Thursday, March 12, 2015

minding the gap in team formation

Minding the gap can build teams and form cultures. Let me tell you what happened, then unpack the learnings.

It began yesterday during chapel. The reader of the Gospel reading missed some words. Instead of

For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

the reader initially offered us

For God so loved the world

that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Realising the gap, the reader quickly, and appropriately, corrected themselves.

The missing words got me thinking. Those 8 words. What would it mean if they were not just missing, but actually absent. What type of faith would we have if those words were not in the Bible? What type of life might be lived, if there really was no “that he gave his one and only Son”?

To put it another way. Christ-centred is one of the core values of Uniting College. So, if we as a College had no Christ, would it make any tangible difference to life, to our teaching and the way we treat each other?

I decided to make this the focus of our team devotions today. It would offer a continuity with what was a great chapel. It would allow us to explore a core value. In addition, we also have four folk new to our team in the last 3 months. So this conversation might enable them to be drawn more deeply into our team culture.

So I began the devotion, by pointing out the gap. I’d produced the words, the complete verse and the verse with the words missing, on a sheet of paper for folk to hold and handle. In pairs I invited them to reflect on what happened if those words went missing and on whether faith would be different. Each pair fed back, ensuring a shared voice across the team. And then together as a whole group, I asked if the presence of Jesus does in any way affect our workplace.

The conversation was excellent, animated and intense. A newcomer observed that the missing 8 words spoke of love. And her experience of our workplace was of nurture. Which could only come from love. So yes, Jesus obviously was important. Another noted that these words were an invitation, not an imposition. So our commitment to Christ could be done in way in which faith need not be forced. Others noted they had no interest in teaching leadership without Christ and that without Jesus, homiletics was simply motivational speaking. Which they were not in the least interested in teaching. So yes, Jesus was important.

So what did I learn about team formation?

  • First, that the most effective teaching tool can be a question. In this case “do those missing words matter?”
  • Second, that observation can open up significant learning.  In this case one simple observation – of 8 missing words; followed by the question -  resulted in an excellent collaborative discussion.
  • Third, that those new to a team, as they find their voice, can add important richness and perspective to a team discussion.
  • Fourth, that team culture is never static. It requires constant work. Tonight, the Uniting College team culture is richer than it was this morning. Because I minded the gap.
Posted by steve at 09:09 PM | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

lectio decorio (reading the skin)

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. For more resources go here.

Lectio divina (divine reading) is a practice by which Scripture is read slowly, seeking for God’s voice. Today I invited the community at worship at Uniting College to enter into lectio decorio (reading the skin). (Decorio is latin for skin).

The spark was the lectionary text – John 2:13-22, when Jesus cleanses the temple. Searching google, I found the work of Amanda Galloway. As a way to connect with women in India, a system of Biblical story telling has been developed. It uses the traditional henna process to symbolize biblical stories (I’ve blogged about henna and Biblical storytelling before). Henna, a temporary artwork drawn on hands and other parts of the body, is a popular beauty technique in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. As the story is told, the images are drawn onto the hand and arm.

Jesus-Cleanses-the-TempleDIAGRAMB

I didn’t have the time (chapel is 20 minutes, including communion), nor the materials (henna), to literally use henna. But I loved the way the Amanda Galloway’s design told the story, and told it onto skin. It seeemed to also connect with the Biblical text, which was all about whips and overturned tables and thus a story about skin in the game of justice.

So, after reading the lectionary text, I introduced the design. I noted how it is used. I then invited folk to trace the design onto their skin. Not with henna, but by using their finger, while I read the text (slowly enough to give time for the tracing).

And so skin touched skin, as the Bible story was heard and traced (decorio).

I then repeated the process, inviting folk to trace to design on their other hand. Given that folk most likely initially chose their dominant hand, it felt deeply gospel to trace the design again, this time using a weaker finger. This also created links between the two contexts – us in the first week of the semester, with all the new learning that a semester involves, women in India, unable to read, but still opening themselves to learning.

I then moved into the six minute communion. And suddenly the passing of the peace had new meaning. It was another moment of lectio decorio, reading the skin, as the gospel story traced on my hand touched the gospel story traced on the hand on another.

I’m still to unpack with those gathered what the experience meant for them.

But for me, the invitation three times to hear a Gospel story, the deeper sense of connection as that gospel was traced on my skin, the sharing of a practice from another cultural context as an expression of solidarity in learning – felt very embodied.

So there we are, lectio decorio (reading the skin).

