Friday, August 21, 2015

Quick jump across the ditch

Team Taylor are re-uniting across the ditch for a few days. Friday is a flight from Adelaide to Christchurch, where we pick up our New Zealand recently purchased car and drive to Dunedin.

Over Saturday and Sunday, we are house hunting. (Hence the need for the car, to drive around a string of open homes). We have this idealistic little plan; that we would buy a house in Dunedin in time for us to move in when we start my new role as Principal at Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership in early October. To do that requires buying a house about 6 weeks prior, that is about now in August. To do that requires selling a house in Adelaide in late July. We’ve done the house selling in Adelaide, so lets see if the house buying in Dunedin part happens. No worries if it doesn’t, but lets at least have a go.

Then Monday through Wednesday, I get to connect with my new work team. They have an annual retreat about this time of year and have invited me to join them. It will be two days of getting to know and starting to build connections. It’s all part of the transition and I’m looking forward to starting a new role with this sort of relaxed, relational, future facing occasion. As a team, we will also be connecting with quite a few Presbyterian church leaders from different cultures around New Zealand, in particular Pacific and Asian. So that’s a very rich introduction to a new community I’m called to serve among.

However, it has meant an unbelievably late night at work, clearing the desk. This week has involved Monday through Wednesday facing our five year Finders Departmental Review, on top of a monthly Board meeting and lecturing.

It will be lovely to take that jump …

Posted by steve at 02:04 AM

Thursday, August 20, 2015

how to read: 4 tools that will enhance the study skill of reading

reading tools from steve taylor on Vimeo.

How to read? Four essential tools – pen, highlighter, texting, telling – are introduced and explained. But first, a 10 question quiz on Time Magazine’s 1962 Cover Story, Religion: Witness to an Ancient Truth, on Karl Barth.

A follow up to the theology tools video.

Posted by steve at 04:35 PM

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

innovation in education paper accepted

herga My paper proposal, seeking to present at HERGA (Higher Education Research Group Adelaide), September 21-22, has been accepted. HERGA aims to bring together colleagues from the higher education sector to discuss best practice and new approaches to teaching in the tertiary environment. So it’s a great opportunity to present some of my action-research to a more general, non-theological audience. (When people ask me what I’ve gained from the move to Australia, things like this are part of the answer. The chance to be connected to a major University, Flinders, which enabled me to participate in the 2014 Community of Practice and now conference presentation opportunities like this that help me take steps outside the “theological” bubble.)

The conference paper proposal I put up was a followup to what I presented at ANZATS (Australia New Zealand Association of Theological Schools). An unexpected bonus was that in accepting, HERGA also provided me with the peer review feedback. So I have critical comment from two independent readers. I’ve had that consistently for journal articles submissions but never on a conference paper abstract. So that’s gold in terms of catching a glimpse of how my proposal abstracts are read.

Here’s the abstract I presented.

A class above: Evidence based action research into teaching that is connected, mobile and accessible in a higher education context

The Brave New World of higher education faces a number of inherent conflicts. Standardised frameworks encourage a one-size fits all approach to teaching and learning, while the makeup of the student body shows an increased diversity. This has implications for teaching and learning in higher education contexts.

This paper will explore a pedagogical innovation in teaching that was undertaken as part of a 2014 Flinders University Faculty of Education, Humanities and Law Community of Practice. This Community of Practice involved research into student experience in response to the implementation of teaching methods that sought to be mobile, accessible and connective.

E-learning technologies, including video conferencing and Moodle, were introduced. A shift in the use of contact time, from lecturer-driven content to student-centred small group activities, was made. Changes were made to assessment, shifting participation from face to face to digital in order to enable connectivity. Indigenous voices were introduced into the curriculum to enhance access. Bloom’s taxonomy was deployed as a theoretical frame to negotiate the change with students.

McInnis (2005) argued that education can be analysed using a three-fold framework that includes curriculum, learning community and organizational infrastructure. This research project engaged all three, with an infrastructure innovation making possible the curriculum change, and the results tested by researching the experience of the learning community.

Students completed a written survey at three points during the course. The results indicated that a significant shift had occurred in the class. Students had moved from an initial appreciation of content, to a consideration of how they learn from the diversity inherent among their peers. Students perceived that the changes had enhanced their ability to communicate effectively. They expressed a preference for choice, collaboration and diversity.

