Tuesday, December 10, 2019

making matters: with a downunder #Kiwiangels hashtag

A piece I wrote last month for SPANZ, the denominational magazine of the Presbyterian Church. It is a popularisation of my craftivism research, with a downunder challenge.

Kiwiangels

Photo by Kayli Taylor

Making matters

God is a master maker, according to Proverbs 8:30. God delights in making, both at creation and among the human race. The chapter begins with the Maker calling in the streets, offering wisdom not inside the temple, but at the crossroads of life, not in the stillness of liturgy but the bustle of the city gates (1-3). The wisdom on offer is fit for daily purpose – words that lead to life offered at the door of every house (34-5).

Making mattered to theologians of the early Church, who wove relationships between God as maker and discipleship as God’s children. Maximus the Confessor called Christian life a game played by children before God. In Acts, Dorcas created a fresh expression of church with the poor through mending and Lydia worked with fine purple cloth, while Paul, Priscilla and Aquila sustained their mission through the making of tents.

The place of making in mission intrigues me. So in recent months, I have researched Christmas Angels, a local church outreach that began in the north of England in 2014. The idea is simple: make hand-knitted angels, attach a tag, and leave for others to find.

Why make? Mystery in mission, was the answer, according to founders, Methodist church ministers, Rob Wylie and David Wynd, whom I interviewed last month in Durham, England. Seeing a felted angel made by Lou Davis (a wonderfully talented pioneer Methodist church leader) a lightbulb went off for Rob and David: “People walk the same route to work every single day. Let’s see what happens when they see something they don’t normally see. What they make of the message will be up to them. An angel turns up and what might change?”

Christianity, like Christmas, has, over the years, become increasingly wrapped in tinsel. What might happen if making, in the simplicity of a hand-made angel, was what mattered at Christmas?

What happened? Well, it seems that local English churches adore making things. What began in 2014 with a few churches near Rob and David, was quickly taken up by churches all over Britain. In 2017, over 60,000 angels, each lovingly tagged, were yarn bombed throughout England. In the dark of winter down country roads and up high streets, outside train stations and opposite local schools, hand-made knitted angels just turned up.

I was curious. What did the neighbours make of the making? Were yarnbombed angels a nuisance? I turned to social media as part of my research. Each knitted angel came with a hashtag (search online for “#XmasAngel”) and I found the neighbours responding (tweeting) online. Words like “lovely” and “thanks” kept being repeated. For one person, the angels meant people were “thinking of us here”. For another it was an experience of “divine intervention”. A mother was moved to tears as she watched her children place their newly found angel atop the Christmas tree. Of the 1,100 responses (tweets), not one was negative. The making of knitted angels brought communities together, made visible the church and materialised joy and surprise in the experience of being found by an angel.

It all makes sense of the angels in the Christmas story. They were outdoors. They were making faith visible, not with their hands, but their voices with songs of peace and love for all humankind.

It also makes sense of the making in Proverbs 8. Making matters and mission needs to be “out and about” up streets and at the crossroads. Making matters as the Church becomes playful, turning “purl one and knit two together” into unspoken acts of public mission.

Are there makers in Presbyterian churches? Yvonne Wilkie, our Church’s former archivist, recalls knitted nativities in Presbyterian history. But that was the past, and we all now live in the present.

The instructions are online (https://www.christmasangel.net/). They are simple enough that, as part of my research, I learnt to make one. Is anyone interested in making and mission, with a downunder #Kiwiangels hashtag? Or are Kiwi summers now too busy and too hot for making to matter?

Steve Taylor

Posted by steve at 09:14 PM | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

the journey of a journal article – Cultural hybridity in conversion

“Cultural hybridity in conversion: an examination of “Hapkas” Christology as resistance and innovation in Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain,” Mission Studies 36 (3) November 2019, 416-441″ (here).

Abstract -This essay analyses Christian witness, applying a post-colonial lens to Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain to account for conversion and transformation in Papua New Guinea. A ‘hapkas’ (half-caste) Christology of indigenous agency, communal transformation and hybridity is examined in dialogue with New Testament themes of genealogy, redemption as gift and Jesus as the new Adam. Jesus as ‘good man true’ is placed in critical dialogue with masculine identity tropes in Melanesian anthropology. Jesus as ancestor gift of Canaanite descent is located in relation to scholarship that respects indigenous cultures as Old Testaments and post-colonial theologies of revelation which affirm cultural hybridity and indigenous innovation in conversion across cultures. This ‘hapkas’ Christology demonstrates how a received message of Christian mission is transformed in a crossing of cultures.

