Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Moana film review
Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 120 plus films later, here is the review for February 2017.
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor
Moana is family fun and as such, has much to commend it. Moana is the daughter of Chief Tui and yearns to sail the ocean deep. Forbidden by her father, she finds inspiration in the stories of her sailing ancestors, the encouragement of her grandmother Tale and the resources of the ever-playful ocean. Setting sail, Moana seeks the demi-god, Maui, who is a needed companion in the question to return the heart of Te Fiti to its rightful place, thus replenishing food and fish for her dying village.
Moana is animated and as such, offers a rich and playful colour palate mixed with voice overs and catchy singalong songs. New Zealand actors are well-presented, including Temuera Morrison (Tui), Jemaine Clement (a greedy coconut crab called Tamatoa) and Rachel House (Tale).
Moana has many moments worth applauding. It skilfully tells a Pacific story. It provides resourceful, determined female characters, notably Moana and her grandmother. It affirms that leaders can be female and, in the interaction between generations, points to ways by which cultures might innovate and change. The power of grandmothers to bring change in cultures is a similarity shared with Maori films, Whale Rider (2002) and Mahana (2016) (reviewed here).
Consistent with Pacific understandings, in Moana the ocean is a character, playfully guiding Moana’s quest. On this ocean, Pacific people are highly skilled wayfarers. Watching Moana encouraged me to reach for Karin Amimoto Ingersoll’s, Waves of Knowing: A Seascape Epistemology. She argues that for Pacific people, the ocean is not only a place for swimming and fishing. More importantly, it is a way of knowing and being in which are resources that help Pacific peoples resist the rising tides of colonialism, militarism and tourism.
Alongside these redeeming features, Moana glosses over a complex set of Pacific realities. In the real world of Kiribati, the ocean so glamorised in Moana continues to rise. This nation of 37 islands, none more than three metres above sea level, with a capital city more densely populated than Tokyo, desperately needs not only a demi-god returning Te Fiti’s heart, but people and nations willing to embrace more sustainable ways of living.
Another reality check comes as Moana is placed alongside 2011 movie, The Orator. The differences are stark. With Moana, Walt Disney invested over $150 million, to tell in English a story from another culture. In The Orator, Blueskin Films spent $2.3 million, to tell in Samoan a story of its own. One brings into focus a chief’s daughter, the other a dirt-poor taro farmer named Saili. In Moana, the animated bodies are beautiful, while in The Orator, Saili is a dwarf, bullied by taller Samoan villagers. In The Orator, hierarchies are challenged, not with the help of demi-gods, but by actions of courage, resilience from those on the margins of village life.
See Moana. But may it not be the only Pacific movie you watch as this new year unfolds. And please God, may each of us, and every viewer of Moana, find ways to act for climate change on behalf of the people of Kiribati.
Monday, February 13, 2017
Thornton Blair Research Fellow at KCML: Rosemary Dewerse
Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Rosemary Dewerse to be the Thornton Blair Research Fellow. Rosemary is a highly trained missiologist, a skilled theological educator and experienced academic administrator.
In a rapidly changing world, the need for ministers and leaders to keep growing is essential. The Thornton Blair Research Fellow is a new initiative of KCML, designed to enhance delivery of life-long learning. The Research Fellow will listen among key stakeholders and design life-learning opportunities that will integrate professional standards and higher education post-graduate requirements. Two pilot offerings in Christian leadership will be tested in 2018.
After advertising in November and interviewing in January the interview panel were delighted to offer this fixed, two year, 0.6 position to Rosemary Dewerse. Rosemary was raised in the Presbyterian Church where her father was a minister. She has written and worked in the area of church as an intercultural community. She is the author of Breaking Calabashes: Becoming an Intercultural Community which offers four practices for creating communities that welcome and enable all people.
Rosemary will be part of the KMCL team, based in Auckland.
Who is Rosemary Dewerse? In making the appointment, the panel outlined a number of essential and desirable characteristics. Through the application material, referee comments and interview, Rosemary demonstrated a track record of competency in every area. She has a passion for the Gospel as good news for the church and world. She is married to Roelant and has two children.
From 2012 to 2015 Rosemary worked as the Post-graduate Coordinator at Uniting College, Australia, which serves the Uniting Church in Australia (a partner church of the PCANZ). This involved leading over 60 postgraduate students working in both University and private higher education roles. She continues to maintain an active post-graduate supervision role and spoke of this being an area of great love, because of the sense of journeying together in mutual learning.
Rosemary has completed a PhD in intercultural leadership development. She has successfully applied for re-accreditation of post-graduate qualifications. This involved not only redesigning the post-graduate courses in light of stakeholder feedback, but also gaining the best ever accreditation results in the process.
