Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Feedback: unbounding theological education in the context of ministerial vocations

Friday I co-presented a research paper at the Sydney College of Divinity Learning and Teaching Theology Conference.

Graduate formation and life-long learning in the context of ministerial vocations

Proposal: That the theological college should partner with local church communities, unbounding learning to offer it in “communities of practice.”

The presentation went well. The technology worked and the tag-presenting with Rosemary Dewerse went smoothly.  We ran out of summary handouts (here Graduate formation handout.) which is always a good sign.  The questions from conference participants were very helpful.

Directly after the paper

  • Can you give some examples of what it might look like to unbound theological education? (We had, so pointed to the two stories we had shared)
  • What is the real issue? If the real issue is a crisis of faith in churches, then what role should theological education be expected to play?
  • How would we assess our ‘graduate outcomes’? What type of processes could we use to ensure that unbounding theological education is forming people? (We pointed to the ways we are seeking to assess New Mission Seedlings over a 7 year period)

In further conversation over meals and coffee

  • Do we have a business model? Have other theology providers tried what you are doing and can you learn from them?
  • Being devils advocate – if you move theology toward the local church, might that dilute the quality of the education? What could be done to avoid the educational experience being “lowest common denominator ” shaped by a person who has not read or studied?
  • We used a practical theology model as proposed by Mark Lau Branson.  What we happen if we used the model by Richard Osmer in Practical Theology: An Introduction? Osmer suggests four stages:  describe – history – normative – strategic.  In our presentation, we shared three stories to outline what this might look like, but it might be that using ‘strategic planning’ frameworks would be valuable if we had a governance board wanting to take a next step, wanting to unbound theological education more broadly across the church.

Excellent questions, showing good engagement and helping us clarify work done and still needed.

We had arrived at the conference with a 2,000 word verbal presentation based on an already drafted 6,000 word journal article – in our back pocket, possibly ready to submit depending on feedback.

Our sense is that the above questions helpfully extend our work. They are important, yet they are practical – a strategic plan, assessment matrix, quality control, viable business plan.  Rosemary and I discussed a next set of steps which involve

  • submit the article we have drafted, pretty much as is
  • develop the material further, with two purposes – a chapter for the conference book and a strategic plan presentation (if a governance group is interested).  Development would include a different practical theology model (swapping Mark Lau Branson for Richard Osmer, Practical Theology: An Introduction) in order to weave the interface between theological reflection and a strategic plan that covers operations and education.
  • These are two distinct pieces of work: drawing from the same data but are responding to the more practical interests of conference attendees, which are different from the journal article we are targetting.

So, all in all all, very useful exercise – forcing us to clarify two years of work, giving us generative feedback on next steps. Our thanks to Thornton Blair, who made it possible.

Posted by steve at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Decolonising the (theological) curriculum through place- based pedagogies

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After teaching Theological Reflection on Saturday – on place-based methodologies – I spent some time reflecting on the experience. It was shaping up to be a hot afternoon, so in the morning I worked up a new activity, inviting the class to walk the local botanical gardens in order to break up a 3.5 hour lecture slot. It began out of compassion, but as I reflected, there were some interesting learnings happening. A potential reflective-practice journal article abstract began to take shape

Decolonising the (theological) curriculum through place- based pedagogies

A Theology of Place from :redux on Vimeo.

How to teach place-based theologies to those who might feel shallow-rooted? My practice-based research sought to investigate place-based teaching in the context of theological education among those being formed for the vocation of ordained ministry. I sought to decolonise the curriculum, introducing indigenous theologians, who document the way that identity is formed through  generations of relationships connected to place.  Richard Twist (Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way) emphasises the need to do theology in relation to a primal sense of connection to birth place, Denise Champion (Yarta Wandatha) examines the interplay between land and people, while Maori approaches to pepeha develop identity in relation to landmarks like mountains and river. 

The challenge was that the cohort was not indigenous. As migrants, or descendants of migrants, experiences of a sense of relationship to place can be limited.  In addition, the class was experiencing dislocation, gathered from various national locations into a context not familiar to participants.