The research data can be helpfully theorised in conversation with Haythornthwaite and Andrews (2011) who have argued that e-learning is a social act that enhances learner agency. They draw on Preston (2008) who observed that students fill different roles in an on-line learning community. Some act as e-facilitators, others as braiders, others as accomplished fellows. These categories are evident in the research data generated by the Community of Practice.

It can thus be argued that the use of teaching that is mobile, accessible and connective reshapes the student learning experience. Flipped learning enhances student agency and increases appreciation for diversity among the student cohort. Such pedagogical innovations turn the student cohort into a class above, in which students find themselves inhabiting teaching roles among their peers.

A mechanism for this process, drawing on Haythornthwaite and Andrews, is proposed. This involves understanding how digital texts change notions of authorship and thus contribute to learning process that are more democratic and less hierarchical. The argument is that technologies, when underpinned by explicit pedagogical care, are essential elements in “re-humanising” the brave new world of higher education.

Haythornthwaite and Andrews, 2011. E-learning Theory and Practice. Sage. London.

McInnis, Craig, 2005. “The Governance and Management of Student Learning in Universities.” In Governing Knowledge. A Study of Continuity and Change in Higher Education, edited by Ivar Bleiklie and Mary Henkel. The Netherlands: Springer. file:///C:/Users/jong0009/AppData/Local/Downloads/0deec520376135d76b000000.pdf.

Preston, C .J. (2008). “Braided Learning: An emerging process observed in e-communities of practice.” International Journal of Web Based Communities, 4 (2): 220-43.

Posted by steve at 09:50 AM

Monday, August 17, 2015

Europe study leave: Amsterdam, Durham, Holy Island, Adelaide

My tickets for Europe arrived this week. I have some study leave I need to take before I finish as Principal of Uniting College and I’ve been working toward presenting some of my research overseas for a few months. They come together in the following:

  • Friday, 11 September – Fly to Amsterdam via Dubai.
  • Sunday, 13 September – Research. Since I’m now a well-published U2 scholar, I need to keep up with a changing field. In other words, attend the U2 innocence and experience tour for the purpose of remaining abreast of a changing field.
  • Monday, 14 September – Fly to Manchester, then train to Durham
  • Tuesday – Thursday, 15-17 September – Symposium on Ecclesiology and ethnography, Durham. I am presenting a paper titled Activist research: an examination of lived practices in ethnography and ecclesiology. The abstract is here but in summary I want to explore some complexity that surround ethnographic research of the church today – when our participants are still shaping the research process. I will do this by examining a range of case studies from across the academic “habitus” – employment, writing, research and teaching. During this time I will also be connecting with a journal editor hoping to secure a “downunder” journal edition of empirical ecclesial research, linked to the ANZATS 2016 conference.
  • Friday, 16 September – Visit to Holy Island, which was such a helpful pilgrim place a few years ago, as I considered a transition to become Principal of Uniting College. It seems appropriate to visit it again as I consider the move to become Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership
  • Saturday, 17 September – Return to Adelaide via Manchester and Dubai.
  • Tuesday, 19 September – Research presentation at HERGA Adelaide. Under the theme – Brave New World: The Future of Teaching and Learning, I hope to present a paper titled. A class above: Evidence based action research into teaching that is connected, mobile and accessible in a higher education context. I will be sharing results from my research into flipped learning.  This is a further presentation of the Evidence based action research paper I presented at ANZATS in Sydney in June, 2015.

I am grateful for the Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Faculty of Education, Humanities and Law at Flinders University that makes this possible, by providing provision for attending conferences.


Posted by steve at 10:04 PM

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

living bread stations

I was asked to lead worship twice this week. Monday was with our Certificate in Bible and Leadership ESL course, which has 7 cultures present. Wednesday was with our regular College chapel. I wanted to link them both, so I sought to mirror the worship.

bread I also wanted to engage with weeks lectionary texts, with the focus on living bread. I had this creative spark, to actually write on bread. Some cocktail rolls, slightly overcooked, worked well. This then allowed different activities at different stations, people writing different things on the rolls. They became living, shaped by our prayer and our memory. These were then collected up at the end from each station as part of closing the worship, so our living bread coming together. Even better, the bread from Monday’s worship was added into Wednesday’s worship. In so doing, both communities are reminded they are part of a bigger story, the many diverse ways that College is engaged in teaching and growing people.

living bread

The full order of service is as follows: (more…)

Posted by steve at 06:31 PM

Friday, August 07, 2015

theology tools: video introduction to theology tools

Just as a carpenter has tools, so do theologians. This 15 minute video introduces some basic tools. The books mentioned in the video are provided below. Explore them, try them, see what feels comfortable.