The journey of a journal article – through fiction, art and anthropology via my childhood. ‘Innovative” the editor called it. “Excellent article – well framed, written and a pleasure to read. … one of the best articles I have read in a while … Well done!” said the reviewers.

So a short video to explain the journey and introduce some of the key resources.

Cultural hybridity in conversion by Steve Taylor in Mission Studies from steve taylor on Vimeo.

Drusilla Modjeska, The Mountain.

Drusilla Modjeska, Second Half First.

National Gallery Victoria, Wisdom of the Mountain: Art of the Omie

Stanley Skreslet, Comprehending Mission: The Questions, Methods, Themes, Problems, and prospects of Missiology.

Posted by steve at 08:31 PM

Monday, October 21, 2019

visualising a research project

graph

I’m always looking for ways to express things in visual modes.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been working on a complex research bid. It involves a mixed methods approach, including standard methods like archival research and interviews. But it also involves more creative approaches, including mapping genealogies through sacred space, material objects to facilitate conversational approaches to research and absent voices methodologies.

As the research application approached the 5,000 word mark, I needed an executive summary. More importantly, I needed ways other than words to communicate. Hence the visual.

A picture is worth a 1,000 words after all.

I stepped back from the methods and methodologies and asked myself some basic questions, about the main things I was doing

  • how much time in archives?
  • how much time face to face?
  • how much time to communicate in writing?
  • how much time to communicate in presentations?
  • how much time to organise?

I made a quick spreadsheet and added up some numbers. Then I used the pie graph function. With about 15 minutes work, I had a visual depiction of the data. In the midst of words and numbers and tables, it provides an instant overview – of a project that involves a significant amount of face to face engagement.

Posted by steve at 08:57 PM

Friday, September 20, 2019

Craftivism imaged: my paper in art

After my paper on Craftivism as mission at Ecclesiology and Ethnography, I was introduced to this piece of art.

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It is a Salvador Dali lithograph, owned by Durham University, which sits in the St Johns College dining room. It is titled “Illustration of the Bible, Jeremiah 1:5. Before I formed you in the womb I knew.” The suggestion was that this art piece “imaged” my research paper. I love the depiction of a woman weaving and perhaps God being imaged in relation to feminine images of womb and craft.” My “shot” is not a great picture, given the glare of glass and a sun and a crowded room.

Posted by steve at 09:32 PM

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Speaking twice at Ecclesiology and Ethnography 2019

Today I was scheduled to present a paper on craftivism as missiology at the Ecclesiology and Ethnography 2019 conference. By a strange quirk of fate, I found myself presenting my paper not once but twice.

Conferences tend to group presentations together and I was scheduled to present second at 9:45 am. I arrived at 8:50 am to set up. However by 9 am, with the session due to start, there was no sign of the first presenter. In fact, no-one in the room could recall seeing the first presenter at the entire conference.

Faced with a sudden and unexpected hole in the programme, the conference organiser invited me to proceed at 9 am, given there was another presentation happening at 9:45 am in another room that some folk wanted to hear.

Conference presentations involve simultaneous streams and sometimes people move between streams as part of pick and mixing. At 9:45 am, as I took the final question of my presentation and as I began to thank my audience, a number of folk arrived, expecting to hear my presentation, as scheduled in the programme, for 9: 45 am.

Since I had the time and since I have come quite a long way (half way around the world) and since I’m pretty passionate about the topic, I indicated I was willing to offer the presentation again – and as originally advertised.

Which I did. With enthusiasm :).

The feedback from participants at both 9 am and 9:45 am was some of the most positive feedback I’ve ever had on a conference presentation. ‘Wonderful paper” said a leading scholar from Yale. “This opens up new horizons for empirical research” said another. “Could you video it for my church?” said another. Two folk even stayed for both presentations.

