Friday, October 31, 2014

The complexity of authenticity in religious innovation: “alternative worship” and its appropriation as Fresh Expressions

There is a Cultures of Authenticity Symposium in Adelaide, 28 November, 2014. Here’s the brief

Authenticity pervades contemporary culture. This symposium provides a unique opportunity to investigate the significance of authenticity in regards to self, culture and society across key areas of social life from ethics, spirituality, work and intimacy to new media, tourism, health and environment.

The invite is to scholars to submit papers assessing the role of authenticity in late-modern life and its real-world applications and consequences. Full papers will be published in the journal M/C. It seemed a good opportunity to take my research on fresh expressions into a wider conversation, so last night I submitted an abstract:

The complexity of authenticity in religious innovation: “alternative worship” and its appropriation as Fresh Expressions

This paper will explore the formational potential of authenticity in late-modern cultures, with particular attention to unintended consequent complexities as authenticity is appropriated by contemporary religious innovations.

Recently within Western Protestantism a range of new approaches to church and worship has developed. Ethnographic research into these religious communities (called “alternative worship”) shows that authenticity was a generative word, used by these community to define themselves as marginal and thus to justify innovation.

However these acts of self-location, so essential for innovation and identity, were complexified when appropriated by the mainstream. This occurred first as mainstream religious communities sought to implement selected liturgical innovations generated by these “alternative worship” groups. Secondly, an organisation structure (called Fresh Expressions) was formed by appropriating the innovation. However the generative energy was not around marginality but rather on the renewal of existing institutional life.

These complexities can be theorised using the work of Sarah Thornton (Club Cultures: Music, Media, and Subcultural Capital (Music Culture)). Her research into culture cultures in the United Kingdom also noted a creative interplay between innovation and authenticity, first in generating innovation and subsequently, complexified as what was marginal gained success in mainstream musical cultures.

This suggests that authenticity plays a complex role in identity formation in a branded world.

Posted by steve at 08:28 AM | Comments (2)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

faith development of women pioneers

If I had time, if I had money …

I’d like to do a research project exploring the faith development of women pioneers in not-for profit projects, who are motivated by a specifically Christian outlook. It would conduct qualitative research into women who exercise leadership in three contexts – larger evangelical/charismatic churches, ecclesial pioneering contexts and not-for profit projects – comparing and contrast the processes by which they develop their leadership, the impact of their situatedness in context, and the implications for their faith and spiritual development.

Anyone want to join me? More importantly, anyone want to fund the data gathering?

Posted by steve at 11:14 AM

Monday, June 18, 2012

living in cultures of change

Spotlight, a leading national craft and curtain shop, sells raffia. This simple fact is important for local indigenous expression.

Yesterday Team Taylor enjoyed the annual open day at the Warriparinga Living Kaurna Cultural centre. We enjoyed the live music, watched the kids play a traditional game, kicking around a possum skin (yep, possum) and joined the local basket weavers.

As we chatted we learned that traditionally basket used reeds and grasses. However such things disappear in modern industrial cities. Either the practice of basket weaving dies. Or else the cultural adapts.

Hence the importance of raffia from Spotlight.

It reminded me of a conversation a few weeks ago. I was wine tasting and some older folk were chatting beside about the impact of technology. Will our children be able to read and write, in an age of screens and e-readers? They were concerned about cultural death.

I pointed out that my children are reading more widely and broadly as a result of the purchase of Kindle’s. To which they shrugged, sighed and said “I guess you’ve got to just so with the times.”

The resignation in their voices, the words they use, were very similar to what I hear in church circles. It suddenly occurred to me that

One, responding to change is not just an issue for the church, but for all cultures. It is a shared human challenge.

Two, that avoidance or assimilation, fighting or acceptance, are two very limited responses.

Three, that Christians who think about culture-making, about a variety of practices by which to live in change, that the adaptive resources from within indigenous cultures, are a helpful resource for living in change – not just for the church, but for all humans in modern society.

