Monday, February 22, 2021

First Expressions “important insights”

To date, there have been four academic reviews (that I’m aware of) of my First Expressions: Innovation and the mission of God book. (To date on the blog, I’ve highlighted the 4 academic reviews — here in Ecclesial Futures; here in Practical Theology; here in Ecclesiology and a here in Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal).

Now I’ve become aware of a more industry-focused review from Church Missionary Society. As a missionary society, they produce a Summer reading catalogue and in 2020 readers are encouraged to read First Expressions: Innovation and the mission of God because it offers “important insights for the future of Pioneer and Fresh Expressions movements, gained from extensive research … excited, connected, curious.”

It’s so encouraging to have this type of feedback from an international missionary society, especially one that is focused on mission both local and global, and in such creative ways.

Posted by steve at 09:11 PM | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 13, 2021

First Expressions “contribute to the vitality of a broader ecclesial communion” book review # 4

A really interesting review of my book, First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God has been published in the latest issue of the Ecclesial Futures journal. The review is written by Dustin Benac, who at the time of reviewing, was Postdoctoral Associate at Duke University Divinity School, but is now Visiting Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Baylor University.

The review is over six pages, and works by comparing First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God with Church Planting in Post-Christian Soil: Theology and Practice and How Change Comes to Your Church: A Guidebook for Church Innovations. This creative comparison by Benac results in a synthesis of insights, including the value of change for church, the necessity of approaching church using interdisciplinary frameworks and the need to nurture an imaginative ecclesial wisdom.

In terms of academic reviews of First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God, this is the first review to pick up on my use of haiku. At over 95,000 words, my book needed some “soundbites” and so I tried to clarify each chapter not by writing more prose but by utilising the 5-7-5 syllable structure of the haiku. Hence Benac’s review describes my writing as “equal parts a descriptive and imaginative inquiry … Taylor displays the “gift of poetic imagination” … that ecclesial innovation requires.”

The review by Benac also affirms the unique contribution that my work is making to practical theology, noting that my “longitudinal design advances ecclesiological inquiry, providing a template for future studies of change within communities of faith.” The review also appreciates how researching ecclesial innovation can “contribute to the vitality of a broader ecclesial communion.”

So thanks Dustin for reading and reviewing, in such an affirming and creative way.

The full review is in Ecclesial Futures Volume 1, Issue 2 (December, 2020), 118-123. Benac’s review is the 4th academic review of First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God (that I’m aware of). A 3rd review occurs in Practical Theology, the international journal of the British and Irish Association of Practical Theology. The two other academic reviews are in Ecclesiology and a Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal.

Posted by steve at 03:06 PM | Comments (0)

Friday, February 12, 2021

Lockdown ecclesiologies: the limits and possibilities of enforced online first expressions

And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matt. 18.3)

In April last year, in the midst of lockdown here in Aotearoa New Zealand, I was invited to offer some theological reflection on being church online, with the hope of an online publication. Then in July, the request came for me to expand the writing, from 3,000 words to 5,000, with the possibility of the work appearing in a book project.

News this week that the book project has found a publisher – SCM/SCM/Westminster John Knox – and a time frame for publication – November 2021 – in time for American Academy of Religion launch. The book has around 13 contributors, reflecting from diverse contexts including Ghana, Switzerland and Thailand, along with the usual UK and USA. Tentatively titled Ecclesiology for a Digital Church, it examines the impact of being digital on church thought and practice.

Here’s the title for my chapter, along with my current 1 sentence summary —

Lockdown ecclesiologies: the limits and possibilities of enforced online first expressions

Enforced online first expressions are an invitation to attend to our enfleshment, appreciating ourselves as child-like, making visible the kingdom as we learn a new (internet) language.

My writing was shaped by a Nurturing faith online community of practice I had started as lockdowns began, seeking to support church leaders. Sensing the struggles, I had initiated the offer of a supportive environment to encourage action and reflection. As a result, I had the privilege of walking alongside some 25 leaders, from 5 different countries, all wrestling with the challenges of lockdown. This became an invaluable resource, informing my own struggles as I sought to lead a theological college community into enforced online formation and innovate with online education across the wider Presbyterian Church (called Bubble courses).

It’s a delight to see some of my theological ponderings – particularly the work of 11th century theologian Rupert of Deutz – find a published outlet.

Posted by steve at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

Friday, February 05, 2021

Serving the world: weaving a diaconal missiology in times of unravelling

It was a privilege to provide this week a 90 minute lecture – Serving the world: weaving a diaconal missiology in times of unravelling – to Uniting Church Deacons as part of the ordination training. It was online, me in Aotearoa engaging with participants from 4 different states in Australia.