The space between indigenous knowing and migrant experience was presented as an opportunity. The writing of Alifeti Ngahe (Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight) was instructive, providing vocational examples of how he migrated into new communities and developed place-based theologies.  Students were invited to locate themselves as “other” and in that epistemic rupture (Rosemary Dewerse, Breaking Calabashes) find a posture of investigative curiosity.  The class was sent in groups to examine statues in a local Botanical Park. They were provided with a short history of various monuments and instructed to see if they could do what Alifeti had done, make theological connections with place. 

Each group reported a range of insights. Work was then done as a cohort to shape the insights into prayers of approach for use in the context of vocational ministry. The liturgical movements of thanksgiving, confession and lament provide room to examine a range of important movements in the journey of decolonisation. This enriched the place-based reflection and provided vocational application.  

The argument is that practice-based pedagogies inform the practise of place-based ministries. Outdoor experiences, paying attention to local monuments, naming epistemic rupture and listening to indigenous theologians provide important resources in place-based teaching.    

Posted by steve at 10:33 AM

Sunday, February 03, 2019

theological reflection as integrating the journey’s of life

An introduction to theological reflection. A 3 hour class to begin a learning community, orientate interns and introduce assessment. In preparing the class, I had 7 different definitions of theological reflection. I decided to lie these down the hallway leading into the lecture space.

walkingin1

This meant that we began the class not in the room, but in the hallway. I introduced myself and noted that we would all be bringing our stories, our life experiences, our learning to date, into the class. The task of theological reflection was to work with our lived reality. As interns, we were preparing for ministry and that meant that all those we ministered to would also be bringing their stories, their life experiences, their learning to date, into our churches.

walkingin2

I invited the interns to walk slowly down the hallway, to take their time and engage each definition. In a few minutes, we would choose the one we liked the most and the one we disliked the most. This generated good discussion. People signed their names to various definitions, owning their understandings of theological reflection that they brought into the room.

But the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand is a diverse church culturally. It has a covenant relationship with the Maori Synod, Te Aka Puaho. So out of respect for that relationship, I showed a 4 minute video clip, an introduction to the tukutuku panels that adorn the front of Whakatane Maori Presbyterian Church. We glimpsed a very different approach to theological reflection, one expressed through art, that worked with tradition and culture in new and different ways.

And so I invited the class to return to where we began. To walk back out of the classroom and into the hallway. To slowly walk back in, past each of the definitions of theological reflection. And to ask themselves

which definition of theological reflection best sums up this example of indigenous theological reflection?

The students returned with very different definitions. One definition that initially was disliked the most was suddenly liked the most. A definition that made no sense suddenly was clear. It was an illuminating moment as we realised afresh that what we bring – culturally – shapes our theological reflection

An excellent beginning to theological reflection.

Posted by steve at 07:49 PM

Monday, January 14, 2019

maggi dawn in New Zealand

Arts and Cultures in Christian Ministry and Mission

Maggi Dawn – songwriter, theologian, worship curator – is in New Zealand to teach a 4 day intensive Tuesday, January 29 to Friday, February 1, 2019. Arts and Cultures in Christian Ministry and Mission looks amazing and I’d be their if I wasn’t teaching a KCML pre-intensive.  Maggi brings an wonderful set of skills.

  • gifted writer – 5 books including Like the Wideness of the Sea: Women, Bishops and the Church of England (2013), The Accidental Pilgrim: Modern Journeys on Ancient Pathways (2011), The Writing on the Wall: High Art, Popular Culture and the Bible (2010), Giving it Up: Daily Bible Readings from Ash Wednesday to Easter Day (2009), and Beginnings and Endings (and What Happens in Between): Daily Bible Readings from Advent to Epiphany (2007)
  • leads chapel daily at Yale University, as Dean of Marquand Chapel, working with students to provide daily worship to those from many denominations and different worship and faith experiences
  • a first career as a writer and performer in the music business. For example, I will wait (1993) (see here for a recording). Or Come Lord Jesus Come (here).

maggilarge

To help with grounding in Aotearoa and provide hospitality, Malcolm Gordon – Worship, Music and Arts Enabler for KCML will be present, offering input in the workshopping and design of events both gathered and public. Malcolm is a gifted singer and song writer, who has established the Illustrated Gospel Project and it could be that some of the art and creativity from the gospel of Luke is part of the intensive in an experiential way.

