Sunday, August 22, 2021

John Wesley on knitting and the universal basic income

The ordinary knitters research project involves not only interviewing people who knit for projects for a Christian church or organisation. It also involves reading about the role of knitting in Christianity, including in history. This week, while examining a post-graduate thesis, I came across some writing that in passing noted an entry from 1741 in the journals of John Wesley:

My design, I told them, is to employ for the present all the women who are out of business, and desire it, in knitting. To these we will first give the commonprice for what work they do; and then add, according as they need. (The Journal of John Wesley, 7 May 1741).

In relation to the ordinary knitters project (full project explained here), there are two things that strike me about this. First, the church offering knitting as gainful work in response to unemployment, and thus the 2nd mark of mission (Loving service responding to human need). Second, what sounds like an economic imagination that involves a universal basic income (“commonprice”); and thus the 4th mark of mission (Seeking to transform society)

Posted by steve at 01:51 PM

Thursday, August 19, 2021

the seasons of research

Today I’m bundling up a pile of research, as another project is sent to a funder. The yellow notebook on the left-hand side is my field notes for this season of the project, some 280 pages from interviews and conversations. The yellow notebook on the right-hand side is untouched. It expresses my sense that the project is warmly welcomed by stakeholders, my hope that the funders will agree to our next step plan and that I might start another season of research.

This season of the project has been co-design, in which diverse voices across a denomination have shared their reflections on a proposed project. It’s potentially a far-reaching and significant investment in theological education, ministry training and formation, across multiple cultures. Hence the need for co-design. Over the last 6 months, there has been some 40 listening interactions, to around 150 people. The result is a report of some 12,000 words, spread over 26 pages, weaving dreams, realities, spirituality and wisdom. The funders met next week to decide next steps.

There has been some significant imaginative scholarship in this particular season. There has been the use of lectio divina as a research tool. There has been the use of a prayer as a way to code what is being heard. On Monday I ideated with a research colleague a possible methodology journal article, emerging from the research design invited by the project.

While the funders read and reflect, I clear the desk, boxing up all the work. I find myself thankful, for being part of a wonderful bi-cultural research team, for the richness of spaces in which I’ve been privileged to listen, and for the creativity possible in research. I find myself excited, at what might happen if I am able to open that shiny, fresh notebook on the right.

Posted by steve at 10:17 AM

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Coding and a prayer

I’m back coding this week. Over this year, I’ve been working with a colleague on a co-design that might discern the future of theological education and formation for a denomination. To date in this particular project, we’ve conducted 40 interactions with around 150 people, inviting their reflections on what the actual project could look like.

With an interim report due to the funders later this month, this week we’re pausing interactions in order to write up findings to date. How to summarise what is now over 130 pages of data?

In beginning the project, the funders offered us a prayer. It was a prayer we prayed as we began every interaction, reading the funders words as a way of respecting their hopes and dreams, beginning with their voice in the project.

Loving and embracing God,
We affirm our guardianship of the precious gift of creation
We have a vision, we have courage, we have your guidance

Prayer of the Moana, by Archbishop Winston Halapua

So we are exploring using that prayer in the coding. It provides some words to shape what we could look for in the data – God, guardianship, vision, courage, guidance. It invites us to interact with our data, in light of those words

  • Where is their God-talk and God-reflection?
  • Where is their guardianship, a valuing of things that need to be tended and nurtured?
  • Where is their vision, hopes for the future?
  • Where is their courage, naming of reality and things that are difficult?
  • Where is their guidance, insight into what is needed for the project to succeed?

codes It also expects that God might actually be present in the co-design. It means that this week, amid the post-it notes and colour codes and white sheets of paper and pages of data, there is a spiritual attentiveness, not just to words said, but in wondering what God might be doing

Posted by steve at 09:15 AM

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Researching craft as Christian witness

I am researching whether Christians can witness through acts of making. Making celebrates the ordinary and domestic. Diversity is evident as different cultures make in different ways. Interest in handmade objects has risen in contemporary culture.

