Wednesday, November 09, 2016

visual examen: colour in prayer

We finish each day of our internship intensives with a daily examen.

Examen – defined as a prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and grow in understanding how God is present.

Mixed with a morning devotion and a lunchtime intercession, it provides a three-stranded pattern of prayer that weaves through our block course intensives. The danger is that examens become essentially word based – more words at the end of a day full of words in a classroom.

So today, in order to engage our eyes and our sense of touch, I offered a visual examen. I cut up red, green and yellow card into different shapes and grouped them on plates. I walked around the room, offering first red, then green, then yellow. As people chose a colour, I asked them questions to reflect on their day.

  • Red – a strong emotion (how did you feel? who was there? what was said before and after? where was God)
  • Green – a moment of growth (a learning? an insight? a challenge? a connection?). Give thanks to God for these gifts.
  • Yellow – a joy (a moment in relationship? a joke from a colleague? Give thanks to God for these gifts.

I then read a Scripture – Philippians 3:8, 10. “More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. I want to know Christ[a] and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death.” It was a reminder of the importance of surrender into the shape of Christ, an invitation to release.

I located one of the icons I have written during my time in Australia (here’s a video of me talking about icons as spiritual practise) and placed it flat, as a sort of plate. I then invited people to place their colours on the icon, as a way of releasing our day to God, returning the gift we’d been given and surrendering ourselves to being in Christ.

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Posted by steve at 07:50 PM

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Daughter: theological film review

ticket-1543115-640x480 Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 100 plus films later, here is the review for November 2016.

The Daughter
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

The Daughter is enthralling, a cinematic triumph in which superb acting and smart dialogue yield an emotionally charged finale.

A grown son (Paul Schneider as Christian) returns to the town of his childhood for the second marriage of his father (Geoffrey Rush as Henry). Reunion with his childhood friend (Ewen Leslie as Oliver) and his loved daughter (Odessa Young as Hedvig) results in a sequence of questions. Christian’s present grief rips the scabs from grief past.

The acting is superb. Paul Schneider and Geoffrey Rush are fine embodiments of a male ability to remain emotionally distant. The tears of abandonment by Odessa Young and regret by Ewen Leslie express perfectly the emotional power of this slowly unfolding tragedy.

Hedvig is essential to the movie’s success. She is lively and rebellious. The result is a joy-filled palette of colours, which accentuate the gathering storm clouds. It is an effect magnified by the somber tones of the movie’s backdrop, a rural forest town in which the sawmill is facing closure.

The Daughter is inspired by an 1884 play (The Wild Duck) by Norwegian Henrik Ibsen. In a movie that draws from the traditional strength of threatre in plot and character, the clever use of sound plays a significant role. The first noise heard is a distant gunshot. Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” is an apt soundtrack as the family wedding descends into painful farce. In two key scenes, the only sound is that of breathing: powerful in anger, pleading in pain.

The New Zealand film industry has connections with this Australian movie. First, when The Daughter is placed alongside 2004 New Zealand movie, In My Fathers Den. The similarities are uncanny. Both offer a strong sense of place, in which memories are haunted. Both star a man returning to his childhood home and a lively teenage girl growing into maturity. Both compress pain past and present into unfolding tragedy. This examination of similarities also underlines the differences, particularly the sombre palette that marks The Daughter in contrast to the moments of beauty that gave joy to In My Fathers Den.

Second, through Sam Neill, who plays Walter, Hedvig’s grandfather. He is the character closest to the wounded healer, a previously damaged nurturer watching over these wounded in the movie’s present.

While theology is difficult to find in The Daughter, Jesus is a word used repeatedly in one pivotal scene. The word is uttered neither in blasphemy nor piety. Rather it is a word of shock, as the hammer blow of an unimagined past obliterates a peaceful present. In its repetition, it suggests one way to understand the death of Jesus. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken” is equally a cry of incomprehension in the face of overwhelming pain. It suggests Jesus as a Divine shock absorber. Simple repeated words – My God – arise from a person absorbing blows at the limits of human experience. It offers a response both pastoral and theological to the repetitive use of Jesus in the face of profound grief.

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.

Posted by steve at 02:52 PM

Friday, November 04, 2016

Is Luke 20:27-38 the most difficult New Testament passage to preach from?

dontworrybesexy1-205x300 It was a question asked by a colleague this week. Here’s my attempt from 2013. I was guest preacher and was asked to preach from Lectionary. The more I wrestled with the text, the more I was glad of the power and freshness.

From the cowardice that dare not face new truth,
From the laziness that is contented with half truth,
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
God of Truth, deliver us.

I currently serve as the Principal of Uniting College for Leadership and Theology. My sense of call to be Principal of the Uniting College owes a lot to Exodus 3, God’s call to Moses at the burning bush.

Back in 2012, I was aware that the College were looking for a Principal and applications were closing. I was attending Church on Sunday morning and as you sometimes do in a sermon – not here I’m sure – I found myself mentally going through all the reasons why I wouldn’t be a suitable Principal of a theological college

Younger than most Principal’s I know
Come from another country.
More comfortable at the edge of the church than at the center

As I was going through this mental checklist, I realised that I was missing the childrens talk. Which was Exodus 3.

The part where Moses gives all these excuses why he wouldn’t be a very good leader. What if they don’t listen? What if I can’t communicate clearly?

And I suddenly realised, I was just like Moses. Giving excuses. God simply asks Moses “What’s in your hand?” (Ch 4:5) For Moses it was a staff. For me it was my gifts and passions.

So we learn something about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Moses. We learn that God calls people. Asks them “What’s in your hand?” Asks them to give their gifts and passions. We learn that call to mission begins in God’s compassion. God tells Moses (Ch 3:7-8) “I have heard their cry. Indeed, I know their sufferings”

A mission that begins with a God who hears people’s cry. Which makes me want to stop. It makes me want to ask what you hear. What is the cry of your community? What is making people in this community suffer?

