Monday, March 05, 2012

if you meet monthly, what do I do with the rest of my month?

Christendom is built on a weekly gathering model.

It’s not, of course, the only way. Monasteries meet daily, while the Old Testament festival pattern suggests 3 times a year. (Deuteronomy 16:15-16 “For seven days celebrate … Three times a year you must appear”)

So on Sunday we visited a monthly all-age evening church service. And really, really enjoyed it – the friendly welcome, the diversity of cultures and ages, the oh so natural laughter and engagement. But, like many all-age events, and like much of the early alt.worship movement, they meet monthly.

So what do we do with the rest of the month?

  • Try another one of the services. But that is unlikely to appeal, given that we came to the monthly one because of the values (all-age, over food, local community)?
  • Enjoy the weekends ie only do gathered church once a month?
  • Form ourselves into a local community action group and do something missional in the in-between weeks?

I’d especially like to hear from folk who themselves have tried monthly patterns, as to what they would reply, and how they sort to build values of community and formation around a monthly gathered pattern? I’m also interested in class, because I suspect that the more educated you are, the easier is a self-sustaining spirituality, but that pattern might not prove pastorally rich enough when you are working with marginalised folk.

Posted by steve at 04:43 PM | Comments (9)

Saturday, March 03, 2012

why church?

Was great to listen to John Swinton, Professor of Practical Theology from Aberdeen University, speak at the Uniting Church of South Australia Synod today. Back in 2003, I wrote a journal article on his research method, along with John Drane’s: “Doing practical research downunder: a methodological reflection on recent trends in Aberdonian practical theology,” Contact 142, 1 (2003): 2-21. (I never realised it actually got published until 2007, when I met a Anglican ordinand from the UK, who helped me track down an actual copy.)

Then in September last year, I connected with John again, at the Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference in Durham.

Today John spoke on health, healing and community and it was wonderful. Here’s one (of many memorable) quote:

The task of the church is not world transformation but signalling kingdom through small gestures. John Swinton

As in this, colour and creativity in concrete places?

Posted by steve at 10:03 PM | Comments (2)

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Why are women more religious than men?

Today I am speaking at a Flinders University Sociology seminar. I am providing a response to a visiting lecturer from the University of Aberdeen, Dr Marta Trzebiatowska, who will address the topic:

Why are women more religious than men?

She notes the irony that while women tend to be excluded from leadership, women are more religious than men, both in traditional religions and in New Age spirituality and in ‘supersitions.’

In my response I will mention two pieces of research. First the work of Leslie J. Francis, Robert Barlow and Jeremy Martineau, “Outreach at the County Show: A Study in Psychological Profiling,” Rural Theology 9.1 (2011) 61–67 who argue that more women than men are of the ISFJ personality type and that this personality types connects with a number of recognizable Christian strengths. The preference for introversion values a reflective style of contemplative worship; the preference for sensing values continuity, tradition, stability; the preference for feeling values a loving, caring God; the preference for judging values organization and structure.

“The ISFJ profile is also, psychologically speaking, a very feminine profile, as reflected by the fact that many more women than men report this profile in the UK population as a whole, 18% compared with 7% (Kendall, 1998). Such a strong ISFJ presence in church congregations contributes to the broader feminization of the Anglican Church.”

So like attracts like and so the very spirituality of the church is more likely to attract women. Which still leaves the chicken or egg question. Did it start with the spirituality, or was the spirituality shaped by gender?

Posted by steve at 10:27 AM | Comments (4)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

magical night: Review of Shaun Tan’s Arrival

Just back from a magical night at Her Majesty’s Theatre, experiencing Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, put to music by composer Ben Walsh. A visual and auditory experience that over 1 hour 15 minute, engaged The Arrival, which is a wordless graphic novel of immigration, 128 pages that explore the displacement and unexpected grace of being in a new country.

I came away stunned by the ability to connect and story tell, without words. One hour and 15 with NO words.

I came away reminded of the importance of being invited to pause, forced to take the time to dwell, and in so doing to discover meaning.

I came away struck by the potential for all-age worship, kids aside, in front and behind, all transfixed.

Why can’t church be a wordless, intergenerational invitation to pause and ponder?

I came away reminded anew of the enormous courage required to migrate and the reliance of the generosity and time of the host culture. (No Taylor’s cried that I am aware of!) Tan’s father is a migrant from Asia. Now here in Australia we delight in Tan’s art and I can’t help wondering how many more Shaun Tan’s might be in the next load of migrants washing up on Australia’s shores.