The questions opened up new avenues of thinking and possibilities for further research. They included

  • In what ways were the angels making possible new ways to inhabit the earth?
  • What does it mean for theology when knitted angels are actors in the mission of God?
  • Could I use twitter to conduct a longitudinal research on participants, retweeting to them?
  • How had my participation in the research, particularly my learning to knit as part of the project, changed me?
  • If it was craftivism, then in what ways was it political? What was being subverted?
  • In what ways does my data ‘re-make’ existing understandings of communication as having senders of messages to receivers?
  • Is my model of craftivism emerging from the wisdom literature of the Old Testament in fact a Trinitarian patterning?
  • How to make sense of the complex layers of materiality – the wool, the making, the placing?
  • Can i provide a better account of gender from the data, accounting not simply for men and women but seeking to understand gendered trends, impacts, roles and relationships?

In my responses, I realised how much my thinking has developed since this paper was presented at ANZATS in July 2019. This included insights emerging from my focus group research with the organisors on Monday night and material from my first expressions book (SCM, 2019).

It was a privilege to present once, let alone twice and both times to sense the richness of the research I have done and how it connects both for academics and for local church pastors (hence the “Could you video it for my church?” comment). My thanks to the organisors for accepting my paper and KCML/PCANZ who made possible financially my participation.  And to my family for graciously giving me permission.

Posted by steve at 05:44 PM

Friday, July 19, 2019

Side project research: turning 1 journal article into 2

IMG_7498 So I’m working on an academic side project.

A side project, according to wikipedia, is a project undertaken by someone already known for their involvement in another project. In this case, the side project involves turning 1 recently accepted journal article into a 2nd and different (adapted and localised) journal article.

A side project is also something done on the side, which applies here given my writing occurs outside of normal work hours.

Why this side project?
1 – I’ve already done much of the work. When writing, there is always work left on the editing floor. In this case, a visit to Te Papa to research Pacific bark cloth, along with a literature review. The work got left behind in the 1st journal article. So it just makes sense to bring that work back into production and make it visible.

2 – I have been strongly encouraged. When the initial journal article was accepted by Mission Studies, Reviewer 1 noted “I am intrigued by the notion of “hapkas” christology and hope the author has a chance to expand on this analysis in subsequent research.” Then Reviewer 2 took the initiative and contacted a 2nd journal to say “I reviewed this article and thought it was so good … I thought it would be great” for this second journal. That sort of feedback and proactivity provides motivation and energy.

3 – It’s part of re-connecting to my birthplace of Papua New Guinea. It was such a thrill writing the initial article and that sense of satisfaction and re-weaving continues with this side project. I get to appreciate the bark cloth of my childhood as part of a complex cycle of art production and think again about the kin relationships that were part of raising me. I feel more centred as a human person.

4 – It’s a concrete step in a bigger project – a monograph researching hybridity and genealogy in Christology. That’s a big project. So I need ways to make it bite sized. A 2nd journal article does that, as I extend existing trajectories and develop new sections.

So what is involved this particular side project? The 1st article was for an international journal. For that journal, the article needed to communicate globally. This involved locating a specific, national, piece of research in relation to international trends in mission. Specifically, a literature review that engaged a range of authors, from a range of countries.

The second journal article is for a national journal. This article needs to communicate more locally. Specifically, more concrete detail of the actual culture. Hence editing in the notes I took from that visit to Te Papa to research Pacific bark cloth in 2016. It is such a thrill to find the Evernote entry from September 2016 and realise that 250 draft words, typed on the airplane on the return flight, are just waiting to be edited in. The result is a new section on the history of art in this particular region.

It also requires locating the research in relation to other national research. Hence deleting a range of authors from a range of countries and instead reading through the back issues of this particular national journal. It was such a thrill to find the Evernote entry with the URL of the journal article back copies, already found online, waiting to be analysed. The result is a literature review for this journal of the history of Christology in this journal over the last 30 years – of Jesus the “wontok” (relation), the clan brother, the “tatapa” (protector).

As a result, over the last 2 weeks, 1 hour a day, a very different journal article is being written. Using work already done, yet particularising, localising, enlarging my understandings of indigenous Christologies, important for my ongoing teaching as an inhabitant of Oceania, a guest on the land of another, a boy born in Melanesian.

Posted by steve at 12:15 PM

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Missional theology at ANZATS 2019

ANZATS 2019 was stimulating and diverse. The keynotes were excellent and the contrasting styles helped provide rich engagement. With over 100 papers and more than 140 participants, it was a great chance to network and re-connect with old friends – particularly for me folk from Uniting College, Adelaide. A highlight for me is always the work of new and emerging scholars, seeing them present with such creativity and enthusiasm.

