Sunday, August 14, 2016

Silence, art and global Christologies

Here is the visual I constructed to illustrate the conclusion to my International Association Mission Studies paper: “regard as valuable”: Missiological approaches to the “Silence” of religious change.

silence and global Christologies

For those who value words:

To represent the fullness of Christ, both Christologically and missiologically, we need the “face of Christ” giving inspiration to artists at every stage of the Philippians arc (the U shape). We do not ask art images of Christ the Victor (right hand art image) or Jesus the baptised (left hand art image) to express a complete Christology, to capture every stage of the Philippians arc. We let them stand individually as Christological snapshots. In Silence: A Novel, we are offered an artistic gift, that of obedience to the point of death. This is a truthful missiology which voices Christ’s silence. Such is the Christological gift of Silence: A Novel to missiology. It provides an essential snapshot, ensuring our accounts of conversion and transformation include not only narratives of triumph, but also narratives of solidarity with Christ’s silence.

My paper was assigned to the hour of death. For some reason the conference organisers had scheduled 5 papers back to back in a row; between 4 pm and 6:30 pm. This was at the end of a day that included a plenary session plus 5 other papers spread over 2 other sessions. My paper was the last one, at 6 pm. So I needed to up the communication. Thankfully, when you talk about film, you can show movie trailers. That, combined with the above visuals, some Steve Taylor energy and a handout (“regard as valuable”: Missiological approaches to the “Silence” of religious change handout) ensured that no-one fell asleep.

Two good questions were asked:

Q. What about the words of Christ, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

A. What is happening in Silence: A Novel is of a different, deeper, order. At least Jesus speaks (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me). In Silence, there is only “silence.” Faith is abandoned. The result is a Christology of solidarity, a depth of shared experience with those who have denied Jesus.

Q. What about the film, As it is in heaven? Is that not also both a Christ figure film and a Jesus film?

A. Not according to the definitions that I am working with from Lloyd Baugh, Imaging the Divine: Jesus and Christ-Figures in Film (Communication, Culture, and Religion). As it is in heaven is certainly a Christ figure film. But it is not a Jesus film in that it does not reference the historical person of Jesus.

It was good to integrate what is something of a sideline hobby – monthly film reviewing – with my research interests in missiology and indigenous Christologies. It was good to present with video and art.

Posted by steve at 01:04 AM

Saturday, August 13, 2016

film and mission: Missiological approaches to the “Silence” of religious change

I’m presenting today at International Association Mission Studies, Korea. My paper is titled “regard as valuable”: Missiological approaches to the “Silence” of religious change. With the historical novel, Silence: A Novel written by Shusako Endo (1923-1999), being made into a film (release date as yet unannounced), I want to explore the possibilities and pitfalls when conversion seems fruitless, which it does in the context of Japan in the 17th century.

In order to engage Silence as a film, I will use Lloyd Baugh, Imaging the Divine: Jesus and Christ-Figures in Film to provide a theoretical frame. I will then place Silence as film alongside a number of other movies that explore the fruitlessness of mission; including The Mission and God lives in the Himalayas.

I’m looking forward to bringing together my research in film and in mission. My conclusion is as follows:

The gift of Silence is that it allows us to see the face of Christ as death on a cross. To represent the fullness of Christ, both Christologically and missiologically, we need the “face of Christ” giving inspiration to artists at every stage of the Philippians arc. When Christ is the Victor, the “conversion-transformation” narrative is one of triumph. We do not ask art images of Christ the Victor or Jesus the baptised to express a complete Christology, expressing every stage of the Philippians arc. We let them stand as Christological snapshots. In Silence, we are offered an artistic gift, that of obedience to the point of death. This is a truthful missiology which voices Christ’s silence. Such is the Christological gift of Silence to missiology. It provides an essential snapshot, ensuring our accounts of conversion and transformation include not only narratives of triumph, but also narratives of solidarity with Christ’s silence.

