Thursday, December 10, 2015
Praying for Paris: an empirical study
Praying for Paris: an empirical study of how local churches respond to global events
Researchers: Dr Steve Taylor and Lynne Taylor
Introduction: Faith lives in a complex relationship with surrounding culture. Christians inhabit a set of beliefs regarding who God is and how God acts in our world today. These become particularly pointed when tragedy strikes. How does the church respond to unexpected violence? What resources does the church draw upon? How to speak of the nature of God, humans and Christian responses to tragedy?
One place to seek answers to these questions is in pastoral prayer. Christian practices articulate a practical theology. As such, the gathered worship service is theory laden, offering insight into Christian understandings of how God is engaged in human history. What Christians pray – what they do and do not say – is thus a potentially fruitful avenue for conducting research into ecclesiastical and religious practice.
Such an approach is suggested in Coakley and Wells, Praying for England: Priestly Presence in Contemporary Culture, who explore not only the complexity of liturgical leadership, but also how those who pray and preach in fact become active agents that draw forth the desires and prayers from among those they serve.
This research project seeks to understand how local churches prayed on Sunday 15 November. The date is significant because on Friday, 13 November, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in Paris. At the same time, a number of other tragedies occurred, including bombings in Beirut and Baghdad. As churches gathered on Sunday 15 November, how did they pray? What factors were at work in the choice to pray, or not? What resources might have been drawn upon? What theologies were at work in the response?
Method: The aim was to conduct an empirically descriptive study, in order to reflect theologically on ecclesiastical practice, in this case the church service. An online survey, was designed, consisting of ten questions. It was piloted with a number of colleagues at Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership. An email was then sent to pastoral leaders in two New Zealand denominations, the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and the Baptist Churches of Aotearoa New Zealand, inviting them to participate in the online survey. A notice was also posted on twitter and Facebook, asking people to share. This presented three different and distinct avenues for gaining data.
The research has a number of possible benefits. These include
• understanding the factors that shape how churches respond to tragedy
• provide insight into the theodicies at play in contemporary ecclesial practice
• providing understanding of church practice, as a resource for training of future leaders in theological reflection, congregational leading and worship leading and to assist with professional development training
• locate good examples, in order to develop a web resource of examples of rapid respond to global tragedy
The study had a number of limits. The response was likely to be skewed toward those who did respond prayerfully. Further, the reach was determined by the social media reach of the two researchers. However, the research does not claim to capture a quantitatively representative sample. Rather it will only claim to provide a qualitative data set, to explore the theologies at work in lived practice.
Results: The survey was closed on December 1, 2015. In just over two weeks, 155 responses had been received. These will be analysed in order to provide an empirically descriptive and critically constructive theory of ecclesiastical and religious practice in society. As time allows, the results will be processed and avenues for publication sought.
Friday, November 20, 2015
How do local churches respond to global events? research project
(Please share. The more responses the richer the results)
This is a short survey that asks a set of questions regarding how the local church you attended responded to the Paris attacks of Saturday 14 November, 2015 (NZT). It should take around 5-10 minutes to complete.
The survey is also being undertaken in two NZ denominations, to provide a geographic contrast alongside the networks of social media. The more people that participate that better, so do please share the link. (If you’ve also received a link via email, please use that one rather than this social media one: it’ll make analysis easier)
The research will be used in ongoing resourcing of church and worship leaders. Participation is completely voluntary. Unless you give specific permission to be contacted, all responses are anonymous.
Please click on the following link. If that does not work then copy and paste the FULL URL into your web browser: www.surveymonkey.com/r/LCRSoc (It will NOT work to put the URL into a search engine). If you have any trouble email email@example.com.
Thank you (in hope) for participating in this research in understanding how local churches respond to global events.
Steve Taylor (Principal, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand) and Lynne Taylor (Researcher, Baptist Churches of New Zealand)
Sunday, March 01, 2015
Revaluing the lives we teach: the pedagogies we employ and the Gospel truths they deploy
I’ve just submitted the following abstract for a theology conference later this year. It emerges from my teaching last year and my participation in a Flinders University Community of Practice during which I did research, seeking student feedback on the changes I was making – in particular implementing flipped learning and making a focus on indigenous Christologies. It’s good to take the next step, from doing research, to presenting research
Revaluing the lives we teach: the pedagogies we employ and the Gospel truths they deploy
One way to “revalue” the worth of the lives we teach is to examine the pedagogies we employ. Educational research reminds us that all pedagogies speak, offering a “hidden curriculum.” What are the truths expressed in the “babble of information” that originates from our teaching? Is e-learning a pandering toward “endless opportunities for self-gratification”?