Tools for theology from steve taylor on Vimeo.

Experience considers your life and the life of others.

Scripture looks at God’s revelation.

John Drane, Introducing the New Testament, Lion.

Robert Tannehill, Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: Luke, Abingdon, 1996.

Tradition considers those who’ve done theology before us

Alister McGrath, Zondervan Handbook of Christian Beliefs, Zondervan, 2005.

Alister McGrath. The Christian Theology Reader, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. 2011.

Alister McGrath, Christian History: An Introduction, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

Mark. A. McIntosh, Divine Teaching: An Introduction to Christian Theology, Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

Ian Markham, The Student’s Companion to the Theologians, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

Reason is coherent and contextual

Denise Champion with Rosemary Dewerse, Yarta Wandatha, Adelaide: Denise Champion 2014.

Charry, Ellen T. Inquiring After God: Classic and Contemporary Readings (Blackwell Readings in Modern Theology). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. 2000.

Posted by steve at 05:09 PM

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Inside out film review: orthopathy – a theology of emotions

Monthly I publish a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 90 plus films later, here is the review for August 2015, of Inside Out.

Inside Out
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

“Inside Out” is a 21st century Psalm. It animates the reality that each of us are fearfully and wonderfully made (as it affirms in Psalm 139:14). Both words help us describe the impact of “Inside out.”

The plot runs on two tracks. In the outside world, eleven-year old Riley is uprooted by her parents. The transition from rural Minnesota to urban San Francisco involves new school, house and hockey team.

The circumstances unleash inside Riley an inevitable surge of feelings. Five core emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust – are given character. They become the heroes of “Inside Out”, essential in Riley’s growth and development.

This is the genius of “Inside Out.” We meet memories, both short and long term. We encounter imaginary friends, dreams and nightmares, the latter lurking within the dark depths that are Riley’s subconscious. There’s even a train of thought. Each of these are wonderfully animated, a reminder of the complexity inside every human being.

“Inside Out” is made by Pixar. Begun in 1979 as a high-end computer hardware company, it found, in 1995, with “Toy Story, a way to merge computer with art. In the 20 years since, it has produced 15 feature films. Almost all have not only been blockbusters, but have also gained a string of industry awards, including 15 Academy Awards, 7 Golden Globes and 11 Grammy’s.

To make “Inside Out,” Director Pete Docter recruited not only animators and storyteller, but also psychologists, including Dacher Keltner, from the University of California. It ensures that the unfolding narrative provides a view of being human that fills us with both wonder and fear. Wonder, at the emotional complexity that is inside each of us, children and adult. Fear, at how this complexity might be parented, especially in the face of life’s inevitable transitions.

So is “Inside Out” a children’s movie for parents? Not according to film scholar, Nicholas Sammond, who argued that Walt Disney always argued that he was making films for families, not for children. This insight makes sense of the emotional twist that ends “Inside Out.”

Joy comes to realise that for Riley, there are times when sadness is needed in order that joy might be felt. In a world of Hollywood happy endings, this is a surprising reality check. Every parent wants their children’s childhood to be a playground of joyful memories. Yet in “Inside Out,” Joy as a character must also develop emotionally. She must step back and allow sadness room inside Riley. The result is empathy and the creation of a whole new set of memories for Riley and her family.

This is orthopathy (defined as right feelings). It is as important as orthodoxy (right doctrine) and orthopraxis (right actions). This climax ensures that Inside out is thus not only a 21st century psalm of childlike wonder at human complexity. It is also a petition, for parents and teachers and all those charged with the fearful responsibility of nurturing eleven-year olds in their inside out journey toward orthopathy.

Posted by steve at 10:41 AM

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

feel the seasons change

I’ve been loving the winter flowers in my garden. When we brought the house three years ago, one of the first things I did was plant a large part of the front lawn in natives. Practically, it saved on lawn mowing. Spiritually, it was a way of earthing, of grounding faith in this land, this place.

native plants flowering

This winter, many of the natives have flowered for the first time. There’s something immensely rewarding about seeing something that you planted three years ago flower for the first time.

It’s also a reminder of the upside down spirituality that is so intrinsic to the Southern part of Australia. Here native plants tend to flower in winter, not in summer. It’s the logical response to summer heat and winter rain. It makes what is normally the bleakest season visually into the opposite.

