Monday, September 04, 2017

video of my “hapkas” Christology as resistance and innovation talk online

nativechristianities Video from all the conference presentations of the “Resistance and Innovation: Empire and Native Christianity in the Pacific” conference hosted by Auckland University on March 24, 2017 are now online. The video of my 20 minute paper is here along with the introduction and the followup questions.

Native Christianity in Papua New Guinea: “hapkas” Christology as resistance and innovation in Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain

by Steve Taylor, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership; Flinders University

The interaction between Christianity and indigenous cultures can provide rich insights into cross-cultural exchange in liminal spaces. Equally the complexity of such insights can be masked by totalising narratives, including hagiography and Euro-centric imperialism.

One way to approach native Christianity in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is through Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain. It has been acclaimed as PNG’s best historical novel (Moore, 2012). The post-colonial methodologies of Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific (Postcolonialism and Religions) (2014) will be used to read The Mountain for indigenous agency in resistance and innovation. Such a reading requires locating Modjeska as an academic and novelist who refuses to accept totalising binaries, in both her writing and her life.

I will argue that the portrayal of native Christianity in The Mountain assumes indigenous approval and indigenization. Themes of ancestor gift and “hapkas” will be applied to Jesus as “good man true, he die for PNG” (The Mountain 2012: 291). The creative reworking by which native (Omie) people locate Jesus as ancestor gift of Canaanite descent will be examined. This is consistent with recent scholarship in which indigenous cultures are Old Testaments (Charleston 1998; Brett 2003) and the book of Genesis a demonstration of indigenous faiths being woven respectfully into the story of Israel (Moberly 1992). This subverts the “big man” as a key trope in the ethnography of Melanesia (Strathern 2009). It suggests that post-colonial theology pay attention to cultural hybridity and indigenous innovation. Or in the words of The Mountain: a “hapkas” Jesus who is “good man true” for PNG.

Posted by steve at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)

Monday, August 28, 2017

the dangers of heavy in weight research

I have been wondering recently if different types of research carry different weight. In July, I was presenting two papers at two different conferences. One was on indigenous responses to Empire. Titled Converting empire: theologies of church and state in the encounter between British and Maori, it involved some pretty sad reading about the impact of the Great War of 1864 on Maori. A second paper was on Christian theology and sexual violence. Titled Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation, it involved some equally sad reading on the impact of sexual violence.

Both papers also invited those who might listen into some difficult spaces. The treatment of indigenous peoples and sexual violence engage us body, mind and soul. Who knows who is in the room, and how they might respond, to presentations that engage heart and head.

I finished both presentations exhausted. There is always a degree of anxiety and nervous tension that goes into a presentation. There is a vulnerability in presenting work to peers. There is the inevitable imposter syndrome – the voices saying I’ve not read enough, that need to be met with the realism of “I never will.”

But this time the exhaustion seemed worse.

This was brought into sharp relief, the next day, when I began looking at a piece of contextual theology, a 63 page comic book titled How to Disappear Completely (2017). I had taken it as holiday reading, intending to enjoy it for pleasure. But within a few hours, I was enormously energised. I had sketched out 750 words. I had done an initial literature review. I found, in a 2nd hand book shop in Bristol, a Faber Gallery book on Stanley Spencer’s Resurrection paintings, which opened up a rich vein of potential comparative enquiry. I had spied a potential arts and culture journal and sent off an enquiry email. I was energised. This was fun.

Placing the two experiences of research side by side within the space of a few days was insightful. Sure it is always more fun (for me anyhow) to start something than end something. But something more was going on. I would suggest that some research is light in weight. Not light weight, but light in weight. It takes me into parts of being human that are creative. These are places of joy and life. Other research is heavy in weight. It takes me into parts of being human that are sad. These are places of pain and heartache. Both are important. I need to invest in both, to be light in weight and heavy in weight. For a time, for the time leading up to the two July conference presentations, I had become out of balance, too heavy in weight!

