Monday, April 07, 2014

Calabashes, Wild Ox, U2, Virgins and Trauma

Flinders University produces a glossy publication to highlight research outputs within Humanities Faculty. It is produced by the Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities, which unites humanities-based researchers engaged in creative and reflective investigations of culture and thought. The Department of Theology (which is Uniting College) has a one page write up in their latest publication, under the title “Calabashes, Wild Ox, U2, Virgins and Trauma.”

These words don’t usually occur together and make little sense when grouped. But as an overview of research within the Department of Theology in 2013, they are a great indication of the breadth of our focus and interests … Research in Theology is diverse and wide-ranging.

Posted by steve at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Beyond Education: Exploring a Theology of the Church’s Theological Formation

I’m in Melbourne today and tomorrow as part of Beyond Education: Exploring a Theology of the Church’s Theological Formation, sponsored by the Uniting Church’s Centre for Theology and Ministry and the University of Divinity. The aim is to try and construct a theology of theological education. On Saturday I’m presenting a paper: Theological education in leadership formation (abstract here)

That has been the focus for much of my week. As part of my research, I compared our current 2014 Bachelor of Ministry degree, with our 2009 Bachelor of Ministry degree. Their have been significant changes, as this table shows

In other words, in 2009, we changed our name, from Parkin Wesley College to Uniting College for Leadership and Theology. Sometimes changes in name are simply cosmetic, a rebranding in which the ingredients remain the same. Looking at the Bachelor of Ministry, we see significant change, including

  • A new stream structure that has brought to the fore leadership and formation.
  • More options through specialisations.
  • Space created for formation (4 new topics in SFE and Integration) through the change of 7 topics (in theology, Bible and Pastoral care) from compulsory to optional
  • New topics written especially in leadership and Discipleship and Christian Education
  • Opportunity for “have a go” innovation through BMin practice, with increased SFE and the use of context as primary.

In the second half of my paper I will then ask whether these changes suggest it is either theological education
leadership formation. Or using the work of cultural theorist Mieke Bal (Anti-Covenant) and theologian Graham Ward (Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice), this allows theological education in leadership formation.

Posted by steve at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dispersed Lent Journal Project 2014 at distance

One of the dispersed Lent Journals 2014 returned today. It has been travelling by post, moving around rural South Australia, among our distance students. It was a great joy to see it return, complete with post paid bag as students decided to pay themselves rather than let College pay.

The story behind the Dispersed Lent Journal Project 2014 is that we at 34 Brooklyn Park are a dispersed community – students, staff, teachers; post-graduates, under-graduates; studying for audit and for credit; face to face and distance.

At the start of Lent, four journals were released into the community – in lectures, in library, in student common room. Folk are invited to journal what Lent means to them, and pass it onto another in the community. (Full description here). We wanted a way to connect our dispersed, mobile community.

Distance students were keen to participate and here is one now returning after being posted around South Australia. Which means it is now able to be handed onto another student. Connections are being created among the dispersed, spirituality nurtured and nourished among those who gather and scatter.

Posted by steve at 08:44 PM | Comments (2)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

we’re hiring: Business manager

With the retirement of Peter Gunn, our Educational Resources Manager, we at Uniting College are looking for a Business Manager (full-time, permanent). This is a vital role in helping us manage forward the many changes we are making and undergoing. So if you know someone with exceptional business and financial management skills, a strong commitment to the vision of Uniting College and an ability to be an integral part of a committed team offering relational and efficient service in a tertiary education environment, then please let them know …


Uniting College exists to develop life-long disciples and effective leaders for a healthy, missional church, who are passionate, Christ-centred, highly skilled and mission-orientated practitioners. We offer a range of ways to learn and grow as a person and as a leader: through accredited course providers’ Adelaide College of Divinity and Flinders University and also through non-accredited courses for the Uniting Church.