In order to help with engagement, particularly touch and memory, prior to the lecture, participants had been invited to bring some

  • some wool in a colour that appeals
  • some knitting needles
  • a darning needle

The input had the following structure

Part 1 – Knitted dishcloths and the call to ministry
UCA Service of Induction of a Deacon
John 1:47-8, Psalm 139:13, 15, Jeremiah 1:5

For personal reflection on the call to ministry – who were you under the fig tree? What true colours will you bring to ministry? What gifts, talents, experiences might God be weaving?

Part 2 – Weaving the call: the shape of diaconal missiology

A cluster of character methodology. Since deacon as a title is only used once in the New Testament, I considered a number of characters who acted in diaconal ways.

  • God is weaving ahead of us, like Philip (Acts 6:1-2, Acts 8:5-8, Acts 8:26-38)
  • God is weaving fresh expressions, like Dorcas (Acts 9:36-38)
  • God is weaving resources, like Joana/Junia (Luke 8:1-4;24:1, 10; Romans 16:7)

For personal reflection on the call to ministry – how might these characters inform your practice of diaconal mission?

Part 3 – Resourcing and resilience (darning and knitting needles)

In order to explore spiritual resources for times of resilience, I showed an animation by Lou Baker, not of weaving, but of unravelling.

I offered a chapter from First Expressions to reflect on spirituality when communities experience unravelling. I then reflected on my own recent experiences of unravelling, offering 7 practices in a spirituality of resilience.

For personal reflection on the call to ministry – what has sustained you in times of unravelling?

For me …

  • Attend to your body
  • Add “season” specific practices
  • Attend to the big picture
  • Nurture blessing
  • Practice gratitude
  • Rituals of transition
  • New practices

I really enjoyed putting the session together, weaving my experience and missiology from recent years together. The work on spirituality of unravelling really struck a chord with participants and the levels of sharing were very deep.

Key resources:

Willie Jennings, Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible

Esther Rutter, This Golden Fleece: A Journey Through Britain’s Knitted History

Stanley H. Skreslet, Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission

Steve Taylor, First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God

Steve Taylor, Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration

William Willimon, Acts

Posted by steve at 03:28 PM

Friday, December 11, 2020

celebrating First Expressions with my graduating department

celebrating The Theology Department at Otago University have a lovely tradition, an annual end of year celebration of books written by Faculty and former post-graduates. Since I was a PhD post-graduate student of Theology at Otago back in the day, I was invited (back!) to celebrate First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God, the book I had published late in December, 2019. Here is my “celebration” speech, trying to link the book with the PhD research.

First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God is the 2nd book to emerge from my PhD research. I graduated with my PhD from Otago in 2004. As I finished my PhD, I wanted to make the research accessible to the wider church. So I wrote The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change. This was published by Zondervan, USA in 2005 and translated into Korean in 2008. I’ve even been to visit a new church plant in Korea named “Out of Bounds Church” in honour of the book!

There was a large chunk of empirical research – ethnography, interviews, focus groups – I had to drop out of my PhD thesis. Because it was already too big. So I was keen to find a way to do something with that PhD research. So I sought ethics approval and did a longitudinal study. This involved returning 10 years later to the church’s I’d researched in my PhD.

I found that half of the new forms of church were no longer meeting as gathered communities. Which raised ecclesiology questions. Does it matter if innovation doesn’t endure? How might Easter – dying and rising –shape our ecclesiology?

During that 10 year period, the wider denominations – Church of England and Methodists in the UK – had affirmed these new forms of church. They had developed structures like Fresh Expressions to partner with them. So that raised another set of ecclesiology questions – How do organisations discern what is of God and what isn’t? How do churches as organisations best partner with grassroots innovation?

So I interviewed denominational leaders –Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and Stephen Cottrell who’s now the Archbishop of York.

Then I found a publisher – SCM. They have been great to work with.

According to Ecclesiology and international ecumenical journal – First Expressions is a “radical re-conceptualization of the marks of the Church” (more here).

According to the Scottish Episcopal Journal, First Expressions offers “in-depth theological hermeneutic, firmly grounded in Scripture and ecclesiology” (more here).

According to Rowan Williams, who emailed in January, saying he was – “impressed with the theological analysis .. [First Expressions is] an important book.”