Input includes

  • Theology and the arts, language and literature
  • The naming of God in a post-blogging word
  • The arts in mission and ministry as gathered church experience
  • The arts and theology in public spaces, as worship meets missiology
  • The workshop and design of events both gathered and public

I’m particularly interested in the worship meets missiology in the design of arts and theology for public space.

The course is jointly offered by the Department of Theology and Religion, University of Otago, and the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership. It will be located at St John’s College, 202 St John’s Road, Meadowbank, Auckland, from 9-5 pm daily.

The intensive can be done for credit (as PAST 322 or MINS 414 through University of Otago, contact paul.trebilco@otago.ac.nz ) or audit (through Knox Centre for the Ministry and Leadership contact registrar@knoxcentre.ac.nz). It’s an exceptional opportunity, especially for those from mainline church settings, to reflect on creativity that is deeply theologically and humanly engaging.

(More information here) 2019 Intensive maggi dawn

Posted by steve at 01:58 PM

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Graduate formation and life-long learning (conference abstract)

Abstract submitted -> to the SCD Learning & Teaching Theology Conference April 2019. This is KCML being research active and accountable. This is taking the hard work of 18 months of Thornton Blair Research and exposing it to “cross the ditch” peer review.

Graduate formation and life-long learning in the context of ministerial vocations
Dr Steve Taylor and Dr Rosemary Dewerse

A caricature of education involves the forgetting of what one has studied once exams are completed. This presents challenges to any talk of graduate outcomes. What to make of teacher talk regarding student futures if learners are on a stated mission to forget?

A more complex dynamic became evident in recent research into the life-long learning needs of Presbyterian ministers. Funding from Thornton Blair Trust enabled research of 280 participants in Aotearoa New Zealand. Phone interviews with 55 ministers ascertained their perceptions of future learning. General focus groups with 230 lay participants provided feedback on the interview data. Action-research tested possible learning plans with specific interest groups and experimental learning communities.

The research revealed that graduate formation has a communal character. Life-long learning needed to account not for the individual minister, but for the leadership groups and communities in which they served. Formation in practise-based modes was valued over information and existing qualifications. Participants identified peers as key learning resources, who as “human libraries” could be engaged in action-reflection modes. Graduates understood formation in relation to interpersonal dynamics, occurring in the middle of communities of practice, through processes of action-reflection and peer learning.

These graduate perspectives have important implications for the undergraduate experience. Outcomes must include skills in action-reflection and the ability to cultivate practice-based learning in communities of practice.

The data can be read theologically. In the temple, Jesus learns with those older in a dialogical community. In the encounter with the Syro-phoenician woman, Jesus’ understanding of identity and faith is challenged in the practice of ministry. Irenaues’ doctrine of recapitulation understands Jesus as one who grows in ministry. Theologically, the growth of Jesus is communal in character and formative in practice. Hence graduation formation is a communal journey of life-long learning in response to the redemptive dynamics of the Divine.

Posted by steve at 09:12 AM

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Mission in the rural

I’m speaking in Whangarei this Saturday, 27 October 2018.  I’m doing a keynote, as part of a new, more inclusive way of being church (among the Northland Presbytery and the Methodist Synod) in Northland.

10 to 12pm:        Mission in the rural and rugged, by Dr Rev Steve Taylor

Steve Taylor will offer Biblical, theological and practical resources for rural and small-town ministry.  The Old Testament provides a distinctive set of ways by which God’s people gather, in seasonal celebrations.  This offers imaginative possibilities for rural communities today in understanding worship, mission, community and interconnection.

Steve Taylor is Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership. Previously he served the Uniting Church of Australia as Principal and Director of Missiology.  He is author of The Out of Bounds Church? and Built for Change and has been a film reviewer for Touchstone since 2005.  Married to Lynne, he enjoys gardening, films and running beaches.

St Johns Cooperating church, 149 Kamo Rd, Kensington, Whangarei. Coffee and tea are from 9.30am.

