Saturday, October 31, 2009

worship with? or without you?: worship, community and u2

Great nite (for me anyhow), at last nite’s evening on U2, with what felt like a really good conversation rolling through the discussion time after. It is so much fun (for me anyhow) thinking missiologically and theologically about something that I love! Thanks to Laidlaw College and Opawa for the opportunity.

What I did was develop and extend my October conference paper. Here is some of my last section, titled: Applications for preaching and worship:

Worship as the awakening of communal memory. We tend to turn up to worship as individuals. So do fans at a concert. The songs awaken individual memories. (As in this video of the crowd at a Glasgow 360 concert. Look at the faces, lots of people with awakened communal memories!) Yet U2 also work at creating communal memories, as they namedrop a place, as they reference shared world events (recent examples would be space station, or Michael Jackson’s death). What does it mean for our worship to deliberately create communal memories? For example, lighting a candle to stand with those who grieving. Or the crafting of worship in relation to public holidays, for example recently here in New Zealand, Labour Day to awaken communal memory as to the rhythm of work and leisure.

The purpose of worship. Reading a live concert as an act of installation art offers a definition: the crafting of a space in which people can look at themselves. Seeker sensitive worship told us to ditch the heavier stuff, yet at a U2 concert we find a band playing to thousands of people and inviting them to engage with them in moments of pray (recent examples are for Aung San Suu Kyi) and lament (recently for Iran) and to join social justice (recently for One campaign). These are contemporary expressions of ancient Christian disciplines. In so doing, U2 are inviting people to look at themselves in relation to the world around. Which sounds like a very worthy purpose of worship, for people, in light of the Christian story, to look at themselves in relation to the world around.

Posted by steve at 12:07 PM

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

interactivity in contemporary culture: u2 at creative play

I am constantly intrigued by the way contemporary culture encourages interactivity and human creativity. Like U2’s recent announcement of a 1000 word partnership with here.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The band’s new BlackBerry App gives you the chance to tell the story of a U2 song through the images it inspires for you. We want you to mail us your images – and become part of U2’s mobile album.

1. You interpret. “The songs on No Line On The Horizon evoke different people and places, thoughts and ideas in every listener … Does Breathe take your breath away ? Got a pair of sexy boots ? What or who is Magnificent for you ? … Share the images you associate with certain songs.” In other words, U2 really do write multi-layered songs (scroll to 5th paragraph: I’m the “theological trained acquaintance and actively encourage the creativity of reader-response.

2. You point and shoot. ” Snap your Unknown Caller or capture a moment of Stand Up Comedy.” Because we live in a world awash with digital cameras and cellphones, which provide the vehicle by which interactivity is encouraged.

3. You send in. “All you have to do is select the photo which you think captures a particular song and then email it to us … and we’ll select some to tell the story of each track in the ‘Origami’ section of the Mobile Album. Maybe you’ll find your picture telling the story of one of a song…”

This has immediate transfer into church life.
1. A few months ago at our evening service the theme was Grow in the black of Easter Friday and the white of Easter Sunday. So we encouraged people to shoot digital photos of things, during the week, that inspired awe in them, which were then used the next week in worship.
2. Email out the lectionary text and invite people to send in images of what the text evokes in them. Montage these as the Lectionary text is being read.
3. Invite people to send in photos of their workplace, to be placed on the church website.

What else folks? What are you doing, what have you seen done, in which contemporary culture is utilised to encourage interactivity and human creativity?

Posted by steve at 03:07 PM

Sunday, September 20, 2009

up as worship

Worship: all that you are responding to all that God is. So I prepared to lead worship today, aware of the impact that the Pixar movie Up had on me this week. To be true to that, and to what God had been saying to me through the movie, it needed to be woven into the worship. So here is what I curated.

The reading of a Bible verse that had been sitting with me all week: Romans 8:15 in The Message: This resurrection 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?”