If you consider you have exceptional business and financial management skills, coupled with a strong commitment to supporting the fulfilment of the purposes of the Uniting College, then this could be the position for you. This position is an integral part of a committed team offering relational and efficient service in a tertiary education environment.

The Business Manager will work closely with the Uniting College faculty and staff, Executive Officer and staff of Adelaide College of Divinity, and the Finance Management team at the Uniting Church SA Synod Office. This diverse and challenging position will be responsible for strategic business planning and innovation of the Uniting College and for building collaborative business relationships with other education providers.

The successful applicant will need to have demonstrated experience in the management of staff. Overseeing and leading the transition of the development of systems, processes and resources to support faculty in the delivery of courses, is crucial to the success of this position.

A degree qualification in Business, Accounting or other related discipline, together with a commitment and participation within a Christian congregation or faith community, are essential criteria.

A Position Description / Person Specification is available here or by contacting the Human Resources department on 8236 4234 or 8236 4278.

Please forward applications addressing the selection criteria of the Position Description / Person Specification to humanresources at sa dot uca dot org dot au by no later than 4pm Monday April 7, 2014.

Posted by steve at 01:15 PM | Comments (0)

Friday, March 21, 2014

pioneering a pioneering week

It’s been an intensely busy, but very productive week.

We’ve had Dave Male from the UK with us. Each evening we’ve engaged in storytelling around pioneering. Four folk have told local stories – one of early cross-cultural encounter in Australia, one of community gardens and how they change church, one of participation of individuals in new forms of church, one of transitions. Each has been videod. Around each story was woven group processes to deepen encounter. This included creative worship (like St Patrick on St Patricks Day) and the perspectives of Dave and Heather Male.

During the day, Dave Male has been working with us on developing material for a distance course. This includes 6 key modules needed for pioneering, accompanied by a range of resources (readings, video grabs of Dave Male, powerpoint, stories). The 4 local stories will add richness, all enhanced by the soundbite video clips and quotes we’ve been grabbing all week from those who participated in the evening sessions.

The result is that we’ve been able to develop what will be an online Pioneering topic that will be available in both our Diploma and Bachelor of Ministry.

It also makes possible a Diploma of Ministry in Pioneering, a one year equivalent period of study, that can be done full-time or part-time, face to face or by distance. A Diploma neatly integrates into the Bachelor of Ministry for folk who want to study further. But not everyone wants to do three years, so a one year Diploma, or a one semester topic, is an important addition to our training options as a College.

As Dave commented after we’d shown him the syllabus -

“This is a fantastic course that equips missional leaders for the present and the future of the church. I would encourage any leader to consider coming on this. It has some of the best material and teachers in the pioneering world.”

There is still some work to put all this together as a finished product but it’s been a very productive week.

Posted by steve at 07:10 PM | Comments (1)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Happy 5th birthday Uniting College

We celebrated Uniting College being five at Presbytery Synod last night. Some thought it was a milestone worth a cake.

As well as the cake, we also provided 400 individual cup cakes for supper, all with our logo.

Before the cake and candles, there was a bit of an introduction to the journey of this five year old. It was laced with prayer; a highlight of being one, of being two, of being three etc, followed by an audience response, including rifting off a Paul Kelly song.

Here’s the liturgical responses

synod feb 2014

And for those interested, here’s the full script … (more…)

Posted by steve at 08:07 AM | Comments (2)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Any other duties as required by the Principal

I have a great team … as we prepare as a College for Destiny together, a week of prayer and fasting …

Posted by steve at 10:13 AM | Comments (0)

Friday, February 28, 2014

we have liftoff – Big Year Out is go for 2014

We’re delighted to announce that Big Year Out, our new discipleship programme for young adults, is a go for 2014. As of today, we have the necessary students we needed to make it a viable learning community.

This means that from next week, Dan Anear will be with us at Uniting College two days a week and we will have a bunch of young adults making themselves at home around the Campus during Semesters.

