Monday, October 14, 2019

highlighter worship

I had a go at introducing highlighter worship on Sunday morning. And it worked really well.

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The Psalm for the day, Psalm 65, was an invitation to gratitude, while the lectionary text was Luke 17:11-19, with the encouragement to take time to return and give thanks. I was preaching in a local church, a visitor, unaware of their patterns and lives. Given the Bible readings, how might I encourage them in gratitude?

So during the week prior, I asked to be sent the copies of the church newsletters for the previous month. This gave me four newsletters, each different, each a snapshot of life in this church community. I then blew the newsletters up to A3 size on the photocopier, to help with visibility, and create something distinct about this particular moment.

I wanted a way to keep the focus on the newsletter, on the artifacts of this church community and not introduce more sheets of paper. So I went looking for highlighters. The highlighters had to be yellow – the colour of cheery gratitude. The instructions were to work in pairs and read back over the newsletter, yellow cheery highlighter in hand, and mark things to be thankful for.

On Sunday morning, the A3 sheets were laid down the centre aisle – easy to get to, no walking required. People were invited to be thankful, by looking back over a recent newsletter and highlight things to be thankful for (there were some other options if that wasn’t going to be helpful). A song was played quietly in the background.

After about 5 minutes, I reminded folk that liturgy was the work of the people and here was a chance for us to work together, to create our local Psalm of thanksgiving. Folk were invited to call out what they had highlighted. I repeated it, for those hard of hearing, with the refrain “and God’s people said” – to which a shared “Amen” enabled call and response.

Much thankfulness resulted. The energy in the room went up as God was praised and the specific local shape of this community was described.

Highlighter worship! It requires old church newsletters and highlighters. And a thankful heart!

Posted by steve at 08:39 AM | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

craftivist research: coding round 1

So I am coding.  As introduced earlier this week, I have 1100 individual tweets; 22 pages of data.  These have been printed on A3 sheets, leaving me with margins to scrawl notes as I go.

Unknown-12 Over 3 afternoons this week, when I need a break from writing on the First Expressions book project, I have laid out the highlighters – orange, yellow, green, pink.  I have added the pens – red and black – and a pencil.  Potentially 7 different categories. 

I have then simply read each tweet, word by word, looking for themes.  When I think there is a theme I write it down on a blank A3 sheet of paper. Then whenever I see that theme in the data, I use that colour highlighter.  For example, pink is warm comments – words like lovely.  I mindmap related words. Cute is similar to lovely, as is beautiful, so I add that to the related words and in pink I underline lovely/cute/beautiful whenever they appear.

This is a first read. I’m trying to get a feel for the data, to notice trends and seek patterns.  There will be themes that will need to be merged, or themes that will probably appear on a subsequent read. I realise that my data set is corrupted. the hashtag Xmasangel has pulled in other data. This is fine, I can cull the database before I read again.

As I go, I make notes of impressions. This will need to be verified, by numbers, by assembling quotes. But I am getting a feel for the data.

There will be a second read and perhaps a third round. I have the data as a master, so will photocopy off another A3 sheet and using the codes I already have, I will start again from the top and read through.

This is intuitive. I am wanting to be able to stand in front of a group of peers and be able to say – these are the main themes in this data – and here is the evidence to explain and support these main themes.

My initial impressions – in no particular order – are as follows,

  •  the overwhelming sense of joy and positivity generated by Christmas Angels. In the 1,100 tweets, there is only one that might be read as negative. The word “lovely” and “thanks” were dominant
  • the place-based nature of this community engagement. Invariably tweets named locations. These could be towns, streets, park benches, homes, train stations etc. There is a strong sense of connection with place being evoked by the angels. The angelic goodwill is not being heard in Bethlehem but in local communities and closes, streets and high streets shops, in contemporary England.
  • the layers of participation, both for senders and receivers. Senders source materials, make, tag, box, commission, deliver and tweet. Receivers find, carry, display, home and tweet. Indeed it could be argued that there is a making of angels as senders and a making of homes as receivers. Making is an essential part of this mission and in making, connections are deepened and meaning is being made.
  • the way the project built connections, particularly within households and between church and community.