An explanation of the movie: A fantastic family movie. The Taylor’s laughed and cried. It is the story of an old man who has a childhood dream. Grows up and never quite gets there. At the age of 78 decides it’s time to chase his dream. So he ties balloons to his house and goes adventuring. With the help of an unexpected stowaway, 8 year ld called Russell. Got me thinking all week – about Christian life as letting go, as trust, as adventure.

Visual: The Up teaser trailer.

Individual reflection: On your seats as you came in, you would have found a card. Three colours. If you got yellow – I invite you to think about a Bible story of generations coming together; green – people you know who are learning to trust; pink – a Bible character who went on an adventure.

Communal response: Now I invite us together to make an Opawa psalm
This morning we thank God for resurrection life
adventurously expectant, greeting God with a child-like “What’s next?”
This morning we particularly thankyou for generations who come together

… those with the yellow card, call out …. and a kid cut a helium balloon, which gently floated to the roof … as together we thankyou for generations who come together.

This morning we thank God for resurrection life
adventurously expectant, greeting God with a child-like “What’s next?”
This morning we particularly thankyou for people who know who are learning to trust
… those with the green card, call out …. and a kid cut a helium balloon … as together we thankyou for people who are learning to trust.

This morning we thank God for resurrection life
adventurously expectant, greeting God with a child-like “What’s next?”
This morning we particularly thankyou for characters who go on adventures
… those with the pink card, call out …. and a kid cut a helium balloon … as together we thankyou for Bible characters who went on adventures. Amen

and we transitioned into the Chris Tomlin song, Forever. It was a nice mix of individual and communal, visual and kinesethetic, culturally connective and Biblical.

Posted by steve at 11:18 PM

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

pastoral worship curators

Probably the deepest longing in our cultures today is for fulfilling relationships and community. To know and be known. To love and be loved. The Church owns that space. We have neglected it. Let our title lapse. Sold our birthright. I know it’s not easy to build community when most of the congregation don’t want it. In fact it may be impossible. (In which case you should probably leave and start something new). But that’s not an excuse to let your worship curating drop to the lowest common denominator. Curate with heart. With passion. A heart for God, a heart for people, and a heart to see those people encounter God in life transforming ways. Relationships will flow from that. Any other motivation is unworthy of the title “worship curator”.

Mark Pierson holding the mirror to his own gift mix, because he’s one of the best pastors I know.

Posted by steve at 02:52 PM

Sunday, September 06, 2009

soak and lectio divina for those wanting to hear God in sickness

soak400.jpg Soak is a monthly (first Sunday) service we run at Opawa. It’s like nothing I’ve ever been involved with before: sung worship, a great space, lectio divina, and then various stations, with people leaving when they feel they’ve finished soaking.

So tonight the theme was Hearing God in sickness. One of the stations was a wheelchair, on which people could sit and pray for the sick they knew. Another offered healing prayer. Other’s offered prayers, poetic and tactile, for those hearing difficult news.

It just felt such a useful pastoral thing to be part of; offering Christian resources – a wide range of Christian resources – for those everyday realities.

For those interested, here’s the lectio divina I wrote. It’s based on a phrase from Ben Harper album, “Two hands of prayer”, which seemed to me the best way to understand Mark 9:24I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!..” Which linked in my head with John 20:27 “Put your finger here; see my hands.” It’s not exegeticaly logical or coherent. But that’s the beauty of lectio divina: it expects God’s inspiration simply because the Spirit is alive and well both in relation to Biblical text and in relation to human imagination. We offer the Bible in many, many ways at Opawa, and the lectio approach is just one of the man.


Posted by steve at 10:35 PM

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

browsing worship: weaving space + event

You read this post. Well, more accurately, you browse this post. Time of your chosing, most likely juggling other inputs – music, cellphone. Some of you will be on RSS feeds or facebook, seeing the first few lines, wondering whether to click and read the whole lot. Might leave a comment. Might not.

