Friday, March 21, 2014
pioneering a pioneering week
It’s been an intensely busy, but very productive week.
We’ve had Dave Male from the UK with us. Each evening we’ve engaged in storytelling around pioneering. Four folk have told local stories – one of early cross-cultural encounter in Australia, one of community gardens and how they change church, one of participation of individuals in new forms of church, one of transitions. Each has been videod. Around each story was woven group processes to deepen encounter. This included creative worship (like St Patrick on St Patricks Day) and the perspectives of Dave and Heather Male.
During the day, Dave Male has been working with us on developing material for a distance course. This includes 6 key modules needed for pioneering, accompanied by a range of resources (readings, video grabs of Dave Male, powerpoint, stories). The 4 local stories will add richness, all enhanced by the soundbite video clips and quotes we’ve been grabbing all week from those who participated in the evening sessions.
The result is that we’ve been able to develop what will be an online Pioneering topic that will be available in both our Diploma and Bachelor of Ministry.
It also makes possible a Diploma of Ministry in Pioneering, a one year equivalent period of study, that can be done full-time or part-time, face to face or by distance. A Diploma neatly integrates into the Bachelor of Ministry for folk who want to study further. But not everyone wants to do three years, so a one year Diploma, or a one semester topic, is an important addition to our training options as a College.
As Dave commented after we’d shown him the syllabus -
“This is a fantastic course that equips missional leaders for the present and the future of the church. I would encourage any leader to consider coming on this. It has some of the best material and teachers in the pioneering world.”
There is still some work to put all this together as a finished product but it’s been a very productive week.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Learning and Teaching Theology: Some Ways Ahead
Delighted first with the news this week that my chapter “Embodiment and transformation in the context of e-learning” has been accepted to be published by Mosaic Press later this year. Edited by Les Ball, titled Learning and Teaching Theology: Some Ways Ahead, the book will publish papers delievered at the conference in Sydney last year on teaching and learning theology.
Delighted second that the chapter was accepted with no revisions needed. That’s a huge relief.
Delighted third to be able to find some space in a pretty busy life to have been able to reflect, over 6000 words, on so many of the changes we’re exploring here at Uniting College – in blended learning and in flipped classrooms. This chapter was my asking Why? Why are we doing this? Not why technically or economically but why theologically?
Delighted mainly, because the September conference was the first major conference I spoke at after Dad died. As I returned to finally edit the chapter last week, emotionally I was taken right back to Dad, to the days of his death. I was back writing in grief. So this chapter is dedicated to my Dad, a teacher who taught me so much.
Here’s the abstract of the chapter:
This chapter argues that e-learning is a theological necessity.
Four themes, of theological teaching as embodied in “living libraries,” as nurturing hospitable space, as verbal driven in pedagogy and as cultivating communities of inquiry are outlined. Within each of these themes, a dialogue is conducted between Luke 5:1-11, Transforming Theology and e-learning literature.
The argument is than applied specifically to the task of teaching and learning, with three categories of pedagogical design grounded in a case study of a recent Introduction to Theology class.
Finally, a theological note is made regarding the implications when the Incarnate One is read as the Ascended One. This suggests that the move, from face to face, to digital at distance, is actually a following of the trajectory of Jesus, the miracle of Resurrection and Ascension in which both place and space are redefined. Or in the words of this project, transformed theologically.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
preamble communion words
Throughout this week, Uniting College has been participating in the Destiny Together week of prayer and fasting. This is a week to pray and fast for justice for the First Peoples. We’ve been praying daily at 9:30 am each morning as a College and chapel has been open over lunchtime for those who might want to fast. Today at Community worship we shared worship with folk from our local Congress Church – an embodiment of Destiny Together.
I was leading communion and aware of the occasion, wondered what words might shape the practice of communion. I began to wonder if the Preamble, which was drafted in 2009 as a way to constitutionally acknowledge Aboriginal and Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia might be of us. It became a rich journey, exploring how those words, based on extensive consultation with the church, offer a theology of truthtelling and in turn might now become Eucharistic life. To do this would surely be a step toward Destiny Together, a sharing of an agreed document and God in our past, present, future.
