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

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tarlee bound for Trinity Sunday

I’m off early tomorrow morning to spend a day with Tarlee Uniting. They are about 90 minutes drive away. They are led by a Lay Ministry Team, so I’m there to led worship and preach and hopefully give these hardworking locals a bit of a breather. I love these opportunities and find them so very grounding, to be in the country, with folk who are working on creative, whole people of God, outworkings of faith and discipleship.

It’s Trinity Sunday, so that is a natural place to begin. I will use my children’s talk introducing Rublevs icon (doing theology with our eyes). We will also be doing theology with our hands, making friendship bracelets, weaving the colours of the three figures in Rublev’s icon

After the service, I’ve been asked to engage their leadership team in thinking about mission. I will explore with them how Israel gathered in the Old Testament; patterns of
- sacred spaces
- pilgrimage
- festivals
- family meals

What I want to suggest is that this frees imagination on how to be church and Christian, away from “weekly church” to more contextual patterns. This is a development of some thinking I developed in 2012 for the National Rural Ministers conference. I have added some specific examples and I will be interested to see how it goes with a rural church led by a lay ministry team.

Church begins at 9:15 am, so it will be an early start.

Posted by steve at 09:01 PM

Friday, June 13, 2014

being a missionary church in the early church

In the gospels, Jesus is recorded as doing many miracles. What did those who were healed do after they had encountered Jesus? While some followed, many returned to their homes and lives. What did they do as a result of their Jesus encounter? Would that encounter translate into an ongoing set of practices and beliefs? How would that set of practices and beliefs mix and merge with the set of practices and belief that would become Christianity?

Sometimes, I try to imagine what might happen if two people who had experienced a miracle of Jesus ever met. What might trigger the storytelling which would suggest they had both experienced an encounter with Jesus? What resources would they use to assess each others practices and beliefs?

Let me provide a specific example. What might happen when the healed leper in Mark 1 met the woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8?

John Wilson, in his book on the history of Caesarea Philippi, notes that in history, for some 300 hundred years after Jesus death, Caesarea Philippi was a city with a celebrated statue. Residents of the city understood it was a statue of Christ, erected by a woman whom the Lord had cured of a flow of blood. (Wilson, John F (2004) Banias: The Story of Caesarea Philippi, Lost City of Pan I.B.Tauris).

So imagine that the healed leper of Mark 1 – brought up God-fearer, monotheistic, no graven images, Jewish – sets out to share the story of his encounter with Jesus.

Goes on a missionary journey, enters Caesarea Philippi ready to preach the message. Spots a statue. Potential outrage (being a God-fearing, monotheistic, no graven images, Jew), turns to confusion as he recognises the hands of the statue are like the hands of the person that touched him.

Locates the statue owner, a woman. She has shared her experience of God’s touch with people, who now gather weekly around this statue to share stories of being touched by God.

How do these two people, very different, begin to realise they are part of one, holy, catholic and apostolic church? If the group in Caesarea Philippi have developed a different set of practices and beliefs than the group of mobile missionaries, how will convergence begin to happen? Who gets to decide what is out of bounds church and what is not?

Posted by steve at 10:30 AM

Thursday, June 12, 2014

people matter: collecting and collating stories in practical theology research

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata! What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It is people!

A Maori proverb that reminds us that people are essential. So what does that mean for research, in particular theology and ministry research? How do we ensure that people matter, from start to finish?

John Swinton and Harriet Mowat, in their excellent Practical Theology and Qualitative research, provide a rich range of examples of doing practical theology research. In Chapter 4, Researching Personal experience, they explore the impact of depression on spirituality. Because people matter, they begin with lived experience.

They interview six people, who have explored spirituality in the midst of depression. Following the interviews, they perform a fairly standard analysis of the data, drawing out themes from across the six interviews.

Because people matter, then then borrow from (the also excellent) Van Manen, Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy, a method in which they seek to express these recurring themes, not in the words of the researchers, but in the words of the participants. They weave actual words from the interviews around the themes.

In doing so, we see two moments in which people matter, first in listening to human story, second in letting people tell their stories in their own words.

But people still matter. Lots. So Swinton and Mowat take a further step. They take the compiled stories back to the participants. Do these compiled narratives fully capture your story? Is there anything missing? Are there any misunderstandings or misinterpretation? In so doing, the participants become co-researchers. They get to actively shaping and re-shape the data. The result is a far richer data set, one more likely to truly name human experience.