We call this “browsing”; a feature of life today, adrift in a world of choice, gone 24/7. As such, this changing nature of engagement poses particular problems for Christian gathering, which tends to focus on one particular time. If you’re late, sick, distracted, working – then – it’s often – well – tough.

Which makes one of the Greenbelt 2010 offerings fascinating reading.

A space – open over an extended period, come as, when, you are, early or late.

A curated space – complete with stuff to look at, to do for all ages, to browse.

A spiraling labyrinth in the centre of the room. Images – an old man shovelling snow in a monastry – ambient mucis in background. Kids playing lego and colouring celtic saints. A wall of words for meaning making. Hanging fabrics, floor cushions. People sitting, kneeling, lying down, stretching, reading, writing, relaxing, meditating, thinking, reflecting. More participant description here

Times of set prayer – short spoken liturgies – Bible reading and prayer – at set times (in this case 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, 3 pm, 5:30 pm) (for more see here).

Interactivity – in this case “fridge magnet prayers.” Fantastic idea. 840 words, drawn from a local congregational life, and the invitation for people to arrange them in prayers, which were then read during the “set prayers.” (I’d want to mix in some pictures as well though, just to keep it non-verbal)

This is browsing for sure, a space, yet with defined events that gather, make the whole greater than the individual parts.

I read this as a local pastor, thinking about what it would be like to create this as part of church life. Invite a person/s to create a space and to refresh that space regularly. Find a wordsmith (or borrow/beg from existing sources) and notify times of set prayer. Throw in a few changing stations that allow points of reflection (open Bible for that day’s lectionary reading, confession station, candles). Find a way for people to leave “solo” prayers that can be prayed during the set prayer times (could be a facebook page, a text service, a white board, fridge magnet liturgy.)

What about taking your Sunday, inviting some creatives to work on a centred, prayer space within your existing service and then advertising it as: All day space for prayer + times to gather. Start monthly and see what happens.
10:30 am – all age service
12:30 pm – talkback discussion of sermon
5:00 pm – communion
5:30 pm – soup for faith
6:30 pm – lectio divina
8:00 pm – Last words

Posted by steve at 04:07 PM

Friday, June 12, 2009

art, theology and worship: Pentecost 09

An www.friend emailed me this link, a video explanation by an artist of a recent large scale Pentecost art installation.

I find it fascinating as follows:
1. The way it weaves art into church practice, particularly in preaching, including the art installation explained, the use of interactivity, the role of imaginative storytelling. Great work.

2. As an example of using art in large scale gatherings (a conference of hundreds of people). i love the way that this is participative and interactive, ie people given colour cards and invited to sit on seats, because most art comes complete with a sign “please don’t touch”, and thus reduces art to eyes only, rather than a five sensory experience. Having said that, I’d like to see more mess. Sitting on a chair is pretty sterile. I’d like to see people invited to paint prayers of thanks on the chairs of the “other”, to place their palm print on chairs as signs of “Spirit-led” discipleship. Stuff that allows much more messy engagement!

3. The way that art still needs to consider Biblical accuracy. One of the premises of the art piece is that in Acts 2, the people in Jerusalem were other ie different and that difference was in the fact they were enemies. That’s not how I read the presence of Parthians, Medes, Elamites in Acts 2:9. Since it was a major Jewish festival, they were most likely God-fearing pilgrims. They had travelled hundreds of miles to be present at this major feast. So they were other, different in terms of ethnicity and language, rather than enemies. So the art explanation is certainly right in it’s basic premise, the need to make space to hear God through people different than us, but it could have got there simply on the basis of language and culture.