Unknown-2 Last week, the Stanley Spencer Resurrection paintings book arrived. It sits on my desk. I have made an addition to my research pipeline. Under conceiving new ideas and draft proposals, I have added an investigation into Resurrection today, looking at contemporary depictions

Visualising the resurrection in contemporary urban contexts

How to Disappear Completely is the latest offering from UK artist, Leeds-based, Si Smith. It is a 63 page comic that offers a sophisticated visual engagement with the Lenten journey and the city of Leeds, UK.  A commercial cartoonist by day, by night Smith expresses his faith in ways both visual and playful. Previous work includes 40, a creative imagining of Jesus in the wilderness, Stations of the Resurrection as a set of illustrations reflecting on Jesus’ resurrection today and 25 Advent Flatpack a series of paper-based figures to be assembled in the Christmas build up.
 
This research would bring How to Disappear Completely into conversation first, with the existing body of work, to chart the development of Smith’s visual work.  A key theoretical lens would the work of Scott McCloud, who in Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1993, 7) defines a comic as “sequential visual art” that works through techniques of “amplification through simplification.” This allows a reading of repeated visual motifs like smoke and pigeons in How to Disappear Completely as visual amplications of human ephemerality in the urban landscape.
 
Second, I would examine the way that Smith’s work can be positioned in conversation with painter, Stanley Spencer. A Spencer quote on page 2 of How to Disappear Completely offers words to introduce reflection on the nature of contemporary vocation. Spencer painted works on Christ in the Wilderness (1939-54) and Resurrection (1945-1950).  He sought to visualise resurrection as ascent, needing to be depicted in the urban streets on which he worked and walked.  How to Disappear Completely is, I would argue, a response to Spencer.  Both work as examples of imaging the resurrection in contemporary urban context.  Placed on conversation, they allow to consider a constant artistic challenge, that of visualising resurrection. They thus present contemporary attempts to visualise the resurrection not as a historical moment but an unfolding contemporary urban transformation.

After the recent heavy in weight research, I need some light in weight research. Both are important.

Posted by steve at 11:48 AM

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Theologies of redemption and the ‘secondary-victimization” impact of sexual violence

I’m presenting at ANZATS 2017 tomorrow, on Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation. It is a weighty, yet essential topic. Much sexual violence occurs in the context of kin and family. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse leaves no doubt that sexual violence also occurs among the family of God.

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In my paper, I consider the impact of sexual violence, particularly ‘secondary-victimization” in relation to Christian understandings of redemption, in conversation with one of the four doctors of theology of the church, Irenaeus of Lyon. His theology has been summarised by Orthodox theologian, John Behr, The Way to Nicaea (2001) as continual presence, making visible and full maturation. (See also Behr, Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement, (2000)).

This is a table summarising my data:

sexualviolencedata

Given the data, I conclude:

the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 offers an understanding of redemption grounded in the reality of family and kin. In Matthew 1 and in the crucifixion, the invisibility of sexual violence is made visible. Jesus, of the line of David, in Gospel narratives of compassion and truth-telling, acts in full maturity, recapitulating on behalf of other “less than mature” males in his ancestor line.

In resurrection, Jesus is revealed as fully present, both backward and forward, calling Tamar and Rahab as witnesses to the ‘economies’ of God in “each generation.”  Recapitulation provides ways to redeem the ‘secondary-victimization” impact of sexual violence.

Posted by steve at 12:22 AM

Saturday, July 01, 2017

conference bound

After 2 sleeps at home, I am on the road again, heading to Australia for two academic conferences.

The first conference – Australian Association of Mission Studies – is in Melbourne. I am presenting a paper titled – Converting Kings? theologies of church and state in the encounter between British and Maori. I am looking at the story of Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana. I am biography as theology (drawing from James McClendon, Biography as Theology: How Life Stories Can Remake Today’s Theology) and feminist research on home-making (drawing from Sef Carroll’s chapter in Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific), to appreciate how his use of the book of Ephesians acts as a public theology of Empire resistance. There are over 10 folk from Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand attending, with 4 KCML faculty presenting. That is an excellent turnout.

The second conference – Australia New Zealand Association of Theological Studies – is in Adelaide. I am doing two things.

