Sunday, December 13, 2020

First Expressions book review # 3

Another (3rd) positive academic book review of First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God in an international academic journal. Following reviews in Ecclesiology and Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal, this review is in Practical Theology, an international journal of the British and Irish Association of Practical Theology. The reviewer is Sally Rush, who is from Wesley’s Chapel and Leysian Mission, Newman University and Roehampton University, UK.

Sally begins by suggesting the book will have “particular interest to those who have a missiological interest, ecclesiologists, and those with an interest in the sociology of religion who have been charting the development and impact of these new religious groups. It will also appeal to a wider group of people, primarily in their 40s and 50s now, for whom this material brings back memories and allows them to revisit and re-evaluate their own past.” Well, that’s quite a range of people and of academic disciplines, which is great.

For Sally, a strength of the book “is that it does not flinch from examining parts of the history of the emerging church which some would perhaps rather forget …. Taylor is successful in achieving the delicate research balance of being a critical friend.” She finds the four innovation models: commerce, ecology, indigenous and craft are “useful measures … helping the reader understand how this evaluation can be applied in a truly theological nature.”

She has some critical questions. First, is my use of a leadership model to assess the development of Fresh Expressions squeezing “a messy reality into a clean typology” (although could the gender analysis to conclude the discussion of the leadership model have been a “messy reality” check)? Second, could I dialogue more with Sarah Thornton’s work on youth culture, particularly the usefulness of her concepts of ‘neo-tribes’ and the fluidity within them for my first expressions data (maybe a further journal article Steve?).

Overall, she concludes that the book gives “a new approach with which to (re)evaluate recent ecclesial and missional history … more tools to go back and explore further the case studies and material contained within them.” So that is very gratifying, an affirmation of my thinking as a springboard for others doing ecclesial research on innovation and mission. Thanks Sally.

Posted by steve at 08:09 PM

Friday, September 06, 2019

Germany bound

I’ve had a great week in Durham. The folk doing the Doctor of Theology and Ministry (DThM) from Durham University are a great bunch, doing some really interesting projects and clearly showing the value of practical theology in understanding the relationship between theology and practice.

My lecture on Craftivism as a missiology of making went really well and seemed to be greatly appreciated.

learning to knit

I spoke for about an hour, working from the journal article I submitted a few weeks ago. The questions that flowed were excellent and showed there is plenty of avenues for further research if I want to continue to develop this project! Apparently there is at least one Anglican training event this weekend in which craftivism and Dorcas as an agent in the 5 faces of mission is now being included!

It’s also been great to catch up with folk and nurture some international friendships with which I am blessed.

Today, I headed down to York, to do some journal planning with Nigel Rooms. Together we are co-editing a new journal, seeking to nurture quality research on local Christian communities in mission. After International Association of Mission Studies in Korea in 2016, work has been done to ensure a new IAMS Study Group called “Christian Communities in Mission” as a stream for Sydney, 2020. In addition, work has been done, including raising some seed funding and securing a publisher, for a new journal. The journal will be called “Ecclesial Futures” and will be a double blind peer reviewed journal encouraging original research on local Christian communities as they join the mission of God. It was great to meet with Nigel and clarify our ethos. Nigel and I as co-editors talked about the journal culture we want to create, including a peer reviewing culture that embodies our missional focus – one that seeks excellence through postures of being hospitable, relational and generative.

Tomorrow, I head to Frankfurt, Germany, to meet my daughter, who has been biking the Rhine. After months apart, there might be a tear or three in my eye by this time tomorrow.

Posted by steve at 07:20 AM

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Could you return to your story? “hapkas” theology as personal experience

“Could you return to your story?”

It was a question asked as I finished a research presentation. I was interviewing to be Principal at KCML. The interview process began with me taking a 50 minute “mock” lecture to a group of “mock” students. It had gone well, apart from the jug of water for the lecturer, that developed a crack half way through, resulting in water gently easing under my laptop as I spoke. “As long as it is consistent for all those being interviewed” I quipped. The interview process then moved, after lunch with the interview panel, to a research presentation. Fifty minutes on some aspect of my current work, followed by 50 minutes of question and answer.

It was then that the question was posed. “Could you return to your story?” Puzzled, I asked for elaboration. “Well, you began your lecture this morning with your story, of growing up in PNG. So I’m asking what might happen if you returned in your research to your story?”