A first step was to research Christmas Angels. In 2014, two Methodist ministers in the North of England invited local churches to knit Christmas Angels. The Angels were tagged with a message of love and “yarn-bombed” in streets, train stations and schools. What began with a few churches knitting some 2870 angels in 2014, had by 2017, spread across Great Britain. Each angel was sent out with a Twitter hashtag #Xmasangels. Hence people who received the angels could respond online, using social media. Being a personal user of Twitter, I observed people tweeting their experiences of finding a Christmas angel. I was curious. Might people think a yarn-bombed angel was silly? Was this just Christians making a mess? This research became a journal article (“When ‘#xmasangels’ tweet: a Reception Study of Craftivism as Christian Witness,” Ecclesial Practices 7 (2), 2020, 143-62, (co-authored with Shannon Taylor).

A second step in the research was to learn to knit. I challenged myself to do more than think intellectually about my research. For this project, could I make my own Christmas angel? One of my children taught me to knit while my wife patiently untangled many a dropped stitch. I kept a diary of my experiences. In the joy of completing a row and the despair of splitting a stitch, I realised that research was not an elite mystery. Instead, it resulted from repeated practices: a habit, a way of being in the world. In researching craft, my understandings of research have been re-made. I wove these journal reflections into a chapter I was asked to write for a revised edition of Mary Moschella’s Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice (due out with SCM and Pilgrim Press in 2022).

A third step in the research is to listen to makers. Having researched those who received a Christmas Angel, I also want to understand more about the knitters. I want to interview knitters of Christmas Angels. I also want to interview knitters of scarves for the Common Grace Knit For Climate Action in Australia. I hope to form focus groups of knitters and explore why they participate and what meanings they make.

Hence Ordinary knitters: theologies of making research – If you are aged over 18 years and have been involved in a knitting project like Common Grace Knit For Climate Action or Christmas Angels (or something similar) and are willing to be interviewed about your experiences, I would love to hear from you. More information here or from Steve Taylor (kiwidrsteve@gmail.com)

Posted by steve at 08:57 PM

Saturday, July 31, 2021

researching knitting in Christianity

Ethics approval this week for this research project –

seeking participants for research on knitting in Christianity. If you are aged over 18 years and have been involved in a knitting project like Common Grace Knit For Climate Action or Christmas Angels (or something similar) and are willing to be interviewed about your experiences, they would love to hear from you. More information here or from Steve Taylor (+64221552427 or kiwidrsteve@gmail.com)

Posted by steve at 08:16 PM

Monday, June 14, 2021

navigating leadership transitions in innovative communities

A few weeks ago, an email with a question – how to navigate changes in innovative communities?

navigating changes in first expressions from steve taylor on Vimeo.

A church pastor, who after reading my book First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God, asked if I could share some wisdom with their leadership team about navigating changes and transitions in innovative communities. The community were losing a key leader. New communities by nature have little experience of leadership transitions, so what wisdom could I share?

So I made a short video, reflecting on some of my own experiences (including my “have you grown” story). I also made a leadership transition bingo card, to reflect on innovation theologies and different church systems. I concluded with 3 tips drawn from research I did for First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God, lessons from 10 innovative communities I researched over an 11 year period

  • storyforming
  • flexibility
  • situation awareness.

Resources – leadership transition bingo card

Posted by steve at 09:09 PM

Thursday, June 03, 2021

journal article acceptance – Theologies of fulfilment in a reciprocal study

Stoked with news this week of journal article acceptance in International Bulletin on Mission Research. The journal is “an unparalleled source of information on the world church in mission. The editors are committed to maintaining the highest possible academic editorial standards.” I used to browse the journal as a wide-eyed undergraduate, never imagining I’d ever be a contributor.

My article will likely appear in pre-print later this year and in print 2023 – which suggests a pretty popular journal! This is the first academic output of the AngelWings season, written over the last few months, following presentation at the World Christianity virtual conference in early March and after reading Hirini Kaa’s Te Hāhi Mihinare | The Māori Anglican Church back in February in preparing Mission For a Change. At the same time, it began as part of lecture while I was Principal of KCML, and it’s really gratifying to have this sort of international benchmarking of my lecture content.