Posted by steve at 09:42 PM

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Worth coming for the creative resources alone

“It’s worth coming for the creative resources alone,” said a happy punter as they tucked the order of worship into their bag. Yesterday we kicked off at Uniting College another year of Leadership Formation Days.

These aim to build community among individuals on the journey to ordination. So yesterday in small groups and with the aid of colour chips of paint, relationships were built.

They invite reflection on the practice of ministry. So yesterday input on Pauline spirituality and adaptive leadership in resource poor congregations. A rich, deep study of how Paul’s spirituality of ministry connected with the work of Heifetz (Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading), and provided richness for ministers in aging congregations.

They provide prayer and worship – in ways that are “worth coming for the creative resources alone.” So yesterday praise, for the generations before who had formed us, and intercession, for the generations we are involved in forming.

orderofservice

Names written on yellow and orange post-it notes, placed around the edge of the communion table. On which some godly play around the lectionary text was done, the giving of the 10 commandments. On which the communion elements, bread and wine were shared.

commuiondesert

They share stories, in order to build our ability to work with the living documents that are the lives of people. So yesterday, two stories of the journey to ministry and the journey in ministry. A few tears, as redemption was enfleshed.

Posted by steve at 07:42 AM

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Lost Thing Liturgy

I preached at chapel yesterday. I used Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing, an Academy Award winning animated film, as part of the sermon. I found the original soundtrack on Itunes and the song titles sparked a way to create resonance between Word and Sacrament.

Here is the Lost thing communion liturgy

(Music: The search – 1:00)

The Lord is here.
God’s Spirit is with us.

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to offer thanks and praise.

It is right indeed, ever-living God,
to give you thanks and praise through Christ your only Son.
Without you our hearts are restless
We are lost
Until we find our home in you

Therefore with all the found at home in you,
With animals and atoms, angels and archangels,
we proclaim your great and glorious name,
for ever praising you and saying:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

(Music: Feeding – 1:16)

On the night before he died , your Son, Jesus Christ, took bread;
when he had given you thanks, he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said:
Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you; do this to remember me.

After supper he took the cup; when he had given you thanks,
he gave it to them and said:
Drink this, all of you, for this is my blood of the new covenant
which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins;
do this as often as you drink it, to remember my mission to lost things

Therefore loving God, recalling your great goodness to us in Christ,
you who came to seek and save the lost
you who told stories of lost sheep, lost coins, lost sons,
you who gathered lost disciples,
by lakes and wayside tax collectors

We celebrate our foundness in this bread of life
and this cup of salvation.

With thanksgiving and hope we say:
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come in glory.

Send your Holy Spirit, that these gifts of bread and wine
may be to us the body and blood of Christ,
and that we, filled with the Spirit’s grace and power,
may be renewed for the mission of your kingdom.

The gifts of God, for the lost of God, Amen.

(Music: Utopia – 3:11)

The music that shaped this liturgy was titled Search, Feeding, Utopia. And so we thank you God that you have searched for us, that you have fed us and for your offer as utopia in the communion we share in this time, this place, this community. And we say together The Lords Prayer …

Posted by steve at 07:20 AM

Friday, September 26, 2014

mission orandi, mission credendi

Today was the third day of the National Ministers Conference in Jerusalem. A programme re-shuffle meant that I had the luck of doing the last session of the day, starting at 4 pm. After a 7:30 am departure from the hotel for the second day in a row, it was going to be a tough, tough session. So during the afternoon tea break, I re-jigged the session. It needed some group activity, and importantly, an activity that might be meaningful.

The session theme was titled – Walking in their space, gifts of strangers. To explore the theme, we began with Eric, a story of the gifts given by a stranger. We then looked at the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, in which mission agents, in the meeting of strangers, receive gifts.

I noted that this theme, of “strangers/outsiders” being agents of blessing, appears in other places in the Biblical text. For example
• Rahab – Matthew 1:5
• Ruth – Matthew 1:5
• Magi – Matthew 2:11
• Roman centurion – Matthew 8:10 – “no one in Israel have I found such faith”
• Luke 4:26-27- Widow of Zarephath and Namaan the Syrian
• Samaritan woman – John 4:27-30
• Eunuch – Acts 8:26-38
• Roman centurion – Acts 10:1-2

I shared how in preaching on the Syrophonecian woman recently, I was struck by Jesus commendation of her, as having “great faith.” So I entered the story by trying to discern, liturgically, what of her faith was evident in the Biblical text, in words and deeds and by writing an affirmation of faith. I found it a very moving experience, to realise the richness of her Christology at that moment.

So I offered the group an interactive exercise. In groups, take a Bible text. Ask each other what gifts do the outsiders/strangers bring? Have a go at trying to express this gift using liturgical forms eg affirmation of faith, lament, prayers for others?