Posted by steve at 12:31 AM

Thursday, August 11, 2016

a dream few days: Out of Bounds Church in Korea

It’s been a fascinating few days in Korea. In 2005, I published my first book, The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change (emergentYS). In 2006, I heard that it had been published in Korea. I assumed it was the work of the publisher, Zondervan/Youth Specialties and their international connections.

This week a different story emerged, one that was much more local, involving a theological discerning scholar and a culturally creative publisher. Suk Whan Sung encountered my book at a Willowcreek conference. He was impressed by the theology, in contrast to many books about the missional church, which he felt were simply sociology.

outofboundchurchtranslator

Suk Whan contacted a local Korean publisher. Not once but repeatedly. I was unknown. But Suk Whan was persistent. And the publisher was a bit special.

outofboundschurcheditor

They had a commitment to publishing not in the area of Christian inspiration but in serious engagement with culture. They have a commitment to craft: the recent books they showed me were clear, fresh and appealing. They wanted to bless culture and thus have published books not only in theology, but in general areas of culture. They publish books based not for the name of the author and how well known they are, but on content.

And so my book was published. Not by an American company expanding their market, but by a local scholar concerned about his people and a local publisher with courage and commitment to a craft.

And this week I got to meet not only translators and publishers, but also readers. I spoke at the Missional church network on Sunday evening, I spoke to the local Presbytery executive, I met a church planter who has planted two communities of faith, inspired by the title.

The feedback: the creativity of the book gives permisssion for others to dream; the theologically thinking provides important frameworks; the cultural engagement of the book provokes.

Posted by steve at 11:51 AM

Friday, August 05, 2016

Korea bound: Missional Conversation in Seoul

korea I am in Korea from 6-17 August doing a range of things, all work related. First, I am engaging with the partner churches of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. This will involve meeting with representatives from Presbyterian University Theological Seminary, the seminary of Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), the urban mission program of Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK), and the assembly office of PCK and PROK. I will be interviewed by Christian Broadcasting media.

In addition, I am meeting with two groups of ministers who have read the Korean translation of my “Out of Bounds Church?” book. This includes the person who translated my first book, The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change into Korean, back in 2006. This for me will be a highlight. (Yes, I’ve got a gift for him, a copy of my second book – hint! hint! :))

Second, I am presenting two academic papers at International Association of Mission Studies (IAMS). The theme is Conference theme: Conversions and Transformations: Missiological Approaches to Religious Change. This conference happens every four years and I’m delighted to be able to present two papers: both on the implications for conversation of indigenous Pacific Rim Christologies.

Title: “regard as valuable”: Missiological approaches to the “Silence” of religious change

Accounts of conversion and transformation within the Christian tradition are often linked to narratives of success and expansion. Yet a truthful missiology needs to engage the entirety of the Christian story. Silence: A Novel is a historical novel that offers an absorbing, albeit bleak, meditation on the inability of the seventeenth century Jesuit mission to establish religious change on Japanese soil.

The book is currently being made into a movie. Directed by Martin Scorsese and due for release in 2016, it will undoubtedly rekindle debate regarding conversion and transformation, including how to understand the mission in the gaps and silences of history.

This paper will examine three missiological approaches. First, the work of Donald McGavran who has argued that lack of success in conversion and transformation is due to the strategies being deployed, particularly a lack of resources focused on evangelism. Second, the work of David Bosch who has argued that suffering is at the core of Christian mission and that silence can be an evangelistic action. Third, the work of Philip Jenkins who has argued that the Christian understanding of Easter, in both death and resurrection, is a more Christian paradigm for understanding religious change than that of progress.

Each of these missiological approaches to religious change will be applied to Silence, both the novel and movie (if released in time). The argument is that missiological approaches that speak of silence are consistent with the Apostle Paul, who asks the church in Philippi to “regard as valuable” the story of Epaphroditus.