Shaun Tan is an Australian treasure, a noted illustrators of picture books and young people’s literature. I’ve blogged before about discovering his book, Eric and the theology of hospitality buried in illustrations.

Posted by steve at 10:34 PM | Comments (3)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

pioneer night for a pioneer course in a pioneer country: launch of mission shaped ministry Adelaide

Last night was a good night. The wind was wild and the rain heavy. But the room felt warm and alive.

A pilot of the mission shaped ministry (msm) course kicks off in Adelaide July 27. A partnership between Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting churches, it will run over 14 weeks and one weekend.

Last night Dave Male, Director of the Centre for Pioneer Ministry, at Ridley College, Cambridge was in town. It seemed an opportunity to good to miss, a chance both to hear from him and to offer some information about mission shaped ministry.

About 40 folk showed up, which was pretty exciting for a wet and wild winter’s night. A representative from each of the 3 partner churches offered prayer and input. This included a ringing endorsement from Archbishop Jeffrey Driver, who hoped that when Anglican history is written, the most important thing about the year 2011 will be the successful launch of the mission shaped ministry course. Dave Male shared about the impact of msm in the UK and it’s importance in cultivating a missional climate. I shared some of the story of how the course came to be in Australia and spoke about the shape of the programme. (For those interested, my notes are below the fold).

Some time for questions. And then we prayed together. Across denominations. A  living ecumenism, gathered around the task of mission.

Please join us. Please do pause at this point

… and pray with us … and for God’s ongoing purposes in Adelaide and Australia.

(more…)

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

Monday, July 04, 2011

resourcing mission: challenge or opportunity?

Two different moments today that got me thinking about resourcing mission.

First, a student assignment. It described a standard local Uniting Church. Aging, struggling. It is resourced by a supply minister, who focuses on Sunday preaching and pastoral care. Toward the end of the assignment, almost as an afterthought, there was mention of events this church puts on for the local community – Anzac Day and Carols – and how 400 people turn up.

So my resourcing question. Why, on why, resource Sunday, when you have a booming community event? If church is about worship, then of course, focus on Sunday. But if church is about mission, why not focus on better resourcing the community events?

Second, a post by Scott Guyatt, Mission Planner in Tasmania. Titled birth and death, he noted the struggles around buildings, money, age, numbers. Then the following:

All over Tasmania, wherever I go, I am encountering stories in the Uniting Church of people trying new things, re-thinking what it means to live together in faith community, worship together, engage in community, participate in God’s mission. I hear the hope in a Friday night praise and worship gathering in the rural village … a lounge-room gathering … a wild and powerful vision of residential community … the quiet contemplation of a new garden … the burgeoning community meals … the dreams of a first-ever website … the endless stories of community service … the stories of a cape york visit by students.

Again the resourcing question. If your resources are limited, as most churches are, as all businesses are, where do you put them? Into what is, the existing? Which has tradition and heritage? And voice?

Or into what might be? Which is a huge risk. They might not work. (Not that what is, is).

The two examples got me thinking over what church is about. And this growing concern, that we have tied our resources and our imaginations into self-care. We pay people to sustain Sunday. We have buildings based to seat folk for worship. We have budgets that mostly serve those who contribute financially.

So often the resourcing questions seem to get defined by Christendom paradigms. Apparently we need enough people to sustain a sole-charge minister. Well, who says ministers should be sole-charge, or should serve the gathered church? We have a budget with a bit left for mission. Well why shouldn’t the whole budget be for mission, with a bit left to sustain some regular smaller groups?

If church is about participation in the missio Dei, then doesn’t that mean we need to ask our pastors to be missionaries, train our candidates for mission and convert our buildings into serving our mission. That our resources exist for others, not us?

Or am I missing something?

Posted by steve at 09:43 PM | Comments (15)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

church in the city: inspiration beyond our walls

After two excellent days of input at the City Church conference – first from Tim Costello (on leadership and the city), second from a group of city planners (City as Contested space) – it was my turn today! (A little mutter at this point about lack of blog response when I asked for help!)

I divided my time around 3 church:city questions and 10 possibilities.

For those interested here’s my visuals (video’s edited out, you’ll need to see the notes below for URL’s)

and here is my – Inspiration outside our walls: Being church in the city – handout (more…)

Posted by steve at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

stories, stories everywhere: 2010 storytelling conference

The 10th National Biblical Storytelling Gathering is happening on 24 – 26 September 2010, and for the first time ever, in South Australia. The gatherings have a reputation of being times of rich community, vibrant creativity; full of inspirational, renewal and fun.

I am one of the speakers and my task is to reflect on the place of storytelling as it relates to ministry in communities of faith. I will tell some gospel stories reimagined, and discuss the processes by which they emerged.

