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

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

On Innovation and Mission: introducing my new book First Expressions

Steve Taylor introduces his new book First Expressions : Innovation and the Mission of God … 700 words to summarise a 95,000 word project …

280719_irst Expressions FINAL CORRECT copy

On Innovation and Mission

Nearly half of fresh expressions will die. My research into new forms of church found 50% of churches had tried and died. My analysis of research by others found 62% of what were proclaimed as “models to hope on” had died.

A pragmatic ecclesiology values numbers. Like Dragons’ Den, a church with limited resources wants to invest wisely. If fresh expressions die, are they worth investing in? A pastoral ecclesiology values people. What is the impact on faith formation when the church that one starts and another joins organizes its own funeral? Is there an innovation ecclesiology, that can locate birth and death in the relationship between innovation and mission?

What research? To understand innovation in mission I studied eleven local church communities in England, Scotland and Wales. I came to call these communities “first expressions”. The name captures a “boldly go where no-one has gone before” approach to spirituality, evident as communities like Visions used video projection to transform church buildings in an Illuminating York Festival or Late Late Service explored “the music that we grew up with and forms of learning that we’re comfortable with” (God in the House, 1996). The term “first expressions” captures the new (and terrifying) reality of those who innovate without roadmaps from those who have gone before.

This was an empirical study. It is tempting for ecclesiology to work with ideals. I wanted to research reality. As Julian of Norwich declares, in one small thing – in my case “first expressions” – is all of creation. I developed a woven ecclesiology, that upholds the value not only of gathering in worship, but of intergenerational faith formation, leadership development and the making of creative product.

I returned 11 years later, to interview and to participate. This gave me a longitudinal study of first expressions, likely the first in the world. In focus group interviews, I heard stories of creative communities like Grace smashing their sense of identity in order to orientate around values not particular leaders. I interviewed leaders of the communities now dead and heard of “Vicar factories” in which the space to create and question resulted in leadership gifted to the wider church.

In the meantime, alongside these first expressions locally, church denominations innovated with Fresh Expressions. I expanded my longitudinal research to study Fresh Expressions as an organizational “first expression”, interviewing leaders like Rowan William, Steven Croft and Andrew Roberts, seeking to understand how a denomination might innovate in mission.

Why research? The research was shaped by my own story. I planted a first expression. Four years after I moved to another leadership role, I heard that first expression was preparing to die. This prompted my longitudinal research.

Through my research, I was challenged by a New Testament wisdom. None of the churches that the apostle Paul planted remain alive today. In Philippians, Paul writes to the very first expression of church in Europe. He names a pioneer that nearly died. Ephaphroditus is to be regarded as valuable. This is a Christian theology of risk, in which birth and death are affirmed.

I was blessed by the grassroots wisdom of local communities. Mobility, leadership transitions and the strength of wider relationships all impact on longevity. What was astonishing was the flexibility by which these first expressions explored new structures of leadership, clarified their identities in the midst of change and creatively drew on spiritual resources.

I was inspired by the organizational wisdom of denominations. In history, churches have innovated with structures. To help understand Fresh Expressions, I examined other mission structures developed in the United Kingdom, monastic patterns, early Methodism and the modern mission agency. I throw in wild cards of contemporary structures like NGOs and incubators. Innovation in mission often includes innovation in organizational shapes.

I was stretched by gender wisdom. The denominational leaders I interviewed were all men. This prompted an imaginative thought experiment. If Elizabeth was an archbishop and Mary was birthing an organization about to be named Fresh Expressions, what might be the shape of their strategic plan?

Innovation in mission is an activity of God. It embodies the word of Jesus: Unless a seed falls, there is no life. Julian was wise. In each small thing, there is value. The birth and death of first expressions invite a radical rethink of mission and ministry. A layered approach to ecclesiology, a church that is neither gathered and parish nor independent and networked, emerges. Innovation is the ants in the pants of Christianity. It keeps the body moving, not for the sake of growth but for the sake of birth and death, which are central to Christianity and thus to being church. Such is the gift of “first expressions”.

***

Order First Expressions via the SCM website before 31st December 2019, and you’ll benefit from a launch discount.

Steve Taylor is Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership and author of First Expressions: Innovation and the mission of God, Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration and The Out of Bounds Church?. He enjoys nature and is learning to knit.

Posted by steve at 07:52 AM

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Innovation ecclesiologies and the expanding of World Christianity

280719_irst Expressions FINAL CORRECT copy Paper proposal – taking my new book into an academic context – ANZATS 2020 – World Christianity and Diaspora Theology stream.