Thanks to the University of Otago, who provided PhD scholarships and post-graduate conference funding. Thanks to the Theology Department for celebrating books emerging from PhD research. Thanks to any of you who might want to review it for Anglican Taonga or Methodist Touchstone!

Photo by Matthieu Joannon on Unsplash

Posted by steve at 05:32 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

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Imagining a New Normal

During lockdown one of the projects and communities, I’ve been involved in is Imagining a New Normal.

Within each Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand there are Mission Catalysts. Some are employed, some volunteer with a passion for God’s mission. During lockdown, these Mission Catalysts have gathered online, brought together by PressGo. The group is becoming a learning community, providing support, encouragement and sharing resources and ideas. As long-held assumptions about church services have been confronted and challenged, there are opportunities to talk about the possibilities of igniting a missional imagination, asking “what if?” questions and taking some risks.

Generally, the future unfolds in small steps. Change involves experiments, from which learnings are gleaned. This enables discernment toward the future. Mission Catalysts know the power of the story. Stories can ignite the imagination, evoke curiosity and help people to think differently.

SO … the Mission Catalysts set themselves the task of telling “what if” stories. We started from “what is” and then told forward where that might lead. Each story was then submitted to peer review. What are the mission practices embedded in each “imagining”. The stories have been collated and a first edition is here. I’ve got one, imagining local church wanting to simplify and seek to stay online. I also did some work, peer reviewing some of the peer reviewing, a way of me offering my missiology skills to the ongoing life of this important learning community.

safe_image

The aim is to give permission, offer grounded mission and so to spark more stories – for local communities to “out tell” us with their real life “what if” …

The next stories are yours. We want to hear from parishes, faith communities and small groups about the things that God has been stirring up. About the things you have tried that worked and the ones that didn’t. Stories that start with the seed of an idea, ask “what if” and then, with a playful demeanour, give it a go.

Posted by steve at 03:24 PM

Saturday, April 25, 2020

communities of practice as action-reflection tools

It’s been an extraordinarily generative week for me.

  • First, I found myself offering a closed facebook group to bring practitioners of innovation in digital worlds into contact with research. That has generated 38 members and over 200 comments as people interacted with research on faith formation.
  • Second, I hosted an online video conversation in which 25 folk from 4 countries engaged further around their experiences of innovation in digital worlds.
  • Third, I’m potentially offering a community of practice, in which folk wanting to experiment can meet with peers for support and reflection. This is still forming and might not yet materialise – life is so fluid for so many people. However, it is astonishing to realise this wasn’t even on my radar 7 days ago.

Companies of friends in the journey of innovation.

There is action, and there needs to be space for reflection. Reflection can be individual, as I write and journal. Reflection can be individual, as I read and engage with the experiences and insights of others, and so see my actions more carefully. Reflection can be communal, as I share my intuitions and half-baked processing and gain wisdom simply from those who give the gift of listening; even active-listening, which draws me into free speech. Reflection can be communal, the conversations that result from sharing, the connections that get made.

So I’m offering a Community of Practice for those innovating in digital faith. It is for active people already doing stuff this is a space to reflect, to process with peers. And I have this hope, this pleading, that it won’t be my last. I dream of multiple Communities of Practice, in which unique projects (actions), by those facing a shared challenge, are enhanced by the space to reflect – individually and communally.

 

COP

Posted by steve at 12:51 PM

Thursday, April 23, 2020

5 practices for cultivating safe and prayerful space online: #ministry in isolation4

A resource – video and written summary – I produced this week. It is part of a series of interviews I am doing, called #ministry in isolation, which is spotlighting ecclesial innovation in the context of external (lockdown) restraints:

Jill McDonald #ministryinisolation4 from JaneThomsen on Vimeo.

How can God build a tapestry of love online through skilled leadership?

“Going online felt better. Being part of the river of God’s healing love. It felt profound. Lifegiving … A tapestry of prayer and love across Aotearoa,” concludes Jill.

Steve Taylor, from KCML, interviews Jill McDonald, from St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Hastings about her leadership of Sacred Space Whakamoemiti. Why did she take this short midweek prayer service online, and what was the result? What has been learnt?

The interview outlines five practices for cultivating safe and prayerful space online.

Such experiences require skilled leadership. Here are the five tips for creating sacred space online.
1. The value of a pre-gathering bidding question. Prepare people to participate by sending out prior a question you will be inviting response to during the online experience. A bidding question clarifies purpose. It communicates an ethos of participation and gives people space to prepare. This is likely to enhance the depth of participation and a sense of meaningful engagement.