Or to use another image, a way of letting those being researched look in the mirror that is their own data.

It is only then that Swinton and Mowat take a clearly theological turn. (Although I would argue that a research method in which people matter is a very fine way to do theology). They take themes – in this case including abandonment and the search for God in the abyss – and explore them in relation to Scripture, particularly the Psalms.

People matter. As a result, research begins with human story, tells human story in their own words, clarifies human story.

All because people matter.

And so, I said to the DMin student I was supervising today, why not let this shape your research into pioneers of fresh expressions? Why not not only interview, but take your interview data back to pioneers? Because I bet that as they see their stories, their approach to ministry reflected back, they will want to extend, clarify and nuance the data.

It will become richer, more likely to truly name the practices that shape pioneer ministry.

Posted by steve at 10:02 PM

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Diploma of Ministry: New pathway in Innovation and Pioneering

It seems appropriate in the week following Pentecost, to note the recent decision of the Academic Board to approve a new pathway in Innovation and Pioneering.

Dave Male has endorsed this, saying:

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

Diploma of Ministry: New pathway in Innovation and Pioneering

A new pathway in the Diploma of Ministry will provide a comprehensive foundation in principles and practices of ministries of innovation and social entrepreneurship shaped by a Christian commitment.

The Diploma of Ministry is nested within the Bachelor of Ministry for those who wish to continue their study. This new pathway would be ideally suited for those wanting to transition to Bachelor of Ministry Practice Stream.

The Diploma of Ministry general structure is 8 units, of which 4 are core and 4 are elective. In this pathway students complete 6 required units (including the four core) and 2 optional units. The Diploma can be completed in one year of full-time study, or part-time equivalent study.

Required units

MINS1002 Introducing the Scriptures*

This unit provides an overview of the OT and NT writings, exploring major theological themes (one being missio Dei). Students in this pathway would have available an assignment focused on pioneering in Biblical texts.

MINS1305 Reading Cultures*

Key themes in this unit include understanding communities, global cultures, and ministry models. Students would have available an assignment focused on pioneering in a new mission.

MINS1601 Spirituality for 21st Century Disciples*

This units assists students to develop the ability to articulate biblical, spiritual and ethical bases for Christian discipleship and reflect on application of these in our own life and others.

MINS1510 Introduction to Formation for Ministry*

In this unit students explore the nature and practice of Christian formation, including learning styles, self-assessment, commitment to ethical practice, to develop an understanding of identity in relation to taking on professional role in ministry and the implications for vocation, faith and life.

MINS23xx Innovation as Pioneering

This new unit explores questions such as: Who is a pioneer? What are their practices? How do they sustain their life? (for more, see here).

MINS2518 Supervised Field Education 1

Students in this pathway would undertake SFE for experience in a pioneering context, either starting something or in observation.

Optional units

Two units chosen from the following:

MINS2318 Mission Then, Mission Now

MINS2314 The Theology of Jesus Christ, Word and Saviour

MINS3339 Missional Church Leadership

MINS2537 Theology and Practice of Chaplaincy

MINS2317 Guided Study in Innovation A

Each of these units gives students the opportunity to explore or reflect on themes relevant to innovation and pioneering:

  • Mission Then, Mission Now explores church history for mission lessons for today;
  • Theology of Jesus Christ explores Jesus with particular attention to boundary crossing;
  • Missional Church Leadership invites reflection on mission to Western cultures with particular attention to the local church’s participation;
  • Theology and Practice of Chaplaincy introduces students to practices, images and theological themes in a practical theology of chaplaincy.
  • Guided Study in Innovation A enables a focus on mission shaped ministry

Rationale for new Diploma pathway

We have, over the last few years, used the specialisation pathway in the Diploma to point to particular vocation paths within our suite of courses. A new pathway in innovation and pioneering continues this focus.

We have a BMin Practice Stream offering and the Diploma provides a clear entry pathway.

The Uniting Church have asked us to train pioneer leaders and this course meets this request.

In a diverse educational market, this continues one of the unique foci of Uniting College around leadership, mission and innovation.

Posted by steve at 12:57 PM

Monday, June 09, 2014

skin in the theology game

Does the study of theology require more skin, more personal involvement, than other types of study?