What is also worth pondering is how small native flowers tend to be. These are not flamboyant bursts of colour, but tiny points of beauty. There is an understatedness about these expressions of life. They don’t jump into your vision. Rather they require you to notice, as a deliberate action. In a world of instant gratification and in your face marketing, that’s certainly an upside down approach to spirituality.

Posted by steve at 09:50 AM

Sunday, August 02, 2015

playing the fool

I was speaking at the annual gathering of the 3D mission network on Friday evening. Around 100 folk had gathered to hear me reflect on leadership and change, using my time as Principal of Uniting College as a case study. The session was going well. Those gathered seem engaged. There was laughter at my jokes.

I navigated my way through a section on out of the box leadership. I drew on Paul’s description of himself as fool in 1 Corinthians 4 and linked it with notions of clown. Clowns stand outside what is normal and expected. They are allowed to say and do unexpected things. They provide fresh eyes to see new things. It involves risk and it might not work. But, I suggested, it is a Biblical understanding of one dimension of leadership.

I moved to my next point. It involved a slide image. Staring at the image being projected in front of me (but behind the audience), I found myself disappointed with how small it was. How would anyone see. I got out my infrared laser, pointed it at the image and began to explain what was happening and who was speaking to whom.

Gently, my audience interrupted me. Politely they asked if rather than point to the image they couldn’t see because it was behind them, if perhaps I could point to the image they could see, behind me! Which, when I turned to look, was of course plenty big enough.

Sprung. Playing the fool indeed. Without even trying!

Posted by steve at 11:07 PM

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Creative renewal through action

I’m speaking this Friday, 6 pm, 31 July, Burnside Uniting Church. Here’s the blurb

Rev Dr Steve Taylor is a world leader in missional thinking and sadly is leaving Australia to return to New Zealand in August (September actually) this year. We are indeed very fortunate Steve has agreed to lead our next metro Gathering teaching sessions.

Creative renewal is only possible through action. What actions lead to renewal?

I will be reflecting on leadership lessons from my years as Principal at Uniting College and offering some reflection on the Uniting church into the future. (If I can find the words. I’m still quite unclear on how I want to say what I want to say.)

Posted by steve at 10:14 PM

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Yarta Wandatha by Denise Champion: book review

Originally published in Uniting Church Studies, 20(2) pp. 69-71.

Yarta Wandatha

Review Yarta Wandatha, Denise Champion with Rosemary Dewerse, Adelaide: Denise Champion 2014.

Yarta Wandatha by Denise Champion is a rich addition to the doing of theology in Australia. As such, it should be compulsory reading for all Australian Christians and a set text for all Christology classes taught in Australia.

The title is derived from Champion’s mother tongue, Adnyamathanha, the language of her people from the Flinders Ranges, in South Australia. It means “the land is speaking, the people are speaking.” As a title, it provides a concise summary of the theological method that integrates book. Second, in using language, it suggests a theology of the heart, a following of God integrated with language and culture, working from place and people.

The book has ten chapters, two introductions, one song (a contemporisation of the Magnificat) and one prayer (Lords Prayer). It is sixty-six pages, attractively presented with colour photographs of the landscape around the Flinders Ranges, the land from which this theology is speaking. While landscape photographs are not standard in academic texts, they are essential to this book, congruent with the theological method being articulated.

Each chapter (except the brief chapter provided by Rosemary Dewerse) is centred around a story. These include Awi-irtanha (The Rain Bird), Yurndu Akanandha (The Creation of the First Day) and Wida Ardupa (The Gum Tree Couple). These stories, located in land, become essential to the theology being advanced.

Despite the variety of stories, a coherent and considered theology is evident. This is summarised in the phrase ngakarra nguniangkulu, God is revealing so that we can see (28). It is a theology that assumes revelation and respectfully seeks to listen to revelation. It suggests that theology is action, of seeing, in order to act in response to what is seen.

One way to explore the theological methodology of Yarta Wandatha is through the lens of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Experience is a key theme. It is evident, first in Champion’s self-location in relation to land, second in her integration with a history of decolonisation. This is a theological method that thus begins with lament, with yulupunha vadiangkapala, the deep sadness that results from a long time of suffering.

With regard to Scripture, Yarta Wandatha starts with the Magnificat (6-7) and ends with the Lord’s Prayer (62-3). There is repeated engagement chapter by chapter with Biblical stories and themes.

Reason is evident, most clearly in the use of story. Champion utilises a tri-partite hermeneutic by which to interpret story (29). Stories teach rules for living, instruct has about the environment and provide insight into the spiritual world. Champion applies these three themes consistently (reason-ably) throughout the book as a way to interpret story.

