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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

preamble communion words

Throughout this week, Uniting College has been participating in the Destiny Together week of prayer and fasting. This is a week to pray and fast for justice for the First Peoples. We’ve been praying daily at 9:30 am each morning as a College and chapel has been open over lunchtime for those who might want to fast. Today at Community worship we shared worship with folk from our local Congress Church – an embodiment of Destiny Together.

I was leading communion and aware of the occasion, wondered what words might shape the practice of communion. I began to wonder if the Preamble, which was drafted in 2009 as a way to constitutionally acknowledge Aboriginal and Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia might be of us. It became a rich journey, exploring how those words, based on extensive consultation with the church, offer a theology of truthtelling and in turn might now become Eucharistic life. To do this would surely be a step toward Destiny Together, a sharing of an agreed document and God in our past, present, future.

So, here is what I drafted, mixing Preamble phrases into a communion liturgy. I used the shape of Uniting in Worship 2, seeking for phrases from the Preamble to give shape. I think it ticks all the boxes – there is epiclesis, confession, Lords prayer, God’s action in history, eschatology, Words of institution (modified slightly but in keeping with other aspects of Eucharistic theology).

With the elements served to us by the Aunties. Wonderful.

Communion:

The Lord be with you

And also with you

Lift up your hearts

We lift them to the Lord

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God

It is right to give our thanks and praise

We bless you Creator for this earth, for the Dreaming and Song lines sung long before human

We thank you for the Spirit already in the land revealing God to the people through law, custom, ceremony

We bless you for the same love and grace that was fully and finally revealed in Jesus Christ

Who took bread, broke it, said Take, eat, in solidarity with those who suffer

Who took the cup, gave thanks, said This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out in hope of life to the full

We bless you for the church and all the storytellers and whisperers of hope through history, called to seek a renewal of its life as a community of First peoples and of Second Peoples from many land.

We lament the silence of the church in the face of broken relationships, Jesus lamb of God

Have mercy on us

We grieve the processes of dispossession, Jesus bearer of our sins

Have mercy on us

We confess the practices of colonisation, Jesus redeemer of the world

Grant us peace

We eat this bread as a foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation

We drink this cup, as a sign of our destiny together, praying and working together for a fuller expression of our reconciliation in Jesus Christ.

Pour out your Spirit on us, that these gifts of bread and wine, may make us one with each other and in ministry in the world

Lords prayer in Kaurna language:

Yeowa-rna Marngari-tti
Jehovah-’s request / pray-thing ‘The Lord’s Prayer’
Ngadluko yerli karralika tikka-ndi;
Our father on high sits ‘Our father sits in heaven’
Ninna narri tampi-rna, kuinyunda kumarta-ppi-rna;
You name acknowledge-let sacred apart-cause-let ‘Let your name be acknowledged, let it be kept sacred.’
Ninko yerlti-yerlti-nya pintya-rna;
Your advice/command create-let ‘Let your rule be established’
Ninko padloni-tti yerta-ngga wappi-rna
Your want-thing earth-on do-let ‘Let your want be done on earth’
Karra-ngga nammutannaintya-ndi
High-on resemble-ing ‘As it is on high’
Ngadluko mai yunggu-ndo!
Our food give-you! ‘Give (us) our food.’
Ngadluko wakkinna kumba-ppi-ndo!
Our sin remove-make-you! ‘Take away our sin.’
Ngadlu tangka waia-re-ndi kumarta-nna-ityangga wakkinna wappe-ndi
We liver move-itself-is separate-pl-with wrong do-ing ‘Have compassion for those who do wrong.’
Wakkinna-anna warti-tti
Sin-to draw-don’t ‘Don’t draw us into sin.’
Wakkinna-unangko tirra-tirga-ppi-ndo
Sin-from protect make-you! ‘Save us from sin.’
Ninna mattanya, taingi, wilta, burti burti tarkari tundarri.
You owner strength power gladness future forever
‘You are the boss, the strength, the power, the glory for ever and ever.’
Wappi-rna!
Do-let! (i.e. let it be done)
‘Amen.’

