Friday, April 20, 2012

Jesus the great contextualiser

““let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19). How wise! In inculturation the most important quality of the evangelizer is the gift of listening.” (Arbuckle, 164)

More from the wonderfully accessible, deeply insightful Gerald Arbuckle’s, Culture, Inculturation, and Theologians: A Postmodern Critique. As I posted earlier in the week, Arbuckle is concerned that the failure of the church to understand culture is making us naive at best, dangerous and destructive at worst.

In Chapter 10, he explores what we can learn from Jesus the Inculturator. First a definition

“Inculturation is a dialectical interaction between Christian faith and cultures in which these cultures are challenged, affirmed, and transformed toward the reign of God, and in which Christian faith is likewise challenged, affirmed, and enhanced by this experience.” (152)

Then a note on how similar is Jesus culture to today’s postmodern notions of culture:

“There was nothing discrete, homogenous, and integrating about [Jesus’s] cultural world because it was filled with all kinds of tensions, fragmentation, and subcultural differences.” (153)

Then analysis of how Jesus used social drama, how he used moments when relationships between groups break; to encourage liminality; and open the possibility of growth.

Example – Mark 10:46-52 Bartimaeus. Arbuckle notes how

  • inculturation is person-centred – Jesus speaks directly to Bartimaeus, socially a non-person
  • inculturation is collaborative – “by his [Bartimaeus] actions is himself an agent of inculturation, challenging in collaboration with Jesus the crowd’s culture that rejects people who are poor.” (155)
  • inculturation requires spiritual and human gifts – “The gift most needed in evangelizers is the ability to listen and converse with people in a way that respects their human dignity.” (155) This is based on Mark 10: 51, the cry of Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus does not assume what type of help is needed, but instead listens.
  • liberation is an integral part of Inculturation – healing is social, cultural, economic, spiritual. Bartimaeus is not only healed of blindness, but finds he is given voice in the community of God, is respected as a collaborator in healing.

The chapter continues with analysis of the SyroPhonecian woman in Mark 7:24-30 and the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42.

Finally he concludes with Jesus use of parables “Probably this is his [Jesus] most important method of inculturation.” (162) He notes how these emerge from an attentiveness to the everyday world of those he serves.

“Simple and ordinary circumstances of daily life such as eating, walking, and even a request for a drink of water often become social dramas of special importance for Jesus in his ministry of inculturation.” (159)

Posted by steve at 04:46 PM

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

msm Adelaide final “report” in video format

Mission shaped ministry Adelaide. 40 folk from three denominations gathering over five months to reflect on mission and spirituality today. How did it go?

Well, we asked participants that very question on the last night and here’s the result: a final “report” not in words, but in video.

Also wondering if this might serve to promote mission shaped ministry throughout Australia – it’s a first being with Australian rather than British accents :).

Big thanks to Stephen Daughtry who gave his time to shoot and edit.

Posted by steve at 03:48 PM

Thursday, December 01, 2011

mission shaped ministry Adelaide calls it a dawn

Endings became beginnings, as the Adelaide mission shaped ministry course concluded last night.

The evening began in celebration, with food and sparking wine. Around tables folk looked back, reflecting on what the course had meant. They looked forward, reflecting on first next steps and what ongoing relational connections they wanted:

  • coaching
  • learning networks
  • regular reunions

The evening concluded with worship, a thanks for all we had experienced and then a commissioning into the dawn that is God’s new possibilities.

Spontaneously the lights were turned out and the leaders thanked. Each lit candle represented a person from the course, better equipped to be light in their communities. Each unlit candle represented the potential of future courses, (Semester 2, 2012) to ignite more lights into the community. A new dawn.

Throughout the night we shot video, interviewing folk about what the course meant to them, hoping to create an Aussie accented mission shaped ministry promotion. The camera person commented how they were blown away by what people shared and the sort of life changes they were speaking of, which was really neat to hear.