Title: Innovation ecclesiologies and the expanding of World Christianity

Global Christianity assumes a gospel that expands throughout the world, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Yet notions of expansion have trajectories, ethics and hoped for eschatologies that require missiological examination.

Ecclesiological expansion is probed through dialogue with research into fresh expressions in the UK (Taylor, First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God 2019), which found that half of fresh expressions had died within ten years of birth. Longitudinal analysis of other new forms of church literature – by Riddell (Threshold of the Future: Reforming the Church in the Post-Christian West, 1998), Frost and Hirsch (The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church, 2003) – reveal similar percentages. Yet Together Towards Life (2012) affirmed the value of fresh expressions as new forms of contextual mission in the global North.

A pragmatic ecclesiology values numbers. If fresh expressions die, are they of value in theorising the expanding of world Christianity? A pastoral ecclesiology values people. What are the pastoral implications if half of newly planted diaspora churches die in new cultural contexts?

This paper responds to these challenges by developing an innovation ecclesiology. An initial globalizing trajectory is followed as Christianity first expands into Europe. The innovative role of Lydia as a church planter in Philippi is read in relation to Mary as a first apostle, commissioned amid the eschatology of death and the trajectory of resurrection. This resonates with Epaphroditus, who despite nearly dying for the gospel, is regarded as valuable (Philippians 2:29). Such an innovation ecclesiology, in which dying is woven into rising, values expansion while providing ethical resources for the pastoral care of those who innovate in world Christianity.

Posted by steve at 06:27 PM

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

making matters: with a downunder #Kiwiangels hashtag

A piece I wrote last month for SPANZ, the denominational magazine of the Presbyterian Church. It is a popularisation of my craftivism research, with a downunder challenge.

Kiwiangels

Photo by Kayli Taylor

Making matters

God is a master maker, according to Proverbs 8:30. God delights in making, both at creation and among the human race. The chapter begins with the Maker calling in the streets, offering wisdom not inside the temple, but at the crossroads of life, not in the stillness of liturgy but the bustle of the city gates (1-3). The wisdom on offer is fit for daily purpose – words that lead to life offered at the door of every house (34-5).

Making mattered to theologians of the early Church, who wove relationships between God as maker and discipleship as God’s children. Maximus the Confessor called Christian life a game played by children before God. In Acts, Dorcas created a fresh expression of church with the poor through mending and Lydia worked with fine purple cloth, while Paul, Priscilla and Aquila sustained their mission through the making of tents.

The place of making in mission intrigues me. So in recent months, I have researched Christmas Angels, a local church outreach that began in the north of England in 2014. The idea is simple: make hand-knitted angels, attach a tag, and leave for others to find.

Why make? Mystery in mission, was the answer, according to founders, Methodist church ministers, Rob Wylie and David Wynd, whom I interviewed last month in Durham, England. Seeing a felted angel made by Lou Davis (a wonderfully talented pioneer Methodist church leader) a lightbulb went off for Rob and David: “People walk the same route to work every single day. Let’s see what happens when they see something they don’t normally see. What they make of the message will be up to them. An angel turns up and what might change?”

Christianity, like Christmas, has, over the years, become increasingly wrapped in tinsel. What might happen if making, in the simplicity of a hand-made angel, was what mattered at Christmas?

What happened? Well, it seems that local English churches adore making things. What began in 2014 with a few churches near Rob and David, was quickly taken up by churches all over Britain. In 2017, over 60,000 angels, each lovingly tagged, were yarn bombed throughout England. In the dark of winter down country roads and up high streets, outside train stations and opposite local schools, hand-made knitted angels just turned up.

I was curious. What did the neighbours make of the making? Were yarnbombed angels a nuisance? I turned to social media as part of my research. Each knitted angel came with a hashtag (search online for “#XmasAngel”) and I found the neighbours responding (tweeting) online. Words like “lovely” and “thanks” kept being repeated. For one person, the angels meant people were “thinking of us here”. For another it was an experience of “divine intervention”. A mother was moved to tears as she watched her children place their newly found angel atop the Christmas tree. Of the 1,100 responses (tweets), not one was negative. The making of knitted angels brought communities together, made visible the church and materialised joy and surprise in the experience of being found by an angel.

It all makes sense of the angels in the Christmas story. They were outdoors. They were making faith visible, not with their hands, but their voices with songs of peace and love for all humankind.