Indeed, I know their sufferings, v. 8 and I have to deliver them.

I tell you this story because it introduces me. I tell you this story because it also introduces the Lectionary text, Luke 20:27-38.

37 -38 – But in the account of the burning bush, Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”.

God who calls.
God who listens
God who listens deeply enough to know about sufferings.

So says Jesus, This God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.’

The Lectionary story from Luke 20 is set in the temple. Jesus is teaching and as he teaches he’s asked three questions. One of the commentaries call these “testing stories.” Throughout the ministry of Jesus, he’s asked questions. So many questions that they get a title – “testing stories.”

So that tells us something else about this “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”. This God doesn’t mind questions. Not in the burning bush story of Moses, where three times Moses get’s to ask God questions, to say to God but what about.

I find that such a helpful image for understanding God – a relationship strong enough to hear our questions.

In this particular story, the “testing question” is asked by a person from a group called the Sadducees. A religious group within Judaism. Who have a unique set of beliefs, including a disbelief in resurrection, in life beyond death.

Hence their “testing question.” They offer Jesus a case study. Well if there was a family of 7 boys and one by one they all died, and one by one the next brother married the widow – then, if there is a heaven, what happens to the wife?

The case study is based on historical cultural practice – what was in Ancient Israel called levirate marriage. It’s explained in Dueteronomy 25:5-10. If a married man dies childless, the man’s brother must marry the widow. It has a purpose – to perpetuate the name and hand down property from one generation of men to the next.

My teenage daughters, in the flash of an eye, would tell me how sexist this is. How much it assumes an oldfashioned patriarchal view of family and marriage and gender.

Jesus responds to the “testing question” in two parts.

First in verses 34-36.

This age, with a concern for marriage – that is the existing hierarchical, patriarchal view of family and marriage and gender

And “that age” the resurrection. When children of God, who are children of the resurrection.”

Those words, “children of God”, used in verse 36, have history. They’ve been used already by Jesus in Luke 6:35-36: love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High … 3Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Which sets up two very different understanding of marriage.

For the Sadduccees, in verses 28, 29, 31, “the man takes a wife.” A very traditional, very patriarchal, way of understanding marriage. Sexist, as my daughters would tell me.

In contrast – For the children of God – those who are living out these values of love of enemies, being merciful – the verbs about marriage are passive.

It’s not, the man takes a wife.

Instead it’s literally, “to allow oneself to be married.”

So Jesus is actually offering a radical critique of current understandings of how women relate to men in marriage.

You can choose to be aligned with the this age, these present cultural understandings.

No resurrection because death is the end. Until death, you get to participate in a very legal, very strict hierarchical pattern. Women are to be given and taken by men, women are simply objects to preserve a male family line, women are useful only if they can produce children. That’s choice.

The other choice, the Jesus choice, is to align yourself with the age to come. With resurrection. On which death is dead. In which women, as equally as men, find value not in producing children, but because of how they live their lives, because of how they love their enemies, because of of how they practise justice and live merciful.

So that’s first response to the testing question. Resurrection. Which impacts on how women and men relate.

The second response by Jesus is to turn to another place in the Old Testament. Not to the Levirate Law in Dueteronomy but to Moses, the burning bush and “the God of Abraham, and Isaac, Jacob”.

As I’ve already said,
the God who calls. What’s in your hand.
God who listens, to the cry of people.
God who listens deeply enough to know about sufferings.
God who offers deliverance. Into a covenant, a set of living relationships, Q and A with God, which give us our identity and guides behaviour.

That’s the God of Abraham, and Isaac, Jacob”. For to God, all are alive.

And of course, this story in Luke 20, is placed between the resurrection story of Lazarus in Chapter 16, and resurrection story of Jesus in Chapter 24.

So what we learn about resurrection here is made possible because of God, who raised Jesus from the dead. In order to offer a covenant, a set of living relationships, not just to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but to any who want to be children of God, to any who will live of life of justice and mercy.

We live a world that’s never heard of Sadducees and burning bushes and Levirate marriages. So how does our world understand marriage? How does our world value women?

I was walking through mall yesterday and saw this T-shirt. “Dont’ worry. Be sexy.” So that’s one way our world values women. Not as children of God, of value because of a life of justice and mercy.

Another way our world values women is as consumers. Shop till you drop. So there’s something strangely appealing about what Jesus is offering. To be defined, not by our bodies, our booty or our budget. But by relationship. A living covenant, a Q and A with God, expressed in a life of justice and mercy?

I have to be honest. I approached today’s Lectionary text going – this is tough. This is an obscure argument about an obscure part of the Bible.

Over the week, I’ve gained fresh insight into the radical nature of God’s Kingdom. We’re invited to be children of God. Our relationships with each other, our relationships with God are not defined not by historic cultural patterns. Nor by how sexy we are. Nor by how much bling we have. We’re children of God. Called by a God who listens to the cry of people’s suffering. Invited to live lives of mercy and justice. That’s good news. For us. For our church. For our wider community.

Posted by steve at 02:18 PM

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Presbytery partnerships

In June, the Council of Assembly of the Presbyterian Church strongly endorsed the KCML Strategic plan. One of the five key directions is Presbytery partnerships.

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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.

To enact this part of the strategic plan is likely to involve three steps

  • Introduction of plan to Presbyteries (of which in New Zealand there are 7: 5 geographic Presbyteries and 2 Synods that in order to be Synods are each a Presbytery)
  • Clarification of the individualised relationship, through a Memorandum of Understanding that might include a 5 year Presbytery training plan and structures by which to innovate around New Mission Seedlings
  • Delivery, with feedback loops

On Saturday I engaged with Northern Presbytery. For 20 minutes I provided some mission framing, for another 20 minutes I shared the 5 parts of the KCML strategic plan and for a final 20 minutes I sought feedback – what excites and what concerns.