Posted by steve at 08:50 AM

Friday, April 03, 2009

yes to bible and popular culture new book

Semeia Studies is one of the leading, cutting edge experimental publishers in the area of Biblical studies. The editorial board has just said yes to a new book proposal: titled The Bible in/and Popular Culture: A Creative Encounter. Edited by Dr. Philip Culbertson and Dr. Elaine Wainwright the book will explore a wide range of popular media: popular music, graphic novels, fiction, television and video games. Particular attention will be given to the way these media engage biblical texts and characters and to hermeneutical and methodological/theoretical issues.

I post this because the book will include a chapter by me, titled: Reading “pop-wise”: the very fine art of “making do” when reading the Bible in bro’Town. So over the last few months, I’ve been quietly stealing time to move between the book of Revelation, Sionerella bro’Town episode and Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.

What I found intriguing was that so many of the issues discussed in Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art play out in discussions around emerging church and alt.worship. Like the relationship between word and image and the privileging of high culture. Best of all, the entire book is done as a comic. Yep. A book on theory of comics that’s a comic!! Now when is someone going to do that with theology?

Posted by steve at 05:54 PM

Saturday, June 24, 2006

the context of storytelling

Stories are the stuff of human experience. Yet all stories have a context.

Tell us a story. Tell us about your church. Blog reading. Book reading.

All these questions and activities require some sort of ability to understand both story and the context in which it emerges. When you hear my story (read this blog, ask me a question) to truly understand, you need to be able to place story within context. You also need to be aware that in reading and asking, you are bringing your assumptions about life and church and emerging church and life to the table.

The emerging church suffers from this. People make photocopies rather than re-contextualise the contextualisation. The emerging church seems (IMHO) to be a shared conversation among people, groups and churches, about life and faith in a changing contemporary context. But it is so easy to objectify the stories and to read the conversation as monolithic, as “this is the emerging church.” In doing so, the stories have been stripped of context. They are then in danger of commodification, as books, websites, podcasts etc.

This week I have been a a storyteller in a new context. This has focused for me what has been a recurring question; Does this task of contextualisation belong to the reader/listener or to the communicator? Are there ways to tell stories, or frame stories, that allow context to be laid alongside story?

Posted by steve at 06:57 AM

Saturday, February 21, 2004

this quote goes out to my auckland church and society class

Engage with communities and the new generation of consumers or risk losing market share. Full BBC article here.

Posted by steve at 07:57 AM

Monday, February 09, 2004

consume the body

jez commented the biggest pity is that Borders is such a bad model if you’re concerned about justice, muliplicity and diversity or the local and the specific. I won’t bleat on about Borders’ purchasing policies nor about the impact of Borders on small business and local community but whatever Borders might be it is hardly the kind of organic, local, just community i’m looking for to nourish my spirit”

We all consume. We can’t live without consumption. Some then become aware of the impact of their consuming on the third world, on the local, on the diverse. But we are all still enmeshed in a web of consumption. We need a third way, a theology of consumer resistance.

We need the 10 commandments of a healthy consumption
consume no logo
consume fair trade
consume adbusters
consume organic
consume no meat
consume shade coffee
consume 5 loaves, 2 fish and have 12 bags of waste
consume the body of Christ …

Posted by steve at 09:04 AM

Monday, February 02, 2004

stone in my shoe

One of the big arguments of my PhD, and of the book I am working on for emergentYS, is that people “make do”; that in the face of cultural change, people are creative, transformative, adapting the bits from the world around them to create their own unique mixes. It is based on the work of French Jesuit Michel de Certeau.

The only flaw in the argument is this article on the disappearance of languages from around the world, via they blinked

How many languages have disappeared in the last century? About 60 or 70 per cent of linguistic diversity in the north-western region of Brazil has gone in the last 100 years. On the Atlantic coast of Brazil it’s worse – about 99 per cent – and around the world the figure is 60 to 70 per cent. It has been very rapid.

Being brought up in Papua New Guinea, a country of over 600 languages, the loss of even one language saddens me.

Posted by steve at 10:02 AM