I remember being struck by the depth of listening. After nearly 3 hours of talking, here was someone with the ability to connect two quite different parts of my presentations, in ways that offered me new eyes. My story felt held. My experience felt important. Perhaps in this place, I would see myself, including my old self, in new ways. It was a moment, of care, of hope, and potentially of guidance in my research journey.

Fast forward some 13 months later. The interview in January 2015 resulted in my beginning as Principal in October 2015. I brought with me a significant piece of research, a book project on innovation and collaboration. Begun in July, it has absorbed all of my writing time in the period since.

Last week, the manuscript was sent to the editor. It will return, but in the meantime, I have some space to begin again. “What will you write?” asked my family on Sunday evening. (I have a habit of spending the first 45 minutes of every work day writing.) I sifted through a few possibilities. The next most important thing is two papers I have to present in Korea at the International Association of Mission Studies. The deadline for submission is 31 March. I chose one (the second is on how to understand Silence in mission), and got to writing.


I looked at my desk yesterday. I am writing on Christology in Papua New Guinea. My research involves reading art gallery publications about bark cloth. I laughed. “Could you return to your story?” was the question 13 months ago.

Well, my first new writing project in this role and I have. I have found myself, by a random set of circumstances, writing on my country of birth. I am listening to ABC recordings of PNG women singing. I am exploring theology expressed in visual, rather than written ways. I am bringing my years of study of Christology and post-colonial theology and literature to bear on my own story. I am reading Mark Brett’s Decolonizing God: The Bible in the Tides of Empire (Bible in the Modern World). He also is born in PNG. I am beginning to imagine an academic paper presented in Korea not on powerpoint but on bark cloth.

I sense freedom, grace and integration. Such are some of the benefits when we return to our story, when the personal is woven into the academic, when deep listening enables us to see and hear ourselves in new ways.

Posted by steve at 08:42 AM

Thursday, November 12, 2015

writing less because I’m writing more

Readers of my blog will have noticed a down turn in words on the blog. My blogging halved when I became Principal of Uniting College of Leadership and Theology.


It has pretty much halved again since I became Principal at KCML. The irony is that in both situations, I am actually writing more.

In regard to Knox, currently, I am making sure and steady progress on the Built for Change book project. I began writing in June. I tested some material in public – Creative Renewal in action – with a Mission Network at the end of July. I wrote that up as a book proposal and signed a contract in September.

The book project is getting the best of my writing time and I suspect that is a major reason for the decline in blogging. I was meant to delivery a finished manuscript at the middle of October, but given I was moving countries, that was probably a bit optimistic. The publisher has asked for 40-50,000 words. I’ve currently got 35,000 words that I’m pretty comfortable with and a chapter structure that is becoming tighter and tighter. It is a practical theology of innovation, in which I am taking multiple stories of change and exploring them theologically, with a particular focus on Paul’s understanding of ministry, informed by a Trinitarian lens.  I’d hope to complete by the end of November!

In regard to the Uniting College, I will leave you a picture.


I have a spiritual practice of journalling and as part of packing to move countries, I was collecting all my journals together. On a whim, I grouped them according to each of my placements.

  • In 9 years church planting, I filled 6 journals
  • In 6 years Senior Pastor, I filled 3 journals
  • In 2.5 years, Director of Missiology, I filled 2 journals
  • In 3.5 your, Principal, I filled 7 journals

Less blogging, but actually writing more. Is there any wisdom to be gleaned from this, I wonder?


Posted by steve at 07:20 AM

Friday, August 07, 2015

theology tools: video introduction to theology tools

Just as a carpenter has tools, so do theologians. This 15 minute video introduces some basic tools. The books mentioned in the video are provided below. Explore them, try them, see what feels comfortable.

Tools for theology from steve taylor on Vimeo.

Experience considers your life and the life of others.

Scripture looks at God’s revelation.

John Drane, Introducing the New Testament, Lion.

Robert Tannehill, Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: Luke, Abingdon, 1996.

Tradition considers those who’ve done theology before us

Alister McGrath, Zondervan Handbook of Christian Beliefs, Zondervan, 2005.

Alister McGrath. The Christian Theology Reader, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. 2011.

