Thursday, November 14, 2013
Friday, October 25, 2013
The e-learning version of a Jesus call story (Luke 5:1-11)
Some recent writing I’m still quite pleased with …
I want to begin by contemporising Luke 5:1-11. While somewhat playful, I intend to make a more serious point as my argument unfolds.
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret the people were crowding around him … checking their facebook status and live tweeting updates as they were … listening to the Word of God.
[Jesus] got into one of the boats … Then he sat down and taught the people … by handing the disciples a Kindle, on which had been loaded core theology texts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls and latest translations of the First Testament ….
Then Jesus said to Simon, Come follow me and … so he gave the disciples their moodle login and automated password. Upon login, they clicked on My courses and discovered they had been enrolled in a core topic – Discipleship. It came complete with course outlines for the next three years and powerpoints of the Sermon on the Mount. Assessment involved the completion of weekly forums, involving contemporary doing theology case studies. One involved a written response to a question asked by a rich young ruler, another an exercise in going ahead of Jesus looking for a donkey.
Plus, a bonus, a set of MP3’s. Titled Parables, they allowed students to be updated on Jesus latest adventures in storytelling.
Jesus had toyed with the idea of offering a MOOCS – Massive Open Online Course. Instead of a focus on the disciples, he had toyed with marketing his Discipleship course to the crowds, aiming for open access and large-scale interactive participation.
Sadly his treasurer had resisted, pointing out that it was better to give to poor than to fund the video lecture style pedagogy and a graphic novel, which, it was argued, would increase student retention of texts from the Apocraphya.
This was an introduction to my paper – Embodiment and Transformation in the context of e-learning – at the recent Teaching and Learning: Theology: The Way Ahead conference in Sydney. While at first glance my e-learning version of a Lukan “call story” might suggest the importance of face to face modes of discipleship, my intention was subversive. By placing the Incarnation as central, it applied me to argue that transforming theology can involve e-learning and online technologies. In other words, an attempt to be theological about transforming theology.
Monday, September 30, 2013
a significant national encouragement
I spend Friday in Sydney, at the inaugural Learning and Teaching Theology: The Way Ahead conference. Hosted by Sydney College of Divinity, it is a follow up to the recently completed Transforming Theology project, which tested the claims of Australian theological colleges that they provided a transformative learning experience.
It attracted about 80 people, from theological colleges all around Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia. It was great to be at a conference discussing not what we teach, but how we teach, and thus to find common ground across disciplines. I was there to give a paper – Embodiment and transformation in the context of e-learning. I had also been invited to be on a plenary panel of four, on the place of integration in theological education. I was also to be, quite unexpectedly, encouraged.
The opening address was by Dr Les Ball. His book Transforming Theology (Mosaic Resources, 2012) documents the recent research into the Australian theology sector. His conclusion is that the claims, by theological colleges, of offering transformation in education, were much ahead of the reality, based on student experience and analysis of curriculum. Despite all the social changes of the last 35 years, theological colleges remain remarkably uniform and remarkably unchanged.
During question time, he was asked if he had come across any signs of hope. He gave two examples. A new topic introduced at ACU called Community Engagement, in which all students have to participate in a community project.
And us! From Adelaide! The new Bmin at ACD taught by Uniting College. In Ball’s book, Transforming Theology, we get three mentions
- Our philosophy of practical ministry preparation and engagement. “The teaching faculty have been strategically appointed to promote such a commitment.” (page 104)
- The use of personal preliminary interviews. “This is not a case of granting credit for prior learning and thus shortening the course, but rather it is a matter of course planning to connect with actual experience, either past or projected.” (I wonder if he’s talking about our candidate Formation panel processes and our Bmin practice stream), (page 110)
- the way we have altered radically our disciplines to reflect our developmental educational philosophy, in contrast to traditional departments of OT, NT, Theology, Church history … “a complete rethinking of the nature, the structure and the progression of content, skills, and formative elements, to facilitate a development in students.” (page 146-7)
It was a very encouraging moment, to hear our degree being affirmed, publicly, in front of 80 people from theological colleges around Australia. At the same time, it gave pause for ongoing reflection on where we, as Faculty, put our energies and focus.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
a very rich speaking event
Last night was one of the most rich speaking engagements I’ve ever been part of. Last year I spoke to the Churches of Christ ministers at their annual Magarey lecture. I focused on the importance of our sense in the mission of God. A number of those present wanted to continue the conversation and the result was an invite to last night – to be part of Conversations at the table. But as a feast rather than a talkfest!
I arrived to find a four course dinner, lights dimmed, candles lit, flowers laid out around tables. It was extraordinary.
Between each course I engaged a Scriptural text and explored four themes – companions, manners, words and communion. I wanted to provide examples of how to do church around tables, not to try and be fresh or relevant or cool. Rather in response to Jesus, who did so much of his ministry in conversation at tables.