This paper will explore pedagogical innovation in teaching. Participation in a Flinders University Community of Practice in 2014 provided an opportunity to research student experience when teaching is approached as mobile, accessible and connective.
A core topic (Theology of Jesus Christ) was taught using e-learning technologies, including video conferencing and Moodle. Blooms taxonomy was used as a theoretical frame to negotiate the change with students and the shift in contact time from lecturer-driven content to student-centred small group activities. Changes were made to assessment, shifting participation from face to face to digital, in order to enable connectivity. Indigenous voices were introduced to enhance access.
Students completed a written survey at three points during the course. The results demonstrate that a significant shift had occcured in the class, with students moving from an appreciation of content, to a consideration of how they learn from the diversity inherent among their peers. Students felt the changes enhanced their ability to communicate effectively, appreciate collaborative learning and connect across boundaries.
Haythornthwaite and Andrews (E-learning Theory and Practice, 2011) map the diverse ways students participate in class to enhance learning. This provides a way to theorise my data, including the student who believed they could “now connect [their] own culture and Christ”; because they were asked in a group “by one of my classmates to connect liberation theology to [their] culture.”
This suggests that the pedagogies we deploy do indeed have the potential to “revalue” the worth of the lives of those we teach.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
singing a new song
The lectionary Psalm for the day has twice, in the last six days, begun with the words “Sing a new song.” I used it to begin our team meeting community time last week. What new things are we seeing, that we need to “sing” in thanks to God? It opened up a rich and celebrative conversation.
Reading the words again today, it struck me that singing has different dimensions. It can be aural, the audible lifting of voice. The singing can be recorded and thus the the audible lifting of voice can be shared. The singing can also be written down as sheet music, and thus others can perform the new song for themselves. In so doing, the performance can then change, as new harmonies are added, as different speeds or mixes are incorporated. Each are ways to “sing a new song,” each allow different layers of reach, influence and release.
I used this notion of “singing a new song” to reflect back over what God has been doing in and around me in recent weeks.
First, the “singing” of the indigenous womens’ Christology project. This was aural in class last week. But through strategic use of funding, there is the hope it can be recorded. The hope is that in “singing” this indigenous song, that different contexts are freed to sing their own unique harmonies, to find confidence in their own “performance” of Jesus.
Second, the “singing” of the urban gardens presentation I did at the Urban Life together conference. This was sung on Saturday, to a group of conference participants. The conference hopes to produce a book, and so my aural “song” might well end up “recorded.” (If I can find the time).
In the meantime, some of what I said was “recorded” in bits on my website. It’s one of the reasons I blog – to sing a new song, and in a different “recorded” way than book based “recording.” During the conference, a stray conversation with another conference participant offered another “mix.” Again, I recorded this by blogging it, linking community development, missiology and urban development. In turn, it attracted some wonderful comments, which linked with flipped learning and it helped me make connections to another “mix”.
Aural, recorded, performed: the many ways that we can sing a new song.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
If you’re not typing you’re not visual: Elearning practice and culture
It was meant to be a writing morning, but instead I slipped into the back of a lecture theatre at University of South Australia to hear Carolyn Haythornwaite address the topic Elearning practice and culture From experiment to mainstream. Director of the School of Library, archival and information services, University British Colombia, she argued that e-learning is a paradigm shift in practice of learning.
She talked about the way that technical changes are driving the social. The result is a society that is more participative and collective, which is bringing unavoidable pressures to bear on University classrooms. She had a lovely phrase
“a balance found in motion not stillness.” (Nardi and ODay, 1999).
She argued that for many years the lecture and the classroom have been a still place, an unchanging place, in which academics have clung for security. But with what is happening in society, the classroom is now in motion!
Not that this is easy. She described the exhaustion for teachers because we are now in “perpetual beta” and of continuously having to learn, both in regard to technology and in regard to how learners are learning.
She talked about two types of online engagement – crowd sourced or community based. Both have different ways of connecting. One tends to offer interaction that is many, small, simple. The other is complex, diverse, connected. Which type of community will e-teachers seek to create?
She had some cool visualisations. Pictures that showed that blended learning classes tend to develop weekly rhythms, the different network channels (chat, discussion boards, email) develop different types of student engagement, that the group rhythm over an entire course changes.