Each year participants are also invited to take part in an Epic Telling – a longer story is broken into smaller portions that each person prepares and then tells in order. It is a remarkable way to tell and to hear the biblical stories and this year will focus of the gospel of Matthew.

Workshops will also build up skills in telling the biblical story, including using different media and Godly Play; reflect on story and healing; explore story and music, story and worship and how to help people to shape and tell their own stories.

So, who among your communities tells the biblical story and would appreciate the opportunity to gather with others who tell the story, the opportunity to build up their skills? Who among your communities is passionate about the role that story plays in the wholeness of our humanity? Pass on to them the registration form … application form

Posted by steve at 04:02 AM | Comments (2)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

wood fired pizza worship

I was making pizza on Saturday afternoon. Homemade tomato pesto, mixed with finely cut basil and baby spinach leaves (from the newly planted “only-been-in-the-country-3-weeks-garden” of course!), topped with local sundried tomato and lots of cheese. Very simply, very yummy. (Picture does not represent the reality).

And I thought again about pizza church. Not just pizza as in, oh, we are funky because we eat pizza after worship. Which would be yummy enough.

But more like that sense of making a pizza out of what’s in the fridge. And how what’s in our fridge is simply a reflection of our lives. So why can’t that be the central image for being a worshipping community?

I mean, what it would be like for church to set up a woodfired pizza outside. Bases supplied. And the invitation for worship to be about bringing toppings from what’s in your fridge.

You could have a thanks pizza and a confession pizza and an intercession pizza.

And as each pizza is served, there’s time for a toast. And those who want can name, either by ingredient or by spoken words, what they might be bringing – their praise and their confession and their intercession. And so the pizzas are the worshipping work of the people, what’s in our lives, brought to community, shaped by the liturgical pattern of traditional worship – praise, confession, prayer.

This might not be a normal way for people to experience church, but it would be easy to run an experiment, try it for a few months, simply by working your way through say the gospel of Luke. Lots of food moments there, and so the preaching/teaching moment would involve serving the 2 fish and 5 loaves pizza, the eucharist pizza, and so on through the Gospel of Luke, using table fellowship as the metaphor. In other words, the Scriptures are embodied in the “Bible pizza”, offered to those who gather.

A simply over the top idea and I returned to the much simpler task, of calling the Taylor tribe for homemade pizza. And together we gave thanks – for a few of our favorite things – weekends and each other and the promise of a new life.

Posted by steve at 02:00 PM | Comments (7)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Why are americans so hung up about megachurches?

Among those surveyed in the 2009 Congregational Economic Impact Study, 40.5 percent of the congregations reported an average weekly attendance of between 101 and 300 people. Only 3.5 percent of surveyed congregations indicated an attendance of more than 1,000 people. Here.

We live in a world fascinated by size. It feels like an enormous amount of church health and growth literature is directed at wanting to be large in church size. Yet, based on the above, only 3% of the US church scene has been mega-up-sized, while nearly half of the US are 100-300 congregations.

To make an analogy, it feels to me like we’re walking around our young people, telling them that 7 feet or mensa intelligence is the new norm, the aspirational goal they should all feed on, read on and grow to. And we’d call that dumb and unfair.

Wouldn’t we?

Posted by steve at 03:17 PM | Comments (19)

turning points: martin luther, reformed? or reforming

The second video in the Turning points in Christian history sermon series is now available online. (The first in the Turning points series – on monasticism, mission and discipleship is here).

The aim of the Turning points series is simply to ask what we can learn from what God was up to in history. I’ve been surprised and encouraged by the feedback, folk at Opawa requesting sermons, a whole different set of people engaging with my sermons. I think there’s something about it being a bit different, in thinking and approach, that is appealing.

In summary the sermon outline is as follows:
1. Introduction to Martin Luther
2. Impact of reformation
-positive attitude to world
- vocation for all
- emergence of sciences
3. Reformation as reformed? Or reforming?
4. Application – a challenge: What would Luther bang on our church today? With 6 suggested theses.

For those who want to read further, these are the books I found most helpful:
Reformation Thought: An Introduction
Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity
Brazos Introduction to Christian Spirituality, The
Reform and Conflict: From the Medieval World to the Wars of Religion, (Baker History of the Church)

Posted by steve at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

forming disciples today: conversations with Christian mission history

Today I started a 4 part sermon series, titled Turning points: key moments in Christian history

Today was the monastic movement, particularly Benedictine spirituality, and the implications for discipleship and mission. Since history is about people, I gave a brief introduction to three monks – Anthony, Clare and Benedict. Since history is about place, I looked at the world’s oldest, largest and most beautiful monasteries.