ANZATS 2019 began with a powhiri and I was privileged to speak in te reo on behalf of manuhiri (visitors). I had been informed I could use both Maori and English, but arrived to find a change of plan and Maori only. I managed to muddle my way through and offer most of the seven sections of mihi whakatau (still need to do more work on my take (reason for meeting), which is considered the hardest section). In addition to duties on the paepae tapu (sacred threshold), I offered two papers.

One (abstract here)

Where #christmasangels tread tweet: Craftivism as a missiology of making

was the product of Outside Study Leave research, developing a presentation I gave at the Christchurch Cathedral last year but knitting (pun intended) in some data, 1100 tweets to be precise, of recipient responses to a piece of local church yarnbombing. This paper generated some really helpful insights, including twitter content creation as an act of “making.”

A second (abstract here)

Praying in crisis: an empirical study of how local churches respond in gathered worship to local and international tragedy and trauma

was a joint project with Lynne Taylor, which examined the responses of over 150 churches to the trauma that was the Christchurch massacre. This paper generated great discussion about the nature of prayer and what it means to relate to the other. We hope to do more on this, particularly find a way to do some follow-up focus group work with some of the churches who demonstrated “being with” (Wells, Incarnational Mission: Being with the World) sensibilities.

It was great in both papers to be working with empirical data and reflecting theologically on the lived expressions of the church. As I said in both the papers, by way of clearing my methodological throat:

Practical theology provides a way to undertake theologically rich and critical reflection on the concrete actions of the church (Swinton, From Bedlam to Shalom: Towards a Practical Theology of Human Nature, Interpersonal Relationships, and Mental Health Care (Pastoral Theology), 12). Actions, like craftivism, invite theological reflection because they are theory-laden, value-directed and as such profoundly saturated by meaning (Anderson, The Shape of Practical Theology: Empowering Ministry with Theological Praxis, 48). Empirical methods of research provide ways to research action and clarify theory and values, which can then be considered in light of the gospel and of church tradition. The insights that result from the dialogue between action-as-theological and wisdom from the tradition can inform further action. Hence practical theology is servant of, and prophet to, the life of the church in the world.

It is always an act of faith, offering a proposal 3 months out and always a relief when presentations land. In this case, having Outside Study Leave greatly helped; as did being able to take some days in lieu to be able to be part of ANZATS 2019.

Posted by steve at 11:40 AM

Saturday, June 29, 2019

the role of wiping noses and lactation in theology

I’m working my way through Janet Martin Soskice’s The Kindness of God: Metaphor, Gender, and Religious Language with a yellow highlighter.

This is the second time I’ve read this fascinating book this year. The first time was during my Outside Study Leave, as I searched for ways to construct a methodology of the unique, a way by which theology could learn with and from empirical research. I found helpful the way that Soskice worked with the theology of Julian of Norwich, arguing that Julian was faithful to, yet offered a “fruitful” development of, the work of Augustine (126). Soskice drew out Julian’s “ingenuity as a theologian” in describing a theology of kinship (126). I was able to draw on Soskice on developing an ecclesiology of innovation, for my First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God book, due out with SCM in December 2019.

IMG_7454 This second time, I’m reading Soskice with a yellow highlighter because I am underlining all the domestic words. Words like –

pregnancy,
childbirth,
baby,
children,
toddlers,
infant,
family holidays,
making meals,
washing clothes,
wiping noses,
lactation

- all in Chapter 1.

It is rare to find such words in a theology text book. Janet Martin Soskice is Reader in Philosophical Theology at the University of Cambridge. It is rare to to find words like wiping noses and lactation in philosophical theology. So I’m fascinated by the role the domestic plays in her theology; the way she uses images of family life as a source of reason and what this might mean for theology.

As I read Janet Martin Soskice, I am reminded of the words of Anna Fisk (‘To Make, and Make Again’: Feminism, Craft and Spirituality, Feminist Theology 20(2) 160–174) and her argument that everyday acts of making in the ‘feminine’ sphere, have been neglected in mainstream theology. I also recall the words of Heather Walton, who notes recent moves within Feminist Practical Theology to prioritise the everyday in order to encourage serious theological reflection upon “the fabric of life” (Heather Walton, ‘Seeking Wisdom in Practical Theology’, Practical Theology, 7:1 (2014), pp. 5–18).

