Thursday, May 07, 2020

Jesus as a socially (ir)responsible innovator research seminar

I’m committed to interdisciplinary research. As Paul Fiddes writes, Christian theology needs “to keep a conversation going with others outside the church, and to occupy a public space alongside late-modern thinkers” (Seeing the World and Knowing God: Hebrew Wisdom and Christian Doctrine in a Late-Modern Context, 2013, 13).  As a result, I find myself co-presenting – via Zoom – at a research seminar on Thursday 14 May, with Dr Christine Woods, at the Faculty of Business & Economics at the University of Auckland.

Christine is Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. We began working together three years ago, with the Lighthouse weekend, which sought to encourage mission and innovation, primarily among lay leaders nationally across the Presbyterian Church. 

Unknown-8 We’ve both found the interdisciplinary relationship quite engaging and co-presented (OK, Christine presented, together we wrote) at the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship 2020 conference in New Orleans in January.

Now, with the wonders of technology, I will find myself talking Hebrew Wisdom literature, Jesus and Paul at the Faculty of Business & Economics at the University of Auckland on Thursday. Here’s our abstract.

Jesus as a socially (ir)responsible innovator: seeking the common good in a dialogue between wisdom Christologies and social entrepreneurship

Abstract:

Within Christian academic circles discussion on entrepreneurship has included the notion of missional entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship. This produces a challenging set of discussions around the relationship between market capitalism and Christian belief. In this paper we specifically extend the discussion on social entrepreneurship and suggest that Jesus can be read as a socially (ir)responsible innovator.

A connectional theology is used to develop an interdisciplinary contribution between theology and social entrepreneurship. The work of Schumpeter, who argues for innovation as social change through a mechanism of creative recombination is brought into creative dialogue with Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible and Christian Scriptures.

The potential of recombination is developed first in Pauline literature, particularly in 1 Corinthians as ministry is understood as serving, gardening, building, resource managing, risking and parenting. Each of these six dimensions can be theorised as recombinations in which Paul seeks social change, including in family life, in ways that in fact are socially irresponsible, challenging existing hierarchical patterns. The potential of recombination is further tested in analysing Jesus as a socially (ir)responsible innovator. This begins with examination of wisdom Christologies and Jesus as the fulfilment of God (Matthew 5:17). What emerges is recombinations that again seek social change, including in gender patterns, and hence are socially irresponsible as they challenge existing hierarchical patterns.

Theoretically, we argue that Jesus the socially irresponsible innovator is an act of public theology. A dialogue between academic disciplines of theology and social entrepreneurship is possible bringing together the three domains of church, academy and world. Practically, this is grounded in educational contexts, in which we have engaged in interdisciplinary praxis. This includes developing Innovation Canvas and Next Step resources to encourage social entrepreneurship among grassroots religious communities. The result is an envisioning of the church as a player in innovation, the world as locus of activity for agency of God and a wisdom innovation that inhabits an ethically coherent narrative.

Posted by steve at 11:17 PM

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Bubble courses: a KCML innovation

An educational experiment I’ve been working on for the last few weeks, seeking ways to facilitate learning and community in the context of a global pandemic.

During Level 3 in Aotearoa, Bubble courses provide input for leaders, elders, ministers and whole people of God. They are timely, conversational, engaging, thought-provoking.

  • Geoff New The Practice of Preaching in a Pandemic – Thursday 30th April and Thursday May 7th
  • Nikki Watkin Leading in change: conversations and creativity – Monday 4th May and Monday 11th May
  • Steve Taylor – Building community and increasing participation online – Tuesday 5th May and Tuesday 12th May

7:30-8:30 pm (NZT) evenings.  To register and get a zoom link, contact registrar@knoxcentre.ac.nz.

Bubble Courses2

Posted by steve at 01:54 PM

Saturday, April 25, 2020

communities of practice as action-reflection tools

It’s been an extraordinarily generative week for me.

  • First, I found myself offering a closed facebook group to bring practitioners of innovation in digital worlds into contact with research. That has generated 38 members and over 200 comments as people interacted with research on faith formation.
  • Second, I hosted an online video conversation in which 25 folk from 4 countries engaged further around their experiences of innovation in digital worlds.
  • Third, I’m potentially offering a community of practice, in which folk wanting to experiment can meet with peers for support and reflection. This is still forming and might not yet materialise – life is so fluid for so many people. However, it is astonishing to realise this wasn’t even on my radar 7 days ago.