Posted by steve at 06:07 PM

Sunday, April 12, 2009

tree of life

– He saw and believed. They still did not understand.
Easter text by John 20:8-9

The leaves are not yet grown
The colour is not yet shown
The fruit is not yet formed
Yet this is enough

The clothes still are scattered
The disciples still asleep
The gardener still prowls a sin-stained garden
Yet this is enough

Held by you, Who is not here
Who has gone ahead of me
For the life and love, of the world

– Easter words by Steve Taylor

– Easter visuals by Mark Berry

Posted by steve at 09:18 AM

Thursday, April 09, 2009

finding God with flax as Easter spirituality

For the last 10 years, the Easter Journey, has been a feature of ministry at Opawa. However, for the last year or so, there has been a growing feeling that it is time for something new to emerge. Opawa is changing and so are Pete and Joyce. While the Journey has been a tremendous blessing, we have to be sensitive to the moving, changing winds of the Spirit. Too often, good things for a season become institutions the church feels compelled to keep propping up. Letting things go is an essential Christian discipline.

To help us let go, and to start the process of dreaming again, we are starting with an Easter Saturday day of paper making. April 11, 9:45 am for coffee. Bring lunch to share. Together we will turn flax into paper, both for individual journals and for use in the church at Pentecost.

Why paper making? Well this is what I said on radio recently. (more…)

Posted by steve at 09:16 AM

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

making a meal of it: all-ages gathered around Jesus meals

Sunday was our second in a four part (first Sunday of month) series on communion. The first part was about Passover, meaning this second part (leading into Holy week) was to have a particular focus on the meals time habits of Jesus. It was also down to be an inter-generational (Take a Kid to faith) service, with the kids in. So to help that learning, I make “table mats” around which I invited people to gather in groups of 6.

In the shape of a cross, each table mat had 5 panels. Four panels were linked to 4 Biblical meals – Passover memories, Jesus eating at Simon the Leper, feeding of multitudes and the last supper – with a space in the middle (for communion at the end of the service). Meals are usually about the menu, the music, the guests, the footwear and the memories. So each of the four “meal” panels had these symbols.

In terms of the content, I provided a 4 minute explanation of each meal, highlighting menu, guests, footwear and suggested music. I then paused between each panel, and gave the groups time to discuss together what the “memories” of that meal would be. Groups feedback to the entire church (and what they shared then shaped my communion prayer). It was a nice way to step through some Biblical content, in an interactive and participatory way, that involved all ages in learning.

In terms of communion, people were invited to stay in their groups. The youngest in the group was invited to come forward and take back the bread and the cup. (As per the Jewish passover tradition, in which the youngest asks the questions as to the significance.) The elements of bread and cup were taken back to the group and placed in the center of the “table mat” cross, surrounded by the four meal memories – Passover, Jesus meals with outsiders, feeding the multitudes, which must surely have shaped the disciples understanding of “remember me.”

With the kids in, I decided to take a risk and ask everyone to be as quiet as they could be. Not easy for kids, but for those who appreciate some quiet around communion, a really respectful thing to do, across the generations. It was great to look around the church and feel the stillness and see all-ages gathered around the meals of Jesus.

Posted by steve at 08:09 PM

Friday, February 27, 2009

communion and the family

One of the change processes I’m working with at the moment that might be of interest to blog readers is around communion here at Opawa. For a while I’ve been concerned about how we pass on the importance of communion to our children and what it means for children and adults to gather around the communion table.

So this week I am leaving our 10:30 am Sunday service with the kids, to talk with them about what communion means. I will be doing godly play, first with the passover narrative, then inviting the kids to make connections with the Christian practice of communion. Then I’m bringing the kids back with me into the service to celebrate communion together. In the Bible, Passover was a Jewish family ritual, while for the early church, communion occurred in households. So practically, I want to see our children be part of our worship when communion is celebrated.

To help them with this, we have made flip cards for each child, 6 cards that list the 6 parts of the Baptist communion liturgy: (explain/invite/pray/break bread/eat and drink/thank). These have been laminated and put on metal rings, so that kids can flip through, picking their way through the service.