Theologies of fulfilment in a reciprocal study of relationships between John Laughton and Rua Kēnana in Aotearoa New Zealand

Abstract: The crossing of borders of religion presents challenges and provides opportunities. This paper presents a contextualized case study from Aotearoa New Zealand, examining the life-long relationship between Presbyterian missionary, Rev John “Hoani” Laughton (1891-1965), and Māori leader, Rua Kēnana (1969-1937). Photography, as a tool in discerning lived theologies, suggests a side-by-side relationship of reciprocity and particularity. Relationships across differences are revealed not in theory but lived practices of education, worship, and prayer, life, and death. The argument is that Kēnana and Laughton are enacting theologies of fulfilment, grounded in different epistemologies, one of matauranga Māori, the other of Enlightenment thinking.

Keywords: fulfillment theology, matauranga Māori, new religious movements, Presbyterian

Posted by steve at 09:38 PM

Friday, May 14, 2021

Theologies of fulfillment in a reciprocal study of relationships: article submitted

A few months ago, I was glad to be part of the World Christianity Virtual Conference. Being virtual, it was a great way to connect with missiologists, without the expense and time of travel. The conference theme was the borders of religion and it seemed a good chance to offer some research I did – following the Christchurch mosque shootings – into how Presbyterians in Aotearoa interacted with difference, specifically the Ringatu faith.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to participate and very much enjoyed putting the presentation together – which I shared on a Sunday morning. It is pretty nerve wracking speaking online – and I was so nervous I forgot to turn my video on! Duh.

Anyhow, after the presentation, a journel editor reached out and expressed their appreciation of my paper and showed an interest in publication. I hadn’t made any plans for further publication, but having done the work, it seemed a good opportunity.

However, words written are different than words spoken. So I had to do some cultural checking regarding authorship, along with some copyright checking regarding photos. But again, the response from my tikanga (cultural) guide was warm, as was the National Library archivists. So after some editing and polishing, I submitted the article today – and now wait to see what happens through the academic review process.

Theologies of fulfillment in a reciprocal study of relationships between John Laughton and Rua Kēnana in Aotearoa New Zealand

Abstract: The crossing of borders of religion presents challenges and provides opportunities. This paper presents a contextualized case study from Aotearoa New Zealand, examining the life-long relationship between Presbyterian missionary, Rev John “Hoani” Laughton (1891-1965), and Māori leader, Rua Kēnana (1969-1937). Photography, as a tool in discerning lived theologies, suggests a side-by-side relationship of reciprocity and particularity. Relationships across differences are revealed not in theory but lived practices of education, worship, and prayer, life, and death. The argument is that Kēnana and Laughton are enacting theologies of fulfillment, grounded in different epistemologies, one of matauranga Māori, the other of Enlightenment thinking.

Keywords: fulfillment theology, matauranga Māori, new religious movements, Presbyterian

Posted by steve at 10:58 PM

Monday, October 12, 2020

editor as detective and gardener and servant

I’ve just sent off to the publisher my first ever edited contribution.
– 1 editorial, of around 2,600 words
– 5 blind peer-reviewed journal articles, each around 6,000 words
– 3 reviewers, together reviewing 4 recently published books relevant to mission

IMG_8725

The edited contribution is Volume 1, Issue 2 of Ecclesial Futures, an international, ecumenical peer-reviewed journal, aiming to provide high-quality, original research on the development and transformation of local Christian communities and the systems that support them as they join in the mission of God in the world.

Ecclesial Futures began for me in August 2016. As part of the International Association of Mission Studies conference in Korea, a group of us met to reflect on what we felt was a gap in missiology – research focused on the local church, that offered a dialogue between academic and practitioner. Over the next few years, a number of organisations agreed with us, generously offering seed money for an initial four issues. Momentum developed and an editorial board began to form.

It was just over a year ago, in September 2019, that I met with co-editor, Rev Dr Nigel Rooms. We spent the day wandering York. Nigel is an experienced editor, of the Journal of Adult Theological Education and now of Practical Theology. During the day, we talked about an editorial ethos of encouragement, of prioritizing constructive peer review and a willingness to mentor potential writers who have not published before.