Posted by steve at 07:35 PM

Friday, October 19, 2018

happy Steve being cited on teaching and learning

A week ago, happy Steve celebrated having two book chapters on research-led learning published in Wondering about God Together from SCD Press . (The story of how this came about is told here.)

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A closer read of the entire volume, all 460 pages, reveals my earlier research is being referenced in two other chapters. This is really quite cool, being cited and a useful resource in helping other theological educators reflect on the theory and practice of theological education.

In chapter 25, Integrating Theology in an age of Questioning, Les Ball uses my work which I presented at (Higher Education Research Group Adelaide), HERGA Conference, in Adelaide in 2015.  Titled – A class above: Evidence based action research into teaching that is connected, mobile and accessible in a higher education context).  Over two pages (420-421) Professor Ball uses my research on teaching and learning in relation to fostering dialogue. He affirms my work (both teaching and reflecting on that teaching) as an example of the vital role of the teacher in fostering integrative dialogue.  He also notes how I my work (both teaching and reflecting on that teaching) shows how “intentional teaching of such principles can be incorporated into the standard curriculum of any course – in systematic theology just as well as in field education” (page 421). In other words, I am providing an example/influencing the field of teaching in “the whole range of Bible, theology, history and ministry” (421) as well as more practical subjects. Applying my work (both teaching and reflecting on that teaching) can “help to produce graduates who can appropriate such principles and take them into their ministry and general life.” (421).

In chapter 24,  Theological education in context: Exploring the Delivery of Theological Education in a Multi-cultural setting, Bruce Allder uses my work in reflecting on teaching theology in Fiji, with the aim of offering a “missional approach to theological education that keeps contextuality as an important element alongside content, character and competency” (393).  Allder uses my research in  “Embodiment and transformation in the context of e-learning,” Learning and Teaching Theology: Some Ways Ahead, edited by In Les Ball and J. Harrison, Morning Star, 2014, 171-18.

Allder noted my argument that e-learning enables the student to remain in much closer proximity to their ministry context and thus increased the possibility of application (403).  Using my research, Allder concludes that “integrative learning does introduce a degree of complexity not found in a decontextualised approach.” (404) Reflecting on his own teaching, in realised that video conferencing “promoted student engagement and has improved the quality of work presented.” (404).  This is because it was used by students to discuss assessment together, which “minimised feelings of being overwhelmed.” (404).

So happy Steve – not only in writing two book chapters for Wondering about God Together, but in realising that my earlier work is being an exemplar and an encouragement to others in their journey of teaching theological education.

Posted by steve at 05:44 PM

Thursday, October 11, 2018

2 book chapters on learning and teaching

Wondering about God together, edited by Les Ball and Peter Bolt has just been published. At 460 pages, it is an extraordinary resource.  In the 2007-2012 period, the Australian Council of Deans of Theology had a research focus on learning and teaching of theology in Australia.

“much of that literature reported on earnest aspiration …. What is particularly heartening about this current volume is the growing report of active implementation and initial attainment, a sense of: ‘This is now actually happening’. (xxii)

Two of the book chapters are mine. So I’m happy.

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One chapter  (“Researching the future”) explores the role of research in teaching practice.

Another chapter (“Curiousity and Doubt”) analyses the role of flipped learning in theological innovation.  One of the editor’s Les Ball waxes eloquent, describing this chapter as a

“worthy conclusio to the entire conversation … incisive insights … skillfully demonstrated … warrants close and repeated attention .. as a finale … cogently continue the conversation in pressing the case for ongoing reform towards student-centred curricula.” 

So there we are. That’s me.  Incisive :).

My 2 chapters took shape as 2 keynote presentations I was invited to give in Sydney in April 2017.  Two academic keynotes is a lot of work but I had two deposits I wanted to mine. The first was my 2015 Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching. That had required a 5,000 word submission and I was looking for a way to do “double work” on those words, to use the work done for a panel of judges in another context. That was the basis for the “Curiousity and Doubt” chapter, which includes 6 pages of appendices of my teaching resources (in colour!).