Benediction:

Go in peace to live a Destiny together

Posted by steve at 05:47 PM

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

st patricks day pioneer worship

Yesterday was both St Patricks Day and the start of our week of pioneer evenings with Dave Male. So it seemed appropriate to bring them both together.

I began with a contemporary icon of St Patrick, painted by Scott Erickson at Ecclesia community.


What strikes us? What links do we make with our theme – pioneering? What image speaks to us?

I then introduced Breastplate, from the Eucharist CD. I noted the refrain – I bind unto myself today – and invited us, while the song played, to biro tattoo the image that speaks to us onto our arms.

By way of conclusion, as a communal act, we said the Breastplate together.

ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The strong name of the trinity
Right: By invocation of the same
Leader: The three in one and one in three

ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The great love of the living word
Right: The wisdom of my God to teach
Leader: His hand to guide his shield to ward

ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The virtues of the starlit heaven
Right: The glorious sun’s life giving ray
Leader: The fruits of earth so freely given

ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The power of God to hold and lead
Right: His eye to watch his might to stay
Leader: His ear to hearken to my need

ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The way of Christ in life and death
Right: The call of God to jubilee
Leader: In broken chains and cancelled debt

ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The strong name of the trinity
Right: By invocation of the same
Leader: The three in one and one in three

(Words attributed to St Patrick, translation Mrs C F Alexander, 1889, except v.5)

Posted by steve at 01:11 PM

Friday, March 07, 2014

Dispersed Lent Journal Project 2014

This week I released these around the 34 Lipsett Terrace community

Four journals. On the front cover, the following words … Open me, browse me, take me, write in me, return me.

Inside, mainly blank white pages. A few images, a few practices, in case people get stuck. And the following explanation

Dispersed Lent Journal Project

Here at 34 Lipsett Terrace, we are a dispersed community. We are students, staff, teachers. We are post-graduates and undergraduates. We are studying for audit and for credit. We are casual library borrowers and we are hard working full-time students.

The Lenten journal project invites those who cross paths at 34 Lipsett Terrace to share with each other, through a dispersed pattern, what the season of Lent means to us.

The Overview: Lent in the church year is a time to focus on spiritual renewal. Different traditions in the church do this differently. The Dispersed Lent journals invite you to share with each other what this season means to you and how you connect more fully with the God-story in the days leading up to Easter.

The concept: A journal is a place to write. We can write privately, for ourselves. We can write publicly for others. The Lent journal invites us to write publicly, to share faith with each other.

How to proceed?
1. Once you have received the journal, you have no more than seven and no less than two days to spend with it.
2. During those days, put whatever you like in the journal – thoughts, ideas, drawings, photos, recipes, reflections – anything that captures what Lent means for you and how you connect with God during this season. Be creative. Use the exercises or images. Write in your own language.
3. Write aware that what you write will be read by a stranger. That is the nature of a public journal.
4. When you are finished, pass the journal onto another person in the Department of Flinders or ACD or UCLT or Adelaide Theological Library community.
a) It might be someone in your class
b) It might be a lecturer or staff person
c) You might leave it on the table in the Common Space or Adelaide Theological Library.
5. If you get given a journal for a second or third time, it will most likely be different than the first time you received it – different time, more input. You could pass it on straight away. Or treat it as an invitation to write further.

Who gets a journal? Four journals have been prepared. Each is different – different visual, different set of potential practices. Each will be touched by different hands, passed to different people. Each will encounter you at a different time in Lent. Each will be released into the 34 Lipsett Terrace community during the first week of Lent. After the initial release, who knows where the journals will go. Such is the mystery of God in the community.

How is it shared? The journals are public. If you see one, feel free to browse it. When finished, we might scan journal pages (including onto the website) and use them in ongoing ways around the 34 Lipsett Tce campus to encourage students and enhance worship.