2. Guiding the conversation through a focused question. Rather than offer an open space for anyone to answer, call people by name. It could be clockwise around your screen, or top of the land to the bottom. Being directive lets people know when and how they will be able to participate.

3. Modelling through drawing first on those familiar with the culture. Begin asking focused questions of people who have been before. They have experienced the culture of the group and the length, depth and type of responses.

4. Create a pass. Give words that allow people to pass. “I’m going to go around and call people by name. If you don’t yet have a response, just say “pass.”” Giving a specific word reduces a sense of forced participation.

5. Work to a settled rhythm. In the familiarity, there is safety. People can settle into their work. Good liturgy has call and response which gives direction. A pattern of welcome, a settling question to ensure folk have heard their voice, a sound to start and end a period of silence, a repeated ending ritual. It means that participants are more likely to settle into prayer if they are aware of where they are heading.

Steve Taylor and Jill McDonald
21 April 2020

Posted by steve at 07:34 PM

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

On Innovation and Mission: introducing my new book First Expressions

Steve Taylor introduces his new book First Expressions : Innovation and the Mission of God … 700 words to summarise a 95,000 word project …

280719_irst Expressions FINAL CORRECT copy

On Innovation and Mission

Nearly half of fresh expressions will die. My research into new forms of church found 50% of churches had tried and died. My analysis of research by others found 62% of what were proclaimed as “models to hope on” had died.

A pragmatic ecclesiology values numbers. Like Dragons’ Den, a church with limited resources wants to invest wisely. If fresh expressions die, are they worth investing in? A pastoral ecclesiology values people. What is the impact on faith formation when the church that one starts and another joins organizes its own funeral? Is there an innovation ecclesiology, that can locate birth and death in the relationship between innovation and mission?

What research? To understand innovation in mission I studied eleven local church communities in England, Scotland and Wales. I came to call these communities “first expressions”. The name captures a “boldly go where no-one has gone before” approach to spirituality, evident as communities like Visions used video projection to transform church buildings in an Illuminating York Festival or Late Late Service explored “the music that we grew up with and forms of learning that we’re comfortable with” (God in the House, 1996). The term “first expressions” captures the new (and terrifying) reality of those who innovate without roadmaps from those who have gone before.

This was an empirical study. It is tempting for ecclesiology to work with ideals. I wanted to research reality. As Julian of Norwich declares, in one small thing – in my case “first expressions” – is all of creation. I developed a woven ecclesiology, that upholds the value not only of gathering in worship, but of intergenerational faith formation, leadership development and the making of creative product.

I returned 11 years later, to interview and to participate. This gave me a longitudinal study of first expressions, likely the first in the world. In focus group interviews, I heard stories of creative communities like Grace smashing their sense of identity in order to orientate around values not particular leaders. I interviewed leaders of the communities now dead and heard of “Vicar factories” in which the space to create and question resulted in leadership gifted to the wider church.

In the meantime, alongside these first expressions locally, church denominations innovated with Fresh Expressions. I expanded my longitudinal research to study Fresh Expressions as an organizational “first expression”, interviewing leaders like Rowan William, Steven Croft and Andrew Roberts, seeking to understand how a denomination might innovate in mission.

Why research? The research was shaped by my own story. I planted a first expression. Four years after I moved to another leadership role, I heard that first expression was preparing to die. This prompted my longitudinal research.

Through my research, I was challenged by a New Testament wisdom. None of the churches that the apostle Paul planted remain alive today. In Philippians, Paul writes to the very first expression of church in Europe. He names a pioneer that nearly died. Ephaphroditus is to be regarded as valuable. This is a Christian theology of risk, in which birth and death are affirmed.

I was blessed by the grassroots wisdom of local communities. Mobility, leadership transitions and the strength of wider relationships all impact on longevity. What was astonishing was the flexibility by which these first expressions explored new structures of leadership, clarified their identities in the midst of change and creatively drew on spiritual resources.

I was inspired by the organizational wisdom of denominations. In history, churches have innovated with structures. To help understand Fresh Expressions, I examined other mission structures developed in the United Kingdom, monastic patterns, early Methodism and the modern mission agency. I throw in wild cards of contemporary structures like NGOs and incubators. Innovation in mission often includes innovation in organizational shapes.

I was stretched by gender wisdom. The denominational leaders I interviewed were all men. This prompted an imaginative thought experiment. If Elizabeth was an archbishop and Mary was birthing an organization about to be named Fresh Expressions, what might be the shape of their strategic plan?