She had some encouragements as I reflected on our journey into blended learning as a Uniting College.
- The need to have the IT group within the teaching department rather than separate (which we have done at Uniting College)
- Forget perfection. Build it as you go. You never should have your e-learning space all packaged at start. Rather you should grow it organically as you go.
- You get used to it. That after a few years of “perpetual beta” change, you suddenly realise you are an e-teacher.
She asked some fresh questions:
- How to orientate students in the social skills needed to learn online in community?
- How to understand the multiple roles of the e-teacher – as social presence but also teaching presence and also cognitive presence?
- How to understand the potential of students to themselves become teachers in e-learning spaces? (Efacilitator, braider, accomplished fellows, learner-leaders).
So, not a writing day, but a rich and thought provoking chance to reflect on all the blended learning changes occurring at Uniting College.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
DIY supervision, DIY spirituality, DIY leadership, DIY church
“There is even less discussion with supervisors about the changes that might be produced by what I see as rapidly expanding DIY doctoral education practices” – books, blogs, webinars, forums, chats – “Much of this socially mediated DIY activity is international, cross-disciplinary and all day/all night … something is happening here and we (collectively) don’t know what it is. … It’s a field which is fragmented, partially marketised, unregulated and a bit feral. But it’s big, it’s powerful, more and more doctoral researchers are into it, and it is profoundly pedagogical. I’m concerned that British universities are generally (and of course there are exceptions, but mostly this is the case) not helping supervisors to think about this DIY supervision trend and what it means for how doctoral education is changing – and crucially, what the implications for their supervision practices might be.” (Some excerpts from a recent blog post on the rise of DIY in post-graduate study.
The links to spirituality, leadership and church are obvious. For many folk, the internet has become a huge resource in sustaining faith.
This is only a hunch, but I doubt emerging church and fresh expressions would have had nearly the impact (for good and bad) without the internet.
It is a place awash with resources for leaders – sermons to hear, places to discuss, people to follow.
I’ve spent the last two days at the Education for Ministry working group. It is a Uniting Church Assembly project. I’ve sat with 9 leaders from across the Uniting Church in Australia, talking about the future of formation for ministry. Our focus was formal training, and all the time, what about the “big,” “powerful,” and “pedagogical” training that is the DIY of living in a world socially mediated? What are those we train learning via the internet? Who are they “following” that is partial, fragmented and unregulated? What does this mean for how leaders are being formed today?
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
the pain and peril of living in exile: a theological film review of White Lies
Each month I publish a film review, for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 85 plus films later, here is the review for November, of New Zealand film, White Lies.
“White Lies” has the same producer (John Barnett) and original writer (Witi Ihimaera) as the now celebrated New Zealand film “Whale Rider.” Yet “White Lies” offers a far darker exploration of New Zealand’s bi-cultural identity.
The era is early twentieth century and Maori medicine woman, Paraiti (Whirikamako Black) gathers native herbs and provides medical care for her people, scattered throughout Te Urewera wilderness.
On a rare trip to the city, she is furtively asked by Maori housekeeper, Maraea (Rebecca House), to help her wealthy mistress, Rebecca Vickers (Antonia Prebble), keep a secret. Together, these three women generate the emotional heart of the movie, an interwoven pairing of life with death and death with life.
Initially, Paraiti refuses to help, chilled by the alien whiteness of the world in which Maraea and Rebecca live. Her mind is changed by subsequent events, a child birth gone wrong, during which Pakeha display a callous disdain for Maori patterns and practices. All of which is history, for in 1907 the New Zealand Government passed the Tohunga Suppression Act, which limited the services Maori could provide to their communities. For Paraiti, her actions will be an act of resistance, a way of restoring some justice.
This is an acting debut for well-known Maori singer, Whirikamako Black and she is superbly paired with Antonia Prebble, best known for her portrayal of Loretta West in TV drama, “Outrageous Fortune.”
Plaudits are also due to other New Zealand artists. The house in which Rebecca lives is a triumph for film designer, Tracey Collins, while the forests in which Paraiti gathers herbs and the room in which Rebecca gives birth, allow the well-honed atmospheric skills of Alun Bollinger to unfold in all their gloomy cinematographic glory.
Written and directed by Mexican born Dana Rotberg, “White Lies” significantly reworks Ihimaera’s novella, “Medicine Woman.” Maori carvers return to their work, reasoned Ihimaera, so why not writers? Despite the re-carving of words, the early scenes of the movie lack pace, failing to provide momentum the emotional centre deserves.