Why? Practically, it would keep people engaged. It would allow us to be faithful to our call, to prayer the input of the day back to God. At a more subtle level, it would be an example of “mission in reverse.” It would let the voices of those “outside” the community of faith form and shape our worship. In so doing, it might actually inter-weave mission and worship; worship and mission. In other words, a sort of reframing of the historic church affirmation, the rule of prayer is the rule of belief; lex orandi, lex credendi. If we pray our mission, we might end up believing (and acting) our mission.

The result was astonishing. Energy levels went right up. Within 30 minutes, the groups had written 8 short liturgies. Intriguingly, with no orchestration, they spanned an order of service (without the preaching).
• Call to worship
• Prayer of praise
• Collect of illumination
• Confession
• Litany
• Prayers for others
• Word of mission
• Collect of blessing

And so to end the session we worshipped. Each group offered their liturgy. As worship. Which enfolded our day and helped us move through. An example of mission orandi, mission credendi? Time will tell.

Posted by steve at 01:47 AM

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

alt.worship in Istanbul

This is the most gorgeous space for alt.worship.

cisterns Istanbul

The Basilica Cisterns in Istanbul. Built by a Roman Emperor (Justinian), to store water in 532 AD, they have been opened to tourists in recent years.

It was dark, being underground, which immediately invited a different experience. It was lit, each pillar, creating a rich mood. There was water, being an underground cistern, which gave the light another surface to reflect with. There was music, a soft, ethereal, looped recording, which opened up a even richer space. There was history, something retrieved from the past and offered into contemporary culture. It was a reminder of the beauty and potential of space.

Not all alt.worship can find such spaces.

But that awareness of environments, the interplay of senses and the retrieval of history – those are all key elements in alt.worship. The best exploration of this is Doug Gay, Remixing The Church: Towards an Emerging Ecclesiology. His work on unbundling and retrieval provide an excellent analysis of the rich and complex interactions possible when faith is thrown forward because it is located in the past.

Posted by steve at 04:40 AM

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

QR codes in worship

This image of a temporary tattoo QR code printed on a person (from here) got me thinking about embodiment and worship.

QR codes

I love that sense of mystery, of not knowing, yet of being aware of information on offer. It got me thinking about worship. For example, here is the lectionary reading for Sunday. (Built from here)

QR Code

Imagine that on the front of the newsletter as people came in.

Or imagine printing various stations on people. Here is a call to worship, again linked to the lectionary text.

Welcome to worship

And to have people scattered around your auditorium, as “worship leaders.” Finding these people and using your cell phone to find out the next step in your worship journey.

Posted by steve at 07:55 PM

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Affirmations from the outside

On Sunday I preached Matthew 15:22-28, Jesus encounter with the Syro-Phonecian woman. I was struck by her understanding of Jesus, her articulation of faith.

Sometimes in worship we draw on affirmations of faith, spoken statements about what we understand of Christ. These often come from those inside the church. Yet here in Matthew 15, Jesus declares the Syro-Phonecian woman has “great faith.” (15:28)

So what is the Affirmation of faith not from the “inside” but from the “outside”, from one outside the church?

I believe in God the compassionate (have mercy, my daughter is suffering – v. 22)
in whom is mercy

I believe in Jesus the healer and helper (help me – v. 25)
from a royal line (Lord, Son of David – v. 22)
the radical boundary crosser (stepping across boundaries from your culture to my culture)

I believe in a Spirit, generous
in calling me from past to present (moving beyond the pain of the past, your ancestor’s history with Canaanite).

Now isn’t that a faith worth affirming, an outsider Creed worth bringing into our midst?

Posted by steve at 07:13 PM

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lost Dogs Breathe Deep

Classic song. Great rift, great lyrics, such a lovely interplay of all people invited into God’s presence.

Michael Treston introduced me to Lost Dogs. It was 1996 and we were planting Graceway.

Michael and Maureen arrived from Thames, to train at Carey Baptist College for pastoral ministry. A welder from Redcar in England and a Maori woman from Thames, they added some much needed reality to our community.

Posted by steve at 11:04 PM

Monday, June 16, 2014

Trinity art at Tarlee

On Sunday, I led worship and preached at Tarlee Uniting. It was Trinity Sunday and I offered a number of multi-sensory ways to engage the Trinity – a tasting experience, a body prayer, a visual engagement with two art images, the making of friendship bracelets as a benediction. I was a bit unsure how, being new to a church, such input would go. I was also unsure how it would play in a rural community.