So, here is what I drafted, mixing Preamble phrases into a communion liturgy. I used the shape of Uniting in Worship 2, seeking for phrases from the Preamble to give shape. I think it ticks all the boxes – there is epiclesis, confession, Lords prayer, God’s action in history, eschatology, Words of institution (modified slightly but in keeping with other aspects of Eucharistic theology).
With the elements served to us by the Aunties. Wonderful.
The Lord be with you
And also with you
Lift up your hearts
We lift them to the Lord
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
It is right to give our thanks and praise
We bless you Creator for this earth, for the Dreaming and Song lines sung long before human
We thank you for the Spirit already in the land revealing God to the people through law, custom, ceremony
We bless you for the same love and grace that was fully and finally revealed in Jesus Christ
Who took bread, broke it, said Take, eat, in solidarity with those who suffer
Who took the cup, gave thanks, said This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out in hope of life to the full
We bless you for the church and all the storytellers and whisperers of hope through history, called to seek a renewal of its life as a community of First peoples and of Second Peoples from many land.
We lament the silence of the church in the face of broken relationships, Jesus lamb of God
Have mercy on us
We grieve the processes of dispossession, Jesus bearer of our sins
Have mercy on us
We confess the practices of colonisation, Jesus redeemer of the world
Grant us peace
We eat this bread as a foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation
We drink this cup, as a sign of our destiny together, praying and working together for a fuller expression of our reconciliation in Jesus Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that these gifts of bread and wine, may make us one with each other and in ministry in the world
Lords prayer in Kaurna language:
Jehovah-’s request / pray-thing ‘The Lord’s Prayer’
Ngadluko yerli karralika tikka-ndi;
Our father on high sits ‘Our father sits in heaven’
Ninna narri tampi-rna, kuinyunda kumarta-ppi-rna;
You name acknowledge-let sacred apart-cause-let ‘Let your name be acknowledged, let it be kept sacred.’
Ninko yerlti-yerlti-nya pintya-rna;
Your advice/command create-let ‘Let your rule be established’
Ninko padloni-tti yerta-ngga wappi-rna
Your want-thing earth-on do-let ‘Let your want be done on earth’
High-on resemble-ing ‘As it is on high’
Ngadluko mai yunggu-ndo!
Our food give-you! ‘Give (us) our food.’
Ngadluko wakkinna kumba-ppi-ndo!
Our sin remove-make-you! ‘Take away our sin.’
Ngadlu tangka waia-re-ndi kumarta-nna-ityangga wakkinna wappe-ndi
We liver move-itself-is separate-pl-with wrong do-ing ‘Have compassion for those who do wrong.’
Sin-to draw-don’t ‘Don’t draw us into sin.’
Sin-from protect make-you! ‘Save us from sin.’
Ninna mattanya, taingi, wilta, burti burti tarkari tundarri.
You owner strength power gladness future forever
‘You are the boss, the strength, the power, the glory for ever and ever.’
Do-let! (i.e. let it be done)
Go in peace to live a Destiny together
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
st patricks day pioneer worship
Yesterday was both St Patricks Day and the start of our week of pioneer evenings with Dave Male. So it seemed appropriate to bring them both together.
What strikes us? What links do we make with our theme – pioneering? What image speaks to us?
I then introduced Breastplate, from the Eucharist CD. I noted the refrain – I bind unto myself today – and invited us, while the song played, to biro tattoo the image that speaks to us onto our arms.
By way of conclusion, as a communal act, we said the Breastplate together.
ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The strong name of the trinity
Right: By invocation of the same
Leader: The three in one and one in three
ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The great love of the living word
Right: The wisdom of my God to teach
Leader: His hand to guide his shield to ward
ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The virtues of the starlit heaven
Right: The glorious sun’s life giving ray
Leader: The fruits of earth so freely given
ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The power of God to hold and lead
Right: His eye to watch his might to stay
Leader: His ear to hearken to my need
ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The way of Christ in life and death
Right: The call of God to jubilee
Leader: In broken chains and cancelled debt
ALL: I bind unto myself today
Left: The strong name of the trinity
Right: By invocation of the same
Leader: The three in one and one in three
(Words attributed to St Patrick, translation Mrs C F Alexander, 1889, except v.5)
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Happy 5th birthday Uniting College
We celebrated Uniting College being five at Presbytery Synod last night. Some thought it was a milestone worth a cake.
As well as the cake, we also provided 400 individual cup cakes for supper, all with our logo.
Before the cake and candles, there was a bit of an introduction to the journey of this five year old. It was laced with prayer; a highlight of being one, of being two, of being three etc, followed by an audience response, including rifting off a Paul Kelly song.
Here’s the liturgical responses
And for those interested, here’s the full script … (more…)
Friday, March 14, 2014
Any other duties as required by the Principal
I have a great team … as we prepare as a College for Destiny together, a week of prayer and fasting …
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Pioneering Plan B: bite-sized education?
Last Friday, I was contemplating a pioneering disaster.
Last Friday, we only had one student enrolment for the March 17-21 Pioneering intensive with Dave Male. Despite a range of advertising, despite Dave being well known in South Australia, I was contemplating the difficulty involved in offering a decent educational experience to a class of one.
It was time for plan B. Annoying at the time, but in hindsight, totally consistent with a course on pioneering! We had shaped the original intensive with Dave to run mornings and evenings. So on Friday we decided to drop the mornings. Instead we will use the time to work one on one with Dave, designing a blended learning distance Pioneering package. What this will mean is that any person, any candidate, can study Pioneering with us at any time in the years ahead, rather than simply by intensive when Dave Male is in town. Which will be a really exciting addition to our Bachelor of Ministry degree, a permanent topic in Pioneering! (A first in Australia I think.) So that was the first part of Pioneering Plan B.
The second part of Pioneering Plan B was to take the existing week long evening programme and offer it in bite-sized chunks. Same topics. But advertise it not as a week, but as bite-sized. Come to one evening or more. Even all four.
The third part of Pioneering plan B was to emphasise that the existing evening programme is not about content but conversation. Rather than lecture, we are offering worship, drink and a story. Four stories actually, of women exploring pioneering in different ways. Which will start a conversation about the issues, the resources, what we are learning about innovation, leadership, mission and church. All stimulated by Dave and by all those who participate.
Some five days later, we have
13 18 20 RSVP’s. Which is a quite a turnaround from the solitary one.
It’s really got me thinking. What was the difference? The personal invite email? The fact the evenings are being offered for free? The deliberate naming of a shift from content to conversation? The shift to bite-sized, with folk able to give an evening, but not a week?
I’m looking forward to doing some market research but I suspect the biggest factor is the latter, the offer of bite-sized education. That one week is too much, but an evening (of four for some) is do-able. Which raises some intriguing questions for education in general. What might it mean to modularize a syllabus, to go bite-sized?
And the one enrolment? They are delighted at our flexibility. They will get some focused 1 on 1 time with Dave Male at the start and end of the week, in order to establish some specifically tailored guided reading, all mixed in with some evenings of rich conversation to help their own processing.
And for those in Adelaide, it’s still not too late to RSVP to steve dot taylor at flinders dot edu dot au. Here’s the bite-sized programme, come to one, come to more … (more…)
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Philomena: a film review
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor
“I forgive you because I don’t want to remain angry.” Philomena
A few weeks ago I caught a taxi cab into inner city Melbourne. Weaving through rush hour, my host asked my occupation and the conversation quickly turned religious.
Taxi drivers offer unique insight on the cultural pulse. He was respectful. Religion was good for society, offering an ethical care for others essential for better communities.
But some churches have an image problem. Especially, said my taxi driver, the Catholic church.
Films like Philomena reinforce the stereotypes. Inspired by a true story (The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by journalist Martin Sixsmith), it tells the story of an Irish Catholic mother’s (Judi Dench as Philomena) search for her son, separated as a four year old when the church forced her to give him up for adoption.