Course 1 – Companions
I began my inviting them to plan a special meal for 4-6 people. Who would you invite? Where would you have it? What would you eat? What would you celebrate?
I then read the Parable of the Great Banquet, in Luke 14:15-23 and asked if anyone had stories of times when you’ve invited “poor, crippled, blind, lame.” This opened up some great conversation, about how we’re changed by the simple acts of inviting the strangers to eat.
I introduced them to John Koenig and his research into churches and food.
“we have seriously undervalued our church meals, both ritual and informal, as opportunities for mission … to realize this potential, we, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, must have our eyes opened by the transforming presence of Christ at our tables.”
And the four hospitality practices he offers.
- Practice: serving graciously by finding ways to encourage eye contact and genuine conversation.
- Practice: setting tables in ways and places that reflect God’s abundance and creativity.
- Practice: seek role reversals by finding ways for all to contribute (a diversity of gifts, each has its corresponding service.)
- Practice: committing to a long-term, intentional project.
Course 2 – manners
I asked if Christians should eat differently and suggested a number of practices that might mark Kingdom manners. This included placing on the table all the cans (cleaned) used to make the meal we were enjoying and inviting folk to talk about the labels, what we know of the prayer needs of that country and pray for those people. Intercession!
Course 3 – words
I used the movie The Kings Speech, to ask what it means for us to find voice, to share our story as part of conversations. It was spliced with a number of video and art explorations of woman at the Well in John 4 – her sharing her story uniquely.
Course 4 – communion
We finished with communion. It allowed us to draw the evening together – to “Do this in memory of” the table fellowship of Jesus, the manners of the Kingdom, the words.
I finished with one final conversation around table, the Emmaus story in Luke 24, to remind us that the cup is the cup of the new covenant, in which Jesus continues to be recognised around tables; not just in the past, but into the future.
Why such a rich night? The multiple senses – food, lighting, environment, conversation, cans, wrapped around justice, mission and hospitality – made for an evening that was rich, yet inputting. The people at tables were from diverse churches, making it a time of relational growing. Mission was made as simple as eating, as challenging as Jesus radical Kingdom manners.
A night I will remember for a long time.
And I’d love to do this with other groups – an evening of mission as conversation at tables.
Friday, August 23, 2013
doing theology: teaching theology by induction
I’m teaching an introduction to Christian theology topic this Semester.
I began with a two questions and a proposal. First question, does anyone here not have access to a computer? All did. Second question, does anyone here not have access to a printer? All did. Which led to the proposal. I will put all the lecture notes and class readings online. And when we meet, rather then talk theology ie me lecture you, we will do theology ie I will guide you, through the readings and my doing theology together.
We were all a bit apprehensive about this new approach, since the dominant model of education involves an expert imparting knowledge. But I was keen to explore a learning by doing, induction process, which better equipped them for the complexity of life beyond the classroom.
To help guide them, I have outlined to them the following process, which they used to get them going.
- My (current) theological question is …
- I’m curious about this because ….
- The theological frame I’m going to us is (in week one I suggested three examples Wesleyan quadrilateral, Miroslav Volf’s three questions, indigenous storytelling approach) …
- My conversation partners will need to include ….
- The values I have used to chose them include (from week three) ….
- I’d like to express my findings by (in week two we noted blogs, film, story, liturgy, writing) …
So far, after four weeks, we are all greatly energised. They have come up with excellent theological questions – none that we would have discussed in a normal syllabus, yet all touching key theological themes. They loved the conversation partner idea. The process really energised the library visit I then organised, when they got shown how to use databases to find conversation partners. Some were heading back to the library after class to search further.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Conversations at the table
I’m part of this event – Conversations at the table – August 24, 25.
Evangelism – what if everyone was sitting around the same table?
Hosted at The Village Well (Aldgate Church of Christ)
A partnership between Blackwood and Aldgate Churches of Christ, we’ve invited Mick Duncan and Steve Taylor to lead the conversation over 2 days reframing our understanding of what evangelism is and means for us as Christians in suburban Adelaide.
Hosted by Anthony Risson (Minister Aldgate Church of Christ and Mark Riessen (Coordinator of Mission & Community Engagement Churches of Christ SA/NT). Other conversation partners include Mark Butler (RAAF chaplain), Jeff May hospital (chaplain), Joanna Hubbard (MarionLife), Leigh Cunningham (MFS firefighter).
For more see here.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
defining church, community, theology, formation and College
Just an advertisement for a car company. And yet –
if a picture says a 1,000 words, then this is a powerful visual question –
what type of church, community, theology, formation and College do we want to be part of?
And if so, how then should we act, what should we practice, what should we affirm?