Volume 1 was published in June 2020 and has been well received. This includes affirming feedback about the visual appeal (“attractive, easy to handle,” “looks great”), the readability (“well pitched”) and connectivity (“interesting research and reflections on mission and the church and crucially it relates to what is happening on the ground”). There have been requests for permission to use articles in training and formation of ministers, along with affirmations from an acquisition librarian in an internationally recognized University regarding the quality and craft. There have also been challenges, including the need to further diversify our editorial board.

My task over the last 3 months has been project-managing volume 2. This involves finding blind reviewers for various articles, moderating between reviewer and author, providing encouragement to authors and gratefulness to reviewers, editing for argument and clarity. Finally, writing an editorial, which introduces the issue and maps out some trajectories we as editors want to encourage.

It’s been a new experience, chipping away in the midst of a myriad of other changes. I’m passionate about the local church and the interface between thinking and doing. But like any new thing, there’s been lots of learnings and plenty of questions.

Why be an editor?

You get to be a detective – It’s been a lot of fun trying to work out who might be a good blind peer reviewer. Each article is unique and each invites examination from different perspectives. Hence co-editing means asking around, seeking recommendations, checking CV’s online. In the process, I’ve been enriched. It has certainly extended my networks and I’ve met some really interesting new people.

You get to be a gardener – The 5 articles are quite different now from the 5 articles individually submitted. It has been fascinating to see authors respond to review, sharpen their argument, read more widely, draw in new material. To use the gardening image, each article is a different plant. Each has required different approaches to pruning. Each author has needed different amounts of fertiliser. As editor, it has been a great gift to watch a stranger read something an author is so familiar with and say “I think this is the heart of your argument.” And then see the author respond, and the article return stronger, more coherent.

You get to serve – The local church deserves the best of our thinking and acting, our research and our praxis. Co-editing Ecclesial Futures is one way for me to seek to serve the local church, for which I’m grateful.

Posted by steve at 01:56 PM

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Nurturing faith online: praxis connecting theory

Some work for my 4th and final Nurturing faith online Community of Practice. After 6 months of action experiments, I’m giving feedback to each participant – bringing their experiment into conversation with theory. What from our praxis confirms? What challenges?

Theory – identity – digital media can be used by people to articulate and work out their religious identities and visions

Praxis – this Community of Practice has involved 4 regulars, 3 others, along with several others who committed to watch a later recording. Meeting online 4 times over 6 months, this Community of Practice brought people together from three countries. While none live in physical proximity, they have found common ground online. This common ground is shaped by a religious vision, a curiosity about nurturing faith online.

Participation was an act of agency. Each person focused on an experiment in trying to make sense of a rapid change. Hence they Community of Practice was an active participation in the out working of a religious identity.

Hence the articulation of vision was in word and deed. Rather than be overwhelmed by COVID, the undertaking of experiments demonstrated dynamic, flexible and adaptive actions. Risks were taken and new things emerged

  • karaoke for playful shared ecumenical worship
  • short courses that invited people outdoors to pay attention to their surroundings and listen more deeply to silence and space
  • listening through surveys that opened up realities of God online
  • experiments in community that showed the reality of fluid identity formation
  • experiments in participation that bore witness to the possibility of relating and connecting

Online has made visible the work that people are willing to do – in their own time – to express and explore their identities online. This is an active, creative, playful vision of nurturing faith online.

Posted by steve at 09:24 PM

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

learning by doing: The art of gaining feedback

At the heart of action is reflection. Reflection is generated by feedback. We can gain feedback in at least 7 ways. Each has advantages and disadvantages. With feedback, we honour the other. From feedback, we begin to learn.

thought-catalog-RdmLSJR-tq8-unsplash

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

1 – Formative participant feedback; informally

Formative because this feedback is generated during a process. We watch body language. We attend to the pauses. We analyse the words being used – the depth of feeling, the type of verbs. We mirror what we hear and ask clarifying questions.

2 – Summative participant feedback; evaluation

We choose questions carefully and through survey (or chat), often at the end of a session or programme, we invite comment. This tends to be written and thus individual. What should we start? What should we stop? What should we keep?

3 – Summative group feedback; together

We create opportunity for the group to engage together. This allows for moderation, challenge, affirmation among the group. As they talk, we listen. We might record or ask someone to take notes.