These four themes are articulated in one tweet: “What a lovely idea. Daughter found this for me now taking pride of place on tree.”  There is the positivity of response (“lovely”), the place-based nature  (on tree), the layers of making (participation by the receiver of finding, homing, tweeting) and the building of connections (between daughter and parent).

I’m in a really happy place doing this. I love being curious about the world, in particular about mission and how fresh expressions of mission are received. I’m also curious about the domestic and gendered, the place of making in knowing, what is and is not communicated in craft and tactility.

And a reminder: of the craftivism Christmas angels research project (full outline here).

Background: I am interested in fresh expressions of Christian witness. One recent fresh expression I’ve become aware of is Christmas angels. It is a form of How to Be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest, in which angels are knitted and gifted among communities. I spoke on craftivism at the Transitional Cathedral last year as part of their Prophets in the Cathedral series. I am interested in how these angels are received (to read my conference abstract – Craftivism as a missiology of making – go here). It is one thing to ask people why they get involved in a fresh expression project like this. But how do those who find an angel make meaning?

To address this question presented some research challenges. I live in another country, it is not currently Christmas and I don’t want to look like a stalker, chasing people who find Christmas angels to ask for an interview. Helen Kara’s Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide has been a great resource, encouraging me to think creatively about research.

Research method: To address this question, I am experimenting with analysing social media. Each angel was sent out with a hashtag #Xmasangels. This meant that people who received the angels could interact and in ways that are in the public domain. This provides a way to analyse recipent response – How people responded to the angels? What meanings did they make? With help from a colleague, I have extracted over 1,1000 #Xmasangel hashtag tweets. I am now conducting thematic analysis. This will be brought into dialogue with the literature, particularly a theology of making and the place of domesticity and craft in contemporary cultures.

Outcomes? Action-reflection on mission action, research-informed teaching (at KCML and as I am invited by churches to talk about fresh expressions of mission), presentation of data at academic conferences, writing for industry (Candour, Spanz) and an academic journal, possible engagement with Christmas angel organisors.

Posted by steve at 05:31 PM

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Praying in crisis: an empirical study of how local churches respond in gathered worship to local and international tragedy and trauma

After the Christchurch mosque attacks, there were many, many ways that people responded. One of them was to research, as part of action-reflection capacity building. So (the remarkable) Lynne Taylor and I initiated the following.

tear on cheek

Email to Presbyterian and Baptist Churched — Research for an investigation on how churches responded to the Christchurch mosque terror attacks

The research explores how churches responded in their worship services to the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch. How do churches talk about tragic events? What do they do in response to such events in their worship services? For example, what and how do they pray? What resources do those leading the services draw on in deciding how to respond?

In doing so, the research explores best practice in this area of church pastoral ministry. It provides insight on church practice, as a resource for training of future leaders in theological reflection, congregational leading and worship leading and to assist with professional development of ministers and worship leaders.

All ministers and worship leaders are invited to participate. Depending on your responses, the questionnaire should take 5-10 minutes to complete.

It is a followup to work we did in November 2015 – Praying after Paris – which resulted in a presentation to Presbyterian ministers and another to chaplains at the Chaplaincy in Aotearoa New Zealand conference.

Using the same questions, but with new data from a differently tragic situation – will provide further action-reflection insights. Hence a joint paper proposal submitted last week for ANZATS 2019.

Praying in crisis: an empirical study of how local churches respond in gathered worship to local and international tragedy and trauma

Christian practices embody and reflect lived practical theologies. The gathered worship service is theory- and theology-laden, offering insight into Christian understandings of how God is engaged in human history and what human response could and should be. Investigating how Christians pray corporately is thus a potentially fruitful way to explore underlying theologies.