I wonder what it means for theology in general, and my theology in particular, to make the domestic an essential resource in faith seeking understanding. As Soskice writes: “Attending to the child is a work of imagination and moral effort … This is the work of the Spirit, this bodying forth of God in history – in our individual histories and in that of our world … under the attentive gaze of love” (32, 33, 34).

Such are my thoughts as I read with a yellow highlighter.

Posted by steve at 06:17 PM

Monday, May 27, 2019

last days

I’m into the last days of outside study leave.

IMG_7328

The first 1/3 of the outside study leave followed a daily pattern

  • create – write words on First expressions book project
  • make – do something embodied
  • complete – work on ‘must get around to it’ journal articles and writing pieces
  • deepen – reading or doing data analysis
  • connect – attend external random lecture, write a blog post

This pattern held well for the first month. It gave balance. There was joy and satisfaction. I walked lots. I submitted two written pieces for PCANZ publications, two scholarly articles to international journal articles, completed final edits on another three scholarly pieces. I learnt to knit. I got out the highlighters and colour coded data from the Craftivist project.

The second 1/3 involved some external travel. I presented at a teaching and learning conference in Sydney and took the weekend to catch up with good friends. This was also part of complete – working the Thornton Blair Research data into a 20 minute presentation and a journal article. I went on haerenga (journey) engaging with Maori perspectives on their experience of the New Zealand Wars and re-connecting with the Presbyterian church marae at Ohope. This was part of deepen and of make – to undertake place-based learning and be on the land and among people.

The third 1/3 has been trying to complete the First Expressions book project. For the last month I’ve been working all day, most days. I had 5 major chapters and so many days left. Working on the 80/20 rule I have allocated the days and made a timetable.

IMG_7313

There is some flexibility – last week I got stuck into the Mission moves chapter rather than the apostolic chapter. This is the not fun part. There is only one task and the deadline is hard. I have a book contract in which I promised a book in May 2019. I can’t hold a 90,000 word book project in my head when I return to work. I didn’t get the book finished in my 2013 sabbatical and made little progress when I returned to work in 2014. So this last third is just solid writing. If I do well, I might shout myself a little walk. But basically it is write and edit 8 plus hours a day.

In some ways it is a shame to be ending with this sort of pressure. At the same time, I chose to play (make, deepen, connect) at the start of the outside study leave. And there will be huge relief if I can pull it off. I currently have 8 complete chapters, 2 complete chapters with a few holes to fill and 2 chapters rough full drafts but needing a final edit. On my good days, I think I will get there.

When I get tired, I imagine the feeling of returning the 40 borrowed books to the University library, of filing away the rough notes and of clearing the side desk of piles of draft chapters. The project is currently 90,000 words – that’s a lot of words – and I imagine holding the book.

Each week of the sabbatical, I randomly choose a Maori word from the Ira pack. This week – this last days week – the word is hūmārie – gentleness. May it be so.

Posted by steve at 09:33 AM

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Craftivism as a missiology of making abstract for Ecclesiology and Ethnography Conference 2019

I’m hoping to be in the north of England for a few weeks in September. I have 2 weeks of sabbatical I need to take. I am hoping to link that with being able to participate in the Ecclesiology and Ethnography Conference 2019 at Durham. I’ve just submitted a paper proposal. This proposal is a development of the paper I’ve had accepted for ANZATS in Auckland in July 2019, as a result of some of the data analysis I’ve done during my sabbatical.

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Where #christmasangels tread: Craftivism as a missiology of making

The church is formed by witness. A contemporary ecclesial embodiment of witness is craftivism, which combines craft and activism. One example is the Christmas angels project, in which local churches are encouraged to knit Christmas Angels and yarnbomb their surrounding neighbourhoods. This paper examines this embodiment of craftivism as a fresh expression of mission.

Given that Christmas angels were labelled with a twitter hashtag, technology was utilised to access the tweets as empirical data in order to analyse the experiences of those who received this particular form of Christian witness. Over 1,100 “#christmasangel” tweets were extracted and examined. Geographic mapping suggests that Christmas angels have taken flight over England. Content analysis reveals a dominant theme of a found theology, in which angels are experienced as surprising gift. Consistent with the themes of Advent, this embodiment of craftivism was received with joy, experienced as place-based and understood in the context of love and community connection.

A Christology of making will be developed, reading the layers of participative making in dialogue with David Kelsey’s theological anthropology. The research has relevance, first, exploring the use of twitter in empirical ecclesial research; second, offering a practical theology of making; third, challenging missiology in ‘making’ a domestic turn.