Over the years, her mother’s love continues to burn. A chance encounter with a suddenly unemployed government advisor, Steve Coogan as Martin Sixsmith, offers hope of a mother and child reunion.
The plot twists and turns, the journalistic detective work of Steve Coogan a perfect foil for the emotional rollercoaster of a mother looking for her lost son.
There are some minor speedbumps. The reluctance of her son’s partner (Peter Hermann as Pete Olssen) to meet Philomena makes little sense. In the climatic graveside shots, Dench’s face remains too deeply tanned to effectively convey the bleakness of an Irish winter.
The film is carried by Philomena’s gentle humour, her refereshing candour a perfect antidote to Coogan’s world weary cynicism. The use of historic video footage is clever, allowing the plot to move easily both forward and back in time. Poignantly, some of this footage is from real life, her son growing up in America.
Intriguingly, it is not only the Catholic church that is judged harshly in Philomena. The secular cynicism of hardbitten journalism is also portrayed as equally lacking in humanity, with little to offer those hurt by injustice.
The alternative, quietly compelling, is the faith of Philomena. It is a common cliché – I’m spiritual, not religious. In Philomena, it is devastatingly turned back against the church, her embrace of forgiveness a striking contrast to the coldness at the core of a church frozen in denial.
In real life, Philomena Lee found forgiveness in her work among the psychiatric community. Interviewed by The Atlantic in February 2014, she spoke of “nursing the patients, sitting down and talking with them, helping them with their problems—it made my own slide into the background. I’ve seen so much hurt caused through anger. And I thought, “I couldn’t go through my whole life being angry.””
It seems an approach to life worth repeating to my Melbourne taxi driver and all his passengers. Staying angry takes effort. Forgiveness is a way of life that helps us all move on. A truth for those with faith. And without.
Rev Dr Steve Taylor is Principal at the Uniting College for Leadership and Theology, Adelaide. He writes widely in areas of theology and popular culture, including regularly at www.emergentkiwi.org.nz.
Monday, March 10, 2014
renovations and leadership
We spent the weekend painting the kitchen. It’s a long weekend here in Adelaide, so it seemed a good time to enter into the chaos that painting a kitchen induces – meals, snacks, drinks – the countless reasons a kitchen remains indispensable. That in itself got me thinking, about timing, about doing things at moments of convenience for those around you.
In a 45 minute burst on Sunday afternoon, the kitchen was transformed. It is that moment when the first top coat goes on and boom – there is instant change. The colour you’ve picked is suddenly all over the walls. The old has gone, the new has come.
It got me thinking about leadership. I’ve met people who live for that “boom”, who seem to spent their entire lives seeking that 45 minute burst, that big signature, instant burst of colour change. It’s an adrenaline rush and a pretty exciting moment to be part of.
The reality is however, when it comes to the renovation, that it has taken over two years to get to that 45 minute transformation. First the big picture preparation – the large holes in the walls that needed to be filled, the lighting that needed to be changed, the pantry that needed to be built, the window that needed to be replaced. This is large scale project management, a time line of organising.
Second the small picture preparation – the plastering, again and again, the sanding, the spot undercoating. This is the painstaking part. Ironically, it is the preparation that will make or break what makes the paint job. Every blemish is magnified under lights, every poorly sanded surface is magnified in the right (wrong?) light.
Having finished, first the two years of preparation and second, the 45 minute “boom”, our work was hardly done. Much still stretched in front of us. Not just a final top coat but also the finishing touches. In this case, the skirtings and beading. It is these small changes that bring completion.
So, a number of leadership lessons tied up in the weekend renovation. There are times to prep – often years, often dirty, often painstaking. There are times to “boom” and bring large scale, sweeping momentum, a new grand gesture. There are times to attend to finish, to pay attention to detail, to take the final moments of care.
All of this comes down to a mix of planning and discernment, to preparation and timing.
