Thursday, January 14, 2016
3 month anniversary: an emotional and grateful reflection
This week marks 3 months since I began as Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership. I celebrated the one week milestone with some thoughts and it seems appropriate to repeat the practice.
I returned to work this week and found myself awaking each day profoundly grateful that I’m called to this role, at this time and place. I am so appreciative of the space to innovate, the genuine invitation and repeated expectation that KCML will live into its mission to train the whole people of God. I am excited by the possibilities that have been generated in staff conversation and at a two day staff retreat in December. While these are still embryonic and face many more conversations with key stakeholders, there is a whole host of creative, connective, ideas beginning to take shape. I am grateful for the resources that come with the KCML space. This includes the team, the variety of financial stakeholders, along with the enormous goodwill and generosity I’ve experienced, repeatedly, within the Presbyterian church and the KCML team. Very quickly as a team we have moved into constructive, prayerful, accountable relationships that are a delight to participate in. They are a group joyfully facing a new future.
This is a great role, in a great place. Long may the honeymoon continue
Wednesday, September 02, 2015
My close of placement service
Close of Placement Service: Rev. Dr. Steve Taylor
Time: 3:00 pm
Date: Monday 7 September 2015
Where: Chapel of Reconciliation, Uniting College, Adelaide College of Divinity (34 Lipsett Terrace, Brooklyn Park)
Please join us afterwards in the College Common Space for drinks and nibbles from 4pm-5:30pm, where there will be the chance to say farewell to Steve, Lynne and Kaylee, to hear some words of thanks and enjoy a glass of wine or juice and some local cheeses.
RSVP 3 September 2015 to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Dunedin property owners
Our quick jump across the ditch has proved remarkably successful. We looked at 8 properties in Dunedin over the weekend. We were accompanied by a Dunedin local, who was invaluable in terms of local knowledge and insight. The upshot was that we made an offer on a property on Monday, which was accepted on Tuesday (subject to building inspection).
It’s a great place that all four of Team Taylor fell in love with pretty much from the moment we walked in the door. It is architecturally designed with lots of character spots to sit and connect. It’s got sea views over the Otago Harbour, yet is set in native bush. It’s close to work, yet has a drive home with harbour views that will be important in creating the necessary distance. It’s not got a lot of room for garden due to the bush, but a glass house should really help and there is plenty of room for chickens and perhaps even a beehive or 3.
Practically, it has 3 bedrooms and 5 different configurations of living areas, which should well suit the needs of our family. We expect to be able to take possession on the date we wanted – the 5th of October – which gives us a week to settle before I start at Knox and Kayli starts at her new school on the 12th of October.
It is a great relief psychologically to know where we are going, stopping and staying for this next chapter of our lives. It’s difficult to express how important this is for our family.
Friday, August 21, 2015
Quick jump across the ditch
Team Taylor are re-uniting across the ditch for a few days. Friday is a flight from Adelaide to Christchurch, where we pick up our New Zealand recently purchased car and drive to Dunedin.
Over Saturday and Sunday, we are house hunting. (Hence the need for the car, to drive around a string of open homes). We have this idealistic little plan; that we would buy a house in Dunedin in time for us to move in when we start my new role as Principal at Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership in early October. To do that requires buying a house about 6 weeks prior, that is about now in August. To do that requires selling a house in Adelaide in late July. We’ve done the house selling in Adelaide, so lets see if the house buying in Dunedin part happens. No worries if it doesn’t, but lets at least have a go.
Then Monday through Wednesday, I get to connect with my new work team. They have an annual retreat about this time of year and have invited me to join them. It will be two days of getting to know and starting to build connections. It’s all part of the transition and I’m looking forward to starting a new role with this sort of relaxed, relational, future facing occasion. As a team, we will also be connecting with quite a few Presbyterian church leaders from different cultures around New Zealand, in particular Pacific and Asian. So that’s a very rich introduction to a new community I’m called to serve among.
However, it has meant an unbelievably late night at work, clearing the desk. This week has involved Monday through Wednesday facing our five year Finders Departmental Review, on top of a monthly Board meeting and lecturing.