First, I am presenting a posterStructuring Flipped learning: The use of Blooms taxonomy in the classroom experience. I’ve had some playful fun putting together the following.

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Second, I am presenting a paper on Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation. I’ve worked on this with a colleague at University of Otago, David Tombs and we will be testing some ideas about pastoral theology.

Sexual violence in the line of David: The possibilities and limits of recapitulation
ANZATS 2017

Much sexual violence occurs in contexts of kinship, including tragically the family of God. This paper tests notions of recapitulation when lines of kin are stained by sexual violence. Tombs has previously argued that Jesus is a victim of sexual abuse. How is this good news for victims in history?

The genealogy of Matthew 1 connects Jesus with the royal line of David. It names women either sexually mistreated or vulnerable to sexual violence. Tamar is dishonoured by male sexual practices, resorting to prostitution. Bathsheba is sexually preyed upon by a powerful ruler. Rahab as a prostitute is likely to have experienced sexual mistreatment. Ruth’s vulnerability is evident in the encounter with Boaz. A further victim is anonymously present, given David is Tamar’s father, raped by Amnon. The Matthean genealogy thus locates Jesus as a descendant: of men who violate and of women violated. At stake is the depths to which redemption is possible.

Irenaeus offers an essential link between theology and anthropology. For Behr, The Way to Nicaea (2001), these can be summarised as continual presence, making visible and full maturation. (See also Behr, Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement, (2000)). These ground redemption in humanity experience. Jesus makes sexual violence visible when framed as from the Davidic line. In full maturity, Jesus acts justly toward victims of sexual violence. Gospel episodes of compassion, vulnerability and solidarity become a recapitulation, a contrast to actions of the males in the line of David.

What emerges are starting points for ways to respond to sexual violence, including solidarity, visibility, acting humanly and tending bodies broken.

David Tombs and Steve Taylor
University of Otago and Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership: Flinders University

It will be good to be back in Adelaide, which was home for us for 6 years.

Posted by steve at 12:55 PM

Thursday, June 01, 2017

my research pipeline

Last year, I found a helpful article – “My Writing Productivity Pipeline.” A researcher, juggling a variety of academic commitments, began to imagine their research and writing as a pipeline, with work at different places. Proposals were at one end, published work at the other. The aim is to maintain work in every section of the pipeline and to keep that work moving.

I have found it a very useful tool. I took the categories from the “My Writing Productivity Pipeline” article and turned them into a table (click for a better image).

pipeline

Along the top are the various stages of the research and writing process. Down the side are the types of writing – separating book chapters, journal articles and books. This is about the time taken – it takes a lot longer to complete a book than an article, and also helps me look at workflow over a year and in relation to sabbatical projects.

The table sits on my laptop. It helps me keep track of various projects. It helps me to say yes and no; offering accountability in time management and focus in my research.

Posted by steve at 10:01 PM

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Objects of faith: Pulpit bibles and Presbyterian theologies of Scripture

“..religion is characteristically expressed in communities of worship.” Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought, Picador, 2005, 99).

Unknown-1 This is the pulpit Pew Bible of the now closed Andersons Bay Presbyterian Church. Embossed on the front cover are the words “Good News Bible. Today’s English Version.” It replaces an older Bible, a King James Version. It thus stands as a sign of change in the life of this church community. One wonders what motivated the change process and how it impacted on those used to the existing version.

Unknown-2 Inside is a handwritten inscription. “To the Glory of God. Presented by Robert Hamilton in memory of his wife, Adeline Maude, June 1985.” The Bible is thus personalised, fused with the life of this unique church community and the individual grief as a loved person dies.

Inside is also a bookmark. It is blue felt and has two hand embroidered symbols, both in yellow. One is of a cross, the other is of the burning bush. Both symbols speak of significant iconography, the Christian cross and the burning bush as the emblem of the Presbyterian Church of Aoteaora New Zealand. They suggest this church community is marked as Christian and as part of the Presbyterian Church.