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Living libraries: Embodiment and transformation in the context of e-learning (Conference paper abstract)
A few hours in the air between Adelaide and Sydney gave me time to put together a potential paper for the Learning and Teaching Theology Conference: The Way Ahead. It is being held in Sydney, September 27th- 28th, 2013. It looks a really worthwhile attempt to keep theological colleges thinking about theological education. Since I’ve been involved in a review of distance education here at Uniting College, which has caused me to think theologically about distance education, I scratched together the following abstract.
Living libraries: Embodiment and transformation in the context of e-learning
This paper, in considering the way ahead for Australian theological education, will apply the theological motif of transformation to the task of e-learning, using the notion of “living libraries” as a conceptual bridging strategy.
Recent research by the Transforming Theology project cited the Adelaide College of Divinity (ACD) Bachelor of Ministry as an example of good practice in curriculum design for transformative learning. “The innovative Bachelor of Ministry of Adelaide College of Divinity quite intentionally included a number of such independent and supervised Guided Studies in the final year … In these units an attempt is made to model the process of transformative integration.”
This paper will use a practical theology methodology. It will begin with a case study from recent ACD activity, the participation through video conferencing of a New Zealand church leader in a supervised Guided study “Church Re-think” class.
This moment will be brought into conversation with “living libraries,” an approach to learning that began in Denmark in 2000. Rather than produce a written resource, a youth movement provided people to libraries who had experienced violence. Rather than borrow a book, the community could book a person, and through conversation explore the perspective of another. An independent audit has recorded benefits including new learning and improved levels of community cohesion and engagement.
Returning to the case study, the potential of “living libraries” for new learning in theological education will be analysed under headings of context, lecturer and learner.
This will allow a three fold argument. First, that “living libraries” provide a fruitful way to understand selected pedagogical factors in transformation. Second that “living libraries” provide a way to foreground theologies of embodiment. Third that “living libraries” provide a way bring an explicit theology to bear in regard to pedagogy and digital technologies.
Rev Dr Steve Taylor
Principal, Uniting College for Leadership and Theology
Saturday, June 15, 2013
I’m sure there are connections between this –
Many violinists and violinmakers insist that violins grow into their beautiful throaty sounds, and that a violin played exquisitely for a long time eventually contains the exquisite sounds within itself … In down-to-earth terms: Certain vibrations made over and over for years, along with all the normal processes of aging, could make microscopic changes in the wood; we perceive those cellular changes as enriched tone. In poetic terms: The wood remembers. Thus, part of a master violinist’s duties is to educate a violin for future generations. (Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses, 204)
- and the task of discipling and forming leaders.
Isn’t mentoring “part of a master [mentors] duties is to educate a [?] for future generations”? Can’t teaching theology be “part of a master [theologians] duties is to educate a [?] for future generations?
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
beaming in the bishop: technology and formation
Technology is amazing. So are creative minds who explore ways to connect technology to formation of leaders.
On Friday, Anglican Bishop, Justin Duckworth (I’ve blogged about his appointment here), came to Uniting College. Not physically, but via video conferencing. He sat with a group of post-graduate students, mainly church ministers in our Master of Ministry – Missional Leadership cohort. Again, not physically, but via video conferencing, because these leaders are spread all over Australia.
They share a passion for mission, within their established church structures. To help facilitate their growth, a group of them are doing a combined learning exercise, called Church Re-think. Spread all over Australia, they gather together regularly, again using video conferencing to share resources.
Books are one resource they share, reading in community, gleaning wisdom for the missional journey.
People are also a resource (see my reflections on the place of living libraries in leadership and ministerial formation here and here). In the case of Bishop Justin, he’s a leader with many years experience of mission on the edge of the church, with that charism now invited into the structures of the church.
Who better to resource a group of ministers thinking about mission inside and outside their own structures?
But he is busy and Adelaide to Wellington is a day of travel.
Enter technology, in which the bishop is beamed in, digitally, to resource a group of leaders, who are also gathered digitally. Together, for a few hours, they wrestle with leadership and mission today. All organised and facilitated by the creative mind of Dr Rosemary Dewerse, Post-graduate Co-ordinator at Uniting College.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Festival spirituality, mission and ministry
I’m speaking tomorrow at the National Uniting Church Rural Ministry Conference, at Barmera, which is about 3 hours drive north of Adelaide, in the Riverlands.
My topic is festival spirituality. It’s a significant development of some ideas I sketched in my The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change. I will begin by looking at Old Testament patterns of gathering and how it relates to worship, mission, community and interconnection. I will then do a drive by of a number of articles from Rural Theology, contemporary research on belonging and participation, along with research into current festival patterns in the UK.
Here’s my conclusion.
I have wanted to engage with two problems. First, the perception of Christianity as urban, a move which can downplay the vitality of rural ministry. Second, the perception of church as building, geographic and Vicar led.