It also makes sense of the making in Proverbs 8. Making matters and mission needs to be “out and about” up streets and at the crossroads. Making matters as the Church becomes playful, turning “purl one and knit two together” into unspoken acts of public mission.

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?

Steve Taylor

Posted by steve at 09:14 PM

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The missio dei embodied in local community ministry in Scotland

IMG_7973 Leading a Listening in Mission class a few weeks ago, with highlighters in hand, working with a case study, some things clicked and a conference abstract – with a colleague – for the International Association for Mission Studies, Sydney July 2020 (IAMS) emerged.

The missio dei embodied in local community ministry in Scotland
Mark Johnston and Steve Taylor

This paper examines the use of missio Dei in a local community context. It outlines a missology of discerning that provides a way to interpret the birthing of the Blue Horizon Youth Charity in South Aberdeen, Scotland.

Our paper works with the assumption that the missio Dei is axiomatic for a missional ecclesiology. In John 5:29, the Son can only do what the Father does. In Luke 10:1-11, a naming of the Kingdom occurs after acts of healing, suggesting a contextual particularity. Hence listening and discernment in local contexts are essential to mission.

The missio Dei is theorised by applying three frames – neighbourhood listening, diagnosing local narratives and discerning God and the gospel – to a case study of the development of a local community ministry. Listening involves activating presence and seeking immersive relationships of curiosity and proximity. Diagnosing occurs through visual tools, utilising metaphors of icebergs and bridges. Diagnosing enables discerning, evident as documents describing the ethos, beliefs, values and practices of Blue Horizon are critically examined with hindsight. A continuity between listening, diagnosing and discerning is developed, suggesting that for community ministry today, doing what the Father does requires action-reflection on community ministry, pays attention to vulnerable voices in the community, works ecumenically and partners with non-church actors in ways that are inclusive while affirming gospel values.

This research provides tools and outlines practices for the local church, interpreted missiologically. Missiology is returned to the local church as the missio Dei is embodied in local community mission.

Posted by steve at 01:25 PM

Monday, November 18, 2019

ending a 15th year as a theological film reviewer

On Friday I hit send on a film review of Jojo Rabbit. It marked the end of my 15th consecutive year of film reviewing.

In August of 2005, I was teaching Gospel and Film at Laidlaw College. The phone rang and Paul Titus, the then editor of Touchstone, the denominational magazine for the Methodists of Aotearoa New Zealand introduced himself. He explained that he had two (free) tickets to Sedition, a documentary about conscientious objectors to war in Aotearoa New Zealand. It was a New Zealand film festival release. Since the film included a number of Methodists, the film would be of interest to readers of Touchstone. Would I be willing to attend (for free) and write a review?  They would pay per word, for a 500 word film review.

I agreed, attended and scratched out my first every film review.  I was a paid writer!

The editor was delighted. As the month ended, he rang again. Would I be willing to become a permanent monthly film reviewer? he asked. Two free tickets and 500 words on the theology of film. Why not, I said. I enjoy going to movies. I teach in Gospel and film. Why not put words where my mouth is?

Every month since, I have turned out 500 words. In the 15 years, that is over 155 film reviews – 77,500 words – and counting. Once Touchstone is out in print, I am allowed to place them online and many are here. Despite shifting countries twice and once changing editors.

“You’re longest running job” commented one of my daughters earlier this year.

Some months it is fun. The film is one I want to watch and the words flow. Many months it is hard. The available films hold little appeal. Those that do are showing at awkward times. Or I’m travelling overseas and the selection is limited.

Over the years – through the fun and the hard – I’ve come to see it as a spiritual discipline. The monthly pattern forces me to pay attention. It might not suit – my interests, my travel schedule, my plans – but that’s the point. In the imposed, I am being disciplined, forced to think theologically. As I do, I am enriched spiritually. I watch things I would not normally watch. I find unexpected insights, gain new perspectives, see (an)other differently.

In 2019 I have reviewed

  • Cold War
  • Storm Boy
  • Celia
  • Daffodils
  • Merata
  • Tolkien
  • Summer in the forest
  • Andrei Rublev
  • For Sama
  • Joker
  • Jojo Rabbit

Some were gruelling – like For Sama and Joker. Some were once in a lifetime – like Andrei Rublev re-mastered on the big screen at the Regent Theatre. Others were delightful – like Storm Boy and Daffodils. In each was the discipline. Paying attention, seeking to approach film as film, and in that discipline become aware that God has yet more light and truth to break forth (to rift off an insight from John Robinson, from his farewell speech of 1620, as the pilgrims were about to set sail on the Mayflower).