Rosemary has taught in theological education for sixteen years in four different cultural contexts. She has published in partnership with indigenous theologians in both Australia and New Zealand. Rosemary’s referees affirmed her teaching skills. Her written work presented as part of the application process showed a creative re-working of a taught course, to enable engaged mission learning in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Rosemary is in demand in Australia and New Zealand to speak in areas of mission and leadership. She has an extensive record of publication, including a book on intercultural leadership entitled Breaking Calabashes: Becoming an Intercultural Community and articles on indigenous theology, missiology, and online curriculum design.
Rosemary has, with permission of local iwi, published in areas of Maori theology and missiology. She has studied Te Reo for three years and taught in a Maori theological context.
Rosemary has designed and taught online courses for Laidlaw College and Uniting College. She has been part of a review team that redesigned the online learning at Uniting College and was commended by her referees for her skills in this area. She has published in this area, reflecting theologically upon online curriculum redesign. She has worked as a former trainer of ministers in seminaries in Central Asia, Australia and most recently St Johns College.
In the interview, Rosemary spoke of a call to come home and believed that applying for this role was part of that call, given her roots are in the PCANZ, having grown up in the manse in urban, small-town and rural communities and worshipped as a young adult at St Pauls Trinity Pacific (Christchurch) and Fairfield Presbyterian.
The panel were struck by her connections with the PCANZ historically and with NZ cultural contexts. They found Rosemary personable and engaging, possessing a grasp of the complexity of the project and a track record of experience across all the desired and essential outcomes. They sensed a deep commitment to listen and to mutual transformation. They recognised an energy, the ability to be a self-starter and a strong sense of passion for the future of the church. In Rosemary they are confident is a person who can fulfil the expectations of Thornton Blair, and deliver a project birthed in listening to the church, yet able to sync with the complexity of professional standards, ministry realities and post-graduate higher education processes.
How was the appointment made? The Thornton Blair Research Fellow concept was agreed by the KCML Advisory Board in October 2016. A funding application to the Thornton Blair Trust had been agreed by Senatus in August and recommended to Church Property Trustees in late November.
The role was advertised and an interview panel of five shortlisted in early December. The panel asked three applicants to provide further information, including a sample of writing, a one page plan for stakeholder engagement in the first two months, further referees and to be interviewed in January 2017.
The panel prepared a list of set questions. At the end of the process, the interview panel were unanimous in affirming that Rosemary had the gifts and graces for this unique role.
Who was the interview panel? The KCML Advisory Board appointed a panel of five:
· Dr Glen Pettigrove – Chair of KCML Advisory Board
· Dr Hugh Morrison – Advisory Board member and University academic in field of education
· Rev Dr Tokerau Joseph – a Presbyterian minister who has completed post-graduate research in the intercultural nature of the PCANZ
· Rev Margaret Garland – a Presbyterian minister representing Leadership Sub-Committee and Senatus
· Rev Dr Steve Taylor – Principal KCML
Approved by Rosemary and all members of the Interview Panel
Wednesday, February 08, 2017
paper acceptance Resistance and Innovation: Empire and Native Christianity in the Pacific
I was delighted to hear today that a paper proposal I submitted for the Resistance and Innovation: Empire and Native Christianity in the Pacific conference at the University of Auckland on March 24, 2017 has been accepted. The conference will bring together scholars of Christianity in a variety of disciplines to examine the cultural dynamics of the interaction between native peoples and transplanted Christian churches in the Pacific region. It will pay particular attention to the dynamic tension between centralized and localized religious culture.
My paper will be a development of research I presented at the International Association of Mission Studies conference in Korea in August 2016. I’ve continued to write and research for publication in the months since and am glad of the opportunity to also present my research in a Pacific and University environment. Here is the abstract I submitted:
“Hapkas” Christology as resistance and innovation in Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain
The interaction between Christianity and indigenous cultures can provide rich insights into cross-cultural exchange in liminal spaces. Equally the complexity of such insights can be masked by totalising narratives, including hagiography and Euro-centric imperialism.
One way to approach native Christianity in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is through Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain. It has been acclaimed as PNG’s best historical novel (Moore, 2012). The post-colonial methodologies of Ashcroft (in Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific, 2014) will be used to read The Mountain for indigenous agency in resistance and innovation. Such a reading requires locating Modjeska as an academic and novelist who refuses to accept totalising binaries, in both her writing and her life.
I will argue that the portrayal of native Christianity in The Mountain assumes indigenous approval and indigenization. Themes of ancestor gift and “hapkas” will be applied to Jesus as “good man true, he die for PNG” (Modjeska 2012: 291). The creative reworking by which native (Omie) people locate Jesus as ancestor gift of Canaanite descent will be examined. This is consistent with recent scholarship in which indigenous cultures are Old Testaments (Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside, 1998; Brett 2003) and the book of Genesis a demonstration of indigenous faiths being woven respectfully into the story of Israel (The Old Testament of the Old Testament: Patriarchal Narratives and Mosaic Yahwism, 1992).