Alister McGrath, Christian History: An Introduction, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

Mark. A. McIntosh, Divine Teaching: An Introduction to Christian Theology, Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

Ian Markham, The Student’s Companion to the Theologians, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

Reason is coherent and contextual

Denise Champion with Rosemary Dewerse, Yarta Wandatha, Adelaide: Denise Champion 2014.

Charry, Ellen T. Inquiring After God: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Blackwell Readings in Modern Theology). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. 2000.

Posted by steve at 05:09 PM

Saturday, July 04, 2015

a super semester

It’s been an exceptional first semester for Uniting College. This is a summary from an email I sent to the team this week:

I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for your contributions over this Semester. On top of the regular demands of teaching, supervision, administration and student support, we’ve pulled off some very significant developments in our life as a College. I’d suggest it’s worth pausing, looking back and recalling what we have achieved over the last six months.

Team wise – We’ve welcomed five new folk – Tanya Wittwer (Postgraduate Coordinator), Danika Patselia (Big Year Out Coordinator), Denise Boyland (Principal’s PA maternity), Nadia Boscaini (Marketing Coordinator), Kerry Pierce (Lecturer Pastoral Care). Each have settled well and made important contributions to our life. We’ve been able to appreciate new personalities and worked in different ways to clarify our values, vision and establish new sets of working relationships as a team. We’ve stood with each other through some significant moments of sadness, stress and grief.

Student wise – We’ve seen our first English as a Second Language cohort begin our Certificate in Bible and Ministry. We’ve seen Big Year Out begin a second year, with an increased cohort, in both number and cultural diversity. In these two programmes are the seeds of a very different student profile – younger and far more multi-cultural. We’ve experienced what many felt was our best ever Walking on Country indigenous immersion experience. We’ve celebrated our most successful ACD graduate, including two Doctors in Ministry and our first ever cohort of Cert IV/Big Year Out Students. We’ve experienced our largest ever cohort of Bachelor Theology honours.

Blended education wise – Now into our third semester, we are looking more and more comfortable across our system with ACD Online and video-conferencing. The resourcing provided by Adam Jessep (Blended Education Design Coordinator) continues to serve us exceptionally well, in teaching and education development. This has included exciting progress on the VET Online project.

Development wise – We’ve successfully launched a Diploma of Ministry hub on the Gold Coast, with 17 students now studying with us through New Life College. This has required inducting new adjuncts, developing new relationships and systems of administration and accountability. We’ve put significant work into our Flinders University Department of Theology Review and in the process, found ways to re-imagine and re-dream what world-class theology programmes might look like. We’ve made significant strides in promotion, including an improved social media presence, the return of a regular email to stakeholders, improved brochures and a sharper, clearer look for ACD.

In short, it’s been an exceptional semester for us as a Uniting College. Thanks for all your work, commitment, creativity, energy and persistence. I’m grateful to you all for what you’ve contributed and I’m excited about what we are becoming.

Posted by steve at 10:50 PM

Sunday, November 02, 2014

looking up

I love the creativity by which spaces are changed. Here is a wonderful example from our recent holiday in Turkey. The interior of a large room, and from the ceiling had been hung bright yellow coloured rings.


Walking inside, we noted a change of colour, from yellow to green, along with a change of shape. It seemed invitation, pointing toward another room.

lookingup green

They had even placed a swing inside. Which sure enough, you were allowed to play on. I watched a young child head straight for the swing, and another young couple enjoy some fun together.


It changed the entire look and feel of the place, from large and stark, to playfully invitational. I have no idea why (not being fluent in Turkish) but it was a memorable and striking way to invite us to “look up.” It created interaction, built conversation with strangers (Wow, what is it?) and offered a set of memories that walked with us into our week.

A church could use their “looking up” to change with the colours of the church year, to hang angels at Advent, to create more intimate surroundings in winter. For a positive, practical, example, Cityside Baptist in Auckland were superb. They had strung wire across their auditorium and this allowed them to attach spots, but also to provide a range of creative offerings – flowers, poppies at Anzac Day.

Up is as much of a space to be curated as the front. (For more on curating and worship; see Jonny Baker, Curating Worship and Mark Pierson, The Art of Curating Worship: Reshaping the Role of Worship Leader)

Posted by steve at 09:30 PM

Friday, February 07, 2014

writing in grief

I lost my Dad suddenly last August. Which has launched me on another, major, grief journey.