Posted by steve at 06:16 PM

Monday, November 21, 2011

mission shaped ministry national gathering update

Friday and Saturday was mission shaped ministry train the trainers gathering, hosted by Uniting College, which I sort of facilitated. About 35 folk from 4 denominations around Australia gathering, some with experience of pilots in Adelaide and Canberra, others wanting to know more about running mission shaped ministry courses in their patch.

John and Olive Drane provided input drawing on their UK involvement.  They demonstrated a session, allowed us to debrief it and shared with us the vision, values and practicalities. Those from Adelaide and Canberra shared what it was like for them to run a course, what they had learnt and what they would do differently next time.

The time concluded with a discussion of the future and the following steps were agreed:

  1. The welcoming of two new partners – Uniting Synod of Western Australia and a Uniting grouping (perhaps Synod or Presbytery) from Queensland.
  2. The seven existing and two new partners ask msm UK to extend the current Memorandum of Undertanding, and the embedded pilot phase ethos, allowing local groupings to continue to run in a pilot, experimental phase. (This could result in pilots in Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Sydney, Queensland, plus again in Adelaide and Canberra sometime in the next 12-18 months).
  3. We want to keep meeting as a national body. We favour a sort of working coalition which can resource, network, allow us to encounter diversity. To enable this, we will meet as a national body in November 2012, in Adelaide, hosted by Anglicans, at Adelaide College of Divinity, bringing with us more shared experiences of local pilots in action.
  4. Set up two working groups, one to explore how to get a video of stories of Australian fresh expressions, the other to explore how to develop ethnic participation in the mission shaped ministry course.

So there we are. 12 months ago, there was nothing. Now there is a coalition of 9 partners (more are welcome at any point), representing all of Australia apart from Northern Territories, all feeling empowered to run their own local msm courses, yet all keen to keep gathering around our shared experiences in on the ground mission training.

Personally, it’s been a lot of extra work, not just being part of running a local msm pilot, but also leading (sort of) what has effectively been three national gatherings over the past year. But I’m delighted with the outcomes and with the sense of shared collaboration and equality that has emerged.

Posted by steve at 08:52 AM

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

capacity building and mission shaped ministry

Building capacity is a cute business term. But it’s also a helpful way to think about leadership and your organisation.

Practically, on Friday and Saturday, there is capacity building in relation to the mission shaped ministry course here in Australia, as we look to multiply trainers and thus multiple the course throughout Australia, ie “build capacity”.

The back story. In November last year, a group of strangers gathered. Hosted by Uniting College, the conversation was about ways to transplant the mission shaped ministry course from UK to Australia as a way of raising the mission temperature.

A result was the decision to pilot two courses in 2011, one in Adelaide, another in Canberra. The UK like to train those who want to teach. But we, being down under and upside down folk, asked if rather than be trained at the start, we could be trained at the end! This could have 3 advantages. First, it would enable us to learn by doing, with the trainers able to evaluate our pilot, what we were actually doing, rather than what we could do. Second, it would likely give us more space to contextualise, to feel our way toward what an Australian expression of mission shaped ministry would look like. Third, it might aid in capacity building as we could offer the training not just to those involved in the two pilots, but throughout Australia and on the back of the buzz from running the two pilots.

This is happening. mission shaped ministry train the trainers is running Friday and Saturday, again hosted by Uniting College. We have 33 folk who have registered, from every State in Australia. Which opens the possibility of courses happening in every state in the next few years, along with a distance option for rural folk.

Here is the program.

9:15-9:30 am Opening meditation – Tracey Gracey

9:30 am -10:45 am The story so far: introducing the msm course (John Drane)

Coffee etc

11:15 am-1 pm A sample unit: A02, The Mixed Economy (Olive Fleming Drane)

Lunch (1-1:45 pm), followed by outdoor worship walk (1:45 pm-2:15 pm)

2:15 pm – 3:30 pm Practicalities & processes 1: structures and content
(John Drane)

4:00 pm – 5:15 pm Practicalities & processes 2: environment and ambience (Olive Fleming Drane).