And

Title: Fiction as missiology: an appreciation of religious change in Drusilla Modjeska’s “The Mountain”

Stanley Skreslet (Comprehending Mission: The Questions, Methods, Themes, Problems, and prospects of Missiology, 2012) argues that missiology has been slow to examine historical fiction from outside the West. A way to respond to his challenge is presented in The Mountain (2012), a novel by acclaimed Australian writer, Drusilla Modjeska. Book One describes the five years leading up to independence in Papua New Guinea in 1973 and ends with a ‘gift child’: a hapkas boy. Book Two describes his return – the child of a black mother and white father – to the land of his birth.

In the book an account of conversion and transformation in Papua New Guinea is offered. “Of all the applause, of all the cheers, the greatest is for the Christian missions, the priests who cross the stadium with their crucifixes and their bibles …. ‘Jesus,’ … ‘good’ man true” … ‘He die on a tree. Very good. He die for PNG.’” (The Mountain, 291). It is a surprisingly positive portrayal of conversion and transformation, referencing indigenous approval (“the greatest [applause] is for the Christian missions”) and indigenization (“He die for PNG.”)

The paper will take this notion of Jesus as good man true and analyse how this Christology interweaves with themes in The Mountain of ancestor, gift and hapkas. It will argue that The Mountain offers a distinct and creative Christology, one that offers post-colonial insight into the interplay between missiological notions of pilgrim and indigenizing and the complex journeys between there and here. Such a Christology is one result of religious change in PNG.

Best of all, I’m traveling with my partner. She also is presenting a paper at IAMS, which is just fantastic, showcasing her research:

Authentic Conversion: becoming who we are created to be

Conversion to Christianity in Australia today can be understood as resulting from non-Christians desiring, observing and experiencing genuine authenticity. Drawing on qualitative data from semi-structured interviews with recent converts to Christianity, this paper demonstrates first that religious conversion is fuelled by a desire for authenticity. Secondly, religious conversion is resourced by Christians who embrace and exhibit authenticity in their personal, social and spiritual lives. Thirdly, God enables authenticity to develop and flourish. Influenced by Charles Taylor and aspects of Trinitarian theology, the paper argues that this genuine authenticity is relational in nature: focusing not (just) on the self but also on relationship with God and significant connection with, and responsibility toward, others. This understanding rightly challenges the notion of authenticity as a narcissistic actualisation that prioritises the self over external relationships and responsibilities. When relational authenticity is sought and realised by converts, healthy transformation results. This transformation sees new converts ‘becoming’ the people they were created to be: unique persons who see their worth and their responsibilities in the light of their relationships with God and with others.

Lynne Taylor is a PhD candidate in theology at Flinders University of South Australia where she is using a methodology of grounded theory to investigate why people are becoming Christians in Australia today.

Posted by steve at 04:43 PM

Thursday, August 04, 2016

saying no

At the start of the year I planned myself a treat. I was deep in the last days of writing my Built for Change book and I needed some light at the end of the tunnel. I love the academic stimulus provided by the annual Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference in Durham. Around that, for the last few years, I have found renewal at Holy Island. So I put in place a plan, to return to the United Kingdom in September.

I found another set of conferences around the Ecclesiology and Ethnography and submitted abstracts (total of three). Two abstracts were accepted. One wasn’t. But it was enough. I spotted a number of potential funding avenues. Over recent months, I’ve worked hard to shift the abstracts from ideas to full draft journal articles in preparation.

Over the last weeks, I’ve begun to wonder if the benefits of the treat might actually be outweighed by other realities. Academically, a number of opportunities closer to home have presented themselves. Financially, airfares are higher than I budgeted. At the same time, money is tight in academic circles. There could be some help, but not as much as I had calculated. Work-wise, there are signs I need to be grounded, not working from a laptop on the road. Family wise, I have a partner on the home stretch of a PhD and the “how can the rest of the family pitch in plan” doesn’t work as well if I’m away for a period overseas. I do need a treat, but this treat felt like it was being increasingly diminished.