Tradition is present, although in ways perhaps not immediately evident to a Western reader. Denise tells the story of how her father drew on memory as part of his learning (28). She tells of hearing her mother ask Wanangha nai, (Where are you going?) to which her father would reply Anhangha idla ngukanandhakai (I’m going back to this place). As a result, learning from tradition, in the form of memories linked to places, occurs. Land and people are speaking, past to present, as people practise living in their memories. It is an innovative approach to notions of tradition.

It suggests a way by which indigenous theologies can engage with other indigenous theologies. In making this argument, it is important to note that all theologies, whether Western, liberationist or indigenous, are contextual, emerging from a particular time and place. However, Duncan Forrester (Globalisation and Difference: Practical Theology in a World Context) challenges all theologies with the reminder that while “locating us firmly in space and time, bodies also take us beyond mere flesh and blood to confront and reveal deeper threads.” In other words, every move toward particularity – Western, liberationist or indigenous – comes with the invitation to connect universally.

Reading Yarta Wandatha, I wondered if a way to approach any tradition could be Anhangha idla ngukanandhakai (28). In other words, could acts of “living in the memories”, of going back to the particular places from which the traditions speaks, be applied not only by Denise’s father to access the wisdom of his elders, but by anyone reading Augustine or Aquinas? Theological reflection on tradition would thus become a “living in the memories”, contextually located, place based, a learning from stories from other places and all spaces. Such an approach could allow the memories from other traditions to be woven into indigenous theological work, whether Western, liberationist or indigenous.

Together, Champion’s use of reason and tradition allow her to work fluently between past, present and future, between theory and ethics. To be a person “living in the memories” is also be a person considering how to live and act into the future. This is most clearly seen in the story of Awi-irtanha, the Rain Bird (40-42). Champion uses the story to critique how indigenous cultures from the past are presented today and to consider how she might live in conflict situations into the future.

Yarta Wandatha emerged in a partnership, as Uniting College Director of Missiology, Rosemary Dewerse, built a relationship with Aunty Denise Champion. In time, Dewerse made the offer, to serve Champion by hearing her oral stories and in partnership arranging them in ways that were true to her indigenous voice. The location of copyright, not with a known academic publisher, but with Denise Champion, is deliberate, in the hope that all proceeds from sales might be returned to indigenous people, not to publishing companies.

This partnership raises some provocative questions regarding the role of scholars and the place of scholarship in the Uniting Church today. Paragraph 11 of the Basis of Union acknowledges that God gives to the church “faithful and scholarly interpreters of Scripture.” A consequence of current relationships between the theological colleges of the Uniting Church and various Universities is the pressure for scholars to write in academic journals and “world-class” (read Western) publishing presses. Applying these standards, the “faithful and scholarly” role undertaken by Dewerse in Yarta Wandatha will not gain her any credit from the contemporary academic world.

At the same time, the Revised Preamble commits the Uniting Church to partnership with first peoples. The mutual authoring and assigning of copyright in Yarta Wandatha is surely an embodiment of the Revised Preamble. Returning to Paragraph 11 of the Basis of Union, it is a work of scholarship that has indeed resulted in “fresh words and deeds.” The tension between being scholars faithful to church or academy is brought into stark relief by Yarta Wandatha.

In summary, while some might be tempted by a first glance at the length of, and the pictures in, Yarta Wandatha, to dismiss it as less than theological, a closer look, using Wesley’s Quadrilateral, reveals a unique, coherent and potentially transformative approach to theology: one that is ethically and eschatologically mature. This is most particularly evident in the application of reason and the framing of tradition as the stories of “yarta wandatatha,” a living in the memories. If this is one of the first fruits of the Revised Preamble, then the church in Australia is entering a rich and blessed season of theological scholarship.

Rev Dr Steve Taylor
Principal, Uniting College for Leadership and Theology, South Australia

Posted by steve at 11:10 AM

Thursday, July 23, 2015

transitions: sabbatical liturgy

A feature of academic life is the sabbatical. It involves time away from the rhythm of teaching. It clears space for research and professional development. It is like compost. Adding layers of material, that over time, can be added to gardens; that over time, slowly add structure, enhance water retention and provide nutrients. So a sabbatical provides layers, that over the next season of teaching, enrich and advance.

At Uniting College, faculty can apply for sabbatical after six semesters. I’ve been thinking for a while that we need some sort of team liturgy that marks the transition that is inevitable around sabbatical. This would help the person going and the people staying, providing a theological frame to a transition and underling values important to the organisation.

