Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I am a pimple in the life of a century-old church

Over the weekend, the church, I used to pastor, Opawa Baptist, celebrated 100 years. It was a great thrill to be there and to hear the stories and look at the photos and to see the archival video footage. Which all served to reinforce how insignificant my 6 years of involvement was in the span of things.

I was merely a pimple in a church in which so many ministered and loved and prayed. Which feels good.

As part of the Sunday morning sermon I was invited (along with 3 other ministers in the life of church) to spend 5-8 minutes addressing the question – what was the Spirit up to? My period of ministry was from the beginning of 2004 to the start of 2010 and here’s what I said. (more…)

Posted by steve at 12:24 PM

Sunday, July 18, 2010

new minister for Opawa Baptist

The church I used to pastor, Opawa Baptist has called a new minister and over the weekend, the Petrini family (Rob, Monique, Isabella, Alex and Jessica) were welcomed and Rob inducted as Senior Pastor.

Rob is Australian, while Monique is Mexican. The family have been located in USA, where Rob has been involved in a number of pastoral ministry roles. Rob brings a heart for discipling the first 3rd of life, worship and apologetics. The search committee chose to advertise the role internationally. (I thought they were nuts!) The downside was having to wade through over 100 applications! the upside was what could be a really interesting cross-cultural combination.

We wish to Petrini’s and Opawa all the best in their next stage of the journey. Part of the Taylor family sense of call was a very strong request to trust God – that the God who gave us such good friends and church family in New Zealand would be able to do that also for Opawa, as they looked for the next piece of their pastoral team.

For those interested, below are the greetings that we sent, first as Opawa considering calling a new senior pastor, and second for the commissioning … (more…)

Posted by steve at 05:48 PM

Thursday, April 01, 2010

opawa’s multiple congregations

New video just out, introducing Opawa (my previous ministry context); one church in multiple congregations.

Opawa Baptist Church Intro from opawa mac on Vimeo.

Posted by steve at 09:11 PM

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Church as community partnership: great article on Opawa Baptist

We got posted over the weekend a Christchurch newspaper article (thanks Mum), profiling Opawa Baptist. It’s a neat snapshot, so encouraging, that is some evidence of what God’s been up to the last 6 years at Opawa – partnerships with local community groups, new initatives, an outward focus.

Church has long-established partnership with community (Observer, Sunday February 21)
By Nick Tolerton

Opawa Baptist church will celebrate its centenary next year, but there is nothing old fashioned about what it offers the community.

And the completion next month of a new $500,000 seminar, office and kitchen facility will make its partnership with the community even stronger.

The church and its neighbour Waltham Community Cottage (two doors away), are the heart for one of Christchurch’s poorer communities.

Associate pastor Paul McMahon points out that Waltham, slashed by the Brougham motorway, lacks a hub.

The church and the Community Cottage worked together to build on the strengths of Waltham, and tried not to duplicate what the other offered, he said.

He is proud of Waltham’s strengths: “The good thing about Waltham is that people have time for one another and people have time for community stuff, “ he said. “We have no real gang problems. We’ve got a great pool – the most well used community pool in Christchurch – and we have a really good school.”

And school, church and Community Cottage have worked together for Waltham, he said.

Hundreds of residents enjoy the church’s weekly English classes, craft classes, music classes, and indoor bowls for only $2 or $3 a session. And its monthly movie night – BYO dinner 0- draws dozens of people who can’t afford to go to the cinema. Women’s groups and a book club also meet monthly.

Last year the Shiloh programme to teach life and relationship skills for nine to 12-year-old girls from Waltham School also [re]started (editor correction) and has proved a big success, and the church is also the home for Koru (year seven to eight) and boys and girls brigade programmes for Waltham youngsters.

The church also hosts six-week courses blending both religion and life skills, including parenting.

And with the new facilities set to be completed early next month as well as its old hall across the road, the church is now even better placed to be a strong partner for the Waltham community.

For more
for more on the building project go here.

Posted by steve at 08:49 AM

Saturday, February 27, 2010

lectio lenten offerings: men and the Easter story

When you leave a church, you always wonder what will emerge, especially in the interim space while the search for new leaders takes shape.