The feedback was overwhelming positive, with the Moderator noting how much it helped the elders and ministers of Presbytery to know that challenges are being recognised and that alternative ways forward as a church are being enacted.

Saturday’s conversation brings to five (out of 7) such conversations – held either with Presbytery Councils or a full Presbytery – since the Strategic plan was approved just over 5 months ago. That’s encouraging progress.

While there is much work still to be done – in clarification and in delivery – it is great to be out and about like this around the church nationally. It is a privilege to be given this type of access and to see the diverse parts of the church at work.

Posted by steve at 06:35 PM

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

art resourcing ministry: 3 images that shape my practice

I drove six hours yesterday, to Geraldine, to spend time resourcing a Ministers cluster. They meet regularly every few months and had asked me tto engage with them for about 4 hours, either side of lunch. After some back and forth with the organisors, I decided I would offer three art pieces that had been important in shaping my understanding of ministry. I had not done this before. But my sense was that the space created by art, along with the mix of story, would add value to a group of ministers who need themselves some space to reflect.

I suggested a repeated sequence, in which we would engage in the following process.
- silence to appreciate the art
- discussion of what we noticed in the art
- my story of why the art was important and how is shaped my ministry
- discussion together of the implications for ministry

I offered three pieces (one was a pair).

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First, (the top of the photo) an original illustration from Bodge Plants a Seed: A Retelling of the Parable of the Sower, which Simon Smith had gifted to me when I began in ministry at Opawa Baptist. This opened up a rich conversation about leadership as gardening, a set of practices in which we attend to what God has already gifted. (More on this is in my book, Built for Change: a practical theology of innovation and collaboration in leadership).

Second, (the bottom of the photo), some art by Kees de Kort, from Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission, 146-8. This opened up conversation about mission that originates with God. It requires partnership, in which we locate ourselves not as initiators and holders of Scripture, but as guests and interpreters.

Third, John Lavery’s Anna Pavlova The Red Scarf paired with a photo of a girl seeking to imitate the dancer. This allowed a even richer conversation about God as the dancer and how we understand formation. It included reflection on the role of gender, to which I offered the followed resources, a compilation of some writing I did during sabbatical in 2012.

Women’s Faith Development: Patterns and Processes (Explorations in Practical, Pastoral and Empirical Theology), by Nichola Slee, suggests that our notions of faith development can reflect a male bias. Her work emerges from interviews with 30 women, which resulted in some 1500 pages of transcribed interviews. She then read these narratives alongside a number of conversation partners – faith development theory and women’s spirituality. She suggests these women develop through a three part process,
• of alienation
• of awakenings
• of relationality

She then makes four broad applications, to those in formal theological education, to those involved in any educational or pastoral care context in church life, to women’s networks and groupings.

First, to ground practice in women’s experience. She suggests making a priority of more inductive and experiential approaches to education. She also suggesting bringing to greater visibility women’s lives. (A simple check list I used in this regard, when I used to preach regularly, was check my sermon illustrations and quotes to make sure I had gender balance, as many women examples as men).

Second, create relational and conversational spaces, for “women’s spirituality was profoundly relational in nature, rooted in a strong sense of connection to others, to the wider world and to God as the source of relational power.” (Women’s Faith Development, 173) Slee suggests we look at our environments, ways to create circles not rows, and processes by which everyone speaks no less than once and no more than twice.

Third, foregrounding of imagination, given “the remarkable linguistic and metaphoric creativity of women as they seek to give expression to their struggles to achieve authentic selfhood, relationships with others, and connectedness to ultimate reality.” (Women’s Faith Development, 175). She notes historically how much of women’s theology was embedded in poetry, hymnody, craft forms and popular piety. So we need to find ways to weave this into our “reading” and our talking. “Yet educators need to go beyond the use of such artistic resources to the active encouragement of learners to engage in artistry as a way of exploring and discerning truth.” (Women’s Faith DevelopmentWomen’s Faith Development, 178) Slee is aware that these suggestions are not new. But from her experience of (British) theological institutions, there is room for growth.

A second perspective comes from Ann Phillips, The Faith of Girls: Children’s Spirituality and Transition to Adulthood She asks what Lo-ruhamah in Hosea 1, Namaan’s wife’s slave girl in 2 Kings 5, the slave girl in Philippi in Acts 16, Jarius daughter in the Gospels, have in common?

First, they are pre-pubescent girls. Second, they are agents of new theology. God is made more real, more understandable, more present, through these girls. This is so consistent with Jesus, who takes children in his arms and reminds us that keys to God’s Kingdom are found in them.

Phillips notes that most theologies of childhood have been written by men. She interviews 17 young girls, seeking to understand their faith development. Anne argues for a “wombing” theology as an approach to faith development. It protects and so the need for a “home space.” It enables play, in which the one being birthed is free, away from adult control, to work at their identity. It connects. Regarding church, “membership of a cohort was not enough for the girls to feel a sense of belonging. Intergenerational sharing was named as a significant feature in their attachment to the environment … Girls [interviewed] regularly spoke of the impact on their faith of older people … Most participation was initiated by adults.” (The Faith of Girls, 160)

The approach worked really, really well. The mix of visuals, personal story and ministry application provided multiple entry points. The use of eyes brought a stillness into the room and offered a reflective space. Those not used to engaging art found a strengthening of their skills in the simple invitation to look. The discussion wandered broad and wide, with a degree of honesty, challenge and humour. The four hours flew by.

Personally, it was quite moving, to be taken back into my story. I saw some patterns woven in. I also realised how these patterns continue to shape my current practice and vision. It was a contemplative, holy sort of day.