Let’s see what happens. In the meantime, back to learning to knit :)

Posted by steve at 07:12 PM

Friday, May 03, 2019

good to go – Theological Education as Development in Vanuatu

You are ‘good to go’ said the editors.

sites

Forthcoming in Sites: a journal of social anthropology and cultural studies vol 16, issue 1, (August 2019). As I submitted it today, I noted the partnerships that made this possible, particularly staff at the Archives Research Centre of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. My thanks also to Phil King, Talua College and Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, along with the dedication and energy of the editors, Philip Fountain and Geoff Troughton, from Victoria University, Wellington.

THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION AS DEVELOPMENT IN VANUATU: ‘WAYFARING’ AND THE TALUA MINISTRY TRAINING CENTRE
Steve Taylor and Phil King

Abstract
Education is essential to development. In Pacific cultures, in which the church is a significant presence, theological education can empower agency and offer analytical frames for social critique. Equally, theological education can reinforce hierarchies and dominant social narratives. This paper provides an account of Presbyterian theological education in Vanuatu. Applying an educative capability approach to a theological education taxonomy proposed by Charles Forman brings into focus the interplay between economics, context, and sustainability as mutual challenges for both development and theological education. However Forman’s model does not accurately reflect the realities of Vanuatu. An alternative frame is proposed, that of wayfaring, in which knowledge-exchange is framed as circulating movements. Wayfaring allows theological education to be imagined as a development actor that affirms local agency, values networks, and subverts centralising models. This alternative model provides a way to envisage theological education, both historically in Vanuatu and into an increasingly networked future, as an actor in Pacific development.

Key words: Vanuatu, theological education, wayfaring, Christianity, development

Posted by steve at 12:33 PM

Monday, April 29, 2019

Mission Studies journal acceptance

Stoked to hear that my journal article – Cultural hybridity in conversion: an examination of “Hapkas” Christology as resistance and innovation in Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain – has been accepted (minor revisions) for Mission Studies. Mission Studies is the Journal of the International Association for Mission Studies and aims to be a forum for the scholarly study of Christian witness and its impact in the world. The article should be published at the end of the year.

It’s the 1st visible written result of my Outside Study Leave Project. It’s also the 3rd journal article I’ve had accepted this year – all focused on Oceania.

The acceptance came with some really lovely reviewer (2) comments – “an excellent article – well framed, written and a pleasure to read. … one of the best articles I have read in a while … Well done!”

Getting this published is a bit of a story of persistence. This particular piece of work began in August 2016 as a conference paper in Korea. It was further helped by the chance to present in March 2017 at a conference in Auckland. I then plugged away all through the rest of 2017 writing it up.  Finally I submitted it to a journal in November 2017. 4 days after I submitted, the editor of the journal emailed saying the journal was closing.

They were no longer taking submissions!

I was gutted. The focus of this article – PNG – is a non-Western nation and it makes it fairly tricky to get something published. The editor agreed it was exactly the type of article the journal existed for. But he had no choice. The University was making funding decisions and cutting the journal was part of their re-alignment of resourcing.

Throughout 2018 I lacked the mental space to do anything. But I’d done so much work already. So outside study leave this year finally gave me the mental space. Here’s what I did.

  • I identified another likely journal. I did this by going back to my two conference presentations and asking – who is talking about these things?
  • I cleared the desk and carefully read Pat Thomson’s internationalising a journal article
  • I settled on her question “what bigger international concern, debate, issue, question or an interest does my paper speak to?”; along with “How might my results inform the wider international conversation in the field?”
  • I read through the recent titles and abstracts of the journal I was targeting, reflecting on the international concern that my paper spoke to
  • I added in a new section to my paper (talking about  conversion, culture and revelation)
  • I then lightly edited the entire article, looking for ways to connect my article with this theme as outlined in the new section.
  • This included a restructure, in which I introduced a local/regional/global frame to help address the ‘How might my results inform the wider international conversation in the field’ question. It also was a way of seeking to keep the particularity (PNG), engage with the region (Oceania) and speak to the international debate
  • I rewrote the conclusion, again with a particular focus on engaging with the new section.
  • This then required a re-worked introduction, followed by the abstract and title (note the use of culture and conversion)
  • Finally, I did the detail work of changing all the references to conform to a different journal article

In the end, there were 1200 new words, over a number of afternoons. Thankfully the new journal accepted longer articles (up to 10,000 words – with the new words I had about 30 spare!)! And I was then intrigued to see the reviewer comment well framed. I think this is a consequence of the work I did in order to internationalise.