So a great delight to get an email last nite from friends at Opawa Baptist, with news of a new initiative, a group for men, using lectio divino, with a particular focus on men and the Easter story. A sort of baptist approach to Lent!

The three guys organising it all have their own story: one baptised the last Sunday I was at Opawa, one blossoming in his creative writing, abilities, another recent to Opawa. So great to see some men coming together to simply making space to sit around the Bible. Classy visuals, which include some personally crafted opening and closing prayers.

Great stuff. Wish I was there!

Posted by steve at 03:53 PM

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

one day while sorting

The last two days I’ve been in my Opawa office – sorting, filing, junking – in preparation for the move to Adelaide. It’s been a bitter/sweet time; we’ve been part of some really cool stuff here at Opawa, yet we’ve also had to fight some battles and as I shredded all those notes, some of it seemed so petty.

What was fascinating was to find my initial letter of application. Dated March 2003. (I would produce it exactly, but when I turned my back, the packers packed it!)

How I sat at Opawa during Baptist Assembly in 2002 and sensed the possibilities, in creative worship, in citywide ministry and in being part of a working class area. How I was evangelical, but not conservative. How I wanted to be part of a multi-layered community, that in worship and in ministry, offered many ways for people to grow and belong.

And reading my application letter some 6.5 years later, to realise that those dreams were fulfilled. Sunday was a classic example, both folk being baptised were not in church before Opawa and acknowledged the importance of the range of evening courses and congregations in their finding of God. Deeply satisfying.

With thanks to all those who walked with us, made life so much richer and warmer in the process.

Posted by steve at 03:38 PM

Sunday, December 27, 2009

the last Sunday: mission and church today

And so dawned my last Sunday at Opawa. An ending after six most excellent years. Emotionally it was going to be tough.

Normally the last Sunday in December is the quietest Sunday in the church year, what with the post-Christmas slump and summer holidays. But this service was to include two baptisms, three people welcomed into membership and the commissioning of one missionary. Which was a wonderful way to end.

But it also made the service very awkward to curate, especially with non-churched friends and family turning up for the baptisms. In the end I decided all I could do was acknowledge the parts of the service would mean much for some, but not all, and to ask for Christmas cheer.

I also used boats – origami on seats as people arrived, and the invitation to write a prayer for a person they came to support, or for their own journey. And during the final song, people could come and sail them on the pool that had been made at the front.

Being my last Sunday, I wanted to remind Opawa of our journey mission. Again, not very “unchurched” friendly. But it’s not every day you conclude six years of ministry in a pretty major change project.

So for those interested, here is what I said in terms of mission, church and change. Not attractional, nor super-Christian, simply …. (more…)

Posted by steve at 10:33 PM

Thursday, December 24, 2009

opawa blessings practically

There has been one more layer to our Advent blessing series. I work really hard on “layering” our mission and worship life, providing multiple ways for people to engage, see more angles. So there has been the

And each week there has been practical Advent Opawa blessings. Like

1. We have a missionary returning to Puerto Rico to work with the deaf community on 1st January. So one week we invited people to buy gifts for the kids she works with. We made up bookmarks that had some suggestions and some details. And during the notices, we asked if anyone wanted to give a gift to a 14 year old boy, or a 10 year old girl, etc.

2. We are holding a local community Christmas dinner, for folk in our community who would rather not eat alone. It’s more a participative, relational event than a charity dinner, in that everyone who comes is expected to sign up to do something – cook, or serve, or clean. So during the notices, we asked if anyone would like to give some new potatoes, or frozen peas, or cream, or crackers. And so those in the church who can’t come get to participate.

3. Each year on Advent 1, we make a combined church Christmas cake. At Advent 4, we cut up bits of the cake and put names and addresses of our old folk who are unable to join us for Christmas. During the notices we ask if there are people from the church who might be willing to take the cake and to pop in on Christmas Eve to say hi and remind them of Opawa’s love for them. It’s a neat, practical way of connecting the generations.

So those are Opawa blessings, that have made practical for us as a community the 4 Advent blessing cards, allowing us to participate as able and each uniquely, in our mission, home and away, inside and outside our church community.