Posted by steve at 11:05 AM

Sunday, October 30, 2016

connecting, looking for partners in mission

I spent today bringing greetings from KCML to three Auckland Presbyterian churches: Taiwanese, Cantonese, English-speaking of Chinese descent. Since I was up in Auckland for meetings on Friday and Saturday, it seemed a great opportunity to stay on for an extra night and connect with parts of the Presbyterian church that perhaps have never been visited by a KCML Principal.

It was also an opportunity to seek partnerships. My hunch is that we as Knox and we as a Presbyterian church might need the cultural agility, entrepreneurial knack and cross-cultural skills that migrant congregations are likely to offer.

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Here is what I said, as I presented to each a gift – an artistic representation of the Knox Centre.

Nau mai, haure mai. Aku rangatira, tena kou

In Maori I greet you and honour your elders.

My name is Steve Taylor. I was born in Papua New Guinea. I’ve been a church planter and church minister here in New Zealand and Principal of a theological College in Australia. I am currently now the Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership.

Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership is the theological college of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. The Presbyterian church in New Zealand recognises 4 strands of ordained ministry

  • national ordained ministry
  • local ordained ministry
  • local ministry teams
  • Amorangi Maori ministry

On behalf of the Presbyterian church, Knox Centre train for all these 4 types of ordained ministry. We don’t do this alone. We do this in partnership with Presbyteries and local churches. We also do this in partnership with Te Wananga-a-rangi, the theological college of the Maori Synod of the the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.

As part of my greeting I bring a gift. It is a picture of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership. It has been painted by a local Dunedin artist, the husband of one of our lecturers.

gift

Knox has been training ministers for 139 years. We began in 1877. So next year we are 140 years old. We have much to thank God for, a rich and long heritage.

As a College, we look backward. We also look forward. We have a vision, a dream, a hope.

First, commitment to train diverse cultures. Knox has never, to my knowledge, trained a Chinese minister. We’ve trained Korean. We’ve trained Pacific Island. We’ve trained Tamil Indian. We’ve trained Maori. We’ve never trained a Chinese minister. So I ask you to pray with us. That God will use Knox to train leaders for all the cultures of New Zealand.

7seedlings

Second, we at Knox Centre have a commitment to plant new mission seedlings. According to the Presbyterian Church Book of Order; to be ordained is to be part of initiating creative trends in the witness of the Church. In order to train for that KCML is looking to plant new mission seedlings, places where creative Church Witness can be initiated.

I would suggest that here in Auckland is a great place to explore creative Church witness. Amid the super diversity of this city – so many opportunities. I offer this gift and I ask you to pray for us.

Pray that God will raise up Chinese to ordained leadership here in New Zealand. And pray that God will bless in the planting of New Mission Seedlings.

Posted by steve at 02:40 PM

Thursday, October 27, 2016

U2 Praying after paris: a research query

In a couple of weeks I am co-presenting a plenary session at Practising hope: gathered and scattered, a day resourcing ministers prior to the Presbyterian General Assembly. The advertising blurb is as follows:

9:15 am Plenary: Hope gathered. How do churches respond to hard stuff? How did PCANZ churches worship and pray as they gathered on Sunday, November 15, 2015 in light of major international events? Steve and Lynne Taylor will present findings from their research into 160 churches, to explore how churches respond in gathered worship to hard stuff. What was practiced? How was hope understood? What theologies of God in suffering were at work? What does this say about being church in the world today?

It is one thing to agree to speak. It is quite another to find something coherent, interesting, deep and engaging. I’ve been quietly mulling away, working on the data, which is SO interesting. But it also slips and slides in SO many directions. Where in all this is the creative points of connection that might open up the conversation.

At the same time, I’ve also been working on a writing deadline – a chapter on live performances of U2′s “Mysterious Ways.”

Today it clicked. Two separate conversations suddenly began talking to each other. How did churches pray after Paris? Well, I wonder how U2 “prayed after Paris”? The band after all were due to play in Paris November 15, 2015. The concert was postponed. When they returned The New York Times wrote: “The Paris show that concluded U2′s Innocence and Experience tour was concert as personal memoir, archetypal story, prayer, exorcism and vow of unity.” Hmmm. Prayer!

How did they pray, live, publicly, in the midst of so much pain?

I wonder what happens when the prayer life of U2 after Paris is put alongside the prayer life of churches?

I have had, after all, work 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).

I have also had work published on 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.) In other words, I’ve already done some reading and thinking.

And so, for the sake of research, in the name of resourcing ministers, another purchase is made: iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live In Paris

Posted by steve at 06:42 PM

Friday, October 21, 2016

Practising hope: gathered and scattered Ministers Resourcing day

As part of Presbyterian General Assembly, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership has been asked to provide a day resourcing ministers. We want to engage the theme of General Assembly – hope for the world. We want to offer thoughtful and theological reflection on ministry practice, empirical research into how churches respond to tragedy as they gather and how we discern how Christ takes form in the world. We want to allow the rich range of voices in the church to be heard. So far, the registration response has been excellent.

Theme – Practising hope: gathered and scattered

9:00 am Welcome, introduction KCML team

9:15 am Plenary: Hope gathered. How do churches respond to hard stuff? How did PCANZ churches worship and pray as they gathered on Sunday, November 15, 2015 in light of major international events? Steve and Lynne Taylor will present findings from their research into 160 churches, to explore how churches respond in gathered worship to hard stuff. What was practiced? How was hope understood? What theologies of God in suffering were at work? What does this say about being church in the world today?

10:00 am Morning Groups: “What’s in your kete?” By “what’s in your kete?” we are asking various ministry practitioners to facilitate discussion both among the group but also by example. We are asking them to bring resources that they use for offering hope in the hard places of human experience. We want the question to also be a group question, allowing the group to bounce off each other and sharing best practice. If you have resources you have found important in nurturing hope in hard places, please bring them to share. Group presenters will include KCML Faculty and local practitioners.