2000px-Flag_of_Papua_New_Guinea.svg Which means that PNG – my birth country – will be talked about in an international forum for the scholarly study of Christian witness! (Steve quietly hums the PNG national anthem …)

Anyhow, here is the abstract – This essay analyses Christian witness, applying a post-colonial lens to Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain to account for conversion and transformation in Papua New Guinea. A ‘hapkas’ (half-caste) Christology of indigenous agency, communal transformation and hybridity is examined in dialogue with New Testament themes of genealogy, redemption as gift and Jesus as the new Adam. Jesus as ‘good man true’ is placed in critical dialogue with masculine identity tropes in Melanesian anthropology. Jesus as ancestor gift of Canaanite descent is located in relation to scholarship that respects indigenous cultures as Old Testaments and post-colonial theologies of revelation which affirm cultural hybridity and indigenous innovation in conversion across cultures. This ‘hapkas’ Christology demonstrates how a received message of Christian mission is transformed in a crossing of cultures.

The other reason I’m really stoked is that this article was testing the waters. This is evident in one of the comments from Reviewer 1 – I am intrigued by the notion of “hapkas” christology and hope the author has a chance to expand on this analysis in subsequent research. Landing this article was for me part of my ongoing research plan. It was a stepping stone. It was clearing the ground, gaining scholarly approval, in order to take a further step in researching hybridity and genealogy in Christology.

Posted by steve at 09:00 AM

Thursday, April 18, 2019

craftivist research: coding round 1

So I am coding.  As introduced earlier this week, I have 1100 individual tweets; 22 pages of data.  These have been printed on A3 sheets, leaving me with margins to scrawl notes as I go.

Unknown-12 Over 3 afternoons this week, when I need a break from writing on the First Expressions book project, I have laid out the highlighters – orange, yellow, green, pink.  I have added the pens – red and black – and a pencil.  Potentially 7 different categories. 

I have then simply read each tweet, word by word, looking for themes.  When I think there is a theme I write it down on a blank A3 sheet of paper. Then whenever I see that theme in the data, I use that colour highlighter.  For example, pink is warm comments – words like lovely.  I mindmap related words. Cute is similar to lovely, as is beautiful, so I add that to the related words and in pink I underline lovely/cute/beautiful whenever they appear.

This is a first read. I’m trying to get a feel for the data, to notice trends and seek patterns.  There will be themes that will need to be merged, or themes that will probably appear on a subsequent read. I realise that my data set is corrupted. the hashtag Xmasangel has pulled in other data. This is fine, I can cull the database before I read again.

As I go, I make notes of impressions. This will need to be verified, by numbers, by assembling quotes. But I am getting a feel for the data.

There will be a second read and perhaps a third round. I have the data as a master, so will photocopy off another A3 sheet and using the codes I already have, I will start again from the top and read through.

This is intuitive. I am wanting to be able to stand in front of a group of peers and be able to say – these are the main themes in this data – and here is the evidence to explain and support these main themes.

My initial impressions – in no particular order – are as follows,

  •  the overwhelming sense of joy and positivity generated by Christmas Angels. In the 1,100 tweets, there is only one that might be read as negative. The word “lovely” and “thanks” were dominant
  • the place-based nature of this community engagement. Invariably tweets named locations. These could be towns, streets, park benches, homes, train stations etc. There is a strong sense of connection with place being evoked by the angels. The angelic goodwill is not being heard in Bethlehem but in local communities and closes, streets and high streets shops, in contemporary England.
  • the layers of participation, both for senders and receivers. Senders source materials, make, tag, box, commission, deliver and tweet. Receivers find, carry, display, home and tweet. Indeed it could be argued that there is a making of angels as senders and a making of homes as receivers. Making is an essential part of this mission and in making, connections are deepened and meaning is being made.
  • the way the project built connections, particularly within households and between church and community.

These four themes are articulated in one tweet: “What a lovely idea. Daughter found this for me now taking pride of place on tree.”  There is the positivity of response (“lovely”), the place-based nature  (on tree), the layers of making (participation by the receiver of finding, homing, tweeting) and the building of connections (between daughter and parent).