Case study one: Claire is a second year university student. She has one optional subject and spots a summer school programme called “Bible and Popular Culture.”  She has a cousin who grew up religious and it makes for awkward pauses whenever the family get together. She enrols in “Bible and Popular Culture,” hoping to gain an easy credit and to help her talk with the “religious” side of her family.  Unknown to her, one of the classes will be on the subject of trauma.  The lecturer connects the Old Testament book of Lamentations with contemporary experiences of trauma. The lecture triggers for Claire a memory of a moment from her teenage years. Suddenly, in the midst of a university class ten years later, she is overwhelmed with painful memories.

Case study two: Bruce has a deep faith. Studying archeology, he notes an intensive called “Introduction to Theology.” It fits with his timetable.  More importantly, having faith, Bruce arrives at class expecting that this class will connect with what is important to his values.  Half way through the classs, he finds the faith he learnt from his church being disturbed by the content of the lecture.  In a small group, feeling slightly ruffled, he expresses his unease, only for a third person in the group to make a smart comment about the naivety of Christian belief.  Suddenly what Bruce has held dear is publicly exposed.

Case study three: Sue is a PhD candidate. She began theology study as a Catholic. But the more she has studied, the more she finds problematic the position of her denomination toward woman.  Intellectually bright, she enrols in post-graduate study, wanting to explore her questions in more depth.  But her topic – leadership and gender in the early church – is making folk from her home church increasingly uncomfortable.  She begins to realise that the results of her research might well result in her being marginalised within her church community.  Might she have to leave, either  to find a new church, or perhaps even a new denomination?

Each of these case studies are hypothetical, but each are a snapshot from conversations I’ve had with students in my classes in the last few years.

It seems to me that for each of these students, studying theology has meant the finding of some serious skin in a classroom setting.  Lectures have touched on significant personal experiences. Readings have raised questions about beliefs held dear.  Study has brought into into question existing relationships and raised the possibility that it might lead to damage of a person’s communities and identity outside the class.

All of these requires significant personal energy, the investment of soul and spirit above and beyond the learning outcomes and assessment set. I wonder if other areas of study demand as much skin? Does engineering or the history of the Middle Ages or the literature of Ireland impact on identity and experience in such areas?

I suspect that it does not, and as a result, the study of theology is not only a deeply demanding intellectual engagement, but also one that requires significant individual skin in the class.

I wonder what this means for students, for lecturers and for the higher education systems in which theology is taught?

Posted by steve at 09:27 PM

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

call stories and their place in forming leaders

Monday is our monthly Leadership Formation day at Uniting College. It is a day to gather as a community of candidates moving into ordained ministry. There is time to share and worship. There is also time to process the specific formation required of those called to lead others publicly.

This year we have framed formation around 10 practices of mission spirituality. We are drawing on Susan Hope, Mission-Shaped Spirituality: The Transforming Power of Mission.

Monday the practice was called and sent. All Christians are called and sent. Thus all ministers are called and sent. However the candidate journey requires thinking about called and sent corporately. What does being sent mean for our identity as ministers? What does it mean to lead a church in being sent? How does Uniting Church ministry, and in particular the Uniting Church Preamble, shape being sent?

In preparation, I asked candidates to bring with them either a “sending” Bible text that challenged them or a Christian in history who led a sent life that encouraged them.

I then invited the candidates to go for a walk and share their story in two’s. Upon return, they were asked to write up what they heard (not what they said) on the white board. We ended up with a white board covered with call stories – Phoebe, Moses, Brendan the Navigator, Joseph, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, Moses. A rich tapestry of names that have shaped our call stories. Out in the open, removed from us, placed among us, discussion then followed around two talking points. First, were there shared themes? There were, including

  • God is calling and God’s character is revealed in call
  • many were called to make a difference, to be part of change
  • the call was to risk and adventure. This required trust
  • the importance of struggle in responding to call
  • the diversity of call
  • how often the call story a person named meshed with their personality. The response to ministry was a coming home, a true finding of self

Second, how did it feel to trust our story to another? This question enabled us to consider the fact that call is heard and discerned by the church. Call stories might be shared by us, but they are part of processes in which our individuality is placed among others, among people, among the church. This requires trust and vulnerability. We might be mis-heard. Equally, we might not share truly. This is the humanity of being in ministry and being the church. And so we reflected together on what this meant for us, as candidates, working through the process of formation placed by the church.

It was a rich and valuable process, shaped by a set of simple questions – what call story has shaped you? when we hear these stories and place them together, what do we learn?

Posted by steve at 06:21 PM

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

pioneer exits

Yesterday at chapel included naming the transition that is happening for one of our candidates, Karen Paull.