Bringing our kids back into church has big implications, so the “big people” are starting a series of sermons – Passover (March 1), gospels meals with Jesus (April 5), eating and drinking in Corinth (May 3), a long farewell in John 17 (May 31) that make sense of communion. (Ben Witherington’s book, Making a Meal of It: Rethinking the Theology of the Lord’s Supper has been very helpful).

In order to try and capture these 4 Biblical passages, in order to set an agenda for the change process and in order to provide information for visitors and new people, I have tried to compile a set of guidelines. (called something like “Making a meal of it: Where communion at Opawa is…”) This is being introduced as draft in March. We then preach the key Scriptures, then invite feedback on the guidelines.

I’m nervous, but excited. For some, this will be a big change and I worry that I am introducing to much change. On the other hand, it’s an issue important for our life as a church family.

For those interested, here is my first draft of the guidelines: Making a meal of it: Where communion at Opawa is ….

Posted by steve at 04:33 PM

Sunday, February 22, 2009

the grapejuice sparkled

A real celebration at Opawa this morning, with the baptism of T. She wanted it to be a party. So as T. came up out of the water, a bottle of sparkling was opened. As the cork was popped, arcing over the piano, there were cheers of celebration, followed by a community toast “to life.” It was a great expression of God’s goodness and life.

T. first stepped into the Opawa building when she joined us for our annual Spring clean day. (Annually we combine with local community groups, sharing in community projects, enjoying food together. I initiated the Spring Clean when I arrived at Opawa 5 years ago, and it has grown and strengthened ever year since).

Before that, Opawa’s relational involvement with the local community cottage, meant some relational bridges with T. had naturally formed. (This includes one of our pastoral staff, whose role includes hanging out in the community). Following the Spring Clean day, T. checked out church and has continued to grow.

A tear leaked from my eyes as we toasted life. T. is the second baptism in the last few months of an adult, a local, with little previous church involvement. It’s not always been easy being the minister at Opawa, and leading major change in a historic and conservative church. Today just makes it all worth it.

It caps off a great week for the church – excellent annual meeting, a new discipling group in the form of Life Shapes begun, a successful first Bible day, gathering around the Gospel of John. It just feels like the Kingdom – harmony in a diverse body, intentional growth structures, deepening of Biblical engagement, new life being celebrated.

Posted by steve at 09:33 PM

Friday, October 31, 2008

mary and elizabeth action figures: updated with resources used

mary and elizabeth action figures

mary and elizabeth action figures

Mary and Elizabeth action figures making their appearance at the Uniting Church Synod today. Aren’t they gorgeous, greeting each other, with my lap top screen behind them.

Since the 350 Synod delegates met around round tables, it was easy to designate half the tables as “Mary” tables, each with a Mary action figure; and the other half “Elizabeth” tables. This allowed for an experience of communal lectio divina, wondering what it felt like to be Mary, then Elizabeth, and finally Zechariah, in Luke 1:39-45. From this flowed a chapter from the upcoming book, a missional reading of Advent, and then the table groups worked on some application questions.

I’m not sure if action figures were what the Synod were expecting when they asked a “Southern” Baptist to provide a Bible study, but it was good to be able to offer some creative Biblical interaction in a larger size group, and it certainly produced some great conversation with people over a cup of coffee afterward.

Tomorrow Mary is meeting Paul Kelly.

And here is a list of the resources I used in both sessions, as I sought to offer a (creatively, interactive-ish) missional reading of Luke 1:39-45 and Luke 1:46-56 ….. (more…)

Posted by steve at 05:45 PM

Thursday, October 16, 2008

wisdom on mission and worship

mission + worship
both/and not either/or

but …. in our globalised world, worship artifacts – the songs, the creative ideas, the liturgical words – rocket around our globe. in doing so, we often strip worship of it’s contextual, missional, context. we sing the song without the narrative of conversion, we pray the prayer without naming the birth pains of creativity, we read the Biblical text without engaging the gospel/culture dynamics at play.

Hat tip

Posted by steve at 12:27 PM