Over the years, colleagues have suggested I take film reviewing more seriously. They note I am a missiologist, with an interest in popular culture. Write a book, they say.

I’ve always resisted. It’s just fun. A bit of play. I’m paid to play – paid to watch movies. Isn’t that enough! Besides, each film stands alone. How to turn 500 words into a cohesive narrative? That’s a tall order.

This year, upside down on the other side of the world, I woke with a title and a theological frame. It integrates a Theological Reflection class I teach, on God in the world. The class is 3 hours in length and would certainly provide a chapter or two of theoretical framing. Around the frame, the films could cluster. Importantly for me, the title and frame has liturgical dimensions. It would allow me to turn reviews into prayer, theology into spiritual practice.

It needs some work but it was a landmark moment. Almost like that first phone call in 2005. I sensed an energy. Who knows. Maybe 2020 will not only be my 16th year of film reviewing, but also the year of the book.

Posted by steve at 09:39 PM

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

in an indexing space

Last week I was in the editing cave, huddled in a small alcove, confined in order to focus and check the typeset proofs of my forthcoming book.

IMG_7853[1]

With the editing task completed, this week I’m in the indexing space. I have physically moved. I have found another building, complete with a square table, providing room to spread pages of notes and publisher guidelines and how to index articles downloaded from the internet. The square table is in a large space, with a high ceiling. In this space, I feel free, yet still confined enough to focus.

I have never indexed before. I considered hiring a professional. But the articles from the internet shared stories of books outsourced to professional indexers who lacked a feel for the subject area. My book works across a number of disciplines – missiology, empirical research and innovation. So I decided I needed to learn.

I began by defining the task. 1 page of index for 45 pages of writing said the guidelines from the publisher. With my book being 235 pages, that meant I needed 5 pages. Suddenly the task had an end.

I then turned to similar books. I looked at their index and that got me started. I identified key words and that helped me brainstormed more. Typing these words up gave me 3.5 pages of index. Suddenly I was under way.

Next I began at the beginning. I am reading through every chapter of my book. In the margins, as I read, I am noting key words. I am trying to think like the reader, identify words they might be interested in. As each chapter ends, I add the words as page numbers in the index. The index is taking shape.

Time (and reviewers) will tell whether my first attempt is good, or a poor; my decision to do it myself wise or misguided. But I am, to my great surprise, really enjoying the task of indexing. Indexing involves short bursts of concentration, rather than the extended work required to edit a chapter. It is like sprints, rather than a marathon. And there are patterns. I see the patterns emerging as words become linked across pages. It is fun trying to think like a reader.

I have much to do. But I am underway. The indexing space is different from the editing cave and the creative writing cafe.

Posted by steve at 09:50 PM

Saturday, November 02, 2019

crossing cultures in theological education research

I am in Auckland this weekend for a very special celebration – the 50th anniversary of the acceptance of Congregational Union ministers and members into fellowship within the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. My involvement is a research contribution, reflecting on the impact this had on theological education, particularly given that the Congregational Union had a Pacific presence.

A few years ago, as part of learning about the history of the college I teach out, I set myself the task of reading the Student Union minutes, from 1965 to the present. It was a great way to understand theological education from a student perspective.

One of the striking features was the impact of the arrival of Pacific Island students to study.

  • In numbers: In the ten years from 1971-1980, 31 people representing 19% of the student cohort at the Hall were born in the Pacific.
  • In the classroom: Imagine the impact on those training for ministry, many coming from rural, monocultural Presbyterian parishes, to learn for ministry beside those from Western Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and Tuvalu.
  • In resources and curriculum: during the 1970’s students organised input through a forum called Student hour and through the 1970s took the initiative to seek input on race relations, Pacific Island Customs and to raise funds for research into Polynesian subjects

When I heard about the 50th anniversary celebration, I shared a snippet of my research and was asked to provide a summary for a handout.

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 12.35.53 PM

This handout is a four page insert, with

  • Names of students in 1970s
  • Some reflection on impacts on Hall
  • List of research held in Hewitson
  • A picture of a page of the Minute book

It also names some potential future research possibilities

  • Life histories theology project: What could be learned by interviewing these ministers about what they think today about what wrote as they graduated? Could such interviews be a taonga made visible by video in language learning weeks?
  • Faith formation project: Many of those who graduated went to rural parishes in Southland and Otago. What did this geographic isolation mean for their families and their faith?