What unfolds in “White Lies” are three contrasting approaches to dominant Pakeha culture, each embodied in the three women: marginality in Paraiti, accommodation in Maraea, ultimate assimilation in Rebecca.
What is thought provoking is to then lay “White Lies” alongside the First Testament. Israel’s experience of exile offers another perspective on how minority communities activate resistance. We see marginality in the return of Nehemiah to a Jerusalem destroyed. We see accommodation in the book of Esther, her willingness to parlay her sexuality in exchange for influence. We see assimilation in Jeremiah’s injunction to build houses, plant gardens and take wives.
“White Lies” a century on offers little hope. Rebecca’s final decisions are chillingly bleak, while the forest gathering ways of Pariati are, in twentyfirst century New Zealand, long gone.
All that remains, as the movie tagline declares, is the reality that redemption comes at a price. Christians will ponder the crucial birthing scene, in which Rebecca hangs in a crucifix position, arms spread wide, supported by a watching woman, in the painful journey through which new life will eventually be won.
Rev Dr Steve Taylor is Principal at the Uniting College for Leadership and Theology, Adelaide. He writes widely in areas of theology and popular culture, including regularly at www.emergentkiwi.org.nz.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
why twitter is good for little blogs like mine
“Brilliant,” was the comment.
This week in the calendar of the church was Ascension Day. In honour of the day, I placed a quick note on Twitter, pointing to a number of historic “Ascension Day” posts on my blog:
Ascension day in worship http://t.co/r4hzmm8I And theology http://t.co/XVHSIcVj.
One post (Ascension day in worship) was an interactive worship service I had offered back in 2010 – Ascension Day and the footprints of Jesus – as a resource. Another post (Ascension day in theology) was a short theological reflection that I blogged back in 2007. (Please note the date. 2007 was some 3 years BEFORE Jeremy Begbie, at Wheaton, declared that the emerging church needed to pay more attention to the Ascension. Three years. Obviously Jeremy Begbie didn’t read my blog in doing his research. LOL!)
Anyhow, none of these posts rank anywhere on google, presumably not because they are bad, but simply because my blog is so small/does not know how to manipulate google rankings.
We are told that google is great for democratisation of information, but it also feeds a very fastmoving, temporary society, in which if you’re not on page one, you’re off the digital radar. Which means that for little blogs like mine, what you post as a resource has a very short shelf life. Which, if you post things hoping they might resource others, becomes self-defeating.
Until twitter. One short tweet this week led to a “brillant” comment by one person and a request by another to use the resources in worship. It put the resource back in circulation, by-passing the google gatekeeping and achieving the purpose of the blog – to share creativity, to pass on resources.
Which makes platforms like twitter more important for little blogs like mine, more important if the web really is meant to enhance connection and resourcing, a subversion of the hierarchies that have developed so quickly in this so-called “flat” networked digital world.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
use of social media ministry learnings from Kony12
The last few weeks in class (Reading Cultures/Sociology for Ministry) has been focused on contemporary global cultures. Last week, a student asked about the Kony viral video campaign. It seemed a case study worth processing as a class, as it was so current, and yet raised so many questions about the use of social media to bring about change.
So the class were invited to view the video for “homework.” Upon return today, I invited them to choose a place on a continuum, from “it was not right” to “great use of social media.” This produced a great discussion with those on opposite ends of the spectrum making some really insightful observations.
To help ground the discussion, I reminded the class that our aim is to help churches think about being part of effective change. And at some point, a church might want to get involved in social media. So, what might we learn from the Kony campaign.
Here is the list we created: things to consider if you’re thinking about using social media.
- It can be highly, highly impacting
- It can have real potential for educating, especially for a generation that doesn’t watch the television news
- Social media can emerge from anyone, especially from people with the right creative and media savvy skills
- Think about how you communicate. Media can be manipulative and abusive. Will you focus on head or heart? Will you try and be simple, or seek to nuance complexity?
- Consider the ethics of who you use, who you film and how you film them
- Reflect on whether your “author” and your “author’s life” is important to your story
- Social media can only be a starter. It needs to be supported by more information and next steps
- What you do can form a precedent
- Learn from other campaigns
- Be prepared for backlash
- You can’t control other users, and they can spin your campaign
What do you think? What else would you want to add?