These three markers – “Good News Bible. Today’s English Version,” the handwritten inscription and the hand embroidered symbols – suggest an approach to Bible reading that is open to change, entwined with individual story yet located within the Christian and denominational history. They suggest a Presbyterian theology of Scripture, embedded in the everyday practices of this community of faith. How consistent is this with other Presbyterian, other Protestant, other Christian approaches to Scripture?

One way to address these questions is to place the Andersons Bay pulpit Pew Bible alongside research by Joseph Webster (“Objects of Transcendence: Scots Protestantism and an Anthropology of Things,” Material Religion in Modern Britain: The Spirit of Things, Palgrave MacMillan, 2015, 17-35). He explores how Bibles are used in Scottish Protestantism.

First, Bibles are open (24). Second, Bibles are understood as a living word shaping the behaviour of individuals (25). Third, Bibles are an object that can mediate salvation (26). At work in each of these affirmations is a commitment to the “power of encountering tbe biblical object and its person-like qualities” (26). The use of this object of faith, the Bible, suggests the importance of providing “routes of access to the inwardness of this book (27). What matters is not only the actual text, but also the object, Scripture as an ever-present and potentially transforming reality. “”[T]he saved” become “living epistles” as their lives are conformed to the Bible (29).

Webster reads this alongside cultural shift, in particular the arrival of modernity. Webster argues that these understandings he observed in Scottish Protestantism are neither pre- nor anti-modern. Bibles are used, according to Webster, as consubstantiated hybrids (33). They are at the same time a collection of pages and the breath of God. This is made possible by a worldview of immanence and transcendence in which things are both material and enchanted.

Back at Andersons Bay, we see this materiality. There is the willingness to replace one material book with another, believing that it is not only in specific certain mystical pages that God is encountered. There is the weaving of individual biography, in which tradition is understood in relation to church members who have gone before. There is the craft of embroidery, consistent with a church known for this particular craft. These suggest a commitment to materiality, at odds with stereotypes of Protestantism as not of this world.

Yet we equally see transcendence, in the decision to change the Bible, presumably to enhance the living witness of this text. Also in the belief that in the craft of embroidery and the remembering of individual lives will come inward transformation of individual lives: routes of access in which “the saved” become “living epistles.” (Webster in Material Religion in Modern Britain, 27, 29).

Posted by steve at 12:06 PM

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Is the author actually alive?

For the last month, I have been working to complete a writing deadline. In June last year, I co-presented a paper on theological education in the Pacific at Woven Together, a conference on Christianity and development in the Pacific, run by the School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies at Victoria University. Titled The complexity of being woven together: A microhistory of Talua Ministry Training Centre, the paper involved research on the history of New Zealand Presbyterian involvement in theological education in Vanuatu, using archives held at the Archives Research Centre of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. Talua is a partner College of Knox Centre, so doing this research helped me understand and appreciate this historical partnership.

Following the conference in June, I was invited to develop the paper for publication in a book emerging from the conference. In order to broaden the research, over the last few months I have been searching more widely for materials. Doing a literature search at the Otago University Library catalogue, I discovered some potentially interesting titles were held at the Hocken Collections.

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So in late March, I ducked into the Hocken Collections to look at an honours thesis, by Melissa Bray, and a lecture, by Neal Whimp. It was a lovely few hours, in the quiet of one of New Zealand’s wonderful archival resources, reading about mission in the Pacific, taking notes relevant to my research.

On Thursday this week I flew to Tauranga, to speak to the Kaimai Presbytery. I used the time airborne to write, putting the finishing touches to the chapter. This included re-reading the notes I had made at the Hocken Collections on the lecture by Neal Whimp and then adding the reference to the bibliography: The Church in Vanuatu since 1945 with special reference to its role in the move to Independence, 1980. I made excellent progress on the 110 minute flight to Tauranga and later that evening, I was able to send the chapter off to the editors (only 20 days behind deadline!)