Second, the Award included $5000 to spend on things teaching related. So I asked if I could use that in relation to research assistance, particularly in relation to the chapter on “Researching the future”, in which I wanted to have a literature review of recent outputs on research in teaching practice.  This involved working with a colleague, Rosemary Dewerse and hence the two chapters are co-authored with her.

The book has 26 chapters and is available from Sydney College of Divinity (also Book Depository).

Posted by steve at 05:35 PM

Saturday, September 22, 2018

built for change workshop

I tried a new approach to teaching today. I was asked to provide a keynote address in Northern Presbytery as they began a more regional approach to leadership training. I had my book Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration but wanted to move beyond talking head and instead offer  an interactive, engaging workshop task.

As everyone arrived, they received a handout, a summary of my notes. Each handout also had a different coloured sticky note (one of 6 different colours). As I spoke, in introducing the Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration  material, I linked the (6) different colours to the six images of leadership Paul offers in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4.

  • Servant – light yellow
  • Garden – green/blue
  • Build – red
  • Resource manage – pink
  • Fool –dark blue
  • Parent – bright yellow

The workshop task involved dividing the room into three around three church change projects.
A – If you wanted to care for creation in your local community …
B – If you wanted to engage your wider community through social media …
C – If you wanted to diversify your Church Council – younger or more culturally diverse …

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Each person was asked to speak to their selected change project through the standpoint of the colour of their sticky note

  • Servant – light yellow
  • Garden – green/blue
  • Build – red
  • Resource manage – pink
  • Fool –dark blue
  • Parent – bright yellow

Tasks:
1. Think of ways that Paul’s image/the colour of your sticky note is needed in this change project.
2. Think of what would happen to the project if Paul’s image/the colour of your sticky note was not part of this change project.
3. If you finish, see if there is an actual church change project in the group you could brainstorm

There wasn’t time to debrief the groups. But watching the groups, I was struck by how quickly mutual patterns of leadership emerged, with groups looking around going “OK, which colour is next.” And so quickly, every person was drawn into the change project, rather than privileged voices.  Listening into the groups, I heard comments like “oh wow, I can see how all these 6 work together”.

A workshop exercise worth developing.  Invite me :)

Posted by steve at 05:01 PM

Friday, August 03, 2018

Listening in mission 2018

Listening in mission 2018 taster August 23, 4:45-6:15 pm

- “really helpful”; “practical”; “encouraging”; “inclusive”; “another follow-on please” –

Following feedback from 2017 participants, KCML invites ministry practitioners in the PCNZ into a listening in mission practical learning course. 6 online sessions (Thursdays 4:45-6:15 pm)

  • Aug 23 (info only)
  • Sept 6 (Mission as gift)
  • Sept 27 (Presence)
  • Oct 11 (Cultivate)
  • Nov 1 (Discern)
  • Nov 22 (Celebrate)

hosted by KCML mission Faculty who weave Scripture, community, mission alongside a practical, local task in which each participant gathers a group to listen local in the community as a first step in mission.

For online entry to the taster contact principal@knoxcentre.ac.nz.

For more into see listeningmission18final.

  • LIMimage
Posted by steve at 02:27 PM

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Tradition and Innovation in Early Christianity: my conference abstract

Tradition-and-Innovation-image-close-1-118x300 Tradition and Innovation in Early Christianity is a symposium to be held at the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at ACU Melbourne, 15 to 17 August 2018. A group of scholars in the Netherlands recently received a large (€ 18.8m) grant to study innovation processes in the ancient world, and specifically the difference between invention or novelty and successful (or, as the case might be, failed) uptake of the invention. The Dutch program starts from the assumption that, for an innovation to be acceptable and successful it needs to be anchored in the known and familiar. Hence the title of the program: ‘Anchoring Innovation.’

The Tradition and Innovation in Early Christianity symposium is designed to learn about this project and see how its theoretical frame might be co-opted by early Christian studies and also refined by the new social and intellectual phenomena of Christianity, and the insights of theologians and historians of theology. A long-standing set of questions in patristic studies, of course, relates to how Christianity adapted ideas and forms of life from the surrounding Greco-Roman world. We hope that the emphasis on mechanisms of ‘anchoring’ might provide a useful framework to extend this scholarship and allow it to speak in new ways to other areas of the humanities.