So please be aware that by participating in this project, your work will be shared with others.

After Easter, please return the journals to:
Steve Taylor, Uniting College

It will be fascinating to see what happens over Lent.

Posted by steve at 12:05 PM

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

40 as Lent resource

Last night I was asked, along with about 10 others, to present some creative ideas that might help church leaders in South Australia preparing for Lent and Easter. It was a resourcing event put on by the Centre for Music, Liturgy, the Arts and a great way, I thought, of resourcing the church.

Each of us presenting had about 5 minutes to offer something creative. I offered two steps in the creative process. The first piece of creativity was not mine, but is the wonderful meditation prepared by cartoonist Si Smith. It is available for download from Proost.

The second piece of creativity was how I had helped my community more deeply engage the first piece of creativity. I offered the following resources.

Some spoken word, some phrases I spoke over the 40 piece. This was a call to worship, a mix of Scripture and spirituality suggestions, that might help people focus on the images. Not everyone has a visual literacy and not everyone turns that visual literacy on in church. So I hoped (in discussion with Si Smith) that some words might open people up to the visuals. The full script is here. It got some excellent feedback, so I offer it here:

Thanks for this Steve, it was a very powerful call to worship. At our Sunday morning service it provoked someone (else) to give a ten minute meditation on what you said. The quote you give about pace and the scale of the project was an excellent preparation.

Or this one

Really liked the interactive / responsive use of the art. I spent most of today adapting it for my community, daily emails and all.

Then a takeaway postcard – ( postcard here). Some of the spoken phrases were spiritual practices, shaped by the excellent Peter Graystone’s Detox Your Spiritual Life in 40 Days So as well as hearing them spoken, folk could take them away as a resource for the Lent period, things to do, a way of using all our bodies, not just singing, in worship.

Worship curation is for me not about the performance, but able the processes by which people can connect, engage and interact – both in the gathering and into the week beyond.

Posted by steve at 06:08 PM

Friday, December 06, 2013

intuitive worship: baptism, ministry, deeper water and Psalm 42

Today we farewelled a colleague. They had expressed a desire for a ritual moment, so over a number of days, by email, among a number of folk, a service of leaving was sketched.

It’s been a hectic week at College and with one of the key folk sick, I wasn’t convinced that all the i’s were crossed or t’s were dotted. Just in case, I grabbed a Bible as I left my office – a useful tool in case of emergencies.

Sure enough, it emerged on the walk over that no-one was down to do the Bible reading. I’d suggested it, so was happy to read. Especially since I had a Bible.

It was the Psalm for today in the Lectionary, Psalm 42. It fitted really well with the opening song. The colleague loves Paul Kelly, so we’d chosen Deeper Water, a song about growth, journey, life.

Deeper water, deeper water,
Deeper water, calling them on

As the song played live, I began to wonder were to stand to read. My eyes settled on the baptismal font. Water. An intuitive link gets made in my mind.

So as the song ended, I stood and walked to the baptismal font. I introduced the Psalm as about deeper water, as about where is God in deeper water. (As a hart longs for flowing streams (v. 1); Deep calls to deep at the thunder of thy cataracts; all thy waves and thy billows have gone over me (v. 7).)

As the Psalm ended, I returned (Djed) the lyrics of the song. “Deeper water, calling you on, and you’re never alone.” I dipped my hands in the water of the baptismal font and walked across to our departing colleague and bent to make the sign of the cross on his forehead.

An intuitive moment – a mix of Paul Kelly, Psalm 42 and the Christian ritual of baptism. For it is in our baptism that we are called into ministry. So a re-affirmation of baptism as that which holds us on the ongoing journey into ministry.

A few extra seconds, wordless, in which the waters of baptism were applied. And I returned, in silence to my seat. It had felt, intuitively the right thing to do.

Creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary (in this case, baptism, ministry and Psalm 42). For more resources go here.

Posted by steve at 06:21 AM

Saturday, July 27, 2013

seeing formation: a theology of colour

Can we see formation?