Companies of friends in the journey of innovation.

There is action, and there needs to be space for reflection. Reflection can be individual, as I write and journal. Reflection can be individual, as I read and engage with the experiences and insights of others, and so see my actions more carefully. Reflection can be communal, as I share my intuitions and half-baked processing and gain wisdom simply from those who give the gift of listening; even active-listening, which draws me into free speech. Reflection can be communal, the conversations that result from sharing, the connections that get made.

So I’m offering a Community of Practice for those innovating in digital faith. It is for active people already doing stuff this is a space to reflect, to process with peers. And I have this hope, this pleading, that it won’t be my last. I dream of multiple Communities of Practice, in which unique projects (actions), by those facing a shared challenge, are enhanced by the space to reflect – individually and communally.

 

COP

Posted by steve at 12:51 PM

Thursday, April 23, 2020

5 practices for cultivating safe and prayerful space online: #ministry in isolation4

A resource – video and written summary – I produced this week. It is part of a series of interviews I am doing, called #ministry in isolation, which is spotlighting ecclesial innovation in the context of external (lockdown) restraints:

Jill McDonald #ministryinisolation4 from JaneThomsen on Vimeo.

How can God build a tapestry of love online through skilled leadership?

“Going online felt better. Being part of the river of God’s healing love. It felt profound. Lifegiving … A tapestry of prayer and love across Aotearoa,” concludes Jill.

Steve Taylor, from KCML, interviews Jill McDonald, from St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Hastings about her leadership of Sacred Space Whakamoemiti. Why did she take this short midweek prayer service online, and what was the result? What has been learnt?

The interview outlines five practices for cultivating safe and prayerful space online.

Such experiences require skilled leadership. Here are the five tips for creating sacred space online.
1. The value of a pre-gathering bidding question. Prepare people to participate by sending out prior a question you will be inviting response to during the online experience. A bidding question clarifies purpose. It communicates an ethos of participation and gives people space to prepare. This is likely to enhance the depth of participation and a sense of meaningful engagement.

2. Guiding the conversation through a focused question. Rather than offer an open space for anyone to answer, call people by name. It could be clockwise around your screen, or top of the land to the bottom. Being directive lets people know when and how they will be able to participate.

3. Modelling through drawing first on those familiar with the culture. Begin asking focused questions of people who have been before. They have experienced the culture of the group and the length, depth and type of responses.

4. Create a pass. Give words that allow people to pass. “I’m going to go around and call people by name. If you don’t yet have a response, just say “pass.”” Giving a specific word reduces a sense of forced participation.

5. Work to a settled rhythm. In the familiarity, there is safety. People can settle into their work. Good liturgy has call and response which gives direction. A pattern of welcome, a settling question to ensure folk have heard their voice, a sound to start and end a period of silence, a repeated ending ritual. It means that participants are more likely to settle into prayer if they are aware of where they are heading.

Steve Taylor and Jill McDonald
21 April 2020

Posted by steve at 07:34 PM

Monday, April 13, 2020

seeing faith: art and theology in Christ in the Wilderness

Christ in the Wilderness: Reflecting on the Paintings of Stanley Spencer by Stephen Cottrell has been a wonderful Lenten 2020 companion.

Art opens up the imagination. Cottrell reflects on the paintings of British painter, Stanley Spencer and in particular a Lenten series of paintings done by Spencer in the 1930′s. The book begins with a wonderful introduction to the spirituality and life of Spencer. Then there are 5 chapters engaging with 5 different paintings.

Cottrell is a brilliant communicator. The clever interweaving of stories from his life and experience, along with Biblical text, theology and the life of Stanley Spencer make for an accessible, yet at times profound engagement. Paying close attention to the imaginative work of an artist makes a space for stillness and reflection. At the same time, there is constant engagement with the life of Spencer, which adds layers of insight.

A picture a week made for a paced Lenten. Each picture is reproduced and in colour. The week began with a few days of my own contemplation on Spencer’s art. This was followed by reading slowly, a page or two, of Cottrell’s insights, as the week progressed. The result was fresh insights and a more contemplative Lent.