This subverts the “big man” as a key trope in the ethnography of Melanesia (Big Men and Great Men: Personifications of Power in Melanesia, 2009). It suggests that post-colonial theology pay attention to cultural hybridity and indigenous innovation. Or in the words of The Mountain: a “hapkas” Jesus who is “good man true” for PNG.
Dr Steve Taylor
Flinders University: Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership
Thursday, February 02, 2017
U2 praying the pattern of the Psalms in Paris
A joy yesterday to have a 2,000 word article accepted for Equip a bi-annual publication of Ethos Centre for Christianity and Society. Aware of my interest in U2, they asked me early in January to write something for an upcoming edition on music.
Back in October I was doing research on how religious groups prayed after Paris. Having written a number of times about U2′s live concert performances, I wondered how they responded, given they played days after the Paris bombings. The research in October (watching the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live In Paris DVD) never made it into the two conference presentations that resulted.
So when Ethos emailed, I thought it might be an opportunity to use research done, but not likely to find a writing home. I looked back over my research notes: watching U2 DVD’s as research! How did they pray, live, publicly, in the midst of so much pain?
I also was aware of the friendship between Bono (of the band U2) and Eugene Peterson (author of contemporary-language Bible translation The Message) and their common interest in the Psalms.
So over the last few weeks, various scraps on the hard drive began a 2000 word piece, titled
U2 praying the pattern of the Psalms in Paris
Here’s part of the conclusion:
In sum, aware of a broken world, I have examined how music and musicians might respond. Psalms voice the full register of human emotion. The Psalms of lament offer a pattern: call, confession, complaint, curse and confidence in surrender. I have examined how U2 played in Paris and have argued that this pattern is evident, not on a single song, but over a number of songs, stretched over more than sixty minutes. In response to terror, and the resulting emotions of anger and fear, U2 called for help, confessed and complained. But they did not curse. Instead they looked to New Testament resources, to the love of Christ.
It’s my 2nd U2 piece this month, having submitted in the middle of January a 9,500 word chapter for a book on religion and U2 with Bloomsbury, currently titled
God moves in mysterious ways: Performed pneumatology as passionate participation in the evolution of U2’s Mysterious Ways
Two pieces in one month on one band is a bit ridiculous. But it is nice to be writing in the theology and culture interface. It brings to seven the number of things I’ve had published on U2 over the last 6 years. Not something I every expected, but it has been a fun trip. Now back to some real theology! (It also explains the silence on the blog front – only 1 post in the month of January, my most silent month ever. Apologies).
Other work I’ve had published on U2 and lament:
- looking at how they prayed publicly after the Pike River Mining Tragedy in New Zealand (Boase, E.C. and Taylor, S. (2013). Public Lament. In MJ Bier and T Bulkeley, ed. Spiritual Complaint: The Theology and Practice of Lament. Eugene, USA: Pickwick Publishers, pp. 205-227).
- how U2 memorialise the dead (Taylor, S. (2015). Transmitting Memories: U2′s Rituals for Creating Communal History. In Scott Calhoun, ed. U2 Above, Across, and Beyond: Interdisciplinary Assessments, Lanham, Maryland, USA: Lexington Books, pp. 105-121.)
Sunday, January 22, 2017
writing in 2016
Writing is essential to my role as teacher and academic. Writing allows me to place ideas in the public domain. It is one thing to develop ideas in front of students and over the water cooler at work. It is quite another to discipline these into a coherent whole. Writing invites me to be accountable, exposes my ideas to review, comment and feedback. It is a discipline, one I have worked on cultivating over the past few years.
So as the 2016 year ticks over, it is always interesting to reflect on progress. During 2016, I had five things published, including one book and four printed articles. Each had a unique journey, which in itself says something about my location and how I work.
The book – Built for Change: A Practical Theology of Innovation and Collaboration – began with a book proposal, which was accepted by the publisher in August 2015. I really wanted to write a book about change based on real stories of real people. My location is Australia and New Zealand and I was delighted to find an Australasian publisher, allowing me to reflect theologically on local stories. The writing happened over the final months of 2015 and into early 2016. This period also included shifting countries. The move both helped my writing, giving me different perspectives, but also hindered, with the reality of shifting. The complete manuscript was submitted in February 2016 and various editorial drafts bounced back and forth until release in late May 2016.
Since then it has gained 7 reviews, including from two Moderators, a Director of Mission for a not-for-profit agency and two academic lecturers. All have been very complimentary.
The four articles were all “industry” related. I had two short articles published in SPANZ, the quarterly publication of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.
It takes a church to raise a minister. SPANZ, 65 (Summer), page 18.
A theology of strategic planning? Yeah right! SPANZ, 67 (Spring) page 18.
I had a further piece published in Candour, an online publication of the the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. This was a requested piece, to write something theological about rejuvenation and the church.
Rejuvenation in the Church: some theological notes. Candour, March 2016
In describing them as “industry” related, I am making a distinction between writing for my academic peers and writing for key “industry” stakeholders, which in my case involve ministers and church leaders. “Industry writing” requires taking theological ideas I am wrestling with, but trying to explain them directly, without footnotes and reference to all the background. The writing needs to be differently structured, to capture and maintain interest.