Posted by steve at 10:02 AM

Monday, December 21, 2009

advent blessings bannering: from process to prayer

A fabric artist, visiting from another city, was just in the auditorium admiring our banners. It’s neat to have people in the church for “creativity’s sake”. All four banners are now up, and looking fine.

(poor shot, but it gives you some idea of the height, scope and colours.) The process is pretty team-like

  • Lynne did the design on publisher
  • emailed it to Lawence, who as an engineer works for a firm that has a photocopier that prints to A0
  • who gives the black and white banners to Carolyn and Jan, who add pastels
  • who gives them to Pete, who hangs them.

Cost. $16! Plus creative time. The response has been simply excellent and it’s given some real shape and energy to our Advent.

My spiritual director challenged me to weave the four Advent blessings into the lighting of the Advent candles. So here’s version 1.

In Numbers, Old
God faces
failed Aaron, and wrestling Jacob
shines grace
ALL: Old to New, in Jesus, come

In Corinthians, New
as Spirit waters prayerless,
hard edged prisons, now new,
graced spaces
ALL: Old to New, in Jesus, come

In Jude, future
face forward
new Adam builds blushing bride
ALL: Old to New, in Jesus, come

In Luke, Mary giggles – yes
Elizabeth embraces – out of bounds no
as Jesus moves heaven to earth
ALL: Old to New, in Jesus, come

Advent blessings – four; we await the face of God in Christ
ALL: Old to New, in Jesus, we say welcome

So there we are. I suspect a totally unique approach to Advent!

Posted by steve at 07:33 AM

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Christmas Journey floats in Santa Parade

The Christmas journey is up in Latimer Square, Christchurch, again this year. About 1,000 bales of hay are used to create a labyrinth, in which various stations reflecting on peace are staged. Latimer Square is a major thoroughfare in the central city, and a redlight area at night, so it’s a neat place to offer Christian spiritual practice.

To help with promotion, the Journey placed a float in the citywide Santa Parade. The sides are painted by a local community youth trust. The four towers, with Advent words are set in the four corners. The centre peace is a laminated list of names from the phone book, with Pentecost symbols, to denote the Spirit at the Anunciation.

From the rear, a grassed area is visible, on which are stuck some “stick people” (driftwood, with eyes). These are given at the start of the labyrinth and people are invited to place them at the central stable area. Over 2,500 of these stick people were given out at the Santa parade, with the hope they will bring them to the labyrinth when it opens just before Christmas.

The Christmas journey represents one of the key evolutions in “emerging church” in the last 5 years – that of large scale outdoor creative engagement. The creativity and contextuality often used to re-frame worship has now been focused on the public square, to offer spiritual practice outside the church. These types of initiative are important in keeping alive the Christmas story, in a society where the Christian story is less known. The downside is that they are extremely labour intensive and can rely on the creativity of a few. They also make problematic the relationship between individualised experience and Christian community.

Posted by steve at 01:33 PM

Friday, December 04, 2009

new church website

A few weeks ago I had a day of sick leave, looking after Lynne who had lost some wisdom teeth. Given that she decided to heal by sleeping, I had a play with the Opawa website. The old one was 5 years old, so it was well broke.

Anyhow, here is the new one …. (still not perfect, but so much better than the old one that it was worth putting up even half done).

This one has new wordpress software, which enables greater sp*m control and allows us to include video. It’s in more of a magazine style, which we hope looks more appealing and allows us to better promote our congregations (in the featured section). It’s got a nice use of headings, allowing us to showcase our mission, our place, our people, our faith, our story etc.

So what do you think? What would you like to see added – from the perspective of spiritual searcher, a Christian tourist or an Opawa-ite?

Posted by steve at 09:48 PM

first day in the new office

freshly painted
newly carpeted
clean and fresh

and in the new office, I met with people to

  • plan Opawa’s first ever local community Christmas lunch and how to offer it with dignity
  • brainstorm about the future of the Gathering, our local mission initiative birthed this year
  • collected names in order to write thankyou cards to our voluntary leaders who serve our youth and kids (currently stands at 22 volunteers, which is pretty outstanding really)

I like that. Buildings for planning mission.