I really like that my research is considered of such benefit to the local church and that I get to share it with perhaps 300 people this weekend, as part of the celebrations at Newton PIC. (The technical word is impact, the way in which research actually reaches out and connects with local communities)

Posted by steve at 05:12 PM

Thursday, October 31, 2019

in the editing cave

I am in the editing cave.

And it is dark.

IMG_7847

The copy edits on my first expressions book arrived a few weeks ago.

I took some time to sit with the joy – of seeing the actual size of the book; of holding a complete manuscript of 240 pages, of leafing through and admiring how the multiple tables worked to clarify; of seeing how the haiku I wrote for each chapter work to ensure white space for creativity.

But the copy edits came with a deadline. Please undertake a final read and return any corrections by 4 November.

In order to begin, I needed to break up the task. There are 13 chapters, so over 3 weeks; that means 4 chapters a week; 4 days a week with a day of grace for the unexpected/travel etc.

In order to begin, I needed to find a new spot. Normally I begin each day writing in a cafe. For m, it is a profoundly important time, a time to ideate, to be imaginative with ideas and creative with words. I’m more fully human after an hour of writing.

I have a local cafe with big windows opening onto green space and the distraction of voices talking. In that space I am creative.

But copy edits require not big ideas but focus and careful attention to detail.

The University library has some chairs under the first floor stairwell. This is a confined space, perfectly suited for focus. There is free 2 hour parking close by. That also provides confinement – I only have 2 hours; this concentration has a time limit.

There are no neighbours. This also is important, as I edit by reading aloud. Speaking the words helps me concentrate, be more attentive to what is actually printed, not what my brain thinks should be printed. Under the stairwall, I can talk to myself, hear only myself.

In this cave, I am able to work differently. I miss (terribly) the invitation to be creative and ideate. But in the confines of their stairwall, there is hope. This has limits. This is not forever. This will end.

And in that, there is satisfaction.

Posted by steve at 05:57 PM

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

the journey of a journal article – Cultural hybridity in conversion

“Cultural hybridity in conversion: an examination of “Hapkas” Christology as resistance and innovation in Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain,” Mission Studies 36 (3) November 2019, 416-441″ (here).

Abstract -This essay analyses Christian witness, applying a post-colonial lens to Drusilla Modjeska’s The Mountain to account for conversion and transformation in Papua New Guinea. A ‘hapkas’ (half-caste) Christology of indigenous agency, communal transformation and hybridity is examined in dialogue with New Testament themes of genealogy, redemption as gift and Jesus as the new Adam. Jesus as ‘good man true’ is placed in critical dialogue with masculine identity tropes in Melanesian anthropology. Jesus as ancestor gift of Canaanite descent is located in relation to scholarship that respects indigenous cultures as Old Testaments and post-colonial theologies of revelation which affirm cultural hybridity and indigenous innovation in conversion across cultures. This ‘hapkas’ Christology demonstrates how a received message of Christian mission is transformed in a crossing of cultures.

The journey of a journal article – through fiction, art and anthropology via my childhood. ‘Innovative” the editor called it. “Excellent article – well framed, written and a pleasure to read. … one of the best articles I have read in a while … Well done!” said the reviewers.

So a short video to explain the journey and introduce some of the key resources.

Cultural hybridity in conversion by Steve Taylor in Mission Studies from steve taylor on Vimeo.

Drusilla Modjeska, The Mountain.

Drusilla Modjeska, Second Half First.

National Gallery Victoria, Wisdom of the Mountain: Art of the Omie

Stanley Skreslet, Comprehending Mission: The Questions, Methods, Themes, Problems, and prospects of Missiology.

Posted by steve at 08:31 PM

Monday, October 21, 2019

visualising a research project

graph

I’m always looking for ways to express things in visual modes.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been working on a complex research bid. It involves a mixed methods approach, including standard methods like archival research and interviews. But it also involves more creative approaches, including mapping genealogies through sacred space, material objects to facilitate conversational approaches to research and absent voices methodologies.

As the research application approached the 5,000 word mark, I needed an executive summary. More importantly, I needed ways other than words to communicate. Hence the visual.

A picture is worth a 1,000 words after all.

I stepped back from the methods and methodologies and asked myself some basic questions, about the main things I was doing

  • how much time in archives?
  • how much time face to face?
  • how much time to communicate in writing?
  • how much time to communicate in presentations?
  • how much time to organise?

I made a quick spreadsheet and added up some numbers. Then I used the pie graph function. With about 15 minutes work, I had a visual depiction of the data. In the midst of words and numbers and tables, it provides an instant overview – of a project that involves a significant amount of face to face engagement.