I’m in a really happy place doing this. I love being curious about the world, in particular about mission and how fresh expressions of mission are received. I’m also curious about the domestic and gendered, the place of making in knowing, what is and is not communicated in craft and tactility.

And a reminder: of the craftivism Christmas angels research project (full outline here).

Background: I am interested in fresh expressions of Christian witness. One recent fresh expression I’ve become aware of is Christmas angels. It is a form of How to Be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest, in which angels are knitted and gifted among communities. I spoke on craftivism at the Transitional Cathedral last year as part of their Prophets in the Cathedral series. I am interested in how these angels are received (to read my conference abstract – Craftivism as a missiology of making – go here). It is one thing to ask people why they get involved in a fresh expression project like this. But how do those who find an angel make meaning?

To address this question presented some research challenges. I live in another country, it is not currently Christmas and I don’t want to look like a stalker, chasing people who find Christmas angels to ask for an interview. Helen Kara’s Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide has been a great resource, encouraging me to think creatively about research.

Research method: To address this question, I am experimenting with analysing social media. Each angel was sent out with a hashtag #Xmasangels. This meant that people who received the angels could interact and in ways that are in the public domain. This provides a way to analyse recipent response – How people responded to the angels? What meanings did they make? With help from a colleague, I have extracted over 1,1000 #Xmasangel hashtag tweets. I am now conducting thematic analysis. This will be brought into dialogue with the literature, particularly a theology of making and the place of domesticity and craft in contemporary cultures.

Outcomes? Action-reflection on mission action, research-informed teaching (at KCML and as I am invited by churches to talk about fresh expressions of mission), presentation of data at academic conferences, writing for industry (Candour, Spanz) and an academic journal, possible engagement with Christmas angel organisors.

Posted by steve at 05:31 PM

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Praying in crisis: an empirical study of how local churches respond in gathered worship to local and international tragedy and trauma

After the Christchurch mosque attacks, there were many, many ways that people responded. One of them was to research, as part of action-reflection capacity building. So (the remarkable) Lynne Taylor and I initiated the following.

tear on cheek

Email to Presbyterian and Baptist Churched — Research for an investigation on how churches responded to the Christchurch mosque terror attacks

The research explores how churches responded in their worship services to the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch. How do churches talk about tragic events? What do they do in response to such events in their worship services? For example, what and how do they pray? What resources do those leading the services draw on in deciding how to respond?

In doing so, the research explores best practice in this area of church pastoral ministry. It provides insight on church practice, as a resource for training of future leaders in theological reflection, congregational leading and worship leading and to assist with professional development of ministers and worship leaders.

All ministers and worship leaders are invited to participate. Depending on your responses, the questionnaire should take 5-10 minutes to complete.

It is a followup to work we did in November 2015 – Praying after Paris – which resulted in a presentation to Presbyterian ministers and another to chaplains at the Chaplaincy in Aotearoa New Zealand conference.

Using the same questions, but with new data from a differently tragic situation – will provide further action-reflection insights. Hence a joint paper proposal submitted last week for ANZATS 2019.

Praying in crisis: an empirical study of how local churches respond in gathered worship to local and international tragedy and trauma

Christian practices embody and reflect lived practical theologies. The gathered worship service is theory- and theology-laden, offering insight into Christian understandings of how God is engaged in human history and what human response could and should be. Investigating how Christians pray corporately is thus a potentially fruitful way to explore underlying theologies.

This paper draws on empirical research to investigate how local churches pray in response to trauma and tragedy.  Online surveys were conducted in November 2015 (following coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, along with bombings in Beirut and Baghdad) and in March 2019 (following the shootings at the Christchurch mosques). In the midst of trauma, how had churches prayed? Pastoral leaders in two New Zealand denominations (Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa NZ and Baptist Churches of NZ) were invited via email to participate in both phases of the research. General invitations to participate were also posted on social media.

In this paper, we consider the resources used by local churches and the theologies evident in their worship responses.  The data will be read through the lens of Storm Swain’s understanding of God as earth-maker (holding); pain-bearer (suffering); and life-giver (transforming). How might these theologies interpret the data? Are different understandings of God present when events are local in contrast to events that are global?  What of human responses to trauma of earth-making/holding; pain-bearing/suffering; and life-giving/transforming? The implications for those who pray in trauma and tragedy will be considered, with particular attention to the theological work possible through the practices of Christian public prayer.

Posted by steve at 08:57 PM