So last night I created a transition into sabbatical liturgy. Since the Uniting College is a Uniting Church College, it involved a mixing of Basis of Union and some Scripture (Psalm 42), along with the core values of UCLT. It’s new (and undoubtedly can be improved), but here is what it looks like. (more…)

Posted by steve at 06:58 PM

Sunday, July 19, 2015

a “working” holiday – run: write: relax: renovate

The last week has been “working” holiday. It’s been rich and intense. The week followed a daily pattern – Run. Write. Relax. Renovate. It’s a pattern I’d recommend.

In regard to renovate, we have some tasks that have to be completed before we can put the house up for sale. We brought a real do-up a few years back, and the return to New Zealand has placed a deadline on the project. So the week began with a to do list on the family white-board and away we went.


Over the week, we completed 7 of the 11 projects, and made significant progress on 10. The entire outside of the house is now painted. The laundry has a new ceiling, which is painted, along with the walls. A new set of front steps has been framed, cut and concreted. The rear side door has a fresh external coat. The front deck is scrubbed, cleaned and prepared for painting. There has been a really good sort of the garage and kitchen, with some stuff cleaned and packed ready to shift and other stuff taken to the Red Cross.

As well as the 11 tasks, there have also been lots of other tasks done along on the way – a new exterior barge board, stain on a small piece of inside skirting and a side garden built. There are still odd little tasks to do, but we think it’s time to call the agent and hold a “finishing party.”

In regard to write, I have some writing tasks that, like the house, also need to be completed. They include my research on sustainability and fresh expressions. I completed a set of interviews back in 2013. I’ve continued to write but the project remains unfinished. I enjoy writing, so I decided to use the “working” week to experiment with different approach, that of snack-writing. Snack writing involves writing little and often. The idea is that it is better to snack than binge, it is better to write little and often rather than seek big blocks of time.

Practically, snack writing involves trying to write five days a week, first thing in the morning, for no less than 45 minutes and never any more than two hours. The theory is that big blocks are virtually impossible to find in the pressures of contemporary academic world. Also, the brain writes better when it is asked to work little and often. You are more likely to be in a good flow by the end of two hours. That gives the brain something to chew on during the rest of the day. It also raises levels of motivation when you return the next morning as it is easier to return to something that your brain recalls as being in a sweet spot. Finally, a research project found that people who shifted from binge writing to snack writing increased in both quantity and quality. (They produced 2 more peer reviewed articles per year).

So I wrote each day, never for more than two hours. Over the week, I wrote 2,500 words, an average of 500 words a day. I made good progress on a significant chapter that I’ve been struggling with. By the end of the week, I felt I had an significant new section and an overall argument for that chapter. I also realised I had gained greater clarity on the entire project and a clearer, more defined argument has emerged. It had provided a way to ease back into what is currently 9 draft chapters written at various times over the last two years. The result is that I can now tell you in 150 words what the book is about, which is very good thing. For me, for the acquisitions editor and eventually for you, the reader :).

Hence the pattern of the “working” holiday week. Run to pray. Write to snack. Relax with coffee (at our local cafe 3 blocks away). Renovate to return (to New Zealand).

I’d not recommend it as a pattern for every week of my holiday. But it certainly helped me put aside my day job as a Principal. And it provided a lovely pattern that generated momentum and progress on a number of fronts.

Posted by steve at 02:39 PM

Thursday, July 16, 2015

valuing empirical research in the study of fresh expressions

This is a section I wrote today, part of Part 3 of the Sustainability and fresh expressions book project

Third, the argument – as to the presence of both sect and mystic types – emerges from a study of one community. In so doing, the value of empirical research is evident. The experience of Matthew Guest, gained by the repetition inherent in ethnography, the repeated experiences of engaging Visions, generate the insights regarding the social boundaries, unseen but present. His interviews provide a depth of insight, probing the complexity of participant experience (Evangelical Identity and Contemporary Culture: A Congregational Study in Innovation). Such data can only be generated by the fine-grained studies characteristic of qualitative research into the lived experience of being in community.

Yet every move toward such depth comes at the expense of breadth. It is an inevitable limitation. We gain insight into Visions, but are left needing to contrast with other comparable communities. This becomes possible by comparison with other empirical studies. The researchers might be different, but the data can be examined, probed for evidence of internal identity and the manner in which relationships with culture are being mediated. This returns us to my data presented earlier, the ten fresh expressions presented in Part 1.

Posted by steve at 11:00 AM