This paper draws on empirical research to investigate how local churches pray in response to trauma and tragedy.  Online surveys were conducted in November 2015 (following coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, along with bombings in Beirut and Baghdad) and in March 2019 (following the shootings at the Christchurch mosques). In the midst of trauma, how had churches prayed? Pastoral leaders in two New Zealand denominations (Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa NZ and Baptist Churches of NZ) were invited via email to participate in both phases of the research. General invitations to participate were also posted on social media.

In this paper, we consider the resources used by local churches and the theologies evident in their worship responses.  The data will be read through the lens of Storm Swain’s understanding of God as earth-maker (holding); pain-bearer (suffering); and life-giver (transforming). How might these theologies interpret the data? Are different understandings of God present when events are local in contrast to events that are global?  What of human responses to trauma of earth-making/holding; pain-bearing/suffering; and life-giving/transforming? The implications for those who pray in trauma and tragedy will be considered, with particular attention to the theological work possible through the practices of Christian public prayer.

Posted by steve at 08:57 PM

Monday, April 01, 2019

Craftivism as a missiology of making

A conference proposal I have just submitted for the ANZATS 2019 conference in Auckland. It seeks to take forward the presentation I gave at the Transitional Cathedral last year (a summary of which was included in Cathedral Extra here).

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Where #christmasangels tread: Craftivism as a missiology of making

Craft-ivism combines craft and activism. Craft-ivists utilise needlework, including yarn-bombing, cross-stitch and pink pussy hats, in collective acts of protest and solidarity (Knitting for Good!: A Guide to Creating Personal, Social, and Political Change Stitch by Stitch). This paper considers craft-ivism as a contemporary form of mission, with a focus on Christmas angels. In the UK in 2014, some 2,870 Christmas angels were knitted and left in public places, with a message of Christian love. By 2016, this had risen to 45,930.

Given that many Christmas angels included a twitter hashtag, technology can be utilised to access empirical data (Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide) regarding the experiences of those who received this particular form of Christian witness. This paper will examine 1,100 “#christmasangel” tweets. Content analysis will provide insights regarding how recipients make sense of this fresh expression of Christian witness, while geographic mapping suggests that Christmas angels have taken flight all over Great Britain.

Christine Dutton argues that acts of making are spiritual practices that can be formative in the making of new forms of Christian community. This suggests that practices of craft-ivism can be read theologically. Hence, a Christology of making will be developed, reading Proverbs 22:2 “the Lord is the maker” in dialogue with David Kelsey’s theological anthropology (Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology (2-Volume Set)). God is revealed as practicing delight (crafting), wonder (making) and perseverance (a discipline known to all crafters and makers). Hence, acts of craftivism are both a participation in the being and acting of God as maker and a spiritual means of connecting with the world. Missiology is invited to ‘make’ a domestic turn, by participating in practices of making.

(Photo by Michael Mroczek on Unsplash)

Posted by steve at 11:31 AM

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).

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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

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

a good news in season resource

I had a wonderful day recently with churches in Northland, offering input on mission and being church. As part of it, I worked up a new resource -

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I began my time by reading from Scripture – Acts 14:15-16

“Friends, why are you doing this? …. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

I noted that this about good news, and that good news was seasonal – located in relation to crops and food. I noted I was from another island and so they needed to help me with locating this Bible text in relation to their context. What were their crops? What was their current food of plenty? What was filling their hearts with joy? This was their “good news” expression of seasonal joy.

I’d had placed the “good news in season” resource on every second seat. This meant they needed to work in pairs, to “fill in the blanks.” After a few minutes and a fair bit of laughter, I invited folk to share, using the “good news in season” resource as a template. And quickly, around the room, a round of local (Northland) seasonal good news prayer of thanks were offered. The template gave it a rhythm, the different responses made it contextual.

Why?

First, we are people of praise. So this provided a way to begin our time together in grateful thanks.