Despite my anxiety, people engaged really, really well. There was lots of interaction. What was even more intriguing was that within a few minutes of the service finishing, the visual images were being displayed on the outdoor noticeboard.

trinity sunday at tarlee

The full service was as follows –

Trinity Sunday 2014

Enter – Taste the trio – hand out cracker, cheese and gherkins at door instead of hymnbooks

Welcome – 2 Cor 13: 14 The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.

Introduction to theme – Why food? Trinity Sunday. Three in one.

Praise – use songs. Use our bodies
God is beyond anything we can imagine (traditionally the symbol of God the Father)
God is with us (and many believe became one of us- the “Son”)
God is within us (The Spirit)
and amongst us (The Spirit)

Children’s talk – introduce Rublev’s Icon, as a way of understanding God for culture that cannnot read, as a picture to be explained.

Readings: 2 Corinthians 13:11-end; Matthew 28:16-20

Reflection – Malcolm Gordon, Sweetest mystery

Confession:
O God, even as we celebrate your unity, we know that sometimes
we break that unity, in our own lives, in our families, in our communities, with your earth

Sermon – introduce a second art piece, then return to name the children’s talk picture as Rublevs Icon, and set the context as a act of public and practical theology.

Offering and Intercession: Pick up on the two lectionary texts. 2 Corinthians 13:11-end and so to pray for church and people we know; Matthew 28:16-20 and so to pray for God’s mission in the world.

Final song: I bind unto myself – St Patrick, Eucharist CD – while making friendship bracelet. Including option of weaving in a bead (My partner had find beads with letters of the alphabet, and people were invited to choose a bead with a name of person that want woven into the Trinity of love.

Benediction: Return to opening greeting, 2 Corinthians 13:11-end

Posted by steve at 12:12 PM

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

ascension day worship: creationary

Call to worship – Meet me in the middle of the air, Paul Kelly

A divine invitation, through the words of Paul Kelly, to make this a time to come, meet with God.

Welcome to country and praise.
And so we appreciate this place as a meeting place. In silence, we respect to those who’ve met here before us – other students and staff. In silence we respect other denominations who’ve met in this place. In silence, we respect to traditional owners of this land; their elders.

Link: The Paul Kelly song has echoes of Psalm 23. It also has echoes of Ascension Day. 40 days after Easter; 10 days before Pentecost. Church celebrates Ascension Day. It’s major feast in the church. When Jesus goes to meet God. Let’s hear the Story.

Scripture – Acts 1:1-11

Affirmation of faith: verbal – In response to the reading, a verbal affirmation of faith

Say Apostles Creed

Affirmation of faith: visual – In response, to the reading, a visual affirmation of faith

lansdowne mss

Lansdowne ‘The Shaftesbury Psalter’; 2nd quarter of the 12th century

Reflection

Two spheres, blue and red. Two angels, lifting up feet of Jesus toward the Divine. The disciples gathered.

It’s a very literal interpretation. I love the angel robed in green, the literalness of gravity at work, the robe hanging down. Part of me struggles with literalism. I’m a White Westerner. I don’t live with a view of the world of 1st century world.

Yet part of me also finds the literalism strangely compelling. It affirms importance of bodies. The Ascension of Jesus means that the human body joins God. No human body of Jesus folding up like a sack of skin on the ground.

Instead we have the nail scarred hands been taken to heaven. Spear wound. Calloused feet from walking all over Judea. Hands that touched a leper. The nose that smelt dead Lazarus emerging. The mouth that enjoyed the best of wine at the wedding of Cana.

This human body joins God. Not cast aside as B-grade. The body is as important as spirit. Our armpits and noses, sweat glands, feelings, tiredness – all caught up, in Jesus, with God. Embraced in the Trinity. The celebration of human bodies is complete.

Personally, I find that literalism, that valuing of real bodies more and more compelling.

It also helps me appreciate much more the body left behind. Eugene Rogers, theologian, (in his book After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology from Resources Outside the West) notes how you have to read Ascension Day with Pentecost.

At Ascension God goes up, the body of Christ leaves. Pentecost, God comes down in the Spirit, the body begins, the church as the body of Christ. A second valuing of the body. Our body. Us as the church. Our armpits and noses, sweat glands, feelings, tiredness – embraced in the Trinity. The celebration of human body the church is complete.

This is a feature for Uniting Church as we come to communion. As a Uniting Church, we believe that the Spirit does not inhabit the elements. Nor does it inhabit the holy hands. Rather the Spirit inhabits the gathered community.

We are the body of Christ. We need to let go, Don’t touch, in order to truly be.