Friday, March 07, 2014
Dispersed Lent Journal Project 2014
This week I released these around the 34 Lipsett Terrace community
Four journals. On the front cover, the following words … Open me, browse me, take me, write in me, return me.
Inside, mainly blank white pages. A few images, a few practices, in case people get stuck. And the following explanation
Dispersed Lent Journal Project
Here at 34 Lipsett Terrace, we are a dispersed community. We are students, staff, teachers. We are post-graduates and undergraduates. We are studying for audit and for credit. We are casual library borrowers and we are hard working full-time students.
The Lenten journal project invites those who cross paths at 34 Lipsett Terrace to share with each other, through a dispersed pattern, what the season of Lent means to us.
The Overview: Lent in the church year is a time to focus on spiritual renewal. Different traditions in the church do this differently. The Dispersed Lent journals invite you to share with each other what this season means to you and how you connect more fully with the God-story in the days leading up to Easter.
The concept: A journal is a place to write. We can write privately, for ourselves. We can write publicly for others. The Lent journal invites us to write publicly, to share faith with each other.
How to proceed?
1. Once you have received the journal, you have no more than seven and no less than two days to spend with it.
2. During those days, put whatever you like in the journal – thoughts, ideas, drawings, photos, recipes, reflections – anything that captures what Lent means for you and how you connect with God during this season. Be creative. Use the exercises or images. Write in your own language.
3. Write aware that what you write will be read by a stranger. That is the nature of a public journal.
4. When you are finished, pass the journal onto another person in the Department of Flinders or ACD or UCLT or Adelaide Theological Library community.
a) It might be someone in your class
b) It might be a lecturer or staff person
c) You might leave it on the table in the Common Space or Adelaide Theological Library.
5. If you get given a journal for a second or third time, it will most likely be different than the first time you received it – different time, more input. You could pass it on straight away. Or treat it as an invitation to write further.
Who gets a journal? Four journals have been prepared. Each is different – different visual, different set of potential practices. Each will be touched by different hands, passed to different people. Each will encounter you at a different time in Lent. Each will be released into the 34 Lipsett Terrace community during the first week of Lent. After the initial release, who knows where the journals will go. Such is the mystery of God in the community.
How is it shared? The journals are public. If you see one, feel free to browse it. When finished, we might scan journal pages (including onto the website) and use them in ongoing ways around the 34 Lipsett Tce campus to encourage students and enhance worship.
So please be aware that by participating in this project, your work will be shared with others.
After Easter, please return the journals to:
Steve Taylor, Uniting College
It will be fascinating to see what happens over Lent.
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
leadership: giftedness or weakness
I hear a lot of talk about leadership giftedness. We have strengths, we have talents, we have “sweet spots” and we are called to find ways to express those. The body of Christ is diverse and we need to offer our uniqueness.
As Lent begins, I’m pondering leadership weakness.
As this first image from Si Smith’s wonderful 40, Jesus packs away what he is has spent a life being good at, packs away the tools of his trade, what gives him security, income and purpose.
And heads off into the wilderness, to places of insecurity and discomfort, where he will meet his inner self, face his temptations.
My strengths give me security. I know I can write and speak and improvise on my feet. I know I can listen well, find a clear phrase, think through a situation.
My strengths can be habitual. I turn to what I know, to what is well worn and familiar. Yet in times of immense transition, the future might actually be found in new habits, new people, new postures.
I wonder what it means if I were to pack away the tools of my trade – turn off the computer, the cell phone – and head into the wilderness. I wonder what temptations would find me.
And whether they are best met by my strength? Or by my weakness?
Monday, March 03, 2014
Ecclesial practices proposals for American Academy of Religion
I was very excited to hear last week that American Academy of Religion, one of the largest academic conferences in the world, had added a new subject area – Ecclesial Practices.
While this is exactly in my area of current research, the deadline for papers was today, Monday 3 March. So I’ve been working most evenings, trying to knock something together. Each person is allowed to submit two papers for consideration. This involves a 150 word abstract, plus a 1000 word proposal, which if accepted need to be further developed for presentation (at the annual conference in San Diego in November). It’s a fair bit of work!