As the year ending, I had a further article published in Refresh: Journal of Contemplative Spirituality.
Mission possible: Becoming intercultural by becoming children, Refresh: Journal of Contemplative Spirituality 17 (2) Summer 2016, 42-44
This was an unexpected surprise, a piece of writing that had begun life as a graduation sermon and then a spoken presentation in Auckland, which I summarised on my blog. The editor of Refresh spotted the piece and a few months later, sent me a lightly edited copy, noting how it fitted the upcoming theme of the journal and asking if they could publish it. So a very easy “writing” birth, because of the interplay between speaking, blogging and a good editor! It is yet another “industry” publication, but emerging as a result of various speaking opportunities.
During 2016, I also continued to write monthly film reviews, which at 500 words a pop, amount to 11 published pieces totaling 5,500 words. These appear in Touchstone magazine and I am then allowed to place them at a later date on my blog.
In 2016, I also had a book chapter accepted for a book on religion and U2 with Bloomsbury. This involved responding to a call for papers with a 300 word chapter proposal in January. This is a much more “academic” piece of writing. My proposal was accepted in March and I supplied a complete draft of around 8,500 words in mid-December. It has bounced back with editorial comment and all going well, will be published later in 2017.
So looking back over the 2016 year, one book, four “industry” publications and eleven film reviews means 16 pieces of work totalling some 63,000 published words across the year. The “industry” focus, along with the demands of writing a book, have meant I have not had as much opportunity to write academically.
I have however, over the 2016 year, worked up three complete-draft journal articles, which I hope to submit to various journals in the coming months. Plus I have a book chapter to write as a result of a paper I presented (The complexity of being woven together: A microhistory of Talua Ministry Training Centre) at Woven Together: Christianity and the Pacific conference, which was subsequently accepted by the conference organisors. I have also been asked to deliver two keynote addresses at Wondering about God together in late April, which the conference organisers have already asked me to prepare for publication.
Once those I done, well …
Monday, December 19, 2016
Christmas greetings from KCML
For KCML it has been year of growth. Some highlights include
• The shift of Malcolm Gordon to Dunedin and the blessing of KCML corridors filled with creativity and music
• Six graduating interns from 4 different cultures
• A block course in Wellington for the first time ever
• Four new babies born to the ministry intern cohort
• The first ever Local Ordained Ministry resourcing conference
• A hard-working Faculty who have published 3 books and 2 resources, all engaged with aspects of the church in mission and ministry
• The Christianity and Cultures in Asia lecture series
• A significant increase in funding from Presbyterian Development Society in support of New Mission Seedlings
• The approval of the Thornton Blair Christian Education Research Fellow to guide the development of life-learning
• Two online learning experiments to explore being national in our training
• Partnerships in Alpine and Otago and Southland Presbyteries in establishing New Mission Seedlings.
It has also been a year of challenges. These include
• A new team still learning how to pace ourselves
• A number of our graduating interns as yet unplaced
• The ongoing challenge of living out the bicultural and intercultural commitments of the PCANZ
A recent lectionary Psalm speaks to our highlights and our challenges. In Psalm 67, the Psalmist is full of praise, for God’s face shines. It is an echo of the blessing of Numbers 6:24-26, a God of blessing, protection and grace. For the Psalmist, this blessing applies not to Israel but to all the nations. The potential internal and exclusive focus of Israel is re-shaped by this universal love of God. It is this God that we affirm at KCML and as a church look to celebrate this Christmas.
Thanks for your partnership with us. We’re better together.
May you and yours experience the shining face of grace this Christmas,
Saturday, December 17, 2016
a moderators re-view of Built for change
Here is the 8th review of my book, Built for Change. This one is by Rev Sue Ellis, the current Moderator of the Uniting Church of South Australia. It’s also the first review from the South Australian church community where many of the practical stories in Built for Change took place. So it’s an important authenticity check.
I really liked the way Steve Taylor addressed the changing dimensions of church life in this interesting volume. As a ministry agent involved with growing the church into its new era of life for today’s world, he has picked up the duality of change that goes outward into church life and community and the change that needs to journey inwardly challenging my own beliefs and practices both individually and corporately.
Steve explores some Pauline descriptors of models for change. We need to apply different models for different situations. I identified with his descriptors of at times bring a builder or a servant; a gardener or a parent; a resource manager or fool. I could remember how change I had engaged in had me preferring one of these roles. Living in South Australia, I had seen some of the journeys he described in the Uniting Church. Hence, I was on familiar ground.
The book is well grounded in practical application, but it does need some navigating. Beginning at the end was an initial challenge. I used the book for my ‘breakfast read’ – intentionally digesting its offering for each day. It is a volume I will keep for ready reference, as I believe strongly in the need for creative innovation within western churches.