It will be lovely to take that jump …
Sunday, July 19, 2015
a “working” holiday – run: write: relax: renovate
The last week has been “working” holiday. It’s been rich and intense. The week followed a daily pattern – Run. Write. Relax. Renovate. It’s a pattern I’d recommend.
In regard to renovate, we have some tasks that have to be completed before we can put the house up for sale. We brought a real do-up a few years back, and the return to New Zealand has placed a deadline on the project. So the week began with a to do list on the family white-board and away we went.
Over the week, we completed 7 of the 11 projects, and made significant progress on 10. The entire outside of the house is now painted. The laundry has a new ceiling, which is painted, along with the walls. A new set of front steps has been framed, cut and concreted. The rear side door has a fresh external coat. The front deck is scrubbed, cleaned and prepared for painting. There has been a really good sort of the garage and kitchen, with some stuff cleaned and packed ready to shift and other stuff taken to the Red Cross.
As well as the 11 tasks, there have also been lots of other tasks done along on the way – a new exterior barge board, stain on a small piece of inside skirting and a side garden built. There are still odd little tasks to do, but we think it’s time to call the agent and hold a “finishing party.”
In regard to write, I have some writing tasks that, like the house, also need to be completed. They include my research on sustainability and fresh expressions. I completed a set of interviews back in 2013. I’ve continued to write but the project remains unfinished. I enjoy writing, so I decided to use the “working” week to experiment with different approach, that of snack-writing. Snack writing involves writing little and often. The idea is that it is better to snack than binge, it is better to write little and often rather than seek big blocks of time.
Practically, snack writing involves trying to write five days a week, first thing in the morning, for no less than 45 minutes and never any more than two hours. The theory is that big blocks are virtually impossible to find in the pressures of contemporary academic world. Also, the brain writes better when it is asked to work little and often. You are more likely to be in a good flow by the end of two hours. That gives the brain something to chew on during the rest of the day. It also raises levels of motivation when you return the next morning as it is easier to return to something that your brain recalls as being in a sweet spot. Finally, a research project found that people who shifted from binge writing to snack writing increased in both quantity and quality. (They produced 2 more peer reviewed articles per year).
So I wrote each day, never for more than two hours. Over the week, I wrote 2,500 words, an average of 500 words a day. I made good progress on a significant chapter that I’ve been struggling with. By the end of the week, I felt I had an significant new section and an overall argument for that chapter. I also realised I had gained greater clarity on the entire project and a clearer, more defined argument has emerged. It had provided a way to ease back into what is currently 9 draft chapters written at various times over the last two years. The result is that I can now tell you in 150 words what the book is about, which is very good thing. For me, for the acquisitions editor and eventually for you, the reader :).
Hence the pattern of the “working” holiday week. Run to pray. Write to snack. Relax with coffee (at our local cafe 3 blocks away). Renovate to return (to New Zealand).
I’d not recommend it as a pattern for every week of my holiday. But it certainly helped me put aside my day job as a Principal. And it provided a lovely pattern that generated momentum and progress on a number of fronts.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
one year on: missing Dad, Dad dreaming
It’s a year since Dad died, suddenly, but peacefully. I’m taking tomorrow off, to sit with the pain, to watch the video of the funeral, to walk through the memories. Here’s one memory, a summer dream, that keeps me going …
About four months after Dad died, I awoke one night, aware that Dad had just walked through my dreams. I was in a home and walking down a hallway, a door opened and Dad stepped out.
He was wearing long blue jeans, nicely cut and a knitted sweater. He looked good. I said hello, reaching out to touch the wool as Dad walked past. It was warm and soft. Dad turned, meeting my gaze and smiling. He appeared younger, happier, gentler. Then silently, he moved on down the hallway.
Waking, lying in a darkened room, I pondered feelings of presence and absence. Dad was there, a presence I could still talk too. Yet Dad was moving on, unable in this dream to talk to me. I felt both comforted and saddened, aware of grace, reminded of grief.
Continuing to ponder the dream in the days following, it slowly dawned on me that in my dream Dad was walking.
Walking. It had been years since I’d seem him walk. His last years had seen him trapped in a wheel chair.