Last week, I regretfully decided to withdraw my various conference presentations. I feel regret. I will miss the stimulus and the conversations and the space that is created. The networks are important. People have made decisions and given me opportunity and they will now have to reshuffle programmes.

I also feel relief. I’m glad I can say no. I very much enjoyed taking the 10 days I had blocked out with conferences and writing into the blank space of the calendar: “work on lectures”; “quiet day to read”; weekend away with family.” It has also been good to remind myself of privilege: that to even contemplate an overseas conference is in fact an enormous treat. That is a light in a tunnel in itself.

I share this story in order to honour this blog. On this blog I record things that go according to plan, including abstracts that get accepted and things that get written. So it seems fair to also record things that don’t go to plan and things that won’t get done and the ongoing unfolding of life.

Posted by steve at 12:43 PM

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Star Trek Beyond: a theological film review

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 August 2016.

Star Trek Beyond
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Star Trek was born 51 years old, with a pilot episode shot in 1965. Being 51 in the entertainment industry means the need to win new friends while keeping old ones.

“Star Trek Beyond” delivers. For old fans, there is the familiarity of ship, crew and the willingness to boldly explore strange new worlds. In “Star Trek Beyond,” this means seeking to rescue a ship ambushed beyond the nebula. For new fans, the action quickly moves to warp speed, as USS Enterprise encounters the evil technologies of Commander Krall. For all fans, there is old technology, of motorbikes and VHF radio as weapons in the defeat of Krall. For Kiwi fans, there is Wellington born, Karl Urban as Dr Bones McCoy.

Being 51 means adapting to a changing world. In “Star Trek Beyond,” Sulu (John Cho) is gay, with a husband and young daughter. In addition, strong female roles are provided by the well-known figure of Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and the introduction of Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), becoming a rescuer despite the previous pain caused to her in an ambush by Krall.

Being 51 also means facing death. The first line in the pilot episode of 1965 belonged to Leonard Nimoy (“Check the circuit”). “Star Trek Beyond” pays homage to Nimony, who died in 2015, aged 83. This involves memorial credits, along with the young Spock (Zachary Quinto) of “Star Trek Beyond” finding strength in a photo of the original Star Trek crew, Nimoy included.

It is one thing to face the death of an elderly man, quite another that of an acting colleague in the middle of the Star Trek reboot. Anton Yelchin, who plays Chekov, died in a freak automobile accident in June 2016, aged 27. It makes poignant Captain Kirk’s (Chris Pine) toast to absent friends and the liquor taken from Chekov’s locker. In a Western society obsessed with youth, navigating the strange new world of death is an essential dimension of being 51.

Star Trek has from the beginning blended technology, action and philosophy. The pilot episode was considered cerebral and intellectual. “Star Trek Beyond” embraces philosophy by mirroring two scenes. Early on Captain Kirk meets with Commodore Paris (Shohreh Aghdashloo). In deep space, he describes how easy it is for a Captain to get lost. As the movie ends, Kirk meets again with Commodore Paris. Again Kirk notes how easy it is for Captains to get lost in deep space, yet the strength he finds in human partnership. It makes the warp speed action between these two scenes the unfolding exploration of humans facing the existential fear of losing their inner compass.

It is a question Jesus explores in Luke 15. Three parables are grouped together around the experience of being lost. What emerges is a different mirroring, in which direction comes not from human partnership, but from God, acting as seeking shepherd, searching woman and waiting father. Whether the “distant country” of Luke 15:13 can be stretched to include the strange new worlds beyond the nebula becomes the question of faith for every viewer.

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 06:53 PM

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Let us sing (in harmonies) a new song in this strange land

Last week, I was asked to deliver a keynote address at the Pacific Island Synod, a gathering of Samoan, Niuean, Tokelau/Tuvalu and Cook Island communities from around Aotearoa New Zealand. I was asked to address the question: How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? As soon as I received the invitation, I asked a KCML colleague, Malcolm Gordon, if he might have a song to sing. A few days before, I gave him the script for my talk and he responded with a yes.