The sermon raised some significant questions for me in regard to church life today.

1. Forming disciples. Compare a monk, who prays 7 times a day, 7 days a week. That is 49 church services. Consider how much that shapes a person in the way of Jesus. In contrast, much church going is once a week at best. How much can we really expect to grow in our Christian faith, when many of us watch more TV than enter the Christian story? (Now I know that some of you have daily quiet times. But the challenge of the monastic life was how they committed themselves to grow together, not as individuals).

2. Transforming community. I showed a picture of a Celtic monastery, which functioned as a 7 day a week place of prayer, learning, healing and relating. And the mission question, is church really about a worship service that we drive to? How much can we really expect our neighbourhoods to change, as we drive to and fro once a week?

3. Faith for life. Since Benedict was about all of life – prayer and work – ora et labora, then his “rule” must surely have application outside a monastery. It occurred to me that our working days are filled with breaks. We eat 3 times a day, and stop for morning and afternoon tea. So could that be the start of a “local church rule”; in which we commit to pause for micro-prayer every time we hold a hot drink in our hands?

Taking the monks out of history began some pretty challenging after-church coffee conversations. I’d love some feedback on this from my wider blog audience.

I thought it might be of interest to some outside Opawa, so we had a first ever Opawa go – Steve on video, then very basic edit (top and tail) on iMovie, then upload on www. All very new. (coming) (I had lots of powerpoint, but not sure about copyright, so it’s just a straight talking head. Slightly longer than I normally preach, but it was a long weekend, so everyone is a bit more relaxed and there is often less in other parts of the service.)

It was a lot of fun preparing a “history” sermon and I got a stack of positive feedback, people really appreciating a different approach. Variety is spice of life and all that.

And for those who missed it from Friday, here was some of my reading in preparation:
- Mark Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity.)
- Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way Of Love
- The Rule of Benedict for Beginners: Spirituality for Daily Life
- A Public Faith: From Constantine to the Medieval World, AD 312-600
- Emerging Downunder
- New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church
- St Benedict for Today.

Posted by steve at 06:19 PM | Comments (4)

Friday, October 23, 2009

turning points: key moments in Christian history

  • Benedict and Monasteries, Sunday 10:30 am, October 25
  • Luther and Reformation, Sunday 10:30 am, November 1
  • John Smith and Baptists, Sunday 10:30 am, November 8, complete with Anabaptist communion
  • Wesley and faith for all of life, Sunday 10:30 am, November 15

(All at Opawa Baptist, cnr Hastings St East and Wilsons Road). The intention is that Opawa catches a bigger picture of God in history. For a church in transition, knowing our back story helps shape our future. The hope is that I can be clear enough and sharp enough to relate history to life today.

Each Sunday will feature a song, a “saint”, some history and some contemporary application. This Sunday, Benedict and Monasteries, will include
- the facebook monks quiz
- honouring of three monks – Anthony, Benedict and Clare
- an analysis of the impact of the monastic movement on Christianity.
- finally, I want to reflect on what we can learn from the monastic movement for Christian life today. This will include how we imagine church, how we live our lives 24/7 and the shape of our Christian growth.

(The title of the series is borrowed from Mark Noll’s fabulous Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity.) Other books I’ve been reading have included:
- Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way Of Love
- The Rule of Benedict for Beginners: Spirituality for Daily Life
- A Public Faith: From Constantine to the Medieval World, AD 312-600
- Emerging Downunder
- New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church
- St Benedict for Today.

All in all, it’s been a rich week of sermon reflection.

Posted by steve at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

an evening on u2: for Christchurch fans

For those of you in Christchurch, please pass this on …..

The world’s biggest band offers an intriguing case study in contemporary communication.
➢ How to play “old” songs in a new millennium?
➢ How to speak prophetically through changing times?
➢ How to connect across generations and cultures?
Steve Taylor presented a paper “The evolving live performance of U2′s Bullet the Blue Sky” at the first ever U2 Academic Conference, held in USA in October 09.

At AN EVENING ON U2, Steve will:
• Present his paper (visual here, some content here).
• Demonstrate with live concert footage
• Suggest implications for worship and preaching today

7:30-9pm Friday 30 October, Opawa Baptist Church, cnr Hasting St East and Wilson Road, Christchurch. This evening is brought to you by Laidlaw College and Opawa Baptist Church. To register call 03 3544270 or email chch at laidlaw dot ac dot nz

Posted by steve at 05:23 PM | Comments (0)