One of the impacts has been on my writing. Essentially, since Dad died, I’ve struggled to write. I have a complex job and that absorbs a lot of mental energy. It involves some deep work with people and that’s been intense and absorbing. Before Dad died, there was some drive to keep using what little mental space I had left for writing, some energy to get up early and steal a few hours in a cafe. But since Dad died, either work has got bigger, or people more intense. Or I’ve lost something.

I’m also aware that one way to deal with grief is to compartmentalise and remain in one’s head, rather than experience emotions. This has made me nervous (become a convenient excuse?) about getting back into writing, especially given some of the more academic type writing projects I was invested in.

I’ve done a few things (monthly film reviews and study leave). But that ability to grab a few hours here and there, at the start or end of a day, which can keep writing projects quietly ticking along – that has gone.

In late October, I became aware of a writing project (working title Farewelling Our Fathers). It was an attempt to connect mens’ studies with mens’ experiences. It is seeking to collect eulogies from about 30 different men – around 2,000 words each reflecting on farewelling their dads – with recent literature on how men of my generation (40 and up) were taught to relate to our fathers, and our fathers to us.

In other words, a pastoral theology, reflecting on masculinity and death. It sounded intriguing, a potentially rich mix of head, heart and culture. I wondered if it might help me process my grief, might let me attend to head and heart, might draw words from me, might ease me back into writing.

It’s been really, really difficult. Going back into the emotions, trying to find the words. It’s like stepping into uncertain terrain, not sure what emotions will emerge, needing to be in a space that allows those emotions to emerge in ways that don’t effect my work and colleagues.

Over the weekend, my daughter needed to be in town for a 2 and a half hour event. It opened up a space, one that was helpfully defined by time, one that was personal. I found a cafe and found the reserves to do a complete edit.

Off to the editor!

I’m sure it will come back for further work, but it was a milestone, the first major writing project since Dad died. I’m not sure it will make future writing any easier. But I’m glad the first major thing I’ve written since Dad died has been so costly, has been about him and has been creative, heartfelt, spiritual and a seeking for integration.

And I still miss my Dad. Daily.

Posted by steve at 09:25 AM

Friday, October 18, 2013

stoned: memories of mission and ministry

I took this picture of a memorial stone that sits on Hutt Street, a stone in the middle of a park, surrounded by fast moving cars in a busy part of central city Adelaide.

It struck me at the time as a fascinating way to reflect on time and progress. Times have certainly changed since that first mass ever in Adelaide was celebrated. The reality of that moment was fleeting – the celebration of Mass was primarily for those present at that time, at that place, to nurture their faith and discipleship.

And that celebration of Mass has certainly spread since 1840. Now all over Adelaide today, Sunday by Sunday, Christ is proclaimed and embodied.

In the Incarnation, the physicality of God made flesh, Christians are offered two types of embodiment. One, physically, in place. Another, in human lives and actions. Both are invitations to memory.

The picture thus sets up a fascinating contrast between memory embodied in lives and practices, and memory embodied in physical objects. The physicality of memory – whether a stone or a building – becomes contrasted with the ongoing reality of God in our world and our response, of nurturing faith and discipleship.

We’re all being called to trust in that God and to believe that the impulse – to teach, to nurture – will continue no matter what physical context.

Posted by steve at 11:30 AM

Friday, November 09, 2012

2020 learning spaces

Help me please.

On Tuesday I will spend 3 hours with some architects. They will look at me and ask:

  • if you had a brand new building, what spaces would you need to grow leaders in innovation and invigoration?
  • what furnishings would you like inside those spaces?

So, my friends, help me ….

Posted by steve at 10:09 PM

Friday, September 28, 2012

campFIRE: another rural adventure

I’m packing my bags for another rural adventure, this time in Western Australia, joining around 120 folk who are camping over the long weekend at Yearling. It’s called campFire.

Looking at my diary, I realised that it’s the 5th working weekend in 7 (glad I said no to the 6th!). Which is a bit much really. And it meant putting 3 members of Team Taylor on a plane to the home country (Aotearoa) yesterday, while I fly the opposite way for a weekend. Which has been quite hard psychologically.

So I am struggling with how to both cope with the busy and stressful side of being a Principal and to be out among churches. The latter is great for the College, but not for the tasks that keep crossing my work desk. My Scripture reading this morning was 2 Cor 9:10

Now God who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed.