I was most enlivened by; I did not realise that; We were at our best as a group when we; The most challenging part of our time together as a group was; I am thankful to God for

4 – Reflect on the spoken group work

We keep track of who speaks, paying particular attention to diversity and frequency. We reflect this back, thus shaping the experience. Who has not spoken? Are particular voices not being heard?

5 – Peer review

We invite an external colleague – friend, mentor – to watch us. It might be live. It might be a recording. We ask them to give us their feedback.

6 – Reflect on written interaction

After the event, we analyse the chat or contemplate the whiteboard. We analyse the words being used – the depth of feeling, the type of verbs. We consider the questions being asked. Where they addressed? What do they say about interest and engagement?

7 – Our own experiences

We journal a moment. In half a page, we seek in clear, simple words, to capture the experience: something that made us uncomfortable; something that felt significant; something that seemed to go well. We then turn to analyse what we have written. Now that our experience is outside us, is there a key word or phrase? Is there a 1 sentence summary?

In each of these 7 ways, we are paying attention. The feedback is returning us to the action. Contemplation is from the Latin, con – meaning with and templum – meaning temple. We are daring to believe that in the action is the Divine. God is present. This is holy ground. As we are with God, we see ourselves and others more clearly. We are open to grow. There will be thanks and confession, prayer and petition. Such is the gift of feedback.

Posted by steve at 10:03 PM

Saturday, July 04, 2020

is that your bible – annotated bibliography

A few weeks ago, I wrote – Is that your Bible? – an opinion piece for ABC Religion and Ethics online. In about 850 words, I analysed a moment in popular culture – Donald Trump’s photo op in front of St. John’s Church – and reflected on what it might mean to read a sacred text.

Behind the opinion piece was a whole lot of thinking and reading. Here are 4 books I’ve found particularly significant:

First, Richard Burridge, Imitating Jesus carefully traces New Testament ethics as they focus on the person of Jesus. A final chapter examines apartheid as an ethical challenge. 75% of people in South Africa were involved in some sort of church during the Apartheid era and all sides considered they were acting “Biblically.” Burridge suggests four common approaches to reading Scripture and I used this as a framework to think through “Mary’s Bible” – using a mix of narrative and prescriptive commands in seeking to think about “law and order.”

burridge

Second, Gerard West, The Stolen Bible: From Tool of Imperialism to African Icon. West examines the Bible in the continent of African and argues that Africans have “stolen” the Bible. West tells the wonderful story ascribed to Tutu.

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land. And we got the better deal! – Desmond Tutu, The Stolen Bible: From Tool of Imperialism to African Icon, page 326.

This gives agency to readers. While the long arc of justice demands ongoing reparation for anything stolen, the playful and liberative ways that Scripture can enable creativity in resistance require us to pay careful attention to who is holding the Bible. And why.

Third, The Art of Reading Scripture has a great chapter by William Stacy Johnson “Reading the Scriptures Faithfully in a Postmodern Age.” Three statements provide for me a helpful checklist:

  • Statement 1 – Our text is a collection of stories – “A collection of Scriptures that renders a congeries of stories – stories that are not always saying quite the same thing. The testimony of this passage of Scripture is juxtaposed with the “countertestimony” of that passage of Scripture, and so on” (The Art of Reading Scripture, page 114).
  • Our text is a collection of flesh and blood stories – The Bible is about real people, real action, real drama, real choices. We need to read and preach this reality. What if Jacob had not tricked Esau out of his birthright? What is Jesus had made different choices in the Garden of Gethsemane? Capturing the drama of these stories is essential
  • Our text is an unfinished text. “What is most important are not the past meanings the stories are thought to contain but the present meanings they continually provoke in the community of faith. At the heart and soul of reading the Scriptures faithfully is the constant rehearing of stories – and also of sayings, commandments, prophecies, and other materials – whose repetition helps kindle and inflame, right here, at this very moment, the “new thing” that the God who is for us in Jesus Christ is calling into being.” The Art of Reading Scripture, page 116).