I am wondering about taking some breathing space, using some days in lieu and some of the award from my Flinders University Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching (ironically for leading sustained innovation in theological pedagogy) in order to articulate my academic thinking, what Dr Doug Gay described as a really strong reading of 1 Corinthians, that lies behind my book, Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration. My aim is to foreground some gospel and cultures dimensions, in particular the way Paul uses temple and parent, to demonstrate that for Paul the conversion of the imagination (to subvert a term from Richard Hays The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture), includes drawing on his cultural world. This is a missiological approach to innovation, guiding how we might engage with popular culture today.

Here’s my abstract:

Tradition and innovation in 1 Corinthians 3-4

In 1 Corinthians 3-4, the Apostle Paul uses 6 metaphors to describe his ministry. He is a servant, a gardener, a builder, an oikonomos, a fool and a parent. Each can be analysed in relation to tradition and innovation. This involves a number of angles.

First a looking back to Jesus Christ. This is consistent with the place that Paul gives to his encounter with Christ. It also provides a Christological angle on the six images of 1 Corinthians 3-4, in which Christ as servant, gardener, builder, oikonomos, fool and parent provide a tradition, yet also an innovation in understanding Paul’s ministry. This is particularly so with regard to fool and parent, which become radically counter-cultural in a context of pater- familias.

A second angle is provided when the six metaphors are located in relation to the context of Corinth. A fine example is that of builder, in which Paul’s use of temple in a context of multiple temples suggests an innovation which challenges boundaries of purity in ecclesial identity.

This suggests that the early Christianity of Corinth is both tradition and innovation. It draws on Paul’s training in Judaism and his experience of Christ. At the same time, Paul presents his ministry in ways that innovate, challenging the identity of the church in Corinth and the ways that ministry and family structures are understood.

(It was an abstract written in some haste, in a few spare minutes, sitting at a Koru lounge at Auckland international airport.)

Posted by steve at 11:43 PM

Saturday, June 16, 2018

homeward after UK 2018

In a few hours, I step into a metal tube for some 22 hours of flying. It has been an excellent 9 days in the United Kingdom, in 3 different countries, speaking to 6 groups, with 3 other booked meetings. The welcome from various folk in the Church of Scotland was warm and the interaction rich. They are in interesting times as a church, with some very thoughtful folk working hard to discern the ways ahead. It was a great gift to me to see how helpful the material from my book, Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration could be in a different place and to watch it find life in a very difficult cultural context. To hear that it was being quoted in Church of Scotland General Assembly reports and to see the gratitude with which people responded to the images of fool/risk/play was very encouraging. (For those in the UK, Doug Gay at University of Glasgow still has copies at the very good price of 10 pound + postage).

onetreehill The U2 Conference was a blast – a triumph of passion over obsession. Locating it in Dublin, after conferences in North Carolina and Cleveland was a master stroke, as it located U2 within the context of Ireland and the streets and people in which U2 were formed. Seeing in real life the “boy” who experienced the “war” and encountered “grace” in the midst of the “bad” was very special. My paper on the endings of Pop went well, which given it was stitched together in scraps of hours in January, May and then in Dublin at midnight, was a relief. I find the focus on creativity, imagination, justice and spirituality provided by conversations about U2 to be quite life-giving, all mixed in with academics thinking deeply about how contemporary cultures might be understood.

Then there were the friendships. Previous relationships renewed, new connections made. Connecting with Steve Stockman and his church community at Fitzroy Presbyterian was inspiring. While it has been a great 9 days, it will be good to see the lights of home. (And to fight off jetlag to lead an 8 day blockcourse starting in a few days.)

Posted by steve at 08:10 PM

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

word craft

writing-1-1314626-639x477 Intensives are intense. Running from morning to evening, from 8:30 am to 4 pm, stacked day after day, a lot of information and experiences are pushed together. One way people process is through group discussion and lecturer interaction. But there are other ways. In the intensive I co-taught last week, Church in Mission, I decided to explore processing through writing.

In the programme, I set aside 55 minutes each morning. Before the intensive started I wrote, asking students to come prepared to write. If they wrote by hand, then bring pen and paper. If they wrote by laptop or Ipad, bring that.