In the Jesus Deck, the card for John 20:16 invites us to see the colours of formation. The risen Jesus appears to Mary. This, for Mary, is a life-changing moment. An encounter, a discovery, a recognition. It is a culmination of a number of years of discipleship, of questioning, following, pondering.

And this is visible. You hear it in her words “Master.”

But you also see it, in the Jesus Deck card, in the colours of the face of Mary. You see, around Jesus is a wheel of colour – hues of pinks, oranges, yellows. What is intriguing is that these same colours are in the face of Mary – she reflects, in hues of pinks, oranges, yellows, the colours of the Risen Jesus. This is deeply theological, a way of seeing the likeness of Christ.

But not Mary. Mary can’t see this. She can feel it. She can verbalise it. But we all know it is impossible to see our own faces. So only the viewer, the other, the outsider, can see the life change, can wonder at the colour.

This suggests a profoundly communal approach to formation. Mary needs us to see. Mary is blessed when we name back to her these colours, tell her what we are seeing. Alone we are limited. Together, all the senses are able to be appreciated.

This connects for me in two ways. First, personally, what are the colours currently in my face? Looking at the card, it struck me that I’ve worked too hard this week. Which directly effects the colours in my face. My being out of balance, my lack of formation, physically, becomes apparent. When I’m rested, when I’m relaxed, when I’ve laughed with friends, that shows – in colour, in my face. That’s interesting to ponder.

(Use of Skype for Formation Panels at Uniting College, to enable connection with remote candidates)

Second, this week at Uniting College has included formation panels. For our ministerial candidates, three times a year, for what amounts to a six year period, they meet with same panel of experienced ministers (for more here) Contemplating John 20:16, looking at the Jesus Deck, I realised that these processes are actually about seeing colour. The candidate can feel the impact of training for ministry. The candidate might verbalise this impact. But they can’t see it. It is the gift of the panel, however humanly, however falteringly, to try to name the colours back to the candidate. This is gift, to have what is happening in you and for you discerned and described.

This is deeply communal approach to formation. To reframe Martin Buber, this is not only the “I” of growth, or even the “I” to “I” of a person with a supervisor or mentor. It is an “I” to “we” encounter, a three way partnership between the Risen Jesus of John 20:16, the individual and some members of the body of Christ.

Third (thanks Lynne), this is missional. Anyone can look at the face of another, or in this case the face of Mary. Those inside and outside the community. The encounter with Christ is not only for Mary, not only for formation, it is part of the work of Christ made visible in our world.

Reframing Lindbeck, through time Christianity has developed a grammar for how the colours are described, named, affirmed. This introduces another layer of embodiment. The body in history has this grammar. Saints before (saints current, other candidates in formation, those in the formation panel, Christians and ministers in general) are also colour carriers. This is another dimension of mirroring. Mary can hear her colours described, Mary can also see colours in the lives of others.

(I realise as I write that this is all grist for the mill in preparation for my September presentation in Sydney – Living libraries: Embodiment and transformation in the context of e-learning)

For more on colours and formation see -
Last year I reflected on the colours of formation – to ask what colours are the processes of formation and the use of a colour wheel to capture the organic changes through life.

Posted by steve at 11:30 AM

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

from spark to worship: praying the Psalms with roses on world map

Yesterday I blogged, grateful for the sparks of inspiration from a Sunday browse through Ikea. I understand creativity as a we

Today I found myself on chapel, which involves around 20 minutes of prayer. It is in the semester break here at College, so it tends to be staff, a smaller group. So here is how the spark became worship.

To give some Scriptural spine, I checked the lectionary readings and selected the Psalm (Psalm 85) for the week, which I printed so folk could read.

I was thinking about how people might want to name their prayers. I’d noticed a few days ago a stray rose still in the garden, so grabbed that on the way to work. To keep it fresh, I took it in a plastic container. Opening the lid during the morning, I was struck by the scent and realised that might be a helpful sense to engage.