Karen began at Uniting College as I began in 2010. As a first year, first semester student she demanded her way into my Missional Church Leadership class. She was on about mission she said, and so was determined to take every single class she could on mission. Her candidature included fieldwork as a Netball Chaplain, being a Christ presence among a local church’s sports ministry. Over the four years she has mixed her study with a rich range of practical mission experiences, including attending, and then leading as part of the team running mission-shaped ministry course here in Adelaide and travelling for mission trips to Thailand.

Karen is leaving to pioneer, moving into a fully paid placement as a pioneer, working ecumenically into a local community in Sydney, NSW.

She spoke at the chapel service, reflecting on her experience of God’s love as she has moved through this pioneer training, the highs and lows.

Earlier in the day, she had shared in a candidate group about the significance of Phoebe on her sense of call. A leader, woman, a diaconal serving ministry, a willingness to travel a lot – this deep resonance between this Biblical character and Karen’s evolving sense of call.

There were so many dreams that have become reality in this story. Karen’s dream of being a pioneer, Uniting College’s dream of training pioneers, a local church’s dream of setting aside significant financial resource to practically love a community.

Posted by steve at 08:39 AM

Friday, May 30, 2014

Urban Mission Exposure Melbourne June 5-14

Another new innovation at Uniting College …

Explore diverse approaches to ministry and mission as part of our exciting Melbourne Study Tour: Urban Mission Exposure. Led by dynamic pastor, Rev Mark Reisson, you’ll be immersed in urban culture where you can participate in spiritual and discipleship practices, assess context-based new initiatives and reflect theologically on the emerging nature of cities as global cultural centres

Staying in inner-city Melbourne, you will experience the pulse of city and encounter a huge variety of models of ministry and mission, including churches, mission organisations, and innovative projects.This unique opportunity can be studied at Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels.

The cost is $550, which includes all accommodation and transfers and you’ll need to make your own way to Melbourne. Standard tuition fees apply (FEEhelp and Studyassist available).

Find out more by phoning Student Services on 8416 8400 or visiting on Facebook.

Rev Mark Reisson is the Coordinator for Mission and Community Engagement with Churches of Christ in SA and NT, coordinates Surrender Conference in SA and is an adjunct faculty member of the Adelaide College of Divinity.

Posted by steve at 01:15 PM

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Coordinator

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

The newly created Ministry of Pastor position, Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Coordinator, has become available within the Vocational Education & Training (VET) area, which will form part of a committed team offering relational and efficient service in a tertiary education environment.

The Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Coordinator will work closely with the Uniting College faculty and staff, staff of Adelaide College of Divinity, and the students of the Uniting College. This diverse position will be responsible for:

– Planning and overseeing the delivery of CALD VET training
– Liaising with ethnic Christian Communities in South Australia
– Student support as required

The successful applicant will need to have (or be working towards) a vocational or higher education qualification in education, social sciences, psychology or theology, coupled with experience in a Christian education environment with people of CALD backgrounds. A strong commitment to support the fulfilment of the purposes of the Uniting College, is essential to the success of this position.

A Position Description / Person Specification is available by contacting the Human Resources department on humanresources at sa dot uca dot org dot au or 8236 4234 or 8236 4278.

Application close date: 9 June 2014 at 5.00PM

Classification: Part Time Fixed Term

Tertiary Education Environment
Cultural and Linguistic Diversity
Fixed term 12 month contract (0.2FTE)

Note: In a tight financial climate, this role has emerged from securing of trust funding. Like other recent Co-ordinator appointments (Chaplaincy, Big Year Out), this is an innovation that is hoped will continue beyond the initial fixed term, but to do so requires the establishing a student cohort.

Posted by steve at 10:13 AM

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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

fresh words and deeds

The next months will include me speaking in Charlesville (end of June) and Sydney (end of July) and Jerusalem (middle of September). The occasion is the National Ministers Conference. Every three years, the President of the Uniting Church invites Ministers from across the church in Australia to a week of refreshment and input. The conferences occur in three different locations, designed to give a unique contextual shape. In this case rural and remote, multi-cultural and inter-faith.

conference

In addition, there is a core program of 4 sessions of which I’m responsible, along with my colleague, Rosemary Dewerse. In discussion with President Andrew Dutney, I suggested the theme of fresh words and deeds, rifting off my interest in innovation and the Basis of Union of the Uniting Church, in which the church “prays that she may be ready when occasion demands to confess her Lord in fresh words and deeds.” Here is what I was thinking when I was asked for a theme …

Here’s some of the conference blurb:

Steve Taylor and Rosemary Dewerse – two outstanding missiologists, communicators and educators. They’re planning a series of interactive, multi-sensory, reflective processes that will help a bunch of UCA ministers to imagine what the commitment made in the Basis of Union might mean for us today: “The Uniting Church thanks God for the continuing witness and service of evangelist, of scholar, of prophet and of martyr. She prays that she may be ready when occasion demands to confess her Lord in fresh words and deeds.” (Paragraph 11)

It is a significant time commitment, but a great opportunity to connect with the church throughout Australia and to be involved in three very different experiences.