On Friday, I was speaking in Tauranga to a group of Presbyterian ministers. Among the audience, asking thoughtful pointed questions, was a person with a name tag “Neal Whimp.” One question in the afternoon session included a very helpful probing about colonialism in mission. The nature of the question suggested that the person with a name tag “Neal Whimp” had some history and empathy toward cross-cultural challenges.

As I packed up at the end of the day, I had this feeling that the name “Neal Whimp” was familiar. Something clicked in relation to my writing the day before. Was the Neal Whimp in person on Friday the Neal Whimp on paper on Thursday? Surely not!? Could the lecture I read at the Hocken Collections actually have a living author? Surely not in Tauranga, surely not some 37 years later?

Before I could check, the person with a name tag “Neal Whimp” was gone.

On Saturday, I spoke again, to a larger group, still Presbyterian, but this time a mixture of ministers, elders and lay people. As folk began to gather, I kept scanning the crowd. Would he return? If he did, would I get to connect with him among a crowd of over 100, moving between multiple workshops and keynotes?

I was delighted to spot the person with a name tag “Neal Whimp” entering and made a bee-line. “Are you by any chance the Neal Whimp who in 1980, delivering a lecture titled The Church in Vanuatu since 1945 with special reference to its role in the move to Independence, 1980? Because if you are, I was reading your work two days ago and I’m delighted to meet you.”

Sure enough, it was the same person.

We had a great conversation. He was delighted to know his lecture was held at the Hocken Collections and was being read. I gained some more insight, albiet briefly, into his work in Vanuatu in theological education between 1969 and 1980.

And I left pondering this striking coincidence. Authors read in archives can actually be alive! A person I cite on a Thursday can be met for the first time on a Friday!

Posted by steve at 05:42 PM

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Undisciplined Austen

austen

Here’s my draft abstract in relation to the Undisciplined Austen research project at the Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities, and in which I am participating, in a slightly bemused sort of way (and in my own time!)

Faith of zombies by Dr Steve Taylor

My “undisciplined” discipline is that of popular culture. I plan to “read” the 2016 movie, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, in which zombies express faith through religious practice.  I will examine the religious service scenes in the movie, in dialogue with three sources. First, the established religion of Austen’s time, in the form of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (still the official Prayer Book of the Church of England). Second, the Biblical themes of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, in particular in relation to the book of Revelation. Third, in dialogue with analysis of Christian imagery generally in zombie movies, beginning with Kim Paffenroth’s Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth, Baylor 2006. The aim is to articulate the uniquely “undisciplined” contribution that Austen genre makes to zombie theology and in relation to current study of zombie theology.

Posted by steve at 09:03 AM

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Theologies of the Walking Dead

So, in a strange turn of events, I find myself researching the walking dead. And in so doing, being offered airfares to Adelaide in October and some research assistance.

The walking dead are part of the Easter story, for in Matthew 27:51-53 “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”

But what to make of this strange story. And how to conduct research on this Biblical text?

First, the backdrop. In order to maintain my post-graduate supervisions, I have retained my status as Senior Lecturer in Theology at Flinders University.

Second, the events. In March, I was emailed by a lecturer in the English Department at Flinders University, asking if I would be willing to be part of a proposed Flinders research project, titled “Immortal Austen.” It involves an international conference marking the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death. It also involves a desire to broaden Austen studies by inviting researchers in light of disciplines other than English to think about Austen. The aim is a research symposium, with the papers becoming a special journal issue “Undisciplined Austen.”

The email concluded: “I notice you have an interest in religion in popular culture, so I wonder perhaps if you might be interested in considering Austen (whether the novels, modern adaptations, or even the various popular constructions of Austen) from a theological or religious angle?”

Third, the response. In some jest I replied, noting that I had not actually (embarrassed cough), read Austen. But my teenagers had been watching Pride And Prejudice And Zombies

And I noted, as I walked past the TV a few times, that it did have zombie church services and links to the book of Revelation. I also noted a number of academic studies of zombie theology, including Kim Paffenroth, Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth. Published by Baylor Press, no less! So, I replied, still somewhat in jest, I could examine zombies in Jane Austen.