With my 20 minutes I welcomed people and invited us to stand around the world map/table. We read the Psalm, verse by verse around the group, which gave voice to our prayer. I handed the rose around the group and as I hoped, people caught the scent and with a word of surprise, discovered it’s joy together.

I noted that at the heart of Christian faith is the Easter story, in which brokenness and vulnerability are so essential. I invited us to pray by handing the rose, again, around the group. We would each break of a petal and place it on the world map, naming what were praying for. We would keep doing this until the rose ran out of petals.

This happened, naturally, beautifully, for around 15 minutes. We concluded by reading again the Psalm, again around the group. And a final picture, to “capture” our prayer.

A spark – a world map. Which became worship – prayers for the world and each other. Which involved the hearing of Scripture, the smell of the rose, the touch of a petal, the visual engagement with the world and each other. And this deep sense of being in the presence of God, tender with each other and God’s world.

Creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary (in this case, praying the Psalms). For more resources go here.

Posted by steve at 06:53 PM

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Colour my faith

Olive Fleming Drane posted a delightful picture, of the new floor in Glasgow’s new Paperchase.

It’s a delightful reminder of the power and place of colour. And the implications for our engagement with Christian faith.

Like “colour divina.” Imagine hearing the same Bible text, read slowly, read repeatedly. And each time, standing in a different colour. Where is purple in the text? Where is the colour red? Where do we see green?

Imagine different stations, placed on different coloured mats. Confession on red, benediction on green, hearing the Scriptures in purple.

At Opawa, for a period of time, part of the call to worship included the invitation:

Words of introduction: We all come from different weeks; good and bad, busy and slow, major and minor. What colour would describe your emotions and experiences this week?

Action: In baskets at various places around the auditorium are a wide range of colours. Each colour square has a “hot dot” fixed to the back. As we gather as a community in worship this morning I invite you
a) choose a colour square that says something about your week.
b) peel the backing paper of the “hot dot” on the back and place your colour on the cross.
You can do this at any time before the service.

Prayer: We will start our service with the following prayer

Leader: Arriving, we bring our current reality.
All: The good and the bad. The busy and the slow. The major and the minor.

Leader: We dare to believe that God is among us.
All: Among us as one who listens, holds, loves, heals, guides.

Leader: We dare to believe that we are safe here.
All: Safe among friends journeying together. Journeying to a deeper knowledge of, love for and service with God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(full post here)

For more on the place of colour in Christian faith, see

  • Colouring the stations of the cross here
  • Colouring formation here
  • for a fantastic resource, in the form of a children’s book, see here.
Posted by steve at 10:20 PM

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sense-gesis: What does Jesus smell like?

Sense Making Faith continues. We have 3 “guides” who share the teaching and 7 participants. Enough for a very rich group experience. Like all good classes, I’m learning as much as the participants.

Last week a rich learning moment occurred as we listened to the noises around the cross. This week a rich learning moment occurred, first as we walked outside. It had just rained and as we walked we became even more keenly aware of night air, wet air, petrol fumes and takeways. We wondered together if a community could have bad smells and what it meant for the church to be a good smell.

Then we returned inside to “smell” the Bible. What are the smells of Christmas, the smells at the calling of the first disciples, the smells of the Easter garden?

The conversation turned to Jesus. What does Jesus smell like? Is the classical Christian affirmation, of Christ as fully human and fully divine, embodied in smell?

In Psalm 45:8 the robes of the Lord are fragrant with Myrrh and aloes and cassia. Is this poetic language? Or does holiness have a smell? Would the resurrected Jesus smell different than the unresurrected Jesus?

All of these, theologically, are pushing at embodiment, what it means for Incarnation to take real presence among us. Some wondered if Jesus smells different ways to different people at different seasons in their lives. Are there times when the full humanity of Jesus is a more pastorally connective than the full divinity? If so, what are the implications for our mission and ministry?

You can see why I love Sense Making Faith!

Posted by steve at 10:29 AM