Posted by steve at 10:50 PM

Monday, May 26, 2014

Jesus and the religions

I’m teaching Theology of Jesus in Semester 2, both weekly in Adelaide and by intensive at New Life Uniting Church, on the Gold Coast, in November. Plus I am teaching on Mission as an intensive in Sydney in July.

So today I was doing some preparation, which included reading Bob Robinson, Jesus and the Religions: Retrieving a Neglected Example for a Multi-cultural World.  It is a brilliant conceived book. It asks how Christians should approach other faiths by exploring how Jesus engaged other faiths.

It begins with three Gospel stories – Jesus and the Roman Centurion, Jesus and the Syrophonecian woman, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. Doing theology, bringing together themes from the three encounters it argues that their are implications for how contemporary people engage plurality.

  • Be open to surprise, in the same way Jesus was surprised by the faith of the Roman Centurion, the Syrophonecian  and the Samaritan woman.
  • Affirm what surprises you, again in the same way Jesus affirmed the faith of the Roman Centurion, the Syrophonecian  and the Samaritan woman.
  • In particular, look for faith and humility. This includes the role not only of faith, but of the content of that faith. In all three examples, their “faith appears to include more than heart-felt hope or desperate concern.” (Jesus and the Religions: Retrieving a Neglected Example for a Multi-cultural World, 116).  And so by implication, “Might examples of faith, humility, and insight, wherever they are found in the contemporary world, be affirmed by disciples today – even when they contrast less than favorable with their own.” (Jesus and the Religions: Retrieving a Neglected Example for a Multi-cultural World, 117-8).
  • The exclusion of vengeance. For example, Jesus response to the Roman Centurion is a moment of love of enemy. Moving to other Gospel stories, one might note the rain falls on the just and the unjust, or the banquet parables which include, rather than exclude.

What is even more intriguing is an initial chapter in which Christ becomes an exegete.  The focus is Luke 4:16-30, and how Jesus engages Scripture. Robinson concludes that there are fresh readings, new performances of Scripture as Biblical texts are encountered in the power of the Spirit.  This opens up an exemplary Christology, in which the church reads for direction in how to live its life of witness in the world.

All of which makes for a rich teaching resource.

Posted by steve at 09:23 PM

Thursday, May 22, 2014

team re-building

Teams are never stable. First, teams are made up of people. People change, growth and morph. They feel more involved or less involved, more empowered or less empowered.  Second, teams are made up of people who come and go. As a result, any “team work” is always for the moment. Vital, important.

But healthy teams over time need to work on processes that spiral, rather than process that are linear. They need to find ways to go over ground that is worn, yet in ways that are fresh.

At Uniting College, we’re in a time of rapid team building. We’ve had two new staff join us in the last three weeks, five in the last nine months. Over half of the team of 14 are new to College since I became Principal less than two years ago.

Today I introduced the following process in team re-building.

First, I noted that we had a set of team values. These sit in our photocopy room. They began life among us back in August 2012. That meant, I observed, that practically a good number in our team were now new to these values.

Second, I divided the team into pairs. Each pair was chosen, with an “old-timer”, someone who was there in August 2012, and a “new-timer,” a person who has joined the team in time since.

Third, I invited the pairs to go for a walk or find a couch or share a cup of tea. And to ask each other the following four questions.

  • The “oldtimer” is to be asked – What were the processes and events by which these values emerged? How did it feel?
  • The “newtimer” is then asked – What word or phrase or concept strikes you?
  • Mutual question – What would it be like to be in a team that lived like this?
  • Mutual question – We are a different team now than in 2012. Is there anything we might need to add or delete or modify?

Fourth, each pair was invited to take notes. We will return to these notes next week.

In the meantime, dotted around the room, was a buzz of conversation.  Stories were told, history recalled, values engaged, being team now considered.  It was a team re-building.

Posted by steve at 10:45 PM