Innovation in mission is an activity of God. It embodies the word of Jesus: Unless a seed falls, there is no life. Julian was wise. In each small thing, there is value. The birth and death of first expressions invite a radical rethink of mission and ministry. A layered approach to ecclesiology, a church that is neither gathered and parish nor independent and networked, emerges. Innovation is the ants in the pants of Christianity. It keeps the body moving, not for the sake of growth but for the sake of birth and death, which are central to Christianity and thus to being church. Such is the gift of “first expressions”.

***

Order First Expressions via the SCM website before 31st December 2019, and you’ll benefit from a launch discount.

Steve Taylor is Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership and author of First Expressions: Innovation and the mission of God, Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration and The Out of Bounds Church?. He enjoys nature and is learning to knit.

Posted by steve at 07:52 AM

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Innovation ecclesiologies and the expanding of World Christianity

280719_irst Expressions FINAL CORRECT copy Paper proposal – taking my new book into an academic context – ANZATS 2020 – World Christianity and Diaspora Theology stream.

Title: Innovation ecclesiologies and the expanding of World Christianity

Global Christianity assumes a gospel that expands throughout the world, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Yet notions of expansion have trajectories, ethics and hoped for eschatologies that require missiological examination.

Ecclesiological expansion is probed through dialogue with research into fresh expressions in the UK (Taylor, First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God 2019), which found that half of fresh expressions had died within ten years of birth. Longitudinal analysis of other new forms of church literature – by Riddell (Threshold of the Future: Reforming the Church in the Post-Christian West, 1998), Frost and Hirsch (The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church, 2003) – reveal similar percentages. Yet Together Towards Life (2012) affirmed the value of fresh expressions as new forms of contextual mission in the global North.

A pragmatic ecclesiology values numbers. If fresh expressions die, are they of value in theorising the expanding of world Christianity? A pastoral ecclesiology values people. What are the pastoral implications if half of newly planted diaspora churches die in new cultural contexts?

This paper responds to these challenges by developing an innovation ecclesiology. An initial globalizing trajectory is followed as Christianity first expands into Europe. The innovative role of Lydia as a church planter in Philippi is read in relation to Mary as a first apostle, commissioned amid the eschatology of death and the trajectory of resurrection. This resonates with Epaphroditus, who despite nearly dying for the gospel, is regarded as valuable (Philippians 2:29). Such an innovation ecclesiology, in which dying is woven into rising, values expansion while providing ethical resources for the pastoral care of those who innovate in world Christianity.

Posted by steve at 06:27 PM

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

making matters: with a downunder #Kiwiangels hashtag

A piece I wrote last month for SPANZ, the denominational magazine of the Presbyterian Church. It is a popularisation of my craftivism research, with a downunder challenge.

Kiwiangels

Photo by Kayli Taylor

Making matters

God is a master maker, according to Proverbs 8:30. God delights in making, both at creation and among the human race. The chapter begins with the Maker calling in the streets, offering wisdom not inside the temple, but at the crossroads of life, not in the stillness of liturgy but the bustle of the city gates (1-3). The wisdom on offer is fit for daily purpose – words that lead to life offered at the door of every house (34-5).

Making mattered to theologians of the early Church, who wove relationships between God as maker and discipleship as God’s children. Maximus the Confessor called Christian life a game played by children before God. In Acts, Dorcas created a fresh expression of church with the poor through mending and Lydia worked with fine purple cloth, while Paul, Priscilla and Aquila sustained their mission through the making of tents.

The place of making in mission intrigues me. So in recent months, I have researched Christmas Angels, a local church outreach that began in the north of England in 2014. The idea is simple: make hand-knitted angels, attach a tag, and leave for others to find.

Why make? Mystery in mission, was the answer, according to founders, Methodist church ministers, Rob Wylie and David Wynd, whom I interviewed last month in Durham, England. Seeing a felted angel made by Lou Davis (a wonderfully talented pioneer Methodist church leader) a lightbulb went off for Rob and David: “People walk the same route to work every single day. Let’s see what happens when they see something they don’t normally see. What they make of the message will be up to them. An angel turns up and what might change?”

Christianity, like Christmas, has, over the years, become increasingly wrapped in tinsel. What might happen if making, in the simplicity of a hand-made angel, was what mattered at Christmas?

What happened? Well, it seems that local English churches adore making things. What began in 2014 with a few churches near Rob and David, was quickly taken up by churches all over Britain. In 2017, over 60,000 angels, each lovingly tagged, were yarn bombed throughout England. In the dark of winter down country roads and up high streets, outside train stations and opposite local schools, hand-made knitted angels just turned up.

