the Uniting Church in South Australia. The average age is 62. That Friday morning, I’d found parking at this seaside suburb outside a local Uniting Church. It is a church I’ve been a few times, to find myself surrounded by a good number of elderly folk.
Cause for concern?
Not if you consider the demography of those surrounding me in the cafe. Surely a denomination of retirees is superbly placed to incarnate the Gospel among grandmother struggling to babysit, retirees planning a worthwhile future and searching for relationships.
Fresh expressions can, frankly be ageist. It can assume that the new, young, hip are the future. Well, the young and hip will struggle to meet those seated around me on Friday.
It reminds me of the claim by Mark Lau-Branson, that Pentecost is for the geriatric.
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Walking on country: student participation
Walking on Country: an initiative of Uniting College for Leadership and Theology (UCLT), supported by Pilgrim Uniting Church and Ken Leaver Scholarship Fund (edited by Danica Patselis with contributions from other participants)
In February this year, a group from UCLT went to Camp Coorong for a ‘Walking on Country’ Indigenous Immersion experience, with the gracious Ngarrindjeri people. The group was guided by (Rev Dr) Tracey Spencer and Aunty Denise Champion and consisted of students, candidates, a business owner, farmer, community workers and faculty. The initiative is an important part of the college’s formation process for ministers, and is extended to family and members of the wider church. Steve Taylor, Principal of the College says “We hope it’s the start of an annual event and an ongoing partnership both with Pilgrim and local indigenous communities.”
As a group we came with various apprehensions, pre-conceived ideas and for some of us feelings of shame, growing up in a culture where we as a second people have not recognised the people of this nation. We haven’t been reconciled within our nation and we have not heard the stories of the first peoples of the land who have lived here for so long. With a gracious and loving smile, Aunty Denise, calmed our fears as she guided us over the weekend. Her warm welcome encouraged us, that we are “Walking on Country” with friends, who long to be in relationship and share with us.
Uncle Tom, welcomed us to Camp Coorong, and began our time by asking us why we had come and what we longed to learn from our time with the Ngarrindjeri people. Uncle Tom’s first response, to listen, spoke deeply to us. Over the following days we followed Uncle Tom out onto the land listening to his stories and the stories of his ancestors who had lived and thrived on this land for many years. A young farmer in the group reflected “[the Ngarrindjeri peoples’] cultural practices have been so well developed over the many years of learning…The indigenous culture is much more interested in co existing with the environment. I felt more and more of their pain from the irreversible damage second peoples have inflicted on their land in such a short amount of time.” Ngarrindjerri women also sat with us and taught us their traditional weaving of baskets, hats, bags and art with the reeds found by the River. In response to our thanks they looked into our eyes and said “We are Ngarrindjerri people, we want to share these things with you, that is what we do, we share.”
After listening to Uncle Tom’s stories of our nation’s sad history, we lamented at the slow and pitiful recognition of the Indigenous peoples, and their rights and dignity as custodians of this land in the constitution. We lamented at the horrific stories of displacement, abuse and stripping of cultural heritage. For many of us the experience of participating in the “racism game” one afternoon with Tracey Spencer, unveiled our eyes to the institutionalized racism within our society. We began crying out – not for a change to the rules of the game, but a doing away with the value and playing of the game, imagining a new future, without ‘teams’ and a society founded in love and reconciliation. Later that night, Aunty Denise, brought us together, lit a candle and playing her guitar she shared with us a song in the Adnyamathanha tongue of her people “The light of Christ has come into the world.” She reminded us that first and second peoples can be the light of Christ in the world, standing in reconciliation together and then also with God.
Returning home, we have all had much time to reflect on how we will follow the example of Aunty Denise and Uncle Tom, in listening, sharing and engaging with reconciliation. We are thankful for communities like Pilgrim who encourage all people to covenant with the UAICC. Many of us have taken steps to share our experiences in our own communities and begin new relationships with people in Congress and the wider indigenous community. For each of us we have realised that reconciliation begins with relationship and that continuing action, justice and change begins here.
This was a copy of what was recently shared by Danica Patselis, student at Uniting College, as part of Reconciliation Sunday, at Pilgrim Uniting.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Go Danica, Go Pilgrim, Go indigenous immersion
Sunday was Reconciliation Sunday here in Australia. A week to focus on partnership with indigenous people and communities.
Earlier this year, Uniting College partnered with one of our local churches, Pilgrim Uniting, to begin Walking on Country – a long weekend immersed in a local indigenous community, supported by pre-readings and post-trip debrief. This was part of a non-formal teaching plan to ensure our ministry candidates and their families (optional) experience cross cultural immersion among Australia’s indigenous peoples.
Sunday was a fitting time for this new venture to connect back with the local partner church. Danica Patselis (student at Uniting College, currently in a Period of Discernment and married to a candidate) spoke, reflecting on what the experience meant to her. As she later emailed me –
Thanks for prioritizing this trip for the formation of ministers. Nick and I were both renewed and transformed in our thinking and actions from our time with Uncle Tom and Aunty Denise. We are hoping to take a group from Hope Valley to the Congress church to begin conversations, worship together, and learn from the vibrant spirituality of these peoples. But we’re taking small steps as we want it to be long-term action not reactive.