Leader: We confess, our lack of care for our bodies, our lack of care for the body of Christ, the church, We confess

All: we have wandered, bring us home

Absolution: Grace, peace and purpose be upon you

Peace: Greet your neighbours with the sign of peace

Leader: Let us pray Lift up your hearts, give thanks and sing

ALL: Hosanna, Hosanna

Leader: Father thanks for making us thanks for taking us, thanks for showing us the way And thankyou especially for you Son Jesus Christ who said, take, eat this is my body, which is given for you

And take, drink, this is my blood shed for you for many, for the forgiveness of sins. Spirit, bless it, bless us, your body; Bless all creation

All: As it was, as it is, as it will be

By human God, through abundant God, to the glory of Almighty God

All: Amen

We believe this to be the body and blood of Christ, Not to be taken lightly Let anyone who feels called is welcome to this table These are the gifts of God, for the people of God.

Serve bread.

Say together The Lord’s prayer

Thankyou Lord, for being with us

Benediction: As you go, may the Ascended Christ meet you

Posted by steve at 02:36 PM

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Graduation charge

The annual College graduation happened on Monday evening. As part of the evening, it was suggested we introduce a charge to the graduates, something to focus them as the evening drew to an end. I was asked to have a go. Searching for inspiration, I took our Graduate outcomes, four in number and tried to weave some verbs and some theology around them.

Here is the result, a charge to graduates

We charge you to go,
Go, in the power of God’s Spirit, Advocate, Gift-giver, Bringer of life,
Go, to be a reflective thinker, to engage the richness of Christian faith with life and people, wherever you find them.

We charge you to walk,
Walk with the deep tradition of the church in history, in the footsteps of Abraham and Sarah, Priscilla and Aquila, Augustine and Aquinas
Walk as skilled practitioners, integrating theology and practice – creatively, imaginatively and wisely – wherever you find yourself.

We charge you to travel,
Travel, from the love of this community of learners
Travel as life long learners, self-directed, yet collaborative, connecting with people and communities, wherever you find them

We charge you to journey,
Journey in the name of Christ – teacher, storyteller, parable maker,
Journey, as an effective communicator, respectful in dialogue, empowering in leadership, active in justice and compassion.

We charge you.

Posted by steve at 06:16 PM

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

laying the table: creationary Psalm 23 and John 10

I had a few minutes today, in which to put together some worship for College chapel (20 minute chapels that take place weekly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays). I wish I could have given it more time, but a run of unexpected commitments ate into my planned preparation time.

The lectionary texts for this week include Psalm 23 and John 10. The theme that seemed to emerge was “laying the table.” It links “You prepare a table before me” with “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” and communion. It also connected with my experience during the week. Last night I brought home a bunch of sun flowers for the family. They sat on the kitchen table overnight and just seemed to light up the room. So “laying the table” began to be a theme by which to frame the service.

So I began by telling my story and then inviting folk to lay a flower on the table and name something in which they were finding beauty and life. We ended up with a table spread with flowers. It was lovely, a physical call to worship and expression of praise, our praise, unique to today.

I then noted that the Christian tradition gives us more to “lay on the table.” I laid the Bible on the table, then asked folk to pass it around, reading a verse each from Psalm 23.

I then noted that the Christian tradition gives us more to “lay on the table.” This time, baptism for cleansing. A short prayer and then I sprinkled water from the font over those gathered, over the table, over the entrance way, and used some sentences from John 10 as the Words of absolution.

I then noted that the Christian tradition gives us yet more to “lay on the table.” I placed on the table bread and wine. By now the table was very richly symbolic – praise, Scripture, confession and absolution in baptism, communion – all laid by us as a community in ways both personal yet connective with the Christian tradition. Indeed, a table prepared before us, one in which we find life, and have it abundantly.

Which led naturally into intercession, praying for places that lack abundance.

Below is the worship order with some more exact wording: (more…)

Posted by steve at 06:08 PM

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

resourcing Lent

I was asked to lead devotions for a group yesterday. Being Lent, I took 3 images from the week that was in Si Smith’s wonderful 40 series and printed them on paper.

I provided a brief introduction, of the author, of the imaginative exercise of wondering what Jesus might have done for 40 days in the wilderness and how these were resourcing my life this Lent. I then invited the group in pairs, to take an image each.

What strikes you? What Biblical passages come to mind as you look at each picture?

Share with the wider group?

If these pictures were prayer, what would it be? We’re busy people, so please keep it simple. Either thanks for … or please…

The interaction was rich, the insights important, the prayer apt, heartfelt and richly participative.

Posted by steve at 08:38 AM