Writing is a “practice of care” (Writing for Peer Reviewed Journals: Strategies for getting published, 4). It is a major way by which knowledge is shared. Words written emerge from the internal work we do. Hence writing is a spiritual practice, that invites us to attend to self-awareness, our passions and vulnerabilities.

However, while writing is an essential skill, it tends to be taught informally. I did not receive any formal advice on writing during any of my undergraduate or postgraduate degree training. So over the last few year, wanting to take writing as communication seriously, I have read, reflected and refined my writing. The results have been encouraging. Last year I wrote 8 academic pieces (4 book chapters and 4 journal articles) and 9 industry focused pieces (plus my annual 11 film reviews for Touchstone). So I was keen to see what would happen in a class if given space to write.

Each morning of the intensive last week, I offered a few minutes teaching on writing skills. On Tuesday, warm up exercises; on Wednesday, writing habits, on Thursday, tiny texts; on Friday, structures. These were drawn from sources like Pat Thomson, Writing for Peer Reviewed Journals: Strategies for getting published and Helen Sword Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write and Stylish Academic Writing.

Then I simply invited people to write, whether to summarise the course in preparation for the first assignment or to report to their church leadership on learnings from the week of study leave.

The quiet tap of keyboard and scratch of pen enveloped the class.

As the writing time drew to a close, I invited folk to do two things. First, to count the number of words. Second, to note a few dot points of what they would do next. So that come the next morning, after a few more writing tips, they could climb back into the keyboard tap and pen scratch.

The first morning, in trying to framing why we might do this, I asked folk to brainstorm the forms of writing they might be expected to do in their ministerial context. The list was extensive and together we realised the value of writing, and the need to think about and practise together the skill of writing.

Feedback from participants was very positive, with writing mentioned every day in the daily debrief and in written class evaluations at weeks’ end.

(more…)

Posted by steve at 08:01 PM

Monday, January 29, 2018

tiny text of Church in Mission: Theology in Changing Cultures

A tiny text is a miniature version of the whole. It has been applied to academic work by Pat Thomson. So here is a tiny text, a summary of what I was trying to do in Church in Mission: Theology in Changing Cultures, the week long intensive I taught last week for University of Otago/Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership (in partnership with Doug Gay) . I offered it to students as the course progressed and as I challenged myself: could I, in around 350 words, summarise the week of teaching, including linking to assignments, course learning outcomes and each of the course readings.

globe-trotter-1-1531337-640x480 Mission can be defined as joining what God is up to in the world. This human response emerges from the conviction that God sends the Son and Spirit. Humans partner with God, including in resistance of evil, the making of all things new and expressing God’s life in the indigenous particularity of local contexts.

This understanding of mission defines the church as willing to be sent beyond existing locations into liminal spaces; to pay attention to contexts; and to participate in discerning the patterning of God’s movement. However, the sheer complexity of our global world suggests that no one size fits all. Further, the ongoing unfolding of our cultural contexts requires us to listen afresh to context and to respond appropriately in change.

Analysis of history, for example in Classic Texts in Mission and World Christianity, enables a global and in-depth understanding of the resources of the Christian tradition (Assignment 1). One way to categorise the range of church responses is using the headings of resistance, innovation and indigeneity. Because of the unique relationship between theology and culture, each of these responses will have strengths and weaknesses.

As we learn from the past, we gain insight for the present. We can understand the present as we engage in mapping cultural hermeneutics: listening to the cultural complexity of New Zealand today, including at micro, meso and macro levels (Assignment 2). Mapping is then followed by discerning which of the responses – resistance, innovation and indigeneity – the church might adopt. The re-forming that results is part of the churches ongoing participation in the unfolding mission of God (Assignment 3).

Hence the three assignments will demonstrate a theologically rigorous and culturally informed understanding of re-forming Christian communal identity: past and future. The three assignments will bring together perspectives of global theology (Classic Texts in Mission and World Christianity), contemporary cultures (mapping cultural hermeneutics) and ecclesial study of resistance, innovation and indigeneity in a critical and constructive dialogue.

Posted by steve at 09:42 AM