Second, a practical worship resource for next time they were stuck, a way of engaging people in Scripture. So even if they got nothing more out of the day, they had at least 1 practical resource.

Third, an awareness that good news was seasonal. There is no one size fits all. Instead there is good news uniquely shaped by place and context.

Fourth, this allowed a movement toward a reflection on each of our unique stories. What is our good news story? How is it seasonal for us? And so a movement into good news as faith sharing, woven contextually into individual story.

It was a resource that worked well – to begin in praise, to form as working groups, to create a shared experience in the affirmation of the local and to provide an embodied move toward contextual theologies of evangelism and mission.

Posted by steve at 08:55 PM

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Bird prayers: contextual Spirit at Pentecost

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I was asked to do a workshop at the NZ Association of Religious Education Teachers and School Chaplains (NZARETSC).  The theme was On the Thermals of Grace, so given the theme, I offered Bird prayers – a workshop which reflected on the theology of the Spirit by looking at bird images in the Bible and then pondering NZ birds in order to invite folk to write contemporary-Kiwi-Spirit-as-bird-prayers.

A creative spark was the New Zealand bank notes, which each feature a different indigenous New Zealand bird.

$5 – Hoiho (yellow eyed penguin)
$10 – Whio (Blue duck)
$20 – Kārearea (NZ Falcon)
$50 – Kōkako (Blue wattled crow)
$100 – Mohua (Yellowhead)

So I printed off some different bank notes and put different notes/birds on seats.

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This meant that when folk arrived and chose a seat, they were choosing a bird, which they were then invited to use in writing a prayer at the end of the workshop. I wove in some Rupert of Duetz (in The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings), who weaves Spirit in creation, with Spirit in baptism and Spirit in mission. Plus the missiology of Kirsteen Kim, The Holy Spirit in the World: A Global Conversation who provides a person of colour critique of the Christian use of the dove, as promoting a whiteness which diminishes pneumatology.

the use of the dove alone is distinctly unhelpful in communicating the reality of the Spirit of God … The dove is very white … and does not do justice to all the dimensions of the Holy Spirit or to the nature of reconciliation that the Spirit brings … we have captured the dove of freedom and power and caged it.” (Kirsteen Kim, The Holy Spirit in the World: A Global Conversation. 180).

And so we turned to the birds of New Zealand:

Whakarongo! Whakarongo! Whakarongo!
ki te tangi a te manu e karanga nei

Listen, Listen, Listen
To the cry of the bird calling – chant by Eruera Stirling, in Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds by Anne Salmond

The result was some beautiful prayers, richly located in New Zealand experience. A fun workshop. Thanks for asking me NZARETSC. For those interested, my workshop resources are here: On the thermals of grace bird prayers workshop notes

Posted by steve at 12:49 PM

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

the beatitudes of waitangi day

Walking up the hill to our house yesterday evening, I composed a Waitangi Day grace:

Blessed are those who first said haere mai (welcome),
for with them was the grace of God

Blessed are the truth tellers of Te Tiriti,
for through them is the beginnings of change

Blessed are the meal makers,
for by them is the hospitality of God,

Blessed are strangers,
for in each is a waiting friend, Amen

I wrote this grace for a social event I was part of hosting on Waitangi Day, February 6, 2018. The evening involved entertaining around 30 KCML interns, staff and families. Many of those coming were arriving as strangers to each other – different year groups, overseas scholars and their families – and I wanted to name that reality, yet frame it as opportunity (Blessed are strangers, for in each is a waiting friend). The food was a Team Taylor effort and I wanted to express my gratitude to my family (Blessed are the meal makers, for by them is the hospitality of God). The meal was held on Waitangi Day and I wanted to connect our hospitality with what I have learnt from manaakitanga (hospitality) from Maori culture.

The couplet framing – Blessed … for – has a nod to the beatitudes of Matthew 5. It seemed fitting for a grace, connecting our gathering with the values and commitments of Jesus.

