Monday, September 26, 2022

Published – Theologies of Fulfillment in a Reciprocal Study – International Bulletin of Mission Research

My latest journal article is now online – “Theologies of Fulfillment in a Reciprocal Study of Relationships between John Laughton and Rua Kēnana in Aotearoa New Zealand,” International Bulletin of Mission Research here.

Short abstract: Crossing the borders of religion presents challenges and provides opportunities. This article presents a contextualized case study from Aotearoa New Zealand. 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 in lived practices of education, worship, life and death. The argument is that Rua Kēnana and John Laughton enacted theologies of fulfillment, grounded in different epistemologies: mātauranga Māori and Enlightenment thinking.

I’m grateful for the writings of Dr Hirini Kaa and Archbishop Don Tamihere as invaluable resources in reflecting on mātauranga Māori and the life of te hāhi mihinare. I’m also grateful for the wisdom of Dr Wayne Te Kaawa in the writing and the resource and permissions of National Library of New Zealand.

Posted by steve at 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

publishing contract for Making matters and practical theology in researching mission online

Signing a publishing contract is always a great way to start the day.

This piece of writing began as a conference paper delivered at the 2019 Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference. In the audience was Mary Moschella, who is Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, at Yale Divinity School. At the time she was revising her book, Ethnography As A Pastoral Practice: An Introduction and emailed after the conference asking if I might consider writing up my research journey.

I had used Ethnography As A Pastoral Practice: An Introduction in some of my classes at Uniting College (a short blog review is here). The commitments to listening and living theologies made sense of how I approached leading change, especially during my time as Senior Pastor at Opawa Baptist. So I was delighted to rework the conference paper to make more visible my researching journey – my contribution titled “When Christmas Angels Tweet: Making matters and practical theology in researching mission online.” The revised edition of Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice is due out with Pilgrim Press in the US and SCM in the UK.

Posted by steve at 09:26 AM

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Ordinary knitters: theologies of making

From the ethics application:

I am researching whether Christians can witness through acts of making. Artist and theologian Makoto Fujimura argues that the theological journey includes seeing the importance of our creative intuition and trusting that the Spirit is already at work there. Such claims invite three research tasks. First, to capture the theological journeys present in creative intuition. Second, to discern the Spirit’s work in these journeys. Third, to develop a missiology of making.

To do this, I want to begin with knitters and how they might (or might not) see their making as a spiritual practise. Jeff Astley urges the study of ordinary theology, the need to value the everyday faith understandings of the whole people of God (Ordinary Theology, 2000). Applied to making, what theologies are being made by “ordinary knitters”? In the words of Fujimura, what role does creative intuition play in the theological journey? What are knitters thinking, praying even, as they cast on and off?

I want to interview knitters in several countries who have participated in knitting projects. Firstly, I also want to interview knitters of scarves for the Common Grace Knit For Climate Action in Australia. I hope to interview knitters either together or alone and explore why they participate and what meanings they make. Second, I want to interview knitters of Christmas Angels. These include groups in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Again, I hope to interview knitters either together or alone and explore why they participate and what meanings they make.

I will communicate to Christian organisations, for example Common Grace Knit For Climate Action and churches, that I am seeking participants. I will set up a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ordinaryknitters that has an advertisement along with details by which people can contact me. I will utilise a “snowballing” technique where participants could tell others about the project by referring them to the information about the project.

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 similar) and are willing to be interviewed about your experiences, we would love to hear from you.

Contact Steve Taylor (kiwidrsteve@gmail.com) or read more here or on the Ordinary Knitters facebook page.

Posted by steve at 03:28 PM

Thursday, January 20, 2022

90 plus research interviews in 2021

As I head into the 2022 working year, I’m reflecting not only on writing done in the 2021 year gone. I’m also reflecting on research undertaken.