Posted by steve at 09:41 AM

Friday, April 10, 2020

limit your palette: radio ZB Easter Friday interview notes

jeremy-chen-b3hedAc21B0-unsplash

I was interviewed on radio ZB on Easter Friday morning. Here were the questions asked, and my rough notes in preparation.

Introduction: When we think about church and traditions around Easter, we might think of quite traditional churches, but there are church movements that have been wrestling and exploration different ways of expressing and meeting together. Steve Taylor has been leading and observing some of those new approaches to community faith practice for 20 years.

Question: What’s the opportunity for churches to explore new ways of doing things in the time of Covid-19 and how do you think that might actually benefit churches and their communities?

“Limit the palette” (David Sheppard). So not being able to physically gather is a limiting of the palette. It can benefit churches by sparking new imaginations. I’ve seen the creation of DIY walk the local community Stations of the Cross. I’ve seen folk realise that being home alone is a bit like a monastic experience and so offer contemplation and isolation spiritual practices. So limiting the palette has produced fresh forms of spiritual practice.

Question: What have you learned about what to focus on and what not to stress about when it comes to changes to the way we might traditionally worship – are people likely to be sitting around singing hymns on Zoom calls?

Don’t sing on Zoom! Technically the lag times make it awful.

First, stick to your strengths. If you’ve been good at technology, do technology. If you’ve been good at care and connection, do care and connection.

Second, use the tradition. Christian history is rich and deep. There are people before us who’ve been locked down, who’ve explored ways of doing worship. The letters of Paul were written from prison – a lockdown experience. So how might that help us respond.

Question: There are people for whom, big festival celebrations like Easter and Christmas, weddings and funerals are the only time they engage with a collective spirituality. Now that the doors of those buildings are closed, how can communities think about connecting with and serving each in new ways?

There are reports of online attendance increasing in the first week of lockdown. Perhaps it was ministers watching their friends but it will be interesting to see what happens. There are reports of first time visitors online. It is easier to check out a church by clicking on a link than it is to dress up the kids and be a first time visitor. So there is opportunity.

But please use the online space as it is made to be. Remember that online is a ‘making and doing’ space, not a ‘sit back and be told’ space. So explore ways to care and connect online.

Credit: Photo by Jeremy Chen on Unsplash

Posted by steve at 07:26 AM

Monday, March 30, 2020

contagion – a theological review in a time of pandemic

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 140 plus films later, here is the review for April 2020. Touchstone have kindly given permission for me to place it online prior to print publication, given the extraordinary times in which we find ourselves

Contagion
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Contagion was released in 2011. It is available on iTunes and Google Play and at prices cheaper than a movie ticket. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, a “stay-at-home” theological film review seemed appropriate.

“Get ready for the future, It is murder,” sings Leonard Cohen in 1992. The song would make an apt soundtrack for the movie “Contagion.” The film, released in 2011, has in the last week, become the second-most popular movie on iTunes. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the movie dramatizes a medical apocalypse that has, in recent weeks, become our present reality.

A mystery virus, originating in China, is swiftly carried by airline travel around the world. Highly contagious, able to survive on door handles and drinking glasses, a global pandemic ensures.

In this future vision (and unlike our present reality), the United States takes the lead. Central to the drama is the team at the Centre Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP). They are researching (Kate Winslett as Dr Erin Mears), communicating (Laurence Fishburne as Dr Ellis Cheever) and testing (Jennifer Ehle as Dr Ally Hextall; Demetri Martin as Dr David Eisenberg). A vaccine takes months. Distrust of science, mixed with the conspiracy, accelerated by social media results, results in looting, panic and vigilante action. As Cohen laments, the future indeed is murder.

“Contagion” has two emotional palette’s. A cold and fearful first half, as initial heroines (Gwyneth Paltrow as Beth Emhoff) collapse and masked medical professionals seek (unsuccessfully) to contain. A more empathetic second half follows, as romance blooms and sacrifices made for the greater good.

The movie cleverly pairs characters – wife (Beth Emhoff) with husband (Matt Damon as Mitch Emhoff); CDCP scientists’ female (Dr Erin Mears) with male (Dr Ellis Cheever). One sex will die, while the other will find creative ways to care for the next generation. Why, even in a pandemic, do gender stereotypes remain?

“Contagion” becomes an important watch amid the COVID-19 pandemic. What is made visible is the interplay between an unseen virus and a palpable human dread.