12:00 Lunch

1:00pm Plenary: Christ Plays in 10,000 Places: Introductory Address and Panel. Mission conversations in churches frequently occur as an inside-out job. We speak of ‘reaching out’, or ‘taking the Gospel to’, or even ‘welcoming them in’. It assumes we as the church are the centre and the fixed point from which the action emanates. But what if mission is just as much an outside-in job and God is already in our communities and marketplaces, inviting us to join the action there. What if Christ the living Word is speaking and acting amidst the world for the sake of the world. Can we become discerners of Christ amidst the marketplace and neighbourhood, and in discerning this, how might we hear Christ speaking a word of freshness to our churches?

2.00pm Workshops
1. Developing a culture of discernment in your eldership. Rev Ed Masters (Rotorua District Parish Church)
2. Loving your neighbours and discovering God’s Mission Rev Sun Mi Lee (St Austells Uniting, Auckland)
3. Building the conditions for mission listening and innovation in a Presbytery Rev Darryl Tempero, (Kiwi-Church and Alpine Presbytery Mission Facilitator, Christchurch)
4. Young People detaching from Church: What mission questions does the Pacific experience raise? Rev Fei Taulealeausuami (Former CWM Pacific Secretary & PhD Student) & Rev Dr Tokerau Joseph, (First Church Otago)
5. Listening to our changing rural communities Rev Erin Pendreigh (Otago-Southland Synod Mission Facilitator) & Rev Andrew Harrex (Lawrence, South Otago)
6. Leadership processes for mission listening & innovating Rev Dr Steve Taylor (Principal KCML)
7. The new net goes fishing. Ministry in the water amongst millennials. Rev Dr Carolyn Kelly (Senior Chaplain, Auckland University) & Rev Dr Hyeeun Kim (Counsellor, Auckland University)
8. Discerning and following Christ in Suburb and City. Rev Dr Mark Johnston (KCML Auckland Coordinator)

3.15pm Afternoon Tea and book launch. In this 2016 year KCML Faculty have published a range of resources that offer significant resourcing for ministers. This includes a songbook, multiple creative worship resources and three books. Commissioning prayers will be offered as part of our concluding worship.

Posted by steve at 06:27 PM

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Praying in crisis: the implications for chaplains from an empirical study of how local churches respond to global events

Abstract acceptance. Delighted to be presenting with my partner, Lynne Taylor, at the Chaplaincy in Aotearoa New Zealand: Telling Our Stories conference, December 2-3. It will be a public outing from empirical research we did into how local churches respond in worship to global events.

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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.

Posted by steve at 04:00 PM

Sunday, October 16, 2016

First communion: embodying a call?

Today was my first communion in a local Presbyterian church in New Zealand. I began at KCML a year ago this week. It involved a move from Australia to New Zealand and from the Uniting Church to the Presbyterian church.

I’ve shared communion in other settings within the Presbyterian church over this year, but not at a local church level. It is an interesting, albiet totally anecdotal reflection, on the place of this sacrament in Presbyterian life. I’ve also seen one baptism in a local Presbyterian church during this first year. Again, totally anecdotal, but it would suggest more of an emphasis on Word than Sacrament. And it does invite reflection on the impact on ecclesial formation – on the church and on myself as an individual. But that is for another post.

communion

What was wonderful was to share this first communion with Te Aka Puaho, the Maori Synod of the Presbyterian Church; to share it at Waimana, in the heart of Tuhoe nation; and to receive it from an Amorangi (Maori) minister in training.

It was a powerful reminder of the breadth of reach of the Presbyterian church in New Zealand; a reminder of the incredible gift that is Te Aka Puaho, reaching to stand in solidarity with communities and people that very few Pakeha will ever be able to engage; and their commitment as a Synod to raising of indigenous leadership.

The photo is worth reflecting on as a “visual” expression of belief, more specifically contextualised belief. The photos behind the pulpit are around the four walls of the church. They are there to express the church as living and breathing; not as a building. It allows reflection on people and events that shape the church. The colours (red, white and black) and patterns are Maori colours and patterns and express the connection with local communities and the people they serve.

door

We arrived early, but that was not a problem. A previous minister had set a policy in place: “The door will always be open.” The church should never be locked, should never be available on during worship.

My personality tends to find significance in events like this. My first local church communion is amongst tangata whenua, as a minority, being served as part of a process of indigenous leadership development. I would like to hope that says something about how God might be made present to me during this season of serving as Principal of KCML and how my time and energy, including my research (for example – Wanangha nai: a post-colonial indigenous atonement theology and Fiction as missiology: an indigenous Christology in Papua New Guinea), might need to be shaped.

Posted by steve at 05:01 PM

Thursday, October 13, 2016

New Mission seedlings: How could a church tend a seedling?

Initiating creative trends in the Church’s witness is part of what it means to be a Presbyterian minister, according to the Book of Order.

The ordinand is admitted to a fellowship responsible for the guardianship of the Gospel – a guardianship which must express itself in freshness and adaptability as the Church is led by Christ to do new things. The minister has not only the task of protecting the Church and the Gospel from error, but also, and particularly, the task of initiating creative trends in the Church’s witness. (Book of Order, Appendix D-4: Ordination and the Ministry of Word and Sacraments, (1966), (vii))

As a consequence, ministerial training needs to include opportunities, encouragement and training in innovation in mission. KMCL is working toward this aim in the birthing New Mission Seedlings. The aim is to establish in each Presbytery of the PCANZ a New Mission Seedling; seven throughout New Zealand over the next few years.