Christians claim the resurrection of the dead. That Dads will not just walk, but also talk. Yet in the here and now, my Dad walked, stepping softly, warmly, through my subconscious. The dream offered a new way to connect with my Dad beyond death. Deep within the recesses of the parts of me that I cannot fathom, cannot control, Dad lives.
And walks. It’s a source of great comfort, while I wait for the end of time, when I’ll find myself not only able to walk, but also to talk.
I miss my Dad.
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
leadership: giftedness or weakness
I hear a lot of talk about leadership giftedness. We have strengths, we have talents, we have “sweet spots” and we are called to find ways to express those. The body of Christ is diverse and we need to offer our uniqueness.
As Lent begins, I’m pondering leadership weakness.
As this first image from Si Smith’s wonderful 40, Jesus packs away what he is has spent a life being good at, packs away the tools of his trade, what gives him security, income and purpose.
And heads off into the wilderness, to places of insecurity and discomfort, where he will meet his inner self, face his temptations.
My strengths give me security. I know I can write and speak and improvise on my feet. I know I can listen well, find a clear phrase, think through a situation.
My strengths can be habitual. I turn to what I know, to what is well worn and familiar. Yet in times of immense transition, the future might actually be found in new habits, new people, new postures.
I wonder what it means if I were to pack away the tools of my trade – turn off the computer, the cell phone – and head into the wilderness. I wonder what temptations would find me.
And whether they are best met by my strength? Or by my weakness?
Friday, January 03, 2014
one of New Zealand’s finest private walks
Team Taylor are having a very relaxing holiday. Lots of catching up with friends, reading, doing puzzles, reflecting.
New Years included the ceremonial burning – all the stuff from 2013 we wanted to leave behind – and then dancing in hope of a better 2014 with sparklers.
We’re about to head off on the Kaikoura Coast Track, 3 days of walking – off the Christmas dinner! Day pack only, (not a real walk! says one member of Team Taylor) but still a great chance to walk a great piece of Coast. Expecting seals and hoping for a whale sighting!
Saturday, December 14, 2013
We headed out to our family holiday home today. It had been hit by floods in June and today was the first time we’ve seen it since. It’s been a place of much happiness and family memory creation, so there was a certain trepidation, wondering what we would find.
We could have had a look in August, when we came back for dad’s funeral. But we had enough grief to cope with at that time and I couldn’t face looking at the bach.
The floods had certainly taken their toll, with over a foot of water through the entire house. Good friends and the insurance company have been hard at work in our absence. Carpet has been lifted and taken away, damaged walls have been cut out, repaired and then painted, new kitchen cupboards installed.
Today was about getting everything outside and sorting. Belongings too damaged in the tip pile, bedding to be washed in another. Every single dish and cultery washed, to remove silt and dried.
We did enough work today that we can move in tomorrow. The day was warm, perfect for drying. It’s hard to believe that six months ago, the entire place was inaccessible, with flood waters over two feet high over the entire village.
We’ve lost a lot of belongings. But we’re glad of insurance. And friends and family, who’ve done so much in our absence. And sunshine and gentle winds, which are so good at airing bedding.
Monday, November 04, 2013
21st Century Theological training – vision radio interview
My radio interview on 20twenty – Life, culture & current events from a Biblical perspective is available here.
Adelaide College of Divinity have introduced some innovative 21st century concepts including study tours and Blended Learning.
Host: Neil Johnson
Guest: Steve Taylor – Principal Uniting College (part of ACD)
I talk about the value of ecumenism in education in a pluralist world and about 3 waves of distance as it impacts upon theological education
- distance as written
- distance by broadcast
- distance by blended learning
I also talk about flipped learning and the rationale for beyond the classroom study tour experiences – those who learn by watching. I finish by reflecting on the imperative of mission in theological education, including the places we go and the books we read if our God is a global God.
“Steve Taylor, you are an inspiration” concludes the radio announcer, Neil Johnson.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Today we built a solar oven. A few hours at a local community centre, with some cardboard, aluminium foil and glue.
It’s meant to be able to cook pretty much anything, simply using the heat of the sun – casseroles, corn on the cob, potatoes, cup cakes, bread, eggs. It takes a few hours to cook. Which was part of the pleasure and promise, the hint of a different pace of life, a more sustainable Sunday.