With the offices done, the builders have now started on the foyer renovations and kitchen/cafe area. In a few months, meetings could well be about

  • the cafe opening to the community
  • launching the Economic Development Fund encouraging local micro-business initiatives as part of community development
  • providing food for “Learning days”, like Job Interview Skills; Gardening Skills; Sensemaking Faith; Budgeting; TradeMe; Culturemakers Reading Group; How to Read the Bible.

All very encouraging.  Despite the Taylor’s imminent departure, all around the place I see people stepping into leadership, saying yes to a new season and preparing themselves for a new year with missionality (new word I’m coining meaning mission + intentionality).

Posted by steve at 03:53 PM

Sunday, November 29, 2009

advent blessings creative prayer stations

Updated: based on the interest in this post, I’ve added another post with four more creative advent ideas, this time more do at home, type stations.

We kicked off Advent at Opawa today. Someone noted how much work is involved. “Too right,” is my response. It’s like adding a tablecloth, some flowers and mood music to an everyday meal. It draws attention to the church seasons and gives distinctive shape to the church year. It’s an essential spiritual practice to the Christmas consumerist frenzy.

This year we are tracing Incarnational themes through four church blessings/benedictions. The hope is also to add some content to what we hear regularly as church services end, plus ensure a real God focus as I conclude my ministry at Opawa.

Alongside the first Advent banner (which looks stunning against the black background curtains), three “blessing” stations were presented. Physically, they are marked with black wooden stands, draped in cloth. They will be with us for the weeks of Advent, with the “blessing” texts changed each week.

Scriptural prayer: (Spark from here) Consider the words from Numbers 6:24-27. What strikes you? What questions would you like to ask the writer? In the white space, around the words, write or draw your comments and questions.

Intercession bowl: Write or draw the names of people and places you want to see blessed this Christmas. Place them in the bowl.

Fridge magnet prayers: (Spark from here) The Bible is written in Hebrew and Greek. As words are translated, they take on different shades of meaning. This provides an opportunity for prayer and reflection. First, consider words of similar meaning.

(spread on table — lord/protector/saviour/redeemer/provider/the/and/you/us/his/her/with/in/be/bless/benedict/kiss/impart/watch/guard/keep/strengthen/sustain/protect/shine/glow/highlight/enlighten/illuminate/magnify/reflect/gracious/kind/merciful/give favour/hug/lift up/hold/extend/face/peace/shalom/tranquility/whole of life)

Second, arrange the words into your prayer of blessing. When you are satisfied with your work, write your prayer in the Advent journal. Please note that by writing out your prayer, we are asking your permission to display it publicly, perhaps on the church website or projected at a service or in an outside art installation.

So here are three of the “fridge magnet” blessings. (more…)

Posted by steve at 05:31 PM

Saturday, November 21, 2009

open home open year opawa 2009

As I type an artist is chalking the outside of our Opawa building, giving concrete expression, on those concrete block walls, to the names of the Opawa family.

You see, in the church calendar, tomorrow is the last Sun/day of the church year. Being Baptist allows us to express this in our own, unique way; a certain freedom to play with the tradition in light of our context. Hence it becomes our open home, open year church service, in which we reflect back on the “church” year past. Including the light, life and colour that we as Opawa have sought to make public beyond the walls of the church (ie, the chalk!)

Open home open year works particularly well in a Southern Hemisphere, where so much of the year – school, university, clubs – ends at Christmas. It works even better at Opawa, where our annual church meeting is February. So at Open home, Open year, we celebrate the year past. Advent focuses us on Christmas and the Christ at the energising beginning and centre of the church story. We refresh with summer holidays and then, come February, we have a church meeting to face the year ahead.

A major event for Opawa through 2009 was the church building project. We are moving into the new office area in 10 days (cafe and toilets still under construction), so open home open year becomes a perfect opportunity both to thank God for building progress and to commission the new area and the ministry that will flow from it.

So tomorrow as part of our worship we will open the door and prayer walk the offices. Various stations allow people to pray. Here is the thanks and prayer walk instruction sheet we have created, which we hope communicate, enthuses and draws forth thanks and prayer. (more…)

Posted by steve at 01:30 PM