7seedlings

Each seedling  involves a long term commitment to mission in a local community. They are sites for learning

  • for interns learning to lead in mission
  • for KCML as a learning community being shaped by the challenges of initiating creative trends
  • for churches and Presbyteries in mission, invited to partner in establishing new communities of faith
  • for the national church, given that each seedling is established to address a mission question the church nationally does not yet have an answer too. This will be facilitated by annual National Incubators, that share wisdom and stimulate good practice.

nms-graphicver2

In sharing this vision with a local group from a Presbytery, a minister asked an excellent question: Could we participate? We have folk who have skills? Is there some way they can participate? Can partnerships between NMS and local churches be fostered?

My immediate response was to think about the Presbyterian distinctive of shared decision-making. We look to shared processes of leadership rather than to bishops or charismatic individuals. This instinct should shape our approach to initiating creative trends in the Church’s witness. Denominationally, the question of how could a church help a seedling is in fact a deeply Presbyterian question that attends to the richness of our tradition.

A practical response is to note the following:

1 – Presence to ensure solidarity and enhance partnership – from the extreme of move into the area, through choosing to work in the area, joining a club or activity in the area; participating in a local school with reading. There are a range of ways to enter Incarnation, from full relocation, to a range of ways to be alongside.

2 – Gifts – There are a range of ways to participate in initiating creative trends present themselves

  • Finance – people could contribute (food, coffee, events, etc)
  • Service – commit to a team that experiments in ways to serve. This could be on a fortnightly pattern, or in key community events or linked to Christian festivals.
  • Prayer – gathering in the community to listen to God (pray and read Scripture) amid the patterns of the community
  • Specialisation – specific skills might be offered, for example chairing a local board meeting, teach te reo. These involve taking an individual skill and offering it, ideally in ways the express both competency and solidarity.

3. Seasons – this speaks to both length and in timing. You don’t move plants in summer but in winter. So there are seasons in the sending church to discern, that involve the state of the community and vitality of practice. This also applies individually. A person in a demanding season of work has less to give than the season following children having left home.  A season by nature has an ending.  Always invite folk to participate for a season and then to review.

These thoughts could apply to a local church. They could also apply to a Presbytery, given that being presbyterian is about shared mission. Local churches and Presbyteries can be visited, the mission shared and folk invited to participate for a season, in a range of ways as listed above. Will you consider offering yourself for a year, to participate in six prayer walks; or one community festival or a year of listening to children read in a local school?

Each person that participates at the end of their season, faces a choice. To renew their commitment? Or to return to their sending church? Either way, the season of shared mission has exposed them to incarnational and contextual mission. They are richer. They church will be richer. In doing so, we are making another statement.

We are declaring that initiating creative trends is a body practice. It refuses to rely on amazingly gifted people. Instead, together, in partnerships, it finds multiple ways to participate in the mission of God. This is some of the thinking that lies behind New Mission Seedlings at KCML.

Posted by steve at 06:59 PM

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Jesus and the ancestors

I spent a good part of yesterday in lecture preparation. I am teaching this weekend at Te Aka Puaho, working with Maori ministers in training. My topic is mission and I spent the bulk of my time in Matthew 1: the genealogy of Jesus.

ancestors

While I’ve never heard it used in mission, it is how Matthew begins the story of Jesus: with a genealogy. For indigenous cultures, with a strong sense of ancestors, genealogy is essential for identity.

I explored four headings

  • Deep mission – drawing on Mark Yettica-Paulson and his wonderful chapter “Mission in the Great South Land: An Indigenous Perspective” in Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theologies: Storyweaving in the Asia-Pacific (Postcolonialism and Religions).
  • Matthew begins with go – and the role of journeying in Abraham
  • Mission includes – and the four Canaanite woman – Tamar (Canaanite), Rahab (Canaanite), Ruth (Moabite) and Bathsheba (Hittite) – woven into Jesus bloodlines. Jesus has indigenous blood, those of Canaanite people.
  • Mission surprises – and the importance of ordinary, everyday, quiet actions by people that no-one notices.

It was a rich exploration, noting the absences, even in books like Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative.

Here’s my conclusion

When it comes to mission we face two temptations. One is to romanticize, to name all the positive things. The other is to recount all the negative and harmful impacts. The genealogy of Jesus offers a third approach. It begins with deep memory and a story of voyaging. It weaves indigenous cultures into the story. It tells the truth, refusing to romanticize, helping us see the courage of those marginalized by society.

Posted by steve at 06:58 AM

Friday, October 07, 2016

Kubo and the Two Strings: a personal and pastoral theological reflection on memory

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 100 plus films later, here is the review for October 2016.

kubo Kubo and the Two Strings

Recently I shared dinner with the man who gave me my first job out of school. Strong, disciplined and resourceful thirty years ago, today he has Alzheimers. Over macroni cheese and salad, the conversation kept repeating itself. Yes, I was Principal of Knox. Yes, I have two daughters. Such is the cruelty of an incurable disease that slowly strips memory.

Later, over dessert, this same man began to share memories of his school days, some sixty years ago. They included playing cricket with my father, who died recently, an Alzheimers sufferer also. Suddenly it was my memory that had holes. Such is the complexity of memories. They are always richer when held in community.

A few weeks ago a friend, Professor John Swinton, (and 2016 KCML Inaugural Lecturer) was awarded the 2016 Michael Ramsey Prize. The Award, for the best contemporary theological writing of the global Church, was for John’s book, Dementia: Living in the Memories of God. Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby, in announcing the award, commended John for tackling one of the most important issues of our time – whether we can value people in other than economic terms. Swinton argues that our responses to memory loss say essential things about how we understand humans. Which in turn, say important things about how we understand God.