The Pacific Island Synod ended with a feast on the Saturday evening. This included a number of speeches, in which gifts were offered. With Malcolm present, I stood and announced that we as KCML had a gift, that of a song, written specifically – new – for this occasion. I noted the theme – How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? – as a question not only for Pacific Island communities, but also for Malcolm and I as Palangi. Together, as diverse nations, we share a common quest, a shared mission, that of seeking God’s help in singing a new song.

lordssong

Malcolm passed copies of the music around. He noted he had a melody, but that the song needed harmonies. There was an instant murmur among those gathered, with so many fine voices and such a rich tradition of song among Pacific peoples. As Malcolm began a cappella, those gathered began to improvise harmonies. Together in our diversity we produced a new song.

As the Synod Clerk wrote to me later “It was a great moment when the place just broke into song. Thanks Steve and Malcolm for such a great finish to the day. We definitely sung a new song in this strange world.”

Posted by steve at 06:54 AM

Sunday, July 31, 2016

accessible yet substantial, incredibly helpful: Built for change book review

builtforchange Here is another review of Built for Change, by Peter Armstrong, a Uniting Church minister in Queensland. It is the first review to pick up on the creative (innovative) structuring of the book and to note the way that each part of the book offers differing ways into innovation, collaboration and leadership

Innovation is what Steve’s book is all about. Innovation, collaboration and leadership!

The sub-title of the book is ‘…a practical theology of innovation and collaboration in leadership’ and it is very much born out of Steve’s own work and ministry in this area. Even the book itself is somewhat innovative in the way it is set out, beginning with the ‘final chords’ of an outro and concluding with an intro. Within the metaphor of music Steve takes the reader on a journey that he himself has travelled, into the experiences, observations and reflections of collaborative innovation in the context of leadership.

The three parts of his book (between the ‘Outro’ and the ‘Intro’) are (i) Leading Outward; (ii) Leading Deeply; and (iii) Leading Inward. Each part offers differing ways of looking into innovation, collaboration and leadership. Steve offers a biblical framework from 1 Corinthians 3 and 4 looking at six roles and actions – Servant (Listens); Gardener (Plants); Builder (Structures); Managers (Resource); Fools (Risk); and Parents (Guide). He tells the story of experiences on the ground of innovation, collaboration and leadership – both observed as well as engaged. He opens up a theology of connection where leadership theory can converse with theology. And he reflects on tradition as it provides the historical context and cultural values of innovation, collaboration and leadership within institutions and communities. The final section looks at the leader personally, and again from practice and principles, Steve offers wisdom and encouragement for anyone on this journey themselves.

I found this an incredibly helpful book in that it captures wonderings and provides ways to both reflect on and engage my own sense of call to these areas. It is easy to read, in that it is accessible in its form and language, but it is substantial because, for me, it has generated so much more wondering and visioning for what is ahead for me and the church that I call home. I certainly would recommend “Built for Change” to anyone who is wondering or seeking to practice ‘fresh words and deeds’ in this time when innovation, collaboration and leadership have much to offer our church and wider community. Thanks Steve for taking the time to put all of this into a book for others to glean.

“Built for Change” is available in Australia through MediaCom Education Inc. or New Zealand through Angelwingsresources@gmail.com.

Review 1 here. Review 2 here.

Posted by steve at 10:41 AM

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pacific Island Synod bound

I’m delighted to be heading for Auckland to be part of the Pacific Island Synod over the weekend. I will be doing a keynote presentation on Friday, on the topic – singing the Lord’s song in a strange land. I’ve enjoyed the preparation.

This involves working on the bringing of greetings in five different languages and a final benediction in Samoan language. It has involved researching climate change in Pacific Islands and finding resources from Christian faith that might sustain communities entering this contemporary experience of exile.