In the face of fear, we can choose anxiety. Believe social media. Distrust science. Surrender to conspiracy theories. Or we can choose to re-imagine. Open ourselves to love our neighbour as ourselves. Find different ways to care and connect through times of turbulence.

Churches have historically played an essential role in loving the sick. Basil of Caesarea in the fourth century, founded what historians consider was the world’s first hospital. At Basil’s funeral, the hospital he founded was praised as an institution of mercy in which “diseases are studied, misfortune made blessed and sympathy put to the test.” Such is Christianity. Science is valued, and research is respected. Kindness is evident, and greater love casts out fear.

We find ourselves in an unprecedented time in human history. Might the images of “Contagion” and the lyrics of Cohen accurately portray our emerging present? Or will the compassion of Mother Teresa and the innovation of Basil, mark the church as visible in the face of an invisible virus? Get ready for the future, it becomes our choice.

Rev Dr Steve Taylor is Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, Dunedin. He is the author of First Expressions (2019), 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 04:23 PM

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Annunciation in a time of Isolation

I write from home on lockdown eve. A national state of emergency has been enacted, and at midnight on the 25 March 2020, all of Aotearoa New Zealand has been ordered to isolate for the next four weeks. All over my nation, people are returning home. Parents are becoming teachers. Kitchen tables are now work desks, while fridge doors have new daily routines and economic fear gnaws.

Aotearoa New Zealand is not alone. As I write, more than 1.7 billion people worldwide, over a fifth of the world’s population, are secluding themselves at home.

In the calendar of the church, the 25 March is a Principal Feast. Hence on this 2020 lockdown eve, the lectionary texts revolve around the annunciation of Our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In Luke 1:26–38, the angel appears to Mary, announcing good news. God is conceiving life, in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. In the tradition of the church, this announcement of God’s activity is in the context of seclusion.

This is beautifully portrayed in The Annunciation, an artwork by Filippo Lippi (1450s), that hangs in Room 58 of the National Gallery in London. Mary is (humanly) alone. She is seated inside a house, isolated from the outdoors by a stone wall. Behind her is stone stairs, suggesting further layers of enclosure. In front of her is the garden, although even that is enclosed. This is a woman alone and physically separated. Whether this was reality, we do not know. How much of this is patriarchy, with Mary entombed by external prejudices and cultural bias, whether from century villagers or fourteenth century is also unclear.

What is clear is that in this isolation, Mary is surrounded by Divine activity. She stares at an angel, who has slipped over the enclosed garden wall to kneel in respect. Above Mary is the hand of God, a motif present in so much baptismal art. Filippo Lippi presents the hand as breaking through the roof, a foreshadowing of the paralytic who will descend through the roof to be forgiven and healed by Jesus in Mark 2:1–12.

A bird hovers in front of Mary’s womb. The detail is extraordinary. A spray of golden particles issues from the beak of the dove. It is common in Annunciation art for the dove to be located above Mary’s head. Filippo Lippi provides a new intimacy, as the Spirit draws near to the womb the angel is blessing. Annunciation thus offers a theology of isolation.

First, what is clear is that a home is a place of encounter. Much of religious activity is centred on the church. We expect the Spirit to be present Sunday by Sunday as the faithful gather around the body of Christ. In the annunciation, God is present in the home. This is good news for the millions of humans currently in lockdown. As we gaze longingly at our gardens, God’s hand can enter our rooms. As an external virus entombs us, God’s Spirit draws near.

Blessed are the secluded
For they will experience God

Second, the house protects. The womb of Mary will house the son of God. God’s Spirit’s draws near, proclaiming favour on the womb of Mary. This womb will house the son of God. In the flow of blood and the bodily tasks of eating and drinking, Divine life is safeguarded. This is what makes Christianity radical, for in God, bodies matter. This is the genius of Filippo Lippi. Mary’s womb, that human body that will house the divine body, is inside a house. Do the stone walls enclose? Or do they protect?