As part of the service, as Principal, I offered a greeting (which I emailed sitting on a Melbourne motel floor)
Uniting College have been delighted to partner with Pilgrim Uniting in the Walking on Country initiative. It has been life changing for some participants. It has enabled ongoing conversations about the Preamble, justice, partnership across cultures. It has both broadened, yet humbled, our understandings of mission and ministry. We hope its the start of an annual event and an ongoing partnership both with Pilgrim and local indigenous communities. Maori culture has a proverb “He tangata, he tangata , he tangata” – the people, the people, the people. That was our experience with you and at Camp Coorong. A Pentecost gift to cherish – Principal Steve Taylor
Monday, May 27, 2013
mission research (post-graduate)
One of the joys of my current season is the opportunity to work with a good number of post-graduate students, on some really interesting aspects of mission research. At Uniting College, we’re seeing a growing number of post-graduate students wanting to focus their time on mission. What is even more interesting is that a good number of the projects are empirical in nature, actually working with real people, reflecting on what is happening on the ground, in lives and communities.
These are some of the projects I’m currently involved in supervising
- Phil (DMin) is interviewing pioneers. Dianna Butler Bass has argued for a pastoral imagination. So is there a pioneer imagination? What are the implications for formation?
- Gary (DMin) is exploring new monasticism. He has pioneered a course, one that helps people apply Benedictine spirituality to their everyday life. But does it? And what would Benedict say about how one might live monastically in today’s society?
- David (PhD) is analysing the cultural intelligence of ministers. What factors contribute to cross-cultural expertise? Can they be taught, or is it caught?
- Lesley (PhD) is analysing how migrants do theology. How is it different from Western approaches to theology? What might be the implications for theological education, especially as Australia sees increasing numbers of migrants call this place home?
- Fred is investigating male spirituality. He has used the Australian film Mens Group, as a window and is then reflecting missionally on ways to develop male spirituality, whether inside or outside the church
- (There are two more PHD projects who’ve spoken to me regarding supervision, both currently working their way through university entrance processes. Both will also be empirical projects, exploring the practice of mission and ministry. But I will hang off on naming those until they are a bit further down the track.)
One of the advantages of Uniting College is that we can offer qualifications both at PhD level, through Flinders University and at Doctor of Ministry, through Adelaide College of Divinity. It’s a great combination, allowing us to encourage a range of student interests, all while cultivating a growing research culture in mission and ministry. It’s great in the midst of a busy day, filled with meetings about the College, to suddenly be able to spend an hour with a keen and thoughtful mind, discussing mission, based not on theories but on actual around research.
Friday, May 03, 2013
Festival spirituality stories: Spin and Fibre Festival
I’m starting a research project, wanting to collect stories of Festival spirituality. It is an extension of a brief idea I sketched in my The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change (emergentYS) and which I recently developed further.
Festival spirituality (working definition): an occasional period of community gathering for celebration, in which Christians intentionally participate, seeking to make the shalom of God more visible.
This Festival spirituality story – Spin and Fibre Festival comes from Frontier News, May 2013, 8-10. It relates to the 35th Bothwell International Highland Spin In and Fibre Festival, a biennial event held in Tasmania and comes from an interview with Rev Meg Evans, Patrol Minister, Midlands, Tasmania.
Held every two years, Meg is the unofficial chaplain for the festival, which was started by a group of Uniting Church women who were spinning wool to raise funds to restore the church tower. Bothwell is one of the smaller communities in the Patrol located in the Central Highlands, 70 km northwest of Hobart. It has a long history in Merino wool production and the festival remains a huge event for both local and international visitors showcasing crafts and skills associated with superfine wool.
“On the Friday, we shear a sheep for the fleece, and then we hold a ‘Blessing of the Fleece.’ The wool is given out to people to spin during the weekend. On the Sunday I hold a service in the school gym, surrounded by all this wonderful creativity. It is just a great community celebration.”
“People come and tell me how much they enjoy it. I think the fact that the Church is there speaks to people.”
Some interesting things to note
- gift – the involvement of the church begins with “Blessing”. This suggests a thankfulness. What is blessed (the Fleece) is then given away to participants
- risk – This clearly involves risk, that the gift might not be “unwrapped,” might not be utilised. Or it might be “wrapped” in a way contrary to the values of the giver.
- theology of creation – the connection to wool, as the product of local industry, as the lifeblood of what this community, this land, produces. A celebration both of the gift of wool, but also of the creative gifts that surround wool – “crafts and skills associated with superfine wool.”
- being church as spun (interwoven) presence, first in being close enough to the land to be aan initiating participant, second in being a worshipping presence through the festival, both from the initial blessing through to the service, third in the theology of Meg, “the fact that the Church is there speaks to people.” The church began this event, but was willing to give it away. The church is willing to be one of many participants, many strands, in the fibre of this event. It does not need to own it nor control it.
So this Festival spirituality is mission as chaplain, celebrating creation, with particular attention to presence, participation, gift and risk.
Questions for discussion
- I wonder what things might be worth celebrating in your community – what gifts of “creation” and “creativity” you could bless?
- I wonder how you might take risks and invite people to participate in these gifts?
- What might an authentic presence look like? Think about this both from your perspective as a church and from the perspective of visitors and locals.