I will also be weaving in wisdom from the Uniting Church Revised Preamble, including paragraphs that I observed having impact on Fijian Uniting Church leaders like Eseta Meneilly:

1. When the churches that formed the Uniting Church arrived in Australia as part of the process of colonisation they entered a land that had been created and sustained by the Triune God they knew in Jesus Christ.

3. The First Peoples had already encountered the Creator God before the arrival of the colonisers; the Spirit was already in the land revealing God to the people through law, custom and ceremony. The same love and grace that was finally and fully revealed in Jesus Christ sustained the First Peoples and gave them particular insights into God’s ways.

10. After much struggle and debate, in 1994 the Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia discovered God’s call, accepted this invitation and entered into an ever deepening covenantal relationship with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. This was so that all may see a destiny together, praying and working together for a fuller expression of our reconciliation in Jesus Christ.

It has also involved seeking to understand more about a Samoan proverb: Fetu’utu’una’i’ muniao. In conversation with a number of Samoan leaders, I wonder if this is could be understood as an Oceania hermeneutic. I can see elements in fetu’utu’una’i’ muniao of the Wesleyan quadrilateral – Scripture, experience, reason, tradition – all held beautifully in an action-reflection, communal approach to voyaging. More later, after I see how fetu’utu’una’i’ muniao lands in the next few days.

Posted by steve at 04:38 PM

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Built for change: review by John Littleton for South Australian Anglicans

builtforchange Another review of my latest book Built for Change: a practical theology of innovation and collaboration in leadership. This one was initially sent to Anglicans in South Australia.

Dear friends, I bring Steve Taylor’s new book to your attention and commend it. I enjoyed the holistic, collaborative and theologically reflective leadership demonstrated in this book. The book is a challenging and rewarding read. Careful reading provides evidence of a reflective practitioner at work. An account of adaptive leadership in practice is combined with a connectional theology of leadership and an analysis of Jesus the innovator as reported in the Gospels. The word innovation takes on a “Christological shape.” Chapter 8 is entitled “Leading myself” and introduces a section on practical and personal leadership strategies. The book shares stories and offers insight into a personal spirituality of change.

Built for Change: a practical theology of innovation and collaboration in leadership explores the six strengths that change requires, and demonstrates that collaborative change is both practical and possible. Steve wrote ‘Built for Change’ around the concluding of his placement as Principal of Uniting College in the Adelaide College of Divinity in 2015 and transitioning into his new role as Principal for Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership in Dunedin, New Zealand.

“Built for Change” is available in Australia through MediaCom Education Inc. or New Zealand through Angelwingsresources@gmail.com.

Review 1 here;

Posted by steve at 09:31 AM

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

living off a laptop

Driving back from Christchurch yesterday, it suddenly occurred to me that I’ve only managed one day working at my office desk, surrounded by my books and files, in the last 4 weeks. Certainly not planned!

First, there were 9 days of block course intensive in Wellington. This was followed by that one day at the office – in which I scrambled to prepare printed resources and organise for the next major piece. That was 15 days on the road. This involved 8 meetings and 5 speaking engagements, spread across 2 countries, 8 cities and towns, made possible through 5 flights and 2 rental cars.

canterbury It wasn’t something I intentionally planned. Rather it was simply what emerged as I tried to make sense of a range of commitments and a set of practical realities.

A desire to be Knox national, rather than Knox Dunedin, combined with a rugby test in Dunedin that sent accommodation prices through the roof, made Wellington a logical option for a KCML blockcourse. An academic conference in Melbourne, made possible a few days of recovery in a friends holiday house near Sydney. A request to speak in Wellington for two days to a group of ministers (Give us this day our daily bread: spirituality of eating) made sense as a stop over coming back from Sydney. A need to connect with incoming (2017) interns and explore potential placements in the Christchurch area, made sense as a next stop after Wellington. Interns and potential placements spread between Rangiora and Geraldine made logical a rental car and so a drive from Christchurch back to Dunedin (mixed in with a lovely few nights restoration at our family holiday home). During which the realisation hit me: one day working at my office desk in the last 4 weeks.