Blessed is the home
For protecting of divine encounter

Third, in seclusion is new life. The word “conceive” is used twice (verses 31 and 36), as is the word “birth” (verses 31 and 35). So much of Christianity seems focused on death, yet the story of Jesus brims with new life. The Spirit that hovers over Mary is the Spirit that hovers over the waters in Genesis 1:2. It is the Spirit that makes birth again possible for Nicodemus in John 3:4–6. It is the Spirit that groans with creation in the pains of childbirth in Romans 8:22–23. In 2020, this same conceiving Spirit continues to hover over our locked-down bodies. Bonhoeffer wrote that in birth, God in Jesus Christ claims space in the world as a “narrow space” in which the whole reality of the world is revealed (Ethics (Dietrich Bonhoeffer-Reader’s Edition)).

This narrow space that is the hope of a new creation is conceived in the four walls that enclose Mary. In 2020, the narrow spaces that are the four walls of our home might yet be the womb of God’s new creation. Might we emerge into a new world in which a universal basic income protects the vulnerable? Might we cultivate different habits, like sabbath and localism, which change the nature of global pollution?

Blessed is time
For in the moment is grace

Fourth, an agency is established. In Luke 1:26-38, despite being secluded, Mary is no passive passenger. She is an agent, choosing to open herself to God’s mission of favour. As she utters the words “Here I am” (verse 38), she is locating herself in the genealogy of God’s servants. She is taking her place alongside Moses in Exodus 3:4 and the prophet in Isaiah 6:8.

How might Mary’s agency be portrayed in art? What Filippo Lippi does is extraordinary. A close examination of The Annunciation shows a spray of golden particles pours from the beak of the hovering dove. An answering spray of gold golden particles issues from a tiny parting in the tunic of Mary. This is Mary “active and outgoing” according to John Drury, former Dean of Christ Church, Oxford (Painting the Word: Christian Pictures and Their Meanings, Yale University Press, 1999, 53). In enclosure, Mary is open. Secluded, she is receptive. This is the art of imagination, not the precision of science. Yet in the poetry is a theology of isolation.

Blessed are the isolated
For they participate in God’s conceiving

In time, Mary will be no stranger to sorrow. The years that lie ahead of her will be stained by tears and pain. God’s favour is no offer of a rosy garden. Yet on the Feast of Annunciation, we in 2020 find a theology of isolation. Enclosed in our homes, God’s Spirit is active. Entombed by the invisible, we have agency. In the narrow space in which we, as a global society, find ourselves, a new world might yet be conceived.

Rev Dr Steve Taylor is Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership and explores ecclesiologies of birth and conception in First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God. This post also appears on the SCM blog as part of their #TheologyinIsolation series.

Posted by steve at 09:15 PM

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

being church as public gatherings are shut down

In 2005, I wrote a book about a future church. In one chapter, I pointed out that the Bible shows that faith is transmitted in many ways. One way is through the Jewish synagogue pattern of meeting weekly.

However, the Old Testament provides other ways by which faith was transmitted. There were festivals, large scale community events that celebrated life over numbers of days. There were pilgrimages, with Psalms of Ascent to sing on journeys. Upon return, there were kitchen tables at which the experiences of festivals past was retold. At significant landmarks, stones were gathered in piles so that when curious children asked “What’s that,” stories of God active in the past could be shared.

In other words, there have always been other ways to transmit faith than by weekly gathered worship.

The COVID19 pandemic is an opportunity to explore these other ways. There are so many possibilities other than live streaming that weekly pattern. We are being freed to minister Word and offer sacramental leadership in other ancient ways.

Design do at home Easter services with recipes for feasts around the family table. Create prayers to turn the pilgrimage from the front door to letterbox into Psalms of Ascent and Descent. Design ways to share digital stories of God’s actions in times present and past. Offer asynchronous lectio divina using open source software.

Posted by steve at 09:38 PM

Friday, March 06, 2020

making matters grassroots impact #Kiwiangels

Kiwiangels I really enjoyed presenting at St Lukes Presbyterian yesterday. It was great to have the opportunity to offer to a local church and nearby ministers some of my study leave from last year. I took my presentation from Durham Ecclesiology and Ethnography Conference in September. I added in a 15 minute introduction to the variety of ways the church might be “making” – for good and bad – in the world today. I also generated some “free range” activities, to mess with the usual question and answer time by adding things to see, do and make. It was gratifying to overheard conversations as the evening ended plotting Christmas 2020 projects and I came away with the sense of being directly useful to the local church.