The couplet framing was also shaped by U2 and Kendrick Lamar and the spoken word cameo that ends U2′s recent release “Get Out Of Your Own Way.” I like the way it updates the beatitudes of Matthew 5, bringing in contemporary categories. “Blessed are the bullies/ For one day they will have to stand up to themselves…/ Blessed are the liars/ For the truth can be awkward.” LA Times call it a “short sermon“.

Glad of the song, enjoying the Songs Of Experience U2 album, I began to think about the contemporary categories if I was doing a Kendrick Lamar, but “blessing” not America, but New Zealand and the Waitangi celebrations. Hence the couplets about Maori as those who “first said haere mai” or welcome; and “the truth tellers of Te Tiriti” – those who speak for truth about the history of the Treaty signing.

Of course, U2 were contemporising the beatitudes of Matthew 5 before Kendrick Lamar was born (in 1987). Bono wrote “Wave Of Sorrow (Birdland)” when he travelled to Ethiopia after Live Aid (around 1986). The song was reworked and released in 2007 as part of the 20th anniversary edition of The Joshua Tree. The two lines of a couplet are evident “Blessed … for.” They are also contemporised, into those “meek who scratch in the dirt,” “the voice that speaks truth to power.” and “tin can cardboard slums.”

Wave Of Sorrow (Birdland) is a song I love – brooding, justice-focused – with a clever set of lyrics that reframe Ethiopia with the dignity of “ancient holy scrolls.” Again, an echo of my beatitudes of Waitangi Day, which sought to honour Maori as sovereign actors, extending to a visiting Captain Cook and so many subsequent migrants a welcome that for me speaks of the grace of God.

Posted by steve at 09:06 PM

Monday, February 05, 2018

Anna, Simeon and the mission of the church (at Candlemas)

February 2nd in the lectionary is a Feast day in the church; when Jesus is presented at the temple. The Bible text is Luke 22:22-40. In terms of speaking parts, the main characters are Anna and Simeon. They are presented in the Bible text as elderly. So today, in our intercession, we pray for elderly.

God our friend, we give
Thanks for the elderly, for those in our family photo album who are going before us in time
Thanks for our parents and grandparents, those we know who have gone before us.
Thanks for those in our congregations and placements who are Anna and Simeon, who are elderly.

We name the reality of aging. We name the losses that can be physical, psychological, spiritual, financial, social and of autonomy. In every loss is grief and so we pray for grace. For space to name the changes and honestly confess the reality.

In every loss is an invitation to change and so we pray for grace to be adaptable, to find God in the process of aging, to trace the grace of God’s presence in every day, in every breath, in every memory. In the way we pause with examen and seek your grace in our day, we pray that aging may be a step into the examen of a lifetime, and so an experience of grace, mercy and new hope.

Thanks for those who care for the elderly, who provide meals, who offer medical advice, we pray. We ask for good humour, for people centred care.

For policy makers, making decisions about New Zealand future, setting codes of practice for care, we pray for wisdom;
For the medical decisions that surround ageing we pray for wisdom, for listening ears, for full disclosure;
For those wrestling with decisions about the types of care of retirement homes, we pray for wisdom;
For those experiencing dementia and those watching people experience dementia, we pray for ability to find faith in a God who holds all memories.

Erik Erikson calls this stage of life a journey into an age of integrity. In that sense we give thanks for Anna and Simeon, for their integrity as they waited in the temple, for their commitment to prayer, for their willingness to hope, for their ability to let go and trust the future to another generation.

We ask that grace for the elderly.

We ask that grace for the church. We have many congregations entering this age of integrity. We pray that like Anna and Simeon, they would have a commitment to prayer, a willingness to hope and an ability let go and trust the future – of their church, of their denominational identity, of their buildings, of their polity structures – to another generation.