Which meant that today, one of my team cheekily asked the rest of the team if anyone knew who I was. While another asked if I deserved a desk!

Living off a laptop is made possible because of:

1. A flexible family, willing to come with me to academic conferences and join me on holidays and road trips between Christchurch and Dunedin.
2. A focused, competent, self-sufficient work team, very secure in their roles, who get on with their tasks, whether I’m present or not.
3. Evernote and Google calendar, which helps me keep track of a range of details and notes.
4. A computer (Mac) which enables me to access material for speaking engagements as I go, allowing me to be responsive to context and room, to prepare a talk in a hotel room or beachside holiday house.
5. A cellphone, which I can tether as a hot spot and deal with email.

When I began as Principal, I wanted to be a national Principal, not a Dunedin Principal. However I never envisaged the type of movement and travel that would result. I love the richness, the mix of developing leaders, presenting research, offering professional development and dreaming futures with churches and leaders.

But I also love being home and having an office and seeing my books and settling back into the regular routines of running and (snack) writing.

Posted by steve at 08:23 PM

Thursday, July 14, 2016

spirituality of eating: a lectio vocatio

I led a two day retreat for Wellington Ministers this week. The brief was fairly broad: to speak on something they’d not heard from me before. I decided to focus on “Give us this day our daily bread” and explore the spirituality of eating and the implications for ministry and mission.

Each session involved a five step cycle, which I called “lectio vocatio” – listening to God and each other – amid a shared vocation as ministers.

  • Stories: reflective questions that invited story sharing
  • Bible stories – read firstly for ordinary eating
  • Bible stories – read secondly for theological purposes
  • Ministry stories
  • Application: Given the spirituality of “eating” in this Biblical story, what are the implications for ministry and mission?

I was rifting off lumia domestica, an art exhibition by Willie Williams, and how he takes ordinary things (culled from Oxfam shops across the world), and makes reflective, beautiful things. So in the ordinary of eating, there is beauty, which makes us go “wow.”

A first session revolved around Abraham’s hospitality in Genesis 18, to consider call

  • Where are the places in which you have met strangers?
  • What are the practices of hospitality you have experienced?

People had been invited to bring some cloth meaningful to them. These were laid on the table, as a way of making ourselves present in the circle of God’s love (in which our call to ministry begins). The diversity and colour was a rich reminder of particularity and uniqueness in ministry.

eating1

A second session focused on the widow of Zarepath in 1 Kings 17, to consider justice, community development and climate change

  • Who are the “widows” in our community?
  • What are their sticks and flour?

People had been invited to bring a tin can. We reflected on where the “daily bread” we eat comes from and what we knew about the production and people. This became intercession, as we placed our tin cans prayerfully.

eating2

A third session focused on Rahab in Joshua 2, to consider formation in mission and our willingness to work with what God is doing in unexpected places

  • Where have you experienced shelter (food and a roof) in the lands of another?
  • When have you unexpectedly heard affirmations of faith?

In ending, we cleared the table. As each person reclaimed their cloth and tin can, they shared an action they would like to engage, as a result of engaging together. The table was emptying, yet there was a renewed intentionality toward our ordinary tables of mission and ministry to which we were returning, grounded in a depth of contemplating (lectio) our vocations in ministry together.

eating3

I very much enjoy this type of teaching. The theme provided a different way to reflect on ministry and mission. The movement between silence, Scripture, story and discussion felt empowering, yet provocative. The chance to build something over a number of days opened up every deeper layers of conversation.

Key books in my preparation were: John Koenig, Soul Banquets: How Meals Become Mission in the Local Congregation and Rebecca Huntley, Eating Between the Lines and Anne Richards, Sense Making Faith: Body, Spirit, Journey.