Making matters: yarn-bombing and craftivism in contemporary Christian mission

There was some very rich discussion, particularly around the materiality of knitting. The discussion was rich enough to generate 900 words as I wrote this morning, reflecting on the Incarnation in light of the useless yet playful act of yarnbombing knitted angels.

One of the unexpected blessings was becoming aware of the impact of my writing in the lives of ordinary people in the Presbyterian church. In October 2019, I wrote a column for SPANZ, the publication of the Presbyterian Church. Under the title “Making matters,” I concluded,

Are there makers in Presbyterian churches? Yvonne Wilkie, our Church’s former archivist, recalls knitted nativities in Presbyterian history. But that was the past, and we all now live in the present.

The instructions are online (https://www.christmasangel.net/). They are simple enough that, as part of my research, I learnt to make one. Is anyone interested in making and mission, with a downunder #Kiwiangels hashtag? Or are Kiwi summers now too busy and too hot for making to matter?

Last night at St Lukes, I met a person who told me she had read the article and promptly knitted 30 angels, which she gave over Christmas 2019 to her friends and neighbours. Each was thoughtfully and carefully personalised, an act of love. It was humbling to be made aware my written words and study leave research had contributed to a kinder world. Study leave research generates grassroots impact :) Yee ha.

Posted by steve at 09:58 AM

Friday, February 28, 2020

Making matters

Making matters: yarn-bombing and craftivism in contemporary Christian mission

Kiwiangels

What is the role of making in contemporary culture? From pink pussy hats to yarnbombing – craftivism combines craft and activism, providing hands-on ways to engage in change. In 2014, Christmas Angels began as a project of Methodist churches in the North of England, yarn-bombing their communities with hand-made angels. By 2018, the number of Christmas Angels knitted in Great Britain were too many to count. Steve Taylor shares his research, focused on those who received these angels. How was good news as craft experienced? How might making provide new insights into Christian faith and mission as hands-on?

St Lukes Remuera, 130 Remuera Road, 7:30-9 pm, Thursday 5th March.

Steve Taylor is Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership and author of 3 books and over 200 articles and publications. His latest study leave involved learning to knit and using digital ethnographies to study making in mission. Steve Taylor is married to Lynne, and together they enjoy two adult children.

Posted by steve at 08:33 AM

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The burning bush – a visual study of indigenization and faith

Title (working): The burning bush in Aotearoa New Zealand: a visual study of indigenization and faith

Aim: 5-7000 words, including notes; scholarly rigour with clear and lively prose; due to publisher 1 March 2020.

Abstract(working): Presbyterianism is a global faith. Yet a message spoken by a sender is not always what is heard by a receiver. Hence communicating faith across cultures can simultaneously generate both globalization and distinct accounts of indigenization. Messages are communicated not only in words but also in visuals. This paper examines the indigenization of the burning bush in the contexts and cultures of Aotearoa New Zealand. An archival study of crafted adornments to Bibles, stained glass windows and identity symbols suggest that visual communication enhances local agency and empowers indigenization. The bush takes indigenous form, burning because of a Presbyterian theology of immediacy in revelation.

(Trying to turn a cross-cultural experience in 2018, and a keynote talk in 2018
IMG_6472 and another more academic talk in 2019 into a written piece for a special journal issue on the principles of indigenization).

Posted by steve at 01:24 PM

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Faith in the boardroom chapter acceptance

My book chapter for Reimagining Faith & Management got a big tick from the editors today. It is a 7,000-word piece I have been working on for a few months, in the gaps around holidays, two block courses and some other writing on craftivism.

It was a quite out of the blue invitation in August of 2019 to consider being part of this international project. I kept wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew. But it has been a wonderful opportunity to push forward my research into leadership and innovation in Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration and institutions and innovation in First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God. In particular to draw on presentations from 3 years of the Lighthouse innovation incubators, along with further research into the Wisdom literature of Hebrew Scripture as a resource.

Chapter title: Faith in the boardroom: Seeking wisdom in governing for innovation

Abstract: This paper explores faith in the context of the boardroom. A notion of wisdom governance is developed in dialogue with Hebrew Scripture and contemporary governance research. The proposal is that faith resources can be utilised in ways accessible to pluralist contexts yet respectful of the particularities of diverse faith traditions. Governance practices are developed using verbs of serving, gardening, building, resourcing, risking and parenting. Two case studies clarify the nature of governance in innovation. The argument is that in conditions that require the balancing of risk and innovation, a wisdom governance that is trusted, engaging and connective is possible.