“Built for Change” by Rev Dr Steve Taylor is available in Australia through MediaCom Education Inc. or New Zealand through Angelwingsresources@gmail.com. Review 1 here. Review 2 here. Review 3 here. Review 4 is here. Review 5 is here. Review 6 is here. Review 7 by Darren Cronshaw is here.
Friday, December 16, 2016
Seeing Silence: Interdisciplinary perspectives symposium
Friday 7:30 pm, March 17, until 1 pm, Saturday, March 18, 2017.
Venue: Otago University
Call for papers: Silence: A Novel (Picador Modern Classics) is a historical novel. Written by Shusako Endo (1923-1999), one of Japan’s foremost novelists, the book offers an absorbing, albeit bleak, meditation on the inability of the seventeenth century Jesuit mission to establish religious change on Japanese soil. It allows us to explore the possibilities and pitfalls when conversion seems fruitless.
The book is currently being made into a movie, directed by Martin Scorsese. Due for New Zealand release on February 17, it stars Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson. Scorsese considers his movie-making an act of prayer, writing “I wanted to be a priest. My whole life has been movies and religion. That’s it. Nothing else” (Detweiler and Taylor 2003: 155).
This symposium welcomes a wide range of disciplinary perspectives on the themes of Silence. Contributors could focus on Silence as film, the history of 17th century Japan, the diversity of indigenous Japanese responses to Christianity and Empire, Jesuit approaches to mission, the ethics and limits of conversion, cross-cultural interactions, the writing of Endo, the missiological and theological challenges presented when faith suffers.
Papers of 20 minutes in length are sought. The deadline for 250 word abstracts is Friday 20th January, 2017. Enquiries and abstracts to Kevin Ward firstname.lastname@example.org. Presenters will informed on 31 January, 2017. Papers will be streamed if needed.
Friday evening March 17 – Special viewing of Silence and conference meal.
Saturday morning March 18
9-9:45 am Panel discussion: Asian history, film studies, history, missiology (tbc)
9:45 – 10:45 am Papers
11:15 am – 12:15 pm Papers
12:15 -1 pm Concluding comments
The symposium has been timetabled with a view to presenters watching the film after release on February 17 and having time to develop papers for the symposium.
This event is a programme of the Christianity and Cultures in Asia series, sponsored by Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, the Otago University Department of Theology and Religion, and Presbyterian Research Centre.
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Presbytery partnerships are one of five key directions in the KCML strategic plan.
Presbytery partnerships: KCML wish to establish teaching partnerships with each Presbytery. Each will be individualised, given the unique needs of each Presbytery. They will include shared commitments and timelines around the location of New Mission Seedlings and teaching sites for the National Learning Diploma. This move will help KCML be national, forming intentional training relationships with Presbyteries
In the first half of 2016, Presbytery partnerships involved connection. As Principal, I was invited to speak at six of the seven Presbyteries. I spoke at Alpine Presbytery and two Otago events in April, Central ministers in May, Northern Council and Kaimai Ministers in June, Pacific Island Synod in July. This gave me an opportunity to introduce myself as the new Principal. I also used this time to test pieces of the KCML strategic plan. In particular, this involved sharing about innovation and mission and then hearing the questions and being part of conversation about how this landed.
In the second half of 2016, Presbytery partnerships involved explanation. Once the KCML Strategic plan was approved by Council of Assembly in June, I wrote to each Presbytery. I briefly explained the plan and I asked if I could visit their Council to share the plan and to ask how a partnership could be formally adopted.
The aim is clarity with each Presbytery
- how together – KCML and Presbytery – to identify training needs and shape a five year plan for training
- how to strategically discern and work together on planting of New Mission Seedlings
Over the last five months, I have had responses and been able to engage five of the seven Presbytery Councils. My last visit for this 2016 year was this week, when I spent over two hours with Pacific Island Synod. These face to face visits are important step in developing these partnerships. Each Presbytery is unique, and so each visit has been unique. The questions are always different. Different parts of the plan excite different Presbyteries. The pace of developing a partnership will be different for each Presbytery. That is good, because KCML can’t do everything at once. It also means we can run experiments and learn as we go.
Theological Colleges are not ivory towers who (theoretically) know best. Rather, we are shared partners with the church in seeking the mission of God. At the heart of Presbytery partnerships is a desire to practise shared discernment in mission and training.
Friday, December 09, 2016
Coming to our Senses: the spirituality of wine national tour
Coming to our Senses: KCML and partners events in February 2017.
Do wine and faith have anything to do with each other? What is the place of wine and wine-making in the Christian tradition? Jesus told parables about wine and vineyards and used wine at weddings and the Last Supper to demonstrate his message. Yet is wine anything more than a symbolic item within Christian spirituality? As New Zealand continues to grow in stature as a producer of quality wines and wine becomes a stronger cultural feature, is it time to awake to the senses: to gather around the table, and reclaim this gift of creation?