Fourth, the result. A very excited group of researchers, keen to welcome my input, successful in their research bid, which included a trip to Adelaide, research assistance and the invitation to participate in a theology of the walking dead.

Strange days. Strange times.

Posted by steve at 10:13 PM

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Doing reflexivity: accounting for emotion and attachment in social research

Jon Dean, Doing Reflexivity: An Introduction, Polity Press, 2017. 180 pages.

Chapter one – Introduction

“Social research requires us to account for our humanness” begins Jon Dean, in his book, Doing Reflexivity: An Introduction. Social research is the study of humans by humans. By definition the study of humans can’t be done in a laboratory. It requires field conditions, amid the networks and relationships that make humans human. This includes the researcher, seeking to unpick the “messy bundle of behaviour and thought” of social networks (5). Unpicking is made possible through reflexivity. Reflexivity providing processes that allow the researcher to reflect on their human involvement in the study of humans. It provides way to account for the role of emotion and attachment in social research. Reflexivity is “the way we analyse our positionality, the conditions of a given situation” (8).

Ironically, this common sense approach is relatively recent. There is a long established hierarchy of knowledge that places pure maths at the top and anthropology and sociology at the bottom. It needs to be inverted. It is far harder to study people in all their inconsistencies, complexity and variability.

Jon Dean examines the increasing number of fields that are taking the attachments of social research seriously: journalism, politics, economics, health, welfare and social work. (And for me, the theological disciplines of ecclesiology, practical theology and missiology – all of which take critical examination of the lived practices of the church in the world as including the study of humans seriously.) Doing Reflexivity: An Introduction by Jon Dean promises a mix of theory, example and practical strategies.

Chapter two – Pierre Bourdieu and the development of theory

Posted by steve at 09:24 PM

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Where does mission come from? The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 as deep mission

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-> Journal article submission today:

Where does mission come from? The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 as deep mission

Abstract

We inhabit a geographic region in which for many cultures, genealogy is essential to knowledge. Given that Matthew begins the story of Jesus with genealogy, what are the implications for mission?

Three missiology texts are examined – The Biblical Foundations for Mission, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission and The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative – to understand how they conceive Matthew’s genealogy. Genealogy is then considered in two indigenous texts, one located in Aotearoa New Zealand (Tangata Whenua: A History), the other in Australia (Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific). Both demonstrate how genealogy functions as an essential way of knowing, in which ancient memory is structured to clarify relationship with people and place.

The implications of genealogy for missiology are tested, through teaching mission in one indigenous context. This clarifies the vitality of Matthew’s genealogy in framing mission as an ancestor story, a structured transmission in which God as the primary actor is weaving ordinary and indigenous people into the Messiah’s story.

Posted by steve at 05:46 PM

Monday, November 21, 2016

Festival participation: ethnographic research

Ethics approval from Flinders University gained on 17 November 2016 for

Festival participation: Engagement of church and community in light of secularisation thesis

The Project:

To interview participants at the Bothwell Spin and Fibre Festival (BSFF), Tasmania. Members of the Uniting Church began this bi-annual community festival and continue to be active participants, including a blessing of the fleece liturgy, the providing of wool for festival participants to craft during the Festival and the holding of a Church service on Sunday as the Festival concludes. The festival has grown over the years, attracting international attention. It is considered a success both by the community and by the church.

This project will explore the meanings attached to this event. It will consider a set of ecclesial foci: Why is the church involved, in particular in the gift of liturgy and craft? What specific theologies shape their involvement? Have those theologies changed over time?

It will consider a set of community foci: What does the community think of the involvement of the church? How do they respond to the gifts being offered? What meanings are attached? How do these two foci connect with theorising regarding the secularisation thesis, which predicts that in modern society, religious participation will decline and religious institutions will weaken.

Significance:

There is widespread literature noting the decline of religious participation and institutions in Western society. This is loosely organised around a secularising thesis, which is generally posited to be more advanced in modernity, and thus by implication in urban areas. The BSFF is a rural event.

A festival is a fluid event, interleaving together a range of interests, behind which lie a range of narratives. Research of the BSFF can be theorised in relation to the secularisation thesis, given it is located in a rural context and runs as a festival.