In response to feedback during promotion, we will be making a few tweaks to the 2014 Big Year Out programme. This will include moving from the day to the evening in order to offer a Young adult taster space. We see this as a chance to connect with the young adults who said “I’d love to do it, but I can only do an evening.” It means that any young adults who want a weekly evening space to chat and talk God, mission, life, ministry, are welcome.

We are also going to ramp up the mission-in-local-context component, encouraging participants to find a ministry opportunity and use that as credit toward the Certificate.

There is a strong sense of this being a God thing. On Wednesday we did not have enough enrolments and so made the difficult decision, that despite a heap of advertising and praying, we could not go ahead.

As we left that meeting, a just completed enrolment form was handed to us. On Thursday two more enrolment forms arrived, giving us the group size we felt we needed to ensure a worthwhile learning experience. (And it’s not too late to enrol, either in the full programme or in the evening Young Adult space).

There is a sense that we stopped. And into that space came the surprise of God. Which is a great space for us as a College to be in :)

Posted by steve at 05:37 PM | Comments (3)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Did you just hear that loud ‘pop’?

It was the sound of champagne opening to celebrate that the Adelaide College of Divinity, of which Uniting College is a member, has been assessed as providing higher education to the same high quality standards as other universities and higher education providers across Australia, at all course levels.

This means that as a registered Higher Education Provider, ACD undergraduate courses, including those taught by Uniting College, have been accredited, for a further seven years, with no conditions.

In the words of ACD Executive Officer, Janet Buchan, “Now we can happily get on with the ‘business’ of education– putting students front and centre of everything we do”.

Note: This news is a followup to news in December that our post-graduate course offerings had also been granted seven years accreditation. One concrete result since then has been 18 new postgraduate student enrolments, from 8 different denominations and 3 different countries.

Posted by steve at 05:58 PM | Comments (2)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

strong words, but team words

Today at our team meeting, I read from the weeks lectionary reading – 1 Corinthians 3:1-6. It is very strong in the Message. So strong that I felt I needed to begin by reminding the team these were Paul’s words, not my words :)

But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way? When one of you says, “I’m on Paul’s side,” and another says, “I’m for Apollos,” aren’t you being totally infantile?

Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.

I then invited us to name each other truly. None of us are Paul. None of us are Apollos. We are each unique. And so our task was, in small groups, to remind each other of our unique value to the team. And then to pray for each other, for the field in which we are working.

We’re two weeks away from the start of Semester. We’ve got our best enrolment figures in years. We’re launching a whole range of new topics – Bible and culture, pioneering, global mission, chaplaincy. We’re in the midst of a major resourcing of our online capacities, exploring blended learning – topics in which student learning includes online delivery of content and instruction – building connections and enhancing community student to student and teacher to student. We’ve got new postgraduate courses with very strong enrolments. We’ve seen a 60% change in the make up of our team in the last 18 months.

We can only do this as servants, differently gifted, gradually learning to entrust our lives to our mutual Master. Strong words, yet perhaps for us team words.

Posted by steve at 08:48 PM | Comments (1)

Thursday, February 06, 2014

from Waitangi to Walking on Country

Today is Waitangi Day in my homeland. On this day in 1840, a Treaty was signed between Maori people of New Zealand and the Queen. While it is a times a contested document, it stills stands as a seminal moment in the history of New Zealand and in how two people’s might relate to each other. Over the years of my time of ministry in New Zealand, it provided a rich ground for reflection – in sermons, in prayer, in communion.

Today, here at Uniting College, in Adelaide, Australia, is the start of Walking on Country. It might be coincidence, but I don’t think we’d be Walking on Country without Waitangi Day, without the energy that Rosemary Dewerse and myself, both New Zealanders, both Missiologists, both shaped by being Kiwi, being Christian, both now here at Uniting College, have poured into this.

Today a group of about 20 people headed off to the Flinders Ranges, to the land of the Adnyamathanha people. They will be led by local indigenous leaders, to be in their world, to hear their stories. It is the 2nd year we as a College have run this. (See here and here and here).