Annual KCML Public Lecture – Coming to our senses with author and researcher, Dr. Gisela Kreglinger. This public lecture addresses the interface between Christian faith and everyday life practices. It is part of an initiative of the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, of the Presbyterian Church. 2017′s lecture will tackle a matter that many Presbyterians historically viewed with suspicion. (The lecture in Dunedin is a stand alone event. In Auckland and Wellington the lecture is combined with a tasting).
Dunedin: Tuesday 7th February, 5:15 -6 pm. Free, Cameron Hall, KCML, 6 Arden Street, Opoho.
Auckland: Monday 13th February, 5:45-8 pm. $30 book through Eventfinda, Maclaurin Chapel
Wellington: Friday 17th February, 5:45-7:45 pm, St Johns in the City. $20 Door sales (tbc).
Wine tasting, light food and reflections – The Spirituality of wine with Dr. Gisela Kreglinger. In a unique blend of talk and tasting, participants will sample wines, learn about the Biblical history and spiritual significance of wine, and explore whether wine can be taken seriously as part of a recovery of the senses in Christian spirituality. (The tasting in Dunedin is a stand alone event. In Auckland and Wellington the tasting is combined with the lecture).
Dunedin: Tuesday 7th February, 6:15 -7:45 pm. $20 door sales, Hewitson Library, 6 Arden Street, Opoho.
Auckland: Monday 13th February, 5:45-8 pm. $30 book through Eventfinda), Maclaurin Chapel
Wellington: Friday 17th February, 5:45-7:45 pm, St Johns in the City, $20 Door sales (tbc).
Workshop – Creation and Holistic Christian Living with Dr. Gisela Kreglinger. When God blessed creation and declared it good, what were the implications for Christian discipleship? This workshop will explore practical implications for cultivating everyday gifts of creation. It will engage theologians of creation, including Jurgen Moltmann, Wendell Berry and Richard Bauckham and pay particular attention to the ways that the Christian doctrine of creation shapes everyday practices and builds stronger communities.
Dunedin: Wednesday 8th February, 10-12:30 pm, $20 at door, Frank Nicol Room, 6 Arden Street, Opoho.
Auckland: Monday 13th February, 10-12:30 pm. $20 at door, Carey Baptist College, 473 Great South Road.
Wellington: Friday 17th February, 10-12:30 pm. $20 Door sales, St Johns in the City.
Who is Dr Gisela Kreglinger? Gisela Kreglinger grew up on a family-owned winery in Franconia, Germany where her family has been crafting wine for many generations. She holds a Ph.D. in Theology from St Andrews University and in her recent book, The Spirituality of Wine (2016), Gisela has woven together her passions for Christian spirituality and the created gift of wine. Gisela has offered lectures, talks and tasting in restaurants, vineyards, churches and seminaries in the USA and the UK.
“Food, and perhaps even more so wine, has always been a powerful instrument of mediation between humanity and the divine. Gisela Kreglinger offers a fascinating and in-depth exploration of the intricate relationship between wine and Christian spirituality.” – Carolo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement.
“In Kreglinger’s hand’s wine becomes a key to a spirituality that rejects false dualisms of matter and spirit and inspires the healing of the earth on the way to God’s new creation of all things.” – Richard Bauckham, Professor Emeritus, University of St Andrews.
Wednesday, December 07, 2016
Arrival: an (Advent) film review
Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 120 plus films later, here is the review for December 2016.
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor
“If you could see your whole life laid out in front of you, would you change things?”
Dr Louise Banks
Western culture tends to think in straight lines. We imagine a linear future getting brighter. Arrival invites us to think in circles and examine the consequences.
We begin with Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams), grieving the death of her teenage daughter, Hannah. We end before the beginning, in the tender love within which Hannah is formed. The plot’s circular nature makes sense given the internal linguistic developments.
Banks is a gifted linguist. She is asked by the US military to establish communication with twelve alien spaceships that have suddenly arrived and positioned themselves around the globe. Taking a risk and drawing from the mathematical insights of fellow scientist, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Banks begins to realize the aliens communicate in a circular form. It is a way of thinking that can only be grasped when the end of the sentence is understood before the beginning. The discovery enables Banks to not only avert a global conflict, but also make sense of her personal life. Hence the circular and philosophical logic of her question: “If you could see your whole life laid out in front of you, would you change things?”
The result is a plot that sustains both emotion connection and intellectual curiosity. A strong emotional narrative is generated, first in the joy shared between Banks and her growing daughter, second in the grief as Hannah succumbs to cancer. The alien presence and the resulting linguistic puzzle, offers a pleasing set of interlocking intellectual plot-circles.
Arrival is directed by Canadian, Denis Villeneuve, three-times a winner of the Genie Award for Best Direction. The film is an adaptation of Tony Chang’s Story of Your Life. Chang, American born of Chinese descent, has written fifteen short stories, gaining a string of literary awards (including four each of the prestigious Nebula, Hugo and Locus Awards).