I was curious. What did the neighbours make of the making? Were yarnbombed angels a nuisance? I turned to social media as part of my research. Each knitted angel came with a hashtag (search online for “#XmasAngel”) and I found the neighbours responding (tweeting) online. Words like “lovely” and “thanks” kept being repeated. For one person, the angels meant people were “thinking of us here”. For another it was an experience of “divine intervention”. A mother was moved to tears as she watched her children place their newly found angel atop the Christmas tree. Of the 1,100 responses (tweets), not one was negative. The making of knitted angels brought communities together, made visible the church and materialised joy and surprise in the experience of being found by an angel.

It all makes sense of the angels in the Christmas story. They were outdoors. They were making faith visible, not with their hands, but their voices with songs of peace and love for all humankind.

It also makes sense of the making in Proverbs 8. Making matters and mission needs to be “out and about” up streets and at the crossroads. Making matters as the Church becomes playful, turning “purl one and knit two together” into unspoken acts of public mission.

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?

Steve Taylor

Posted by steve at 09:14 PM

Monday, October 07, 2019

Listening in Mission key missiology assumptions

listeninginmission2019 I began Listening in Mission 2019 as online continuing education cohort experience a few weeks ago. It’s the 3rd year in a row we as KCML have offered this online educative local mission in neighbourhood experience. In preparing for the opening session (of five), I wanted to articulate some of the missiology that shaped the design of the course. Since we were working with John 21:1-14 in the lectio divina, I turned to that Biblical text as I sketched the key missiological assumptions.

The first assumption is that God is active in the world. This is central to John 21; first in the centrality of the Resurrected Jesus and second in the affirmation that this Jesus “showed himself in this way” (verse 1) by the Sea of Tiberias. Jesus “showed himself” as present and active neither in a building nor in a clearly religious activity, but beside a Lake and in the everyday, working day actions of fishing. Listening in mission assumes that God is active in the everyday working world. This assumption invites us to pay attention to our local communities, to look for Jesus in the ordinary and everyday.

A second assumption is that existing approaches yield little fruit. The disciples have fished all night, but “have no fish.” (21:5). This is the experience of many of our churches. What used to work, the ways we used to gather fish, are not yielding the same results. Our communities are changing. There is nothing wrong with the activity, skill or dedication of the disciples. It is simply that they have no fish.

This results in a third assumption, to be open to surprises from outside ourselves. The invitation from Jesus in verse 6 is to try the other side of the boat. This required the disciples to stop and listen, to attend to a voice from outside their hard-working circle, from a person they did not yet recognise. In Christ, there are new possibilities. These emerge as we pay attention to voices from outside ourselves.

A fourth assumption is that we need the body of Christ. In verse 4 – ‘disciples did not know” and in verse 7, Peter needed John as part of the process of discernment. While we can wonder at why this lack of recognition might be, the text makes clear that the discerning of Jesus was a shared task. This notion of shared discernment is central to being Presbyterian. Aware of our human sinfulness, we enact shared governance. Hence any listening in mission must be communal. We need others to help us looking for Jesus in community.

These 4 assumption
• God is active in the world, so pay attention to local
• Old ways are not working
• Jesus invites to pay attention in new ways
• We need each other
shape the design of Listening in Mission.

Participants are invited to
• gather local because our everyday communities are where God is present
• engage in disciplines of listening, a double listening for God in Scripture and in community
• take time, because new possibilties and new habits are not always immediately obvious
• keep gathering support – both local and in engaging with KCML

____________
For a 90 second video introduction, shot in my friendly local cafe, click here …

listening in mission from steve taylor on Vimeo.

__________

For a musical – pop culture, Kiwi contextual – framing go here

Posted by steve at 08:43 PM

Friday, September 20, 2019

Craftivism imaged: my paper in art

After my paper on Craftivism as mission at Ecclesiology and Ethnography, I was introduced to this piece of art.

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It is a Salvador Dali lithograph, owned by Durham University, which sits in the St Johns College dining room. It is titled “Illustration of the Bible, Jeremiah 1:5. Before I formed you in the womb I knew.” The suggestion was that this art piece “imaged” my research paper. I love the depiction of a woman weaving and perhaps God being imaged in relation to feminine images of womb and craft.” My “shot” is not a great picture, given the glare of glass and a sun and a crowded room.

Posted by steve at 09:32 PM