Keywords: governance, Wisdom literature, innovation, risk

The book – titled Reimagining Faith & Management – is under contract with Routledge. Dr Edwina Pio is the lead editor. She is New Zealand’s first Professor of Diversity and in 2019, was awarded the Te Rangi Hiroa Medal by the Royal Society Te Apārangi for her pioneering research in diversity, specifically, how the intersection of ethnicity, religion and gender is influenced by the world of work. So it is wonderful to have such a skilled researcher taking the lead in what is an interdisciplinary space that has quite some complexity.

The co-editors are Dr Robert Kilpatrick and Dr Timothy Pratt, whom I’ve kept in contact with since being in Baptist ministry together in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Little did any of us dream back then that we’d be writing in this space together! Each chapter will revolve around managerial concepts within which faith-based aspects will be woven. The twenty chapters will be written by contributors from around the globe, with publication either at the end of 2020 or early 2021.

Posted by steve at 04:32 PM

Thursday, December 19, 2019

When Christmas Angels tweet – a research summary as book contribution

One of my 2019 tasks has been a research project investigating the impact of Christmas Angels, a form of Christian witness that began in the north of England in 2014. (A brief summary for my denominational magazine is here). The research project began on the edges of my sabbatical, a creative break in the grind of book completion. It made possible a conference presentation at the Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference (thanks workplace).

Following the conference, I had an email from one of the keynote speakers, Mary Clark Moschella. They had sat in on my conference presentation and the email was one of congratulations, describing my research as highly imaginative.

It was also an email of invitation. Mary was working on revising Ethnography As A Pastoral Practice: An Introduction. She was wanting to include a couple of brief research summaries as examples at the end of the book. Might this include a summary of my research? She noted my research would serve a number of purposes in a revised edition. It would automatically update the work and appeal to students who are considering undertaking online research. It lifts up the feminist implications of craftivism and would exemplify a fresh approach to practical theology based on making. It was a wonderful and encouraging email to receive.

I had already submitted my research to an academic journal so there were copyright implications to consider. But this request was asking something quite different, with a focus on explaining the research to students in a step-by step way, concentrating on the bare bones of the research methodology and process, the ethical considerations, and theological reflections.

Ethnography As A Pastoral Practice: An Introduction is a book I use in my teaching and to be invited to contribute to a revised edition was a real affirmation of the research and the presentation! So in the cracks of time over the last few months, I’ve been working away on a distinctive piece of writing.

Yesterday I was able send off 4,500 words, tenatively titled – When Christmas Angels tweet: making matters and practical theology in researching mission online, seeking feedback from Mary.

IMG_8035 It might well need reworking, or be deemed not suitable. But it has been wonderful to write, sharing the research journey, including my learning to knit and in conversation with Fieldwork in Theology: Exploring the Social Context of God’s Work in the World (The Church and Postmodern Culture). There is also some new theological reflection, developing a theological reading of the knitting (Buxtehude) Madonna.

The sending brought to 9* my academic research outputs for the 2019 year. It’s been a highly productive year:

  • 1 book – First Expressions
  • 5 academic journal articles (3 accepted following revise/resubmit; 2 revise/resubmit work in process)
  • 2 book chapters (writing up of conference presentations)
  • 1 (successful) $130,000 research grant (further announcements pending)

Obviously the 15 weeks of sabbatical has helped my productivity, giving sustained space to complete a range of products. So also has been writing in partnerships. 4 of the 9 outputs have been co-authored with 3 people in different types of writing partnerships. So has a work situation, which in complexity has required me to re-order where my creativity can be offered. With less creativity required in some areas, an unintended benefit has been increased productivity in the cracks of time. I’m not spending any more time writing, just finding in retrospect, that the time I spend writing is proving to be highly generative.

* My rule of thumb is 1 “industry” ie church-facing output for every 1 “academic” output, in which I seek to express theological thinking in accessible and church-facing places. In 2019, there has also been 19 industry/”church-facing outputs including 11 film reviews in Touchstone, 2 SPANZ columns, 1 Zadok column, 2 Weekly Worship lectionary guides, 1 devozine youth resource, 1 Candour blog, 1 SCM blog.

Posted by steve at 11:23 AM