As we approach Christmas, it is interesting to lay Arrival alongside the Christian understandings of a baby in whom is God. In other words, the arrival of mystery comes not in alien technology spread around the globe but in the vulnerability of a baby born in a particular Jewish stable.
Unraveling this mysterious communication from another place is not the domain of gifted linguists. Rather, it is for those who let the children come. The Christian God of Christmas speaks not in complex linguistic forms, but in baby babble. It brings to mind the words of the twentieth century’s most famous theologian Karl Barth. When asked to sum his whole life’s theology in one sentence, his reply was more circular than linear. “Jesus loves me, this I know.” It is a response in which complexity and mystery are enfolded in love. Such is the understanding of revelation present in the Christmas “arrival.”
Rev Dr Steve Taylor is Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, Dunedin. He is the author of Built for change (Mediacom: 2016) and The Out of Bounds Church? (Zondervan: 2005) and writes widely in areas of theology and popular culture, including regularly at www.emergentkiwi.org.nz.
Saturday, December 03, 2016
Research: Praying in crisis and the implications for chaplains
Our research data on how churches respond to crisis got a second airing today, at the Chaplaincy in Aotearoa New Zealand conference. (The abstract of our paper is below.) It was good to co-present with research collaborator Lynne Taylor and we were grateful to the conference presenters for giving us the space. It is the second presentation in the space of a few weeks, having presented at the Resourcing Ministers day to around 120 Presbyterian ministers as part of General Assembly 2016 in November.
The data set we are working with includes over 8,800 words of description regarding how over 150 churches prayed on the Sunday after the Paris tragedy. It means there is a lot we could talk about! Today, with a different audience, the presentation took on a different life. As part of the presentation, we also offered a takeaway resource, 8 examples of different ways that churches had prayed in crisis, including a brief commentary from Lynne and I as co-authors.
Being chaplains, and being a smaller group, the questions and matters of engagement were very different.
- First, the complexity of us. There was affirmation of the theological reflection we had done in terms of noting the complexity of praying “forgive us our sins”; “deliver us from evil.” There is a need to think carefully about who is the “us” as we come in lament and intercession.
- Second, from the field of mental health chaplaincy, the importance of being sensitive to the re-living of trauma. Particular care needs to be taken in the use of images, given the power of the visual to trigger past pain. So the affirmation of those examples that used the auditory, rather than the visual, in providing ways for people to pray in crisis.
- Third, the importance of prayers for others including prayers not only for victims, but also for perpetrators of crime. This again, from a mental health chaplain, noting the importance of ensuring prayer was real and engaged the complexity of life.
- Fourth, the difficulty of praying for crisis in religious communities that lack a tradition, and thus a set of established and well-worn resources.
- Fifth, the enormous value of this type of research, in helping those who minister, to reflect on what they pray. This is a different, yet very life-giving type of research, that celebrates ministry and encourages the seeking of best practice.
Having now aired the data twice, in two different settings, and had the affirmation of the relevance and importance of the data, it is definitely time to seek an avenue for publication. But after Lynne has finished her PhD!
Praying in crisis: the implications for chaplains from an empirical study of how local churches respond to global events
Steve Taylor and Lynne Taylor
Chaplains often find themselves as a Christian presence in the midst of crisis. This can present a particular set of challenges regarding how to speak of the nature of God and humanity in tragedy. How to think of faith in the midst of unexpected suffering? What resources might Christian ministry draw upon?
One common resource is that of prayer. Given lex orandi, lex credendi (the rule of praying is the rule of believing) such prayers – or lack thereof – can be examined as the articulation of a living practical theology.
In the week following Sunday, 15 November, 2015, empirical research was conducted into how local churches pray. An invitation to participate in an online survey was sent to pastoral leaders in two New Zealand denominations: Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Baptist Churches of New Zealand. An invitation to participate was also posted on social media. The date was significant because on Friday, 13 November, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in Paris. At the same time, a number of other tragedies occurred, including bombings in Beirut and Baghdad.
Over 150 survey responses were received. In the midst of global tragedy, how had the church prayed? What might be learnt from these moments of lex orandi, lex credendi? This paper will address these questions. It will outline the resources used and the theologies at work. Particular attention will be paid to the curating of “word-less space”, given the widespread use of non-verbal elements in the data. The implications for those who pray in tragedy will be considered, with particular attention to the ministry of chaplaincy.
Monday, November 21, 2016
Festival participation: ethnographic research
Ethics approval from Flinders University gained on 17 November 2016 for
Festival participation: Engagement of church and community in light of secularisation thesis
To interview participants at the Bothwell Spin and Fibre Festival (BSFF), Tasmania. Members of the Uniting Church began this bi-annual community festival and continue to be active participants, including a blessing of the fleece liturgy, the providing of wool for festival participants to craft during the Festival and the holding of a Church service on Sunday as the Festival concludes. The festival has grown over the years, attracting international attention. It is considered a success both by the community and by the church.