5:30 pm Happy hour and pizza dinner. Followed by optional evening session. Discussions on pilot course so far, and Australia wide future of msm course.

9:15 am – 9:30 am Opening worship – Eloise Scherer

9:30 am -11:00 am A sample unit: A08, What is the Church? (John Drane)

11:30 am-1 pm Where do we go from here?
, with concluding worship Ruthmary Bond

It has been a lot of work and organisation and it’s hard to believe that 12 months after an initial discussion, we’ve got these levels of interest and potential capacity and the potential for mission training throughout Australia.

PS. For Adelaide readers, John and Olive Fleming Drane are offering other input on Thursday 17th (details here).

Posted by steve at 08:01 AM

Friday, October 21, 2011

the one stand at mission shaped ministry

The mission shaped ministry course resumed in Adelaide on Wednesday night. There has been a 5 week break, in order for folk to enjoy school/university holidays, to reconnect with family and to have some time to put some legs on some ideas.

So we are now into the 2nd half of the course, when things get more practical, as we talk about starting new things, about growing fresh expressions to maturity, about discipleship and what is church.

Last night was also a bit of one-night stand. During the week, 110 Uniting Church ministers have been in Adelaide, at the National Ministers Fresh Expressions conference. Part of the week has included site visits, and so we suggested observing a mission shaped ministry course in action as an option. Given that the course is new in Australia, we hoped that this would help with momentum and understanding and sync well with the planning to extend the course into other states in Australia in 2012, especially with John Drane and Olive Fleming Drane offering train the trainer training in November this year (currently we have 25 folk booked in for that, from all of the Australian states, which is very exciting). Which meant about 60 new folk arriving on Wednesday night.

We set it up as a “fish bowl”; with the usual tables for participants in the middle, and then around in a U-shape seats for those watching. All had notes, but the interaction focused on the participants. Which felt a bit different, but they quickly got down to work and it seemed to work alright.

At least until 8:55 pm.

The plan was to separate over coffee, with the last 15 minutes being either a fresh expressions activity for regular participants. Or space for those observing to ask general questions of the course.

Just as people began to sort themselves, the bus driver announced he was leaving. At 9 pm.

So like a rush of air, the place suddenly emptied. The stand was over. With not even a chance for a quick debrief and a thanks and goodbye for the evening!

Posted by steve at 07:50 AM

Thursday, August 04, 2011

worship when a changing world means a changing mission

Last night was the second week of the Adelaide mission shaped ministry course. With 2 new faces, there are now 47 registered. With the nerves of the first week gone, there is momentum in the air. My task is to lead worship and the hope is that all the worship is done in ways that are different, ways that offer possibilities.

The theme of week 2 is the mission of God. So I begin (the call to worship) with the teaser from the movie Up.

It seems to capture mission as risk, surprise, adventure. And so we say together, a missional paraphrase of Romans 8: This resurrection [mission] life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”

The next task is the task of prayer. This is offered as an invitation to either ask/intercede or thank/praise. On every chair is a balloon. Half have words from our “changing world” homework, a word texted in by us, which I have written on the balloon. This becomes the task of intercession. As Jesus breathed on the disciples in the sending of the Spirit (John 20), so the invitation is to pray by breathing on our world, to blow up the balloon, praying for the mission of God in our changing world.

The rest of the balloons have words from the week 2 course notes – Scriptures that speak of mission, names of mission moments in history, words from the Anglican 5 marks of mission. This becomes an invitation to praise, to give thanks. As Jesus breathed on the disciples in the sending of the Spirit (John 20:21-23), so we are to breathe thanks, to blow up the balloon, thankful for the mission of God in which we participate.

And so the room begins to breathe. As we finish our prayers, we tie our balloons, our breathe prayers. And we repeat together, the missional paraphrase: This resurrection [mission] life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”.

And we bat the balloons around the room, our joyful, playful, participation, our worship, when a changing world means a changing mission.

(Note, this might also work as a Creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary if the Bible texts were John 20 or Romans 8). For more resources go here.

Posted by steve at 10:16 AM