But I’ve been searching through my hard drive, and been pleasantly surprised to discover some bits and pieces of writing from a number of sources that can be massaged into something I think is cohesive.
For those interested:
Proposal for Ecclesial Practices and Practical Theology: Lost in translation: the priority of anecdotes in discerning embodied doctrine
This article explores one analytical method by which practical theology might attend to both the descriptive and the theological.
It applies the work of Van Manen (Researching Lived Experience), and his methodological categories of knots in the webs of experience and anecdotes, to an ethnographic study of an emerging church ten years on. The anecdotes present in the data will be catalogued and then a selection probed for evidence of their doctrinal content. This will demonstrate, both by presence and in function, that anecdotes as short stories connected to real life are a repeated source by which this community chooses to express their wisdom.
It will thus be argued that anecdotes uncovered in the descriptive mode that characterizes social sciences are equally a rich lode through which to uncover doctrine as it is embodied in ecclesial practices.
Proposal for Ecclesial Practices – An ecclesiology of natality: an emerging church ten years on
This paper takes a longitudinal look at an emerging church, drawing on empirical research conducted in 2000 and again in 2010.
It will be argued that natality has emerged as a distinct ecclesial practice. Grace Jantzen argued for the importance of natality in theology, as a way to reference a symbolic in which lies the potential for new beginnings. She suggested it is characterized by embodiment, relationality, hopefulness and engenderment.
It will be argued that natality is more evident in the life of this emerging church in 2010 as demonstrated in demographic changes, gender differences and a shift of community creativity, from artistic reflections on Stations of the Cross to Advent in Art.
This allows an ecclesiological turn. An Advent narrative in the Lectionary cycle and the ecclesiology of Rowan Williams (Ponder These Things: Praying with Icons of the Virgin) seem to affirm ecclesial practices that offer embodiment, relationality, hopefulness and engenderment.
Friday, February 28, 2014
we have liftoff – Big Year Out is go for 2014
We’re delighted to announce that Big Year Out, our new discipleship programme for young adults, is a go for 2014. As of today, we have the necessary students we needed to make it a viable learning community.
This means that from next week, Dan Anear will be with us at Uniting College two days a week and we will have a bunch of young adults making themselves at home around the Campus during Semesters.
In response to feedback during promotion, we will be making a few tweaks to the 2014 Big Year Out programme. This will include moving from the day to the evening in order to offer a Young adult taster space. We see this as a chance to connect with the young adults who said “I’d love to do it, but I can only do an evening.” It means that any young adults who want a weekly evening space to chat and talk God, mission, life, ministry, are welcome.
We are also going to ramp up the mission-in-local-context component, encouraging participants to find a ministry opportunity and use that as credit toward the Certificate.
There is a strong sense of this being a God thing. On Wednesday we did not have enough enrolments and so made the difficult decision, that despite a heap of advertising and praying, we could not go ahead.
As we left that meeting, a just completed enrolment form was handed to us. On Thursday two more enrolment forms arrived, giving us the group size we felt we needed to ensure a worthwhile learning experience. (And it’s not too late to enrol, either in the full programme or in the evening Young Adult space).
There is a sense that we stopped. And into that space came the surprise of God. Which is a great space for us as a College to be in
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Did you just hear that loud ‘pop’?
It was the sound of champagne opening to celebrate that the Adelaide College of Divinity, of which Uniting College is a member, has been assessed as providing higher education to the same high quality standards as other universities and higher education providers across Australia, at all course levels.
This means that as a registered Higher Education Provider, ACD undergraduate courses, including those taught by Uniting College, have been accredited, for a further seven years, with no conditions.
In the words of ACD Executive Officer, Janet Buchan, “Now we can happily get on with the ‘business’ of education– putting students front and centre of everything we do”.
Note: This news is a followup to news in December that our post-graduate course offerings had also been granted seven years accreditation. One concrete result since then has been 18 new postgraduate student enrolments, from 8 different denominations and 3 different countries.