Fourth, Scripture and Resistance has a range of excellent chapters on how to read the Bible in ways that resist Empire. The introduction, by Jione Havea, “Negotiating with Scripture and Resistance” spotlights the reader. The Bible does not say anything apart from the reader. Readers interpret. Readers can ignore. Readers can silence. Readers shape what Scripture says (or not). This again is relevant to Trump’s holding the Bible, inviting us to step beyond the photo op and consider how the Bible is being read.

Holding a book is easy. Reading it well is an art.

Posted by steve at 04:51 PM

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Unbounding learning communities in Practical Theology

Practical Theology acceptance ..

Unbounding learning communities: Ako-empowered research in life-long ministerial formation

Steve Taylor and Rosemary Dewerse

Abstract: While formation is an essential practice of local church communities, the formation of ministers for ordination, along with continued professional education, is generally located in the context of higher education. ‘Ako’, describing a teaching and learning relationship grounded in reciprocity, and employed as an approach to researching life-long learning needs among ordained ministers in the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, challenged this separation. The results of interviews and workshops with 285 lay and ordained leaders challenged the location of postgraduate provision in the context of higher education. The request was to teach leaders with their people in community in practices for living differently, with a focus on educating educators in relationally embodied ways. Educational experiments clarified ways of unbounding learning for local communities. These praxis-derived discoveries are clarified by conversation with the life of Jesus and Irenaeus’ theological anthropology of recapitulation. This brings clarity regarding the nature of ako as reciprocity in communities of practice and a reimagining of theological colleges as facilitators of unbounded local learning communities.

Keywords: ako, communities of practice, formation, Irenaueus, life-long learning, theological education

More fruit from the Thornton Blair Research project into life-long ministerial formation.

Posted by steve at 09:41 AM

Friday, May 15, 2020

public theology conversations amid the ups and downs of Zoom

I co-presented at a University of Auckland Business and International Relations research seminar, with Associate Professor Christine Woods on Thursday. We were offering an interdisciplinary focus, a conversation about social innovation in church contexts, building on our work over the last 3 years with the Lighthouse encouraging innovation at grassroots across the Presbyterian Church. It felt like a real moment of public theology, as Hebrew Wisdom literature, Paul and Jesus became conversation partners in a business research context.

slide

Given the COVID-19 lockdown, the seminar was entirely by Zoom. It was great not to have to think about travelling from Dunedin to Auckland, but simply walk downstairs and log on. However, any feelings of up rapidly descended down into panic.

The down was losing my co-presenter mid-presentation. We were taking turn about through the presentation, each speaking to our area of disciplinary strength. So I was doing Jesus and Paul, while my colleague was making the social innovation connections, including offering a new reading of an economist called Josef Schumpeter. Just as she prepared to compare the 1911 1st edition in German and the 1934 3rd edition in English, her screen froze. In horror, I realised she had gone. Here was I, a theologian, about to try and explain an economist to a room full of business lecturers and students. I stumbled through, recalling what we had rehearsed together. Sure enough, just as I finished, Christine came back on line. Just in time to grin and let me pick up on the next slide, the connectional theology of Paul Fiddes.

The up. I wonder if Zoom opens up different, and more conversational style. Christine and I have co-facilitated for three years, so we know each other well. We have been writing up this piece of research for about 6 months. We spoke without a full script, working our way through different slides. It felt conversational and dialogical. But I wondered what it would have been like face to face. The two of us standing at the front. The awareness of body language, paying attention as the other spoke. In contrast, Zoom switches speaker. I am no longer as visible if I need to turn over my notes or take a sip of water. What I am wearing is no longer as important. Our conversational style felt much more suitable to the technology, enhanced by Zoom.

Despite the ups and downs, it was a great experience. About 40 folk were present, which is the largest research seminar I’ve ever been to. Lots of expressions of thanks for our excellent presentation. And some great questions. I try and take notes of questions, to help my ongoing processing and checking the clarity of our argument. Here is what I recall (I might have missed a couple):

  • Innovation is defined as including both novelty and value. Where is the value in social innovation?
  • How did we assess the outcomes of what we did at Lighthouse?
  • How does the church respond to these ideas?
  • Entrepreneur or Entrepreneurship? Are you advocating a hero model of entrepreneur or a process model of entrepreneurship

All great questions as we put the finishing touches on a journal article submission.

Posted by steve at 06:40 PM