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
around the web: mission in digital frontiers and in australia
One, the Mission in digital frontiers learning day that we’re hosting at Uniting College on Thursday with Andrew Jones got picked up by the local media (here). Worth reading for the comments alone, and the realisation of the hostility which is the growing lot of Western Christianity.
Two, Welcome to Australia is a new justice initiative. It’s simple – thus simply great.
Between June 19 and 26, 2011, we’d like to say a big “Welcome to Australia” to asylum seekers, refugees, new arrivals and other migrants. We’d like you to throw a party in your home, street, office, sporting club or other community group to very publicly celebrate the beauty and depth that diversity adds to our nation.
I was chatting with the organisers and pointed out the irony of me participating given that technically, I’m actually a new arrival aka a migrant. So they asked for my story, which is here.
Three, another reminder of the mission challenge here in Australia (full article here):
Sydney is already one of the 10 most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in the world, along with Toronto, New York, London and Los Angeles.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
the richness of our shrinking world
The internet has some downsides. But it also has some amazing upsides.
I am currently working on some distance material, around the theme of Jesus Christ today. The aim is a course to help lay folk as they prepare to exercise their gifts, including in leading worship and preaching. Being a course by distance, the challenge is not to prepare pages and pages of words, but to encourage a range of ways to engage.
On Tuesday night I was working on the section on Jesus Christ in history. I came across the Theologians Trading Cards, on the disseminary website. Could people arrange the theologians in various categories – geography, time, Christology from above/below? Could people play variants of snap or top trumps with their friends? A way to engage Jesus Christ in history in which the cards create interaction and question. A query email to the site owner and overnight there was email reply in regards to the Creative commons license.
On Wednesday I was working on another section. I love the story in pages 3-4 of Scot McKnight’s A Community Called Atonement about the impact of Christ on a person’s actions/witness. (The whole book is an excellent resource, which I found helpful a few Easter’s ago in framing my preaching input over a Thursday, Friday, Sunday). A story opens up different ways of engaging. What is more, the story could then be used as an exercise, inviting folk to work out how the sources of theology – Scripture, tradition, experience, reason – are all there and are all at play.
The story in McKnight’s book mentioned the title of a song. I googled the title, but could find no song with exactly that title. So I decided to email the author with my query. He replied with the contact details of the actual person who tells the story.
Another email to her. And a reply, including some more detail, which will make the story even more helpful.
In less than 48 hours, three conversations with three people on the other side of the world. Our shrinking world can certainly be full of richness.
Oh, for those wondering what the song is (more…)
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
peacemaking: three local (Canterbury) bi-cultural peace stories
Sermon from Sunday evening Grow, part of a three week series on Grow in peace.
In Romans 12: 18, we are told “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Which leaves the question: what might this look like? A few weeks ago visiting speaker, Mark Grace, speaking about Parihaka (a North Island story), challenged us to look for local peace stories
So I went to the library. It’s a very Pakeha thing to do. If you were Maori, you might talk to your elders. But I’m a Pakaha, so I went to the library, to the New Zealand archives section.
This was what I found out, the story of three local peacemakers, and some bi-cultural mission history here in New Zealand (more…)
Sunday, August 23, 2009
digital faith conference
Steve Garner asked me to mention this ….
DIGITAL FAITH: Exploring the contours of faith in our digital world
How do the Christian faith and the Internet impact upon each other? What place might the Bible have in our digital world? Come and join us as our panel of expert speakers engage with these topics and others relating to issues of faith in the digital world.
Mark Brown, CEO, Bible Society New Zealand
Founder Anglican Cathedral in Second Life.
Stephen Garner, Lecturer in Theology and Popular Culture,
School of Theology, University of Auckland.
Heidi Campbell, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Communication, Texas A&M University
Author of Exploring Religious Community Online.
Tim Bulkeley, Lecturer in Old Testament, Carey Baptist College
Developer of the Amos Hypertext Commentary & podBible projects.
Saturday 5 September 2009, 9am-12pm. OGGB4 Lecture Theatre, Level 0, Owen G Glenn Building, 12 Grafton Road, The University of Auckland. Please REGISTER your attendance by Wednesday 2 September with theologyadmin AT auckland DOT ac DOT nz
Thursday, May 07, 2009
hello carey folk
Hi, I’ve noticed quite a few visitors coming from Carey Baptist College, in particular an online learning discussion forum. It feels strange, this sensation of probably something on this blog being viewed and discussed, but because the forum is closed, I can’t hear the conversation.