This project will explore the meanings attached to this event. It will consider a set of ecclesial foci: Why is the church involved, in particular in the gift of liturgy and craft? What specific theologies shape their involvement? Have those theologies changed over time?
It will consider a set of community foci: What does the community think of the involvement of the church? How do they respond to the gifts being offered? What meanings are attached? How do these two foci connect with theorising regarding the secularisation thesis, which predicts that in modern society, religious participation will decline and religious institutions will weaken.
There is widespread literature noting the decline of religious participation and institutions in Western society. This is loosely organised around a secularising thesis, which is generally posited to be more advanced in modernity, and thus by implication in urban areas. The BSFF is a rural event.
A festival is a fluid event, interleaving together a range of interests, behind which lie a range of narratives. Research of the BSFF can be theorised in relation to the secularisation thesis, given it is located in a rural context and runs as a festival.
Charles Taylor (A Secular Age, 2007) argues that in a secular age, festivals will be conducted in ways that eliminate the tension between the demands of everyday life and hopes of eternal benefit, most commonly by dropping the expectations of eternity and instead framing ultimate purpose as this worldly. Paul Heelas (Spiritualities of Life: New Age Romanticism and Consumptive Capitalism, 2008) argues for the rise of spirituality practised not by discipline, nor by ecstatic experience but through the practices of everyday life. This resonates with the work of Taylor and provides a framework by which to analyse the data.
This research will test the secularisation thesis in regard to the narratives constructed around the participation of the church. Why might the church might be involved? Does their involvement, and in particular their focus on craft, promote a spirituality that is this-worldly? How do participants understand their involvement and the involvement of the church?
The research thus has implications for understanding the motivations behind the general social benefits attributed to festivals. It provides understanding of how the church positions itself within a community and how community participate in such events.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
KCML speech at General Assembly
As a member of National staff, I am offered 5 minutes to visit General Assembly and speak about KCML. I wanted to look forward, put some concrete numbers out there and in doing so, note our dependence on God. Here is what I said to GA 2016 on Thursday.
E te Motoreta, tena koutou katoa. Tena koutou e nga tarikete. No reira, tena koutou katoa. Two years ago, in Auckland, I stood before General Assembly as Keynote speaker.
In thanking me, then Moderator, Andrew Norton, gave me this Maori toki. (Be careful what they give you, Rod Wilson, visiting speaker at GA 2016). Andrew noted that even though I was then serving “across the ditch”, in Australia, that New Zealand remained my home. So this gift, this toki, was a sign of friendship. I stand before you at this General Assembly, in the surprise of God, as Principal of KCML; grateful for the friendships that have emerged and for the friendships that are yet to emerge.
I thank those who partner with KCML. In the last financial year
- The national church contributed 22% of our income
- Synod Otago Southland contributed 19%
- Local churches who partner in intern placements contributed 18%
- Presbyterian Development Society contributed 6%
- The taonga of interest on investments from previous generations contributed 31%
I thank Leadership Sub-Committee, National Assessment Workgroup, Presbytery Candidate Committees; Council of Assembly and the KCML team.
First, we’re not KCM. We’re KCML. We’re not the Knox Centre for Ministers (bracket national ordained). We’re Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership. So in the next years we’re piloting the national learning diploma – ways for the whole church to learn about leadership, mission, preaching, worship, being intercultural.
Second, we’re a national College, not a Dunedin college. So next year for the first time in 140 years, we’re taking the KCML Inaugural lecture on the road. In 3 cities, partnering with a local church – St Johns – in Wellington, and a chaplaincy – McLaurin Chapel – in Auckland. It’s called “Come to your senses.” Join us in February to examine a holistic Christian spirituality.
Third, in the Book of Order, Appendix D4, the role of a minister of word and Sacrament includes initiating “creative trends in the Church’s witness.” As a result KCML is partnering with Presbyteries in planting New Mission Seedlings. Just like those seedlings from New World, we want to partner with every Presbytery, to provide diverse learning spaces that nourish creative trends in mission.
Fourth, KCML has a strategic plan. Approved by Council of Assembly in June. The plan requires KCML to look forward in an intercultural, missional context; attentive to the God of Life-giving possibilities. The plan requires us to focus. So by GA 2020, we plan to
- Establish 7 new mission seedlings in 7 Presbyteries, with local learnings shared through a National Incubator.
- Cultivate 80 students in the National Learning Diploma, with an online platform across New Zealand
- Provide postgraduate offerings in mission and ministry, to provide life-long learning.
- All while sustaining our core business – providing 25 contextually agile NOMs
Two years ago in my GA 2014 keynotes I talked about mission. In Luke 10, Jesus sends. In Luke 14, Jesus includes. In Luke 19, Jesus seeks the lost. Without this God of mission, the KCML plan is stuffed. That’s our only hope and in God we trust. Thank you.