A highlight of 2021 was being able to conduct over 90 research interviews. This involved four different projects, for four different church denominations. In my role as Director of AngelWings Ltd I conduct quality research. In 2021, this involved requests to conduct research into future church and change, theological education, student mission and craft in mission. Most was by zoom, working internationally with folk in USA, Samoa, Fiji and Australia. There were also multiple interviews across Aotearoa both face to face and by zoom.

interviews

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

My rough rule of thumb is that one interview involves 4 to 6 hours of work, excluding travel time. There is about 30 minutes to write introducing the project, suggesting boundaries and seeking to set up an interview. There is about 60 minutes of interview. There is about 30 minutes to individually process the interview, to either walk or journal my impressions in a research memo. Then there is the interview writeup. For most of these interviews, I compiled not a transcript but a 2-3 page summary. This is sent back to the person interviewed, so they are aware of what was heard. This also includes time if the feedback process involves corrections or suggestions for improvement. (A full transcript takes a lot longer and very few industry groups see the need for that depth of accuracy). The write-up takes about 2 hours for a 1-1 interview, longer for a focus group.

So 90 interviews, each at around 5 hours of work, meant some 450 hours of work, over 11 weeks full-time equivalent for me in 2021. What a privilege, to engage, listen and learn from thoughtful, caring and passionate people.

Interviews make knowledge. You literally see wisdom emerge in front of your eyes, as people pause and say “I’d not really thought of it like this before but …” Such is the power of qualitative research to individuals and communities.

Interviews invite diverse voices to the table. When people begin with “I’m not sure I have much to say …” you realise that unless invited, so much insight is never shared. Such is the gift of qualitative research to organisations and groups.

In 2021, I was blessed to conduct over 90 interviews, across multiple projects and diverse cultures, as part of AngelWings providing quality knowledge and insight to individuals, organisations, church denominations and theological providers.

Posted by steve at 08:41 AM

Saturday, January 15, 2022

journal article acceptance – Ordinary Time Festivals: an Application of Wisdom Ecclesiology

“a thing well made.” It’s a line from a song by Don McGlashan and it’s been an earworm since I received news this week that my journal article “Ordinary Time Festivals: An Application of Wisdom Ecclesiology” has been accepted for publication by Theology Today, an international academic journal out of Princeton. It’s my 23rd accepted academic journal and the news got me thinking – Can journal articles be a thing well made?”

Reflecting on a journal article as a “thing well made”:

  • First, the organising of 5,000 words in a logical and coherent way.
  • Second, the attention to both detail (footnotes, grammar, spelling) and big picture (one coherent argument that connects with the real world).
  • Third, pitching to the right journal. This involves researching the aims and objectives of the journal, working to align the abstract and argument with those aims and then writing a pitch.
  • Fourth, responding to feedback. Submitting your work to multiple blind reviewers takes courage. You open yourself to critique.

Four reasons. What reasons might you add? Can a journal article be a thing well made? While you think, here’s the “Ordinary Time Festivals” abstract —

Feasts and festivals enliven the Christian life. Given Easter, Christmas and Pentecost cluster around the nineteen weeks of Christmastide and Eastertide, the thirty-three weeks of ordinary time are disconnected from these celebrations. The theological impact is considered in light of Amy Plantinga Pauw’s wisdom ecclesiology. For Pauw, the church has largely neglected the ordinary-time dimension of the Christian life. The result is a Christian life disconnected from creaturely existence and God’s ongoing work of creation.

This paper explores the possibility of ordinary time festivals as a way to embody Pauw’s wisdom ecclesiology. A harvest festival in Scotland, a spin and fibre festival in Australia and a local community festival in Aotearoa New Zealand are analyzed. These festivals are argued to embody Pauw’s themes of making new, longing, giving, suffering, rejoicing and joining hands. Hence, ordinary time festivals offer ecclesiologically formed ways for the church to embody wisdom ecclesiology. They enable a theological formed way of joining hands with God’s ongoing work in creation during ordinary time.

Posted by steve at 11:37 AM

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