Kubo and the Two Strings is one of the finest movies I have seen. An animated story, it is enchanting, a technological triumph driven by the finest of storytelling. Kubo (Art Parkinson), a young Japanese man, is a storyteller who makes the imaginary real as he strums his magical guitar. Attacked by his aunts, Kubo learns he will only enjoy safety if he discovers his father’s sword, breastplate and helmet. He is joined on this quest by Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), a samurai with no memory.

In a final climatic ending, Kubo battles not only the aunts, but his grandfather, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes). Offered immortality, Kubo refuses. To live in the heavens will mean being deprived of the pain and suffering that for Kubo make him human. In the ensuing struggle, the Moon King loses his immortality, followed by his memory.

Lost, unsure of his identity, he finds himself surrounded by the villagers he has previously terrorised. In the absence of memory, the village community offer him another version of himself.

“You are the old man who feeds the hungry.”

“You are the one who taught my children.”

Are the villagers lying? Or are they offering another way of understanding memory?

In Kubo and the Two Strings, memories are not individual but communal. The counselling term is reframing. It is an approach that invites us to view life through a different lens. The theological term is recapitulation. It belongs to a second century Bishop named Irenaeus, who argued that in Christ are remembered all the stages of being human.

One response to those with Alzheimers is to regret their loss of memory. Another is for their community to hold more tightly their memories for them. Such is what God whispers in the making of humanity in Genesis 1. You are loved not because you remember, but because you are remembered.

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.

Posted by steve at 07:05 AM

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Hospitality as mission: Why does the church see itself as host not guest?

579b32ed09f103cbc96337321156219c I was asked to speak at a local Presbyterian church, to finish a month long series on hospitality. Being the last in the series, I offered to speak on hospitality as eschatology – looking at the book of Revelation, in particular Revelation 19:6-9. I also drew on Rublevs icon in what became an exploration of hospitality as mission.

I runga i te ingoa, O te Matua, O te Tama, Me te Wairua Tapu, Amine. May I speak in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, the Maker of all things new.

A story to start. St Paul’s Chapel is the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan, New York. Built in 1766, it’s also the closest church to World Trade Centre twin towers. In the days following the destruction of 9/11, the church leaders met in emergency session. In the midst of such tragedy, they turned to Scripture.

Where would you turn? Ask the person beside you. If you were the church next door to 9/11, where in the Bible would you turn in the days following?

The church leaders turned to the stories of Jesus in the New Testament around food.

Stories like Levis banquet in Luke 5
the disciples eating corn in Luke 6
the son of man eating and drinking like a glutton in Luke 7
the feeding of the 5,000 in Luke 9
the Parable of the Rich fool in Luke 12
the parable of the Great banquet in Luke 14
the feasting when the lost son returns in Luke 15
Jesus eating at Zaccheus house in Luke 19
the Last Supper in Luke 22
the Emmaus Road in Luke 24 (developed from The Out of Bounds Church?)

In light of these stories – of Jesus around food – the church decided the best thing they could offer, as a church, post 9/11, was a gospel of hospitality. They resolved to be God’s presence by providing food for firefighters, for Police and rescue workers. Their 1766 church building had still not been checked for structural safety, so they set up bbq’s outside, serving burgers and offering lemonade.

Once the church building was deemed safe, they opened up their sanctuary. “There were rescue workers sleeping and eating … there were chiropractors and massage therapists working on aching muscles in the side aisles .. there were people sitting on the floor and on the steps leading up to the choir loft .. (Soul Banquets: How Meals Become Mission in the Local Congregation, 3) The church leaders continued to meet and pray. They turned again to the stories of Jesus around food and they made a second decision. That the food and drink, their gospel of hospitality, needed to be of the highest possible quality. To quote the minister “We wanted people to see and savour the extravagance of Christ’s love.” (Soul Banquets, 2)

They appointed a Food captain. The Food captain, himself a local restaurant owner, sourced food from restuarants including the Waldorf Astoria, who arrived with a large delivery of chicken dinners. The church leaders continued to meet and pray. Ten days after 9/11, they made a third decision. To begin serving Eucharist, every day, at noon. Amid the food stations, the chicken from the Waldorf Astoria and the bbqs cooking burgers, an invitation was made to any present, not compulsory, to share around the table of Christ.

A visitor wrote

“It was the most incredible hodgepodge of humanity I’ve ever seen gathered in a church … some of the rescue workers who’d not shown much interest in the eucharist when it began found themselves drawn into the ancient prayers that promise life forever with God and ended up taking communion with tears in their eyes. This was Christ’s church in all its messiness, diversity, ambiguity, brokenness, and holiness. And it was truly beautiful.” (Soul Banquets, 3)

The story is from Soul Banquets: How Meals Become Mission in the Local Congregation. It’s written by a lecturer in New Testament, who suddenly began to wonder if all the stories of Jesus in the New Testament around food might actually be saying something not just about then, but about now, not just about gospel then, but about church life today. The book did research on how churches are using food and the argument is made: that the church has underestimated the power of our church meals, both ritual and informal, as opportunities for mission.

I like to place what happened at St Pauls Chapel – “rescue workers .. drawn into the ancient prayers .. with tears in their eyes. Christ’s church – beautiful – in all its messiness, diversity, ambiguity, brokenness .. .” alongside the Bible reading:

“Blessed are you who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! These are the true words of God.” Revelation 19:9.

Revelation is often the domain of crazies and cults. That’s not the intention of the original writer John. Writing, in exile in Patmos, as it says in Revelation 1:4. He’s not writing endtime prophecy for those obsessed with the Middle East. He’s writing to seven churches in Asia, to people living in mess, ambiguity and brokenness; to people persecuted by an Emperor, to a church under extreme stress.

He responds by blessing these people; blessing them as invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb. It’s quite an unusual image for heaven. Quite different from streets paved with gold and fluffly clouds. “Blessed are you who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! These are the true words of God.” Endtime prophecy? Domain of crazies and cults? Or an insight into how to live in times of mess, ambiguity and brokenness.