It was a few days that had more impact on our life as a College in 2013 than any other few days that year. New insights, new relationships (including Pilgrim Uniting), new sensitivity. Thanks Waitangi Day, for pushing us toward Walking on Country.

Posted by steve at 11:08 AM | Comments (2)

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Seven Disciplines of Evangelisation

There is a lovely paper by Bishop Steve Croft on the Seven Disciplines of Evangelisation. It emerges ecumenically, from his participation as the Anglican Fraternal Delegate to the Synod of Bishops in Rome: a three week gathering of Roman Catholic Cardinals and Bishops with Pope Benedict to explore the single theme of the new evangelization.

(Three weeks on evangelization! I’ve never heard of a Protestant denomination gathering their key leaders for 3 whole weeks on mission topics)

The paper suggests seven disciplines
1. The discipline of prayerful discernment and listening (contemplation)
2. The discipline of apologetics (defending and commending the faith)
3. The discipline of evangelism (initial proclamation)
4. The discipline of catechesis (learning and teaching the faith)
5. The discipline of ecclesial formation (growing the community of the church)
6. The discipline of planting and forming new ecclesial communities (fresh expressions of the church)
7. The discipline of incarnational mission (following the pattern of Jesus)

It’s a helpful framework for me to now look at our curriculum as a College, seeing if we’re helping folk engage with this breadth.

And it makes me glad that we as a College are involved in A Clear Call conference, followed by an Evangelism, Conversion and the Mission of God intensive. I’ve looked at the course outline and I’m excited that the focus on the discipline of evangelism will be an entry point into all seven of these disciplines.

Posted by steve at 08:15 AM | Comments (1)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

pioneering workshop update

Yesterday I led a Pioneering workshop, a day in which I invited the Uniting church in South Australia to reflect on the processes of selection, discernment, training, placing of pioneers in our life.

The “agenda” was 3 questions

  • what are we hearing?
  • what is the biggest question?
  • what could be a next step?

The day was based around hearing from pioneers – their experiences of our system. So we split into 3 groups and each group heard from 2 pioneers, who were asked in about 15 minutes to share their experience. Each group then shared back to main gathering “what are we hearing”? Ben Edson, from the UK was with us and as an external voice, from another church system, provided his feedback.

That was the morning. In the afternoon, I invited people back into the initial groups. Pioneers were still present. Each group was asked to clarify the biggest question needing to be asked as a result of the hearing – a question for selection, for discerning, for training, for placing. Plus an elephant in the room question.

That yielded 15 questions. Those were shared back in the main group and people then gathered around the question that most interested them, to try and come up with a next step. About 8 ideas emerged, all to be directed toward relevant bodies within the church. Some were affirmations, other were significant next steps. Some were quite radical and would lead to major change in our system.

Time will tell the results. But their was a really lovely feel in the room. And it was so lovely to be with 35 people, listening to pioneers share their story.

Posted by steve at 06:51 AM | Comments (2)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

hi ho (to watch Lost and Banksy and U2)

It’s my first day back at work today.

And I get to spend it at Flinders, talking about movies, street art and concerts – more specifically Lost, Banksy and U2. It is part of an innovation, in which we are using the (new) Summer School window at Flinders, to offer courses on campus that might be of wider public interest.

So we quietly worked away last year, putting a new topic – Bible and Culture – through academic processes at Flinders.

It seems to have worked, of the enrolments, 12 are non-Theology students, which means a wider public engagement (and a much more diverse and interesting class-room).

So today I spend the morning teaching, talking about the “and culture” part of a topic called Bible and culture. I’ll chat about how I became a film reviewer and the tools I use to do that year after year, from a theology slant. We’ll look at the rise of popular culture and ways to understand the ongoing presence of Christianity in culture.

All while watching Lost and looking at Bansky and considering Bono’s hand gestures!

Posted by steve at 08:27 AM | Comments (3)