I have deployed the Old Testament to suggest different modes of gathering, around sacred sites, on pilgrimage, in festivals, around tables. I would suggest these are more congruent with the needs of rural folk, in current patterns of belonging, in ways of participation and the existence already of festivals.
Finally, two examples have been provided, which show current examples of rural churches embracing these new/old forms. My suggestion is that these patterns are more likely to be life-giving for a rural church. Rather than a weekly habit, they provide ways to participate in the rhythm of a community, to embrace sense of place and to offer spirituality for the road trips so integral to rural life.
It should be a fun day.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Studies in Ecclesiology and Ethnography series: a “down under” perspective
Today I took a break from the Sustainability in fresh expressions book project. I’ve written about 26,000 words, plus transcribed 10 hour long interviews in the last month, and I’m a bit knackered. Lacking sustainability! Plus there were a number of pressing tasks on my academic “must-do” list.
- some lyrical editing (out) of a co-authored paper, with colleague Liz Boase, on Public lament, a conversation between Biblical lament and live concert performances by U2 and Paul Kelly, in order to meet 10% copyright fair use
- complete two book reviews for International Journal of Practical Theology on the initial volumes in the Eerdmans Studies in Ecclesiology and Ethnography series: Perspectives on Ecclesiology and Ethnography and Explorations in Ecclesiology and Ethnography (the latter which will be a must read in my Theology of Ministry Practice Masters class next semester, two wonderful chapters on reading baptisms at a worship service and reading ministry metaphors used by street pastors working with the homeless)
- provide an abstract for the Australia New Zealand Association of Theological Studies (ANZATS) Christians in Communities – Christians as Communities conference in Auckland in July.
It was good, in the midst of a major book writing project, to pause and actually get something done. For those interested here is my conference paper abstract for the Christians in Communities – Christians as Communities conference (more…)
Monday, March 25, 2013
It looks fantastic
“It looks fantastic. Opening ourselves to new ways of encountering Scripture has got to be a good thing. Having had a tantalising taste of Sense Making Faith for myself (see here and here), I’m keen for other ministers and Christian leaders to experience it. We will distribute this to all our ministers and key leaders with a hearty endorsement – Dr Greg Elsdon”
A very supportive comment from Dr Greg Elsdon, State Minister. Churches of Christ in SA & NT, when he saw the Sense Making Faith publicity.
“Sense making faith” is a course specially designed to help participants be more aware of God through all their senses. It is an experiential course that takes you on a spiritual journey. Each session will uncover Biblical resources, the church tradition and our world today. Space will be given to reflect on the implications for mission, church and discipleship. Specific coaching in relation to application to speaking and worship leading in the context of the local church and its ministries will be available if wanted.
Ten weeks of journey facilitated by three guides:
Steve Taylor – Principal of Uniting College, writer, blogger
Mark Hewitt – Minister at The Corner UC, visual artist, photographer, with a passion for creating spaces that are worshipful and allow spiritual exploration
Sarah Agnew – a poet and Biblical storyteller. She leads the church with biblical storytelling, workshops in storytelling, poetry, worship and public speaking, teaching biblical studies and writing stories, prayers and liturgy.
So if you would like to deepen your spirituality and/or to help lead others in worship, preaching or devotions in ways that are engaging and inspirational, then “Sense making faith” is for you.
Wednesday evenings 7pm for 7.30-9.00pm, commencing April 24 through to June 19, The Corner Uniting Church, Warradale
Audit fee: $275.00. (Or can be taken for credit as a Guided Reading in the Diploma or Bachelor of Ministry)
For more information download brochure from Sense Making Faith April web or contact Eloise Scherer at Uniting College: 08 8416 8420.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
This would make a great discussion starter for an organisation, for a church leadership retreat, or for a group of ministers, who are all, after all, in the educating line.
Hat tip Scot McKnight.
Two of the points: Point 1 – from physical and digital and Point 6 – from isolation to connectivism were actually wonderfully illustrated in an interaction I had with Scot back in early 2011. At the time, I was writing a distance learning topic, on Jesus Christ today. Scot has a wonderful story, in his excellent book, A Community Called Atonement: Living Theology, which I had used it one Easter and it struck a chord with many folk.
The story mentioned a song, the lyrics of which had inspired a nurse in her care for a disadvantaged human. Wondering, for the sake of a distance learning topic, in case a student asked, what the full lyrics of the song might be, in a random moment, I emailed Scot, as the author, to ask if he knew.
Overnight he replied, saying he didn’t know, but providing the contact details for the nurse.
Whom I then emailed, now able to not only ask for a detail, but to also tell her about the impact of her story on the other side of the world!
She replied, grateful, with a few more details which I was able to add to the distance learning topic. All of this happened within 36 hours: made possible because of the shift from physical and digital, bringing about not isolation but connectivism. It provided feedback and encouragement for Scot and the nurse, added needed detail to the distance topic for students, plus some richer information for them in the communication of the story.