Charles Taylor (A Secular Age, 2007) argues that in a secular age, festivals will be conducted in ways that eliminate the tension between the demands of everyday life and hopes of eternal benefit, most commonly by dropping the expectations of eternity and instead framing ultimate purpose as this worldly. Paul Heelas (Spiritualities of Life: New Age Romanticism and Consumptive Capitalism, 2008) argues for the rise of spirituality practised not by discipline, nor by ecstatic experience but through the practices of everyday life. This resonates with the work of Taylor and provides a framework by which to analyse the data.

This research will test the secularisation thesis in regard to the narratives constructed around the participation of the church. Why might the church might be involved? Does their involvement, and in particular their focus on craft, promote a spirituality that is this-worldly? How do participants understand their involvement and the involvement of the church?

The research thus has implications for understanding the motivations behind the general social benefits attributed to festivals. It provides understanding of how the church positions itself within a community and how community participate in such events.

Posted by steve at 09:39 AM

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

researching at Te Papa: another research and the rabbit hole

Happy dance – researching in the Pacific collection at Te Papa! Another research and rabbit hole.

Greetings,

My name is Dr Steve Taylor. I am Principal, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership and Senior Lecturer, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia.

I am doing research on indigenous Christologies in Papua New Guinea, through the lens of Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain, which has a focus on the Omie people of PNG and their art. I presented a conference paper on my work a few weeks ago in Korea, at the International Association for Mission Studies and continue to do work in preparation for a journal article.

I am aware, through Balai, Sana and Judith Ryan (2009) Wisdom of the Mountain: Art of the Omie that Omie art has been obtained by galleries outside PNG, including Te Papa.

I am aware, after a search of your catalogue, using “Omie, Papua New Guinea” that there are 4 items of Omie art in your collection. They are listed as:

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FE012822
FE012821
FE012820

I happen to be visiting Wellington next week – Wednesday afternoon, 7th September and Thursday morning, 8th September – and wonder if I could see these items. I am wanting to actually see with my real eyes what is described in The Mountain, in terms of seeking to understand this art as embodied.

If it was possible to see these objects, I would be grateful.

With thanks

Steve Taylor

Email of confirmation today, including an appointment time. Happy dance.

Posted by steve at 03:10 PM

Friday, August 26, 2016

Contribution to Research Environments

pbrf Part of being an academic researcher involves contribution to the Research Environment. It is one of 3 factors listed in the New Zealand Performance Based Research criteria; alongside research outputs and peer esteem. Contribution to the Research Environment involves the contribution to vital, high-quality research environment. It involves factors like membership of research collaborations and consortia, contributions to the research discipline and environment, facilitating discipline-based and research networks; generation of externally funded research; supervision of student research and assisting student publishing, exhibiting or performance.

Today, back at work after three days travel, I downloaded an email and collected the mail. It included

  1. notification that a journal article I had recently reviewed had been published (Religions 2016, 7(9)). Titled “Maintaining the Connection: Strategic Approaches to Keeping the Link between Initiating Congregations and Their Social Service Off-Spring” it provides empirical research on what it means for congregations to start community ministry.
  2. a post-graduate thesis I have agreed to examine on behalf of another academic institution
  3. a book to endorse, by a fellow academic, stepping into the world of publishing for the first time
  4. a book to review, on academic skills, in particular that of note-taking

Each of these are a contribution to research environment – marking to ensure quality, reviewing of journal articles and books and summarising so that others can engage.

My organisation is not eligible to be considered for New Zealand Performance Based Research. Nevertheless, we are Presbyterian and as such, believe in collaborative leadership, that we are better together. The Performance Based Research criteria provide a set of benchmarks by which we might consider our activities and where we put our energy.  Contribution to the Research Environment is an essential oil.  It is an important category, a reminder that part of being an academic includes not only researching and writing, but providing input into other academics in their writing. Theologically, it is a reminder of the need to do onto others as we would hope they would do unto us.

Posted by steve at 07:22 PM