And so we pray for ourselves, that like Jesus in the temple, we will commit ourselves in this internship, to increase in wisdom, and in favour with God and in our intern placements.

Amen

Posted by steve at 09:39 PM

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The endings of U2’s Pop: Benediction, lullaby or lament? U2conference2018

The U2 conference, exploring the work, music and influence of U2, is planned for 13-15 June 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is in partnership with the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, Queen’s University, Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, and the Ulster Museum of the National Museums of Northern Ireland. Given I’ve loved the first two U2 conferences, in Raleigh and Cleveland; given that Belfast and Steve Stockman are as cool as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; given than I now have seven publications in relation to U2 (for the list see below), it made sense to ask my employer for some time in lieu and put a paper forward.

popvisionlogo The 2018 conference theme is U2: POPVision and sets out to investigate, articulate and critique the guiding visions specific to U2’s Pop era of 1997-98. The call for presentations closes 31 December, 2017. So join me.

Here’s my paper proposal:

The endings of U2’s Pop: Benediction, lullaby or lament?

Pop, the album, beckons hearers to a dance floor, all mirror ball and Miami. Popmart, the tour, offered audiences a golden arch, giant olive and the world’s largest video screen. Despite the glitzy mix of electronica and technology, Pop ends in a dark place. The profanity-laced lyrics of “Wake up Dead Man” (WUDM) evoke Divine absence in a lonely world. How does the lyrical weight of WUDM sit alongside POPVision’s ecstatic embrace of the dance floor? This paper examines Pop’s endings alongside U2’s catalogue.

First, in conversation with U2’s other studio albums. How do themes of lullaby, evoked in “MLK,” illuminate WUDM? Are there inter-album references, as occurs with “13 (There is a light)”? How might the genre of lament, referenced in “40,” help us understand WUDM?

Second, against U2’s narratives regarding other album endings. The band have cultivated a narrative that Pop was unfinished. Yet U2’s narrative regarding the ending of War reference a similar pressured deadline. What to make of these contrasts, in which the rush of War becomes an artistic triumph, yet Pop a premature travesty?

Third, U2’s choice of ending songs in live performance. WUDM was played in twenty-two of the ninety-three Popmart concerts, every time as an encore. This points toward a performative role of benediction, a final prayer invoking divine blessing. Yet midway through the Elevation Tour, WUDM shifts to be played mid-performance, between “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “One.” This suggests a different performative role, of lament rather than benediction. How might the interplay between songs as album-ending and concert-ending illuminate the endings of Pop?

I argue that for U2, endings, whether album or concert, deconstruct the dance floor glitter embedded in the now of every performance.

And in case you’re interested, here are my 7 publications in relation to U2:

“Divine Moves: Pneumatology as Passionate Participation in U2’s “Mysterious Ways”” U2 and the Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher (Bloomsbury Studies in Religion and Popular Music), edited by Scott Calhoun, Bloomsbury Press, (forthcoming).

“U2 Praying the Pattern of the Psalms in Paris.” Equip 30, 2017, 20-21.

“Let “us” in the sound: the transformative elements in U2′s live concert experience,” U2 Above, Across, and Beyond: Interdisciplinary Assessments (For the Record: Lexington Studies in Rock and Popular Music), edited by S Calhoun, Lexington Books, 2014, 105-121

“Public Lament,” Spiritual Complaint: The Theology and Practice of Lament, edited by MJ Bier & T Bulkeley, Pickwick Publishers, 2013, 205-227, (co-authored with E. C Boase).

“Baptist Worship and Contemporary Culture: A New Zealand Case Study,” Interfaces. Baptists and Others: International Baptist Studies (Studies in Baptist History and Thought), edited by David Bebbington and Martin Sutherland, Paternoster, 2013, 292-307.

“U2,” Don’t Stop Believin’. Don’t Stop Believin’: Pop Culture and Religion from Ben-Hur to Zombies, edited by Craig Detweiler, Robert K. Johnston and Barry Taylor, Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 125-127.