Part of my seed is my creativity and I’m still trying to work out how that gets “supplied” and “increased.”

But enough personal therapy! At campFire I’ve been asked to talk about Fresh Expressions of Mission in the Bible and the Early Church and in order to do that, I’m going to try something I’ve not done before. I’m going to focus the bulk of my time around some creative re-telling of the Biblical stories, mix that with some alternative worship stations – some tactile fabric, some art images, some boat making, some work in groups. Not sure how that more intuitive, less linear approach will go, but looking forward to working in that space.

Posted by steve at 01:10 PM

Sunday, February 19, 2012

an eastern state thing

Enjoying Perth which seems to have such a relaxed vibe. I Was quickly made aware yesterday here in Perth of the eastern states factor, the distrust, the independence. An interesting dynamic.

People are very engaged and hospitable. The speaking team have offered a really rich and diverse input.

Posted by steve at 02:01 PM

Thursday, January 05, 2012

holiday reading

In between choosing paint, preparing to paint and actually painting, there has been some (not much) time for reading.

Ford County: Stories by John Grisham is just delightful. It involves a number of short stories, linked by a theme of place (Ford Country), and by various legal comings and going. Delightfully structured, they are a reminder that Grisham is a bestseller because he is a superb user of the craft of plot and character. The final story is the best, a moving reflection on what it is like to be an AIDS victim.

I’ve also been watching episodes from Rev, a BBC comedy about a vicar running a modern inner-city church, which gained BAFTA comedy award in 2011.

It was a Christmas gift, but as I watched I began to wonder if it might be useful for the Church, Ministry, Sacraments blockcourse I am co-teaching in February.

Posted by steve at 01:27 PM

Friday, December 09, 2011

urban advent installations

Great urban Advent idea from Sanctus1 in Manchester. They have created 24 advent shrines all over the city centre. A different artist has taken responsibility for the 24 days of Advent and the “shrines” are then placed in different locations around the city centre.

This is for December 7th, located in the Midland Hotel.

This is the second of five shrines to be located at the hotel, occupying a no-longer-in-use phone booth. Hotels and inns have been places of gathering, shelter and hospitality for centuries. This shrine relates to part of the Christmas story, where Mary and Joseph were trying to find somewhere to stay in Bethlehem, but all the hotels were booked up. Pray for those needing shelter and warmth on these cold winter nights.

I like the transient nature of these, the sense of here today, gone tomorrow surprise that is engendered as these pop up around the city.

I like the vulnerability, the sense that these are precious art, yet could be damaged, graffiited, destroyed. That in itself is a Christian and Advent message, the sense of being given a precious gift, that we can chose to ignore.

I like the everydayness of these, that you are invited to pray not at special times inside a special building, but in the midst of your working, walking life.

I like the public nature of these acts of worship, the Christmas story started not inside a church, but in the public domain, in the bustle of life.

What remains unresolved for me in all these public spiritual installation art is the relationship between authentic presence in a branded culture. Or as I wrote a few years ago in relation to the Christmas Journey:

The tension between whether the [public spiritual installation art] should act like an interactive signboard or the foyer of a building. Should each [public spiritual installation art] stand alone, as a signboard? Or should the [public spiritual installation art] be like a foyer, that welcomes and points people toward church or Christianity in some way? The concept of gift is important. Many churches offer subtle switch and bait operations. Should the [public spiritual installation art] be offered as a gift, with no strings attached? Or should they come with a subtle price tag. (This could include invitation to church services, a Christian tract, a takeway resource). Yet society at Christmas is so dominated by consumerism and when the church offers “switch and bait” have we not bowed down to the gods of consumerism in our culture? Each year this is debated. In 2006 the [public spiritual installation art] simply offered a takeaway potential of a memorable moment.

In terms of resourcing this, it could easily be the main focus of the energy for a community, that is used first in public during the Advent season, but are then all collected and offered as gathered worship (come see all the 24 advent stations) for Christmas eve services, with space, mulled wine, artist floor talks, ambient music and carols. In other words, the creativity is shaped by mission but woven into the worshipping life.

Well done Sanctus1 (and thanks Ben for the hat-tip).

Posted by steve at 10:48 AM