Saturday, February 26, 2011

earthquake damage in the church I used to pastor

Cracks in the main walls, cracks in the road, sand everywhere inside the church and out!

Posted by steve at 02:18 PM

Friday, July 30, 2010

planting fresh expressions down under: a tale of seven churches

Here in South Australia we recently enjoyed the visit by Dave Male. One of the big helps for me was when Dave talked about the size of the core team in planting fresh expressions. He was making the point that the smaller the team, the slower the progress, but the more likely it would be radical re-expression of missional life. In contrast, the larger the core team, the more quickly the plant might grow, yet the more likely the new plant can end up look like it’s planting parent.

It helped me make sense of my fresh expressions experience.

My partner and I planted Graceway in 1994. That was last millennium, when noone was talking about fresh expressions or emerging church. But we knew that our mates were dialling out of church, yet still were encountering God. We started reading the literature on cultural shift and out of that emerged Graceway. We had values of community and creativity and participation, so we met cafe style, always had food, had a barstool for open sharing and explored the whole-body in worship. The planting team was small and it was such a long, hard slog, real pioneering.

There was simply none of the infrastructure and conversations and books that there are around now. We endured at times quite active hostility. But we learnt heaps and plugged away. We made mistakes but we saw God move. We saw some unchurched find faith, developed a distinctive way of life, built networks with the community and found ways to serve and love people. After 9 years we moved on. Graceway was fragile but had some good leaders.

We moved to Opawa in 2004. We were at Opawa six years and in that time had a go a planting six fresh expressions. One per year is good going when you think about it! (I talk about the multi-congregational ethos, which gave this initial shape elsewhere on this blog).

First was espresso, a Tuesday night discussion community for those wanting to explore faith questions is a conversational, open way.

Then came the hymn service, soup on Sunday afternoon, choosing of favourite hymns, a testimony and a sermon. connecting with those for whom hymns was an important part of faith formation.

We tried a number of experiments for spiritual seekers, running a journalling course in a local cafe, offering Sense Making Faith course. Each was important in connecting us with spiritual seekers, but none developed into a cohesive congregation. (Still important, still a great learning, still saw folk baptised.)

We re-planted our evening service in two different forms. One was a monthly Soak service, as a time to “soak” in God. Not so much a pioneering work, but more a contemplative space for people to make time to engage (soak in) God. Sung worship, lectio divina and then a range of stations. Lot of attention paid to the space, which, being in main auditorium was always big and worked really well in terms of contemplation.

The other was Grow which used the table as the main metaphor. People gathered in groups and on each table was an A3 sheet of paper in which people were invited to reflect on two theological questions – who is God and who are humans. Grow had a three week focus and each evening used multiple inputs – video clips, interviews, during the week challenges, top 10 quiz, sermon, prayer.

Another trial was made with the Gathering, which used a local community cottage to work with folks local and close to the church building. Lots of food, gathered around a big wooden table, Bible open.

Looking back, using Dave Male’s lens, helped me see that Opawa was a totally different way of planting fresh expressions than Graceway. Rather than lone “ordained” pioneers, we were involving teams of lay people. (Which you simply don’t have when you are the lone pioneer). Each expression looked for 4-5 people who gathered around an “itch” to explore new possibilities. Each faced the downside, the danger, of becoming a new form of worship, rather than a genuinely missional new form of church.

As Dave says, both types have their strengths and weaknesses. Multiple congregational planting with lay teams is much easier, while pioneering is much more radical.

I’m not sure what the point of this post is. (In fact, I’m not actually often sure what the point of this blog is.) Perhaps someone might find some resonance in one of these tales of seven fresh expression churches.

Posted by steve at 09:04 AM

Sunday, July 18, 2010

new minister for Opawa Baptist

The church I used to pastor, Opawa Baptist has called a new minister and over the weekend, the Petrini family (Rob, Monique, Isabella, Alex and Jessica) were welcomed and Rob inducted as Senior Pastor.

Rob is Australian, while Monique is Mexican. The family have been located in USA, where Rob has been involved in a number of pastoral ministry roles. Rob brings a heart for discipling the first 3rd of life, worship and apologetics. The search committee chose to advertise the role internationally. (I thought they were nuts!) The downside was having to wade through over 100 applications! the upside was what could be a really interesting cross-cultural combination.

We wish to Petrini’s and Opawa all the best in their next stage of the journey. Part of the Taylor family sense of call was a very strong request to trust God – that the God who gave us such good friends and church family in New Zealand would be able to do that also for Opawa, as they looked for the next piece of their pastoral team.

For those interested, below are the greetings that we sent, first as Opawa considering calling a new senior pastor, and second for the commissioning … (more…)

Posted by steve at 05:48 PM

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Church as community partnership: great article on Opawa Baptist

We got posted over the weekend a Christchurch newspaper article (thanks Mum), profiling Opawa Baptist. It’s a neat snapshot, so encouraging, that is some evidence of what God’s been up to the last 6 years at Opawa – partnerships with local community groups, new initatives, an outward focus.

Church has long-established partnership with community (Observer, Sunday February 21)
By Nick Tolerton

Opawa Baptist church will celebrate its centenary next year, but there is nothing old fashioned about what it offers the community.

And the completion next month of a new $500,000 seminar, office and kitchen facility will make its partnership with the community even stronger.

The church and its neighbour Waltham Community Cottage (two doors away), are the heart for one of Christchurch’s poorer communities.

Associate pastor Paul McMahon points out that Waltham, slashed by the Brougham motorway, lacks a hub.

The church and the Community Cottage worked together to build on the strengths of Waltham, and tried not to duplicate what the other offered, he said.

He is proud of Waltham’s strengths: “The good thing about Waltham is that people have time for one another and people have time for community stuff, “ he said. “We have no real gang problems. We’ve got a great pool – the most well used community pool in Christchurch – and we have a really good school.”

And school, church and Community Cottage have worked together for Waltham, he said.

Hundreds of residents enjoy the church’s weekly English classes, craft classes, music classes, and indoor bowls for only $2 or $3 a session. And its monthly movie night – BYO dinner 0- draws dozens of people who can’t afford to go to the cinema. Women’s groups and a book club also meet monthly.

Last year the Shiloh programme to teach life and relationship skills for nine to 12-year-old girls from Waltham School also [re]started (editor correction) and has proved a big success, and the church is also the home for Koru (year seven to eight) and boys and girls brigade programmes for Waltham youngsters.

The church also hosts six-week courses blending both religion and life skills, including parenting.

And with the new facilities set to be completed early next month as well as its old hall across the road, the church is now even better placed to be a strong partner for the Waltham community.

For more
for more on the building project go here.

Posted by steve at 08:49 AM