It was too wet outside to try but here’s a video of how it’s meant to work. (Although being a vegetarian I’ll be trying something different)
Sunday, October 06, 2013
offspring has sprung
My time with the Presbyterian church at Offspring is over. Very rich. But very intense.
Lots of personal encouragements – seeing former students and Christchurch pastoral colleagues – realising my Out of Bounds Church? book has born fruit – some fascinating interaction on mission, fresh expressions, pioneering, leadership and sustainability.
My input sessions seemed to go well – it was great to be telling NZ mission history stories alongside some Australian mission history stories I’ve picked up in my travels – to be able to bring indigenous gifts from Australia across the Tasman.
The highlight was hearing the stories of four Kiwi pioneer ventures, and realising afresh that God is still up to lots, albiet in fresh ways, in New Zealand. I’d love to write up some of these reflections and missiology I see emerging.
But not now.
First a precious 24 hours to pop back to Christchurch and see Mum, and together continue to process the loss of Dad. Nothing like Mum’s mock white-bait fritters.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
praying our goodbyes: a book soaked in memories
Some books are soaked in memories. I pulled Joyce Rupp’s Praying Our Goodbyes off the book shelf yesterday. It offers a range of ways to grieve. This includes a selection of rituals for different situations that life deals us – terminating a relationship, feeling betrayed, farewell, living with constant pain. And for each, some Scripture, some prayer, some action.
The book has been so well used that as I opened it the pages fell out. I held them, remembering the times I’d used it – our struggles with infertility, twice in 9 months being turned down for a job I thought would be ideal, the pastoral transition away from a loved church family, some difficult work situations. And how different those situations seem now, 5 and 10 years later. Felt the pain, still. Yet realised, almost laughed in delight, at the different trajectories now in play.
And reflecting on the truthfulness of these words from Joyce
for the Christian, hello always follows goodbye in some form if we allow it. There is, or can be, new life, although it will be different from the life we knew before. The resurrection of Jesus and the promises of God are too strong to have it any other way. (Joyce Rupp Praying Our Goodbyes, 15)
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Dad’s death and Christian approaches to suffering
Thursday was my first time back leading the Uniting College team meeting since Dad’s funeral. I decided to share some of what I’ve been thinking and feeling and reading since his death. This had a number of potential dangers. First, the risk of being simply self-therapy. Second, that others in the team have also recently suffered loss, so an uncertainty how my story might connect with their story. At the same time, this is the team that have supported me in prayer and love (cards and calls and care, including gathering to lit a candle as prayer on the day I flew to New Zealand) and a team what is seeking to grow deeper with each other in all of life.
I began by sharing a number of photos that might help capture for the team some of my experience of the funeral. It is wierd when you bury your Dad in a different country, and so I live between two worlds, one of which does not know my dad, nor was able to be with me as the funeral happened.
First, my mums fingers around dad’s ring has he died. That sense of faithful love over so many years.
Second, building our own coffin for Dad, some building, some drilling, some decorating.
Third, the invitation at the funeral to sign the coffin, allowing individual engagement with the reality of Dad’s death.
And then some theological reflection. A few words from a poem, on the importance of pain in the forming of faith
“We must feel
The pulse in the wound
To believe.” Denise Levertov, On belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus.
And some words from Justin of Norwich, in which pain and suffering are asked for, as a way of loving God. It is a spirituality so counter to so much of contemporary Western culture, in which we are so keen to live young endlessly.
“And it suddenly occurred to me that I should entreat our Lord graciously to give me the second wound [ ], so that he would fill my whole body with remembrance of the feeling of his blessed Passion, as I had prayed before; for I wanted his pains to be my pains, with compassion, and then longing for God … I want to suffer with him, while living in my mortal body, as God would give me grace.” (Julian of Norwich, RDL, 3)
It led to a rich discussion, a story about the richness for a community when suffering was faced, tears for those we love who continue to suffer, a reminder of the positive impact of suffering on our character formation.
(Both readings from the chapter on Julian Norwich in Disability in the Christian Tradition: A Reader)