Eugene Peterson in his commentary on Revelation argues that when John uses the wedding feast, “he is maintaining the social shape of salvation.” (Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, 158)

That eating, what you do at a wedding, is social activity. It’s what we do with friends and family.
That eating, what you do at a wedding, is a relational activity. It’s where we share stories, remember our past, trace our whakapapa, and share our joy, name our sorrow.
That eating, what you do at a wedding, is a messy activity. It has food scraps for the compost and red wine spilt on table clothes and dishes to wash.
That eating, what you do at a wedding, is an invitational activity. It’s the place where we build relationships. On the marae, the powhiri moves to the cupatea and the final meal moves into the poroporoaki.

The writer of John, in using the wedding feast, is inviting those who live in mess, ambiguity and brokenness, to maintain the social shape of salvation. Interestingly, for all those who consider Revelation is about endtimes, is how much the writer, John, is looking back not forward.

He’s looking back to the Bible’s first mention, ever, of eating, in Genesis 3; and offering new story, not to broken relationships in the Garden of Eden, but of relationships celebrated in wedding feast.

He’s looking back to Abraham offering hospitality, killing a calf for three strangers.

He’s looking back to the Mosaic Law in Leviticus. Where the mark of being the OT people of God was feasting. Five feasts – Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Trumpets, Tabernacles. And after the book of Esther, a sixth feast – Purim. Six cycles of celebration in which the alien and migrant is welcome.

He’s looking back to the vision of Isaiah 25: A feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine, the best of meats, the finest of wines .. The Lord will wipe away the tears, He will remove the disgrace (6-8)

He’s looking back to the stories of Jesus in the New Testament around food – the Last Supper in Luke 22.
In which Jesus said remember me. Remember what? Remember me with you at Levis banquet, remember me eating and drinking like a glutton, remember me feeding the 5,000; remember me telling you the Parable of the Rich fool and the Great banquet.

And so “Blessed are you who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb,” is not an endtimes prophecy. It’s a looking back, a looking back which gives a social shape to those who live in mess, ambiguity and brokenness.

However, the church often makes a tragic mistake when it things about hospitality and mission. As I posted on social media yesterday: Why so often does the church see itself as host rather than guest, as inviting rather than invited? Some 25 comments later, my friends and followers are still thinking:

  • Is it human nature, it’s easier to give than receive?
  • Is it that dominant cultures are used to be at the centre, not the edge?
  • Is it that we own buildings and somehow that turn us into hosts not guests?

Why so often does the church see itself as host rather than guest, as inviting rather than invited? I’m intrigued by what happens in one interpretation of looking back, in Rublevs Icon, the story of Abraham and the oaks of Mamre.

icon-e2 Painted in the 15th century by Russian monk called Andrei Rublev. Written to a people, living in mess, ambiguity and brokenness. In the background is the trees of Mamre, linking with Genesis 18:1. Three persons: linking to the three strangers in Genesis 18:2. Three persons – similarities – same halo, same blue colour, the colour for divinity; same holding a staff in the same right hand; same head slightly bowed looking at the person beside them.

Three persons – different.

One is green is the colour of spring, the colour of things that grow.
One person has brown, the colour of dirt.
One person is gold, the beauty of God who created a beautiful earth.

So in Rublevs icon, the host is not Abraham. The host is God, three persons of the Trinity – te Matua, te Tama, te Wairua Tapu; The Father in gold who created this beautiful earth; Jesus in brown walked in dirt; Spirit in green to help us grow.

In the middle is the table. All tables have 4 sides. So there is plenty of room for the guest. So anyone can sit. Anyone who wants a relationship – conversation, participate in love, share in table fellowship with Jesus.

So this is hospitality as mission. It’s when God, not church, is the host at the wedding banquet of the lamb. It’s when the Gospel has a social shape – participating in relationship with God. It’s when meals are at the centre; the cup, remember me – looking back – the stories of Jesus in the New Testament around food.

I began with a story – St Paul’s Chapel in New York, in the 10 days after 9/11 – rescue workers .. drawn into the ancient prayers .. Christ’s church – beautiful – in all its messiness, diversity, ambiguity, brokenness .. .” I’ve placed that alongside the Bible reading: “Blessed are you who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” I’ve suggested that this is not endtimes prophecy, but a looking back – to Genesis and relationships broken and the hopes of the Old Testament that find their culmination in Jesus. And the challenge for us to see ourselves not as hosts, but as guests, in the God’s hospitality.

So a story to end. It comes from Rebecca Huntley, who in her book, Eating between the lines, did research on the eating habits of contemporary Australians. She visits food courts and supermarkets and family dinner tables. She also visits the Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre in Melbourne, to attnd a lunch for migrant women.

The aim was to link recent migrants with historic migrants. Each meal features food from the country of origin of one of the migrants. So you turn up to eat the food of another culture. The aim is a social salvation. On each table is a set of questions (Why did you come to this country? Did you have a choice? What was the journey like? What is it like to raise children in a new country?) Rebecca writes:

“the lunch I attended was messy, complicated, disjointed and at times frustrating. It was hard work, much harder than ordering Vietnamese take-away … It was a tiring experience, but much more satisfying .. Food was a conduit, a means of establishing real and potentially transformative relationships.” (Eating between the lines, 132).

Hospitality as mission. The power of finding ourselves as guests at the table of another. Five practical suggestions:

  • Appoint a food captain
  • Set every church table in ways that reflect God’s abundance and creativity.
  • When eating, find ways to encourage genuine conversation – questions on tables to encourage the sharing of lives.
  • Work always to make guests hosts and hosts guests
  • Never forget the church’s special meal – the stories of Jesus in the New Testament around food.

Because: “Blessed are you who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb.”

Posted by steve at 05:52 PM