Posted by steve at 09:43 PM

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Built for change: review by Peter Overton

bookcover On Facebook Peter Overton has just posted a (lovely) review of my latest book Built for Change: a practical theology of innovation and collaboration in leadership.

This is the book to read, re read, reflect, buy for leadership teams, read, re read, reflect. It’s not a quick fix, it’s adaptive leadership and way more. It’s the story of adaptive leadership in practice and much more. He uses image of Servant/listener, Gardener, Builder, Resource Manager Fool and Parent to unpack Adaptive leadership in I Cor 3 and 4 and applies this to National Church Life Survey. I have already done a Elders/leaders seminar for another Church using the models in this book and it really connected with them, we meet again in Six months to review progress. This by the way was in preparation for a new placement coming in 2017 to the Church so in my words they can be built for Change. Congratulations Steve Taylor.

Built for Change: a practical theology of innovation and collaboration in leadership explores the 6 strengths that change requires, and demonstrates that collaborative change is both practical and possible. Steve wrote ‘Built for Change’ around the concluding of his placement at Uniting College and transitioning into his new role as Principal for Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership in Dunedin, New Zealand. The book shares stories, provides theological reflection on Jesus the innovator and offers insight into a personal spirituality of change.

Built for change is now available in Australia and New Zealand. NZ orders via this page. Australia orders to mediacom dot Org dot Au.

Posted by steve at 10:02 PM

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Our Little Sister: film review

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 July 2016.

Our Little Sister
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

“Our Little Sister” is a window into rural Japanese culture. It is a politely, heart-warming, albeit slightly surreal alternative, to Japan as industrialised, high-tech and fast-paced.

Three adult sisters share life in the family home. Together they have found a way to live despite being abandoned by their parents: a father who left for another woman and a mother who disappears for fifteen years, crippled by grief.

At their father’s funeral, the three sisters meet their thirteen-year old younger sister for the first time. In the face of shared grief, she joins them in the family home. It sets in motion the facing of an unfolding set of bitter-sweet, until then unexplored, memories.

“Our Little Sister” began life as manga. Manga is comic and cartoon, a Japanese art form read by all ages. It is big business, an industry worth over $5.5 billion dollars. Manga includes more than action and anime. It has spilled into commerce and comedy, history and horror, murder and mystery, sci-fi and fantasy. There is even a Manga Bible, published in 2006 by Next, a non-profit organization. It aims to appeal to those who no longer attend church or find traditional Bible translations less than accessible.

“Our Little Sister” is Josei manga, a genre aimed at women in their late teens and early adulthood. It began life as a monthly serial: “Umimachi Dairy.” Created by Akimi Yoshida, “Umimachi” means Seaside Town in Japanese. It suggests a rural idyll common among industrialised urban dwellers.

The attempt by director Hirokazu Koreeda to turn the episodic nature of monthly serial into a plot arcing over 120 minutes is less than successful. Three patterns of life are introduced. Daily, there is the preparation and consumption of food. Food is a setting for memory making and community building. This involves repeated scenes both at home as the younger sister is slowly woven into domestic life and at the local diner. What emerges is an approach to food not as recipe books and celebrity chefs but as knowledge shared in inter-generational making.

A second pattern is seasonal. The movie is structured around Japanese rural idyll. These include the cherry blossoms of spring, the plum harvest of summer and the capture of white bait in season. These weave further layers in the unfolding of memories.

A third pattern is generational. In “Our Little Sister”, these involve funerals and memorials rather than births and weddings.

Each of these three patterns amplify the dysfunctional distortion at the movies’ heart. Food, seasons and funerals create memories, each of which is distorted by the strangeness of four sisters live in a mono-generational family unit.

Mono-generational makes sense when your manga market involves women in their late teens and early adulthood. But as way of life it ends up becoming a somewhat surreal “seaside” diary.

“Our Little Sister” is well worth the watch. Despite the attention required when reading subtitles, the humour is rich, the characters rewarding and the crossing of cultures endearing, even if slightly surreal.

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 09:43 PM