““Bullet the Blue Sky”: the evolving live concert performances,” Exploring U2: Is This Rock ‘n’ Roll?: Essays on the Music, Work, and Influence of U2 edited by Scott Calhoun, Scarecrow Press, 2011, 84-97.

Posted by steve at 09:39 PM

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

baptismal words: indigenous and creation based

On Sunday, I was asked to participate in a baptismal service at a local Presbyterian student congregation. In preparing, I wanted to ensure baptism was rooted in a Biblical frame. I wanted to honour the bi-cultural relationships of which the Presbyterian church in New Zealand is a part. I also wanted to connect baptism with creation, given the importance of creation as a mark of mission in the church.

I was encouraged in this direction by a conversation in January with a Maori colleague, who noted the importance of water in Maori culture, and how the old people always reminded him that from an indigenous theological perspective were are all children of the sea. He offered a Maori proverb:

Tangaroa whakamautai, nga tamariki o te Moana nui a Kiwa.

He then linked the proverb with an Old Testament Scripture, from Genesis 6, of the Noah story. This is very astute. Rupert of Deutz, an 11th century theologian, wrote of “how familiarly and how frequently the Holy Spirit was revered even before the coming of Christ, mostly with respect to water” (Rogers, The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings, 178).

water-body-macro-shot-1388772 The conversation got me thinking about the importance of water in the Bible and in baptism. So I pondered scriptures in which there is a connection between water and God – and how they might help us understand baptism. Anyhow, here is what resulted … (more…)

Posted by steve at 09:19 PM

Monday, May 15, 2017

lectio drawing: celtic knots and Scriptural contemplation

Lectio divina (Latin for “Divine Reading”) is a practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word. It normally involves hearing Scripture.

Over the weekend, I explored drawing rather than hearing. It involved Celtic knot-making to engage Scripture. Celtic knot-making involves an “under and over” sequence. Applied to journaling, it involves drawing a number of interwoven lines onto the blank page of a journal. Colour and words can then applied.

I became by randomly drawing three lines across a blank page. The physicality of movement and shape seemed to settle me, the movement opening me up to engage and connect.

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The Scripture text was Romans 12. Verses 6-8 list a range of gifts, given to individuals for ministry in the church. I was drawn to three gifts – teaching, encouraging and leading – which are a part of my current role. So I wrote the three gifts into the three lines.

I had also been drawn to verse 1 – “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” I like the earthed dimensions of the spirituality on offer. I’d never thought about it before, but there was a potential connection between ordinary life and the living of gifts.

So I selected three words – sleeping, working and walking. Consistent with the Celtic knot making, I connected each word with each gift: sleep – teach; walk – encourage; work – lead.

Suddenly, there was a different way to reflect on my gifts. Regular sleep, awaking refreshed enhances my ability to teach. Walking – at the beach on Sunday afternoon, running mornings before work, walks after lunch in the nearby park, walking to the movies and art gallery – enhances my capacity to encourage. It was a rich, generative way to consider my working week ahead. What I don’t do (resting) is as important as what I do. Time taken to replenish is a tending to my life gifts.

It was a rich set of insights that emerged, a new way of considering the connections between rest and work, between restoration and service. I would never have made these connections if it wasn’t for lectio drawing: using Celtic knots to engage with Scripture.

Further links:
- I talk about lectio decorio – engaging the skin through touch here.
- I talk more about Celtic knot making as it relates to leadership and reading Scripture in my recent book, Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration.

Posted by steve at 09:50 PM

Thursday, April 13, 2017

God the pain bearer Easter communion

IMG_4766 I was asked to lead a short Easter communion service at an Christian-based justice agency today. I have been developing a relationship with them over the last 18 months, wanting to explore how to train ministers that can connect with communities and community development. So sharing communion seemed an appropriate next step

I decided to focus on God as pain bearer. It is a phrase from a contemporary version of the Lords Prayer, it is a large part of the Easter story and it is a way of understanding the vocation of this Christian-based justice agency, as bearing the pain in the community.

IMG_4767 I began with newspapers and invited people to find a headline or picture of pain, tear it out and place it around the cross. I found a version of “Te Ariki,” sung by prisoners and recorded in a prison. The lines in Maori “Oh Lord, listen to us.  Oh Lord, look at us. This is us, your children” seemed an appropriate backdrop to our connecting with the pain of the world. You can even hear prison doors slamming in the background. (from The Inside Volume 1: Auckland Prisons. Recorded at Paremoremo and Mt Eden Prison in July 1991 by Te Ao Marama Productions).

IMG_4768 I chopped the Easter events into 4 sections (the Dramatised Bible is a great resource for this type of reading).
- the pain bearing of Easter Thursday
- the pain bearing of Easter Friday morning
- the pain bearing of Easter Friday afternoon
- the pain bearing of Easter Friday evening

This story of pain bearing does not wave a magic wand or seek quick fix. It is rather an invitation to sit with and be among. That allowed us to hear the words of communion as a “Take, eat, this is my pain bearing body broken for you.” And the epiclesis (the invoking of the Spirit upon the Eucharistic bread and wine) as a request for the Spirit to strengthen us as painbearers.

At a personal level, it has been a particularly difficult few months at work, with significant internal and external pressures. Sitting here, leading worship with people committed to justice in the community, was a reminder of call and focus. I’m happiest not as an administrator but as a creative thinker making interactive spaces. It was a privilege I was grateful for.

For those interested: here is the entire service script (more…)

Posted by steve at 01:17 PM

Sunday, February 26, 2017

liturgy of sighing

to sigh: emit a long, deep audible breath expressing sadness, relief, tiredness, or similar

Mark 7:34 Jesus looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”).

A few weeks ago, I was asked to provide a brief welcome to a KCML training event. It was an event focused on training children and youth workers and about 55 folk were present. Some had driven over four hours, while others had flown from the North Island. As we began, I wanted to not only welcome, but also to locate our day in prayer.

The lectionary reading from the day before described Jesus healing a blind man. Reading it, I had been struck by the fact that Jesus sighed. I live in a family of audible sighers and it was nice to realise we shared our humanity, our sadness, relief and tiredness, with Jesus. In my own prayer, I had spent time thinking about the things I was sighing about.

Standing to welcome folk, I noted the need to begin with prayer. I described the very common human experience of sighing and invited us as a group to pray be sighing together!

Since it was a gathering focused on children and young people, I invited us to think of a young person that we were currently sighing about.

And to sigh together. And we did.

Since it was a gathering of leaders working with children and young people, I invited us to think of a leader in our ministry that we were currently sighing about.

And to sigh together. And we did.

Since we were a gathering of people thinking about mission and ministry into our communities, I invited us to think of something in our community that we were currently sighing about.

And to sigh together. And we did.

Since we were a gathering of people aware of politics and politicians, I invited us to think of a politician that was making us sigh.

And to sigh together. And we did.

I then read from Mark 7:34.

And I prayed: that our day together would result in our eyes being opened; opened to see healing and change in our young people and our leaders and our communities and the politics of our world; a prayer prayed in the name of Jesus who signed, and saw the reality of lives “being opened.” Amen.

It was a simple liturgy. It orientated us around Scripture. It acknowledged the humanity of ministry, that it causes us to be sad, relieved, tired. It placed us in context, inviting us to focus on people and community and real life. It was individualised, inviting people to pray for what was on their heart, what was causing them to sigh. It was participatory, a whole room of people sighing together. It used the senses, the physical act of sighing, the audible hearing of others sighing around us. It invited God to be present, to open eyes and situations in revelatory ways.

A liturgy of sighing. Feel free to join our prayer, to sigh also at things you wish to be opened.

Posted by steve at 07:56 PM