Posted by steve at 08:57 PM

Monday, October 14, 2019

highlighter worship

I had a go at introducing highlighter worship on Sunday morning. And it worked really well.

IMG_7818

The Psalm for the day, Psalm 65, was an invitation to gratitude, while the lectionary text was Luke 17:11-19, with the encouragement to take time to return and give thanks. I was preaching in a local church, a visitor, unaware of their patterns and lives. Given the Bible readings, how might I encourage them in gratitude?

So during the week prior, I asked to be sent the copies of the church newsletters for the previous month. This gave me four newsletters, each different, each a snapshot of life in this church community. I then blew the newsletters up to A3 size on the photocopier, to help with visibility, and create something distinct about this particular moment.

I wanted a way to keep the focus on the newsletter, on the artifacts of this church community and not introduce more sheets of paper. So I went looking for highlighters. The highlighters had to be yellow – the colour of cheery gratitude. The instructions were to work in pairs and read back over the newsletter, yellow cheery highlighter in hand, and mark things to be thankful for.

On Sunday morning, the A3 sheets were laid down the centre aisle – easy to get to, no walking required. People were invited to be thankful, by looking back over a recent newsletter and highlight things to be thankful for (there were some other options if that wasn’t going to be helpful). A song was played quietly in the background.

After about 5 minutes, I reminded folk that liturgy was the work of the people and here was a chance for us to work together, to create our local Psalm of thanksgiving. Folk were invited to call out what they had highlighted. I repeated it, for those hard of hearing, with the refrain “and God’s people said” – to which a shared “Amen” enabled call and response.

Much thankfulness resulted. The energy in the room went up as God was praised and the specific local shape of this community was described.

Highlighter worship! It requires old church newsletters and highlighters. And a thankful heart!

Posted by steve at 08:39 AM

Thursday, October 10, 2019

“Jesus as innovator” conference paper acceptance

A few years ago, I began a research conversation with Dr Christine Woods, a Professor at the Business School at Auckland University. We had a mutual interest in social entrepreneurship and a shared question: does Christian faith offer anything to innovation? What in Christian resources might encourage the making of all things new?

One of the first tangible fruits of our shared conversation is the acceptance of a paper for United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship 2020 conference. It’s a new space for me, but really interesting to see what might happen as Jesus is made present in this sort of context.

Title: Jesus as innovator: engaging in missional entrepreneurship

Keywords: Mission entrepreneurship, innovation, Christianity, opportunity

Abstract: Discussion on spirituality in entrepreneurship is an emergent area of research (Balog, Baker, & Walker, 2014). We explore one specific form of spiritual entrepreneurship: mission entrepreneurship, understood as realizing opportunities to bring about change inspired by Christ. We contend that a Christology of entrepreneurship can be found in the six images of innovation emerging from a biblical exegesis of 1 Corinthians 3, 4: serving, gardening, building, resourcing, risking and parenting. We discuss how these images form a framework that can be used as a pedagogical tool, and how the framework combines with the conventional idea to opportunity entrepreneurship process.

Acceptance involved not only an abstract, but also a 1,000 word summary in which we outlined our

  • research question – what understanding can we then draw of an engagement with entrepreneurship from God’s word?
  • methodology – “connectional methodology” from Paul Fiddes (Seeing the World and Knowing God, 2013)
  • contribution to entrepreneurship research – a Christology of entrepreneurship and innovation of six Christian acts of innovation – serving, gardening, building, researching, risking and parenting.

Unknown-8

The 2020 United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference is in New Orleans in January and Christine will be taking this one for the team!

Balog, A. M., Baker, L. T., & Walker, A. G. (2014). Religiosity and spirituality in entrepreneurship: a review and research agenda. Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 11(2), 159–186.

Taylor, Steve, Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration, 2016.

Posted by steve at 02:56 PM

Monday, October 07, 2019

Listening in Mission key missiology assumptions

listeninginmission2019 I began Listening in Mission 2019 as online continuing education cohort experience a few weeks ago. It’s the 3rd year in a row we as KCML have offered this online educative local mission in neighbourhood experience. In preparing for the opening session (of five), I wanted to articulate some of the missiology that shaped the design of the course. Since we were working with John 21:1-14 in the lectio divina, I turned to that Biblical text as I sketched the key missiological assumptions.

The first assumption is that God is active in the world. This is central to John 21; first in the centrality of the Resurrected Jesus and second in the affirmation that this Jesus “showed himself in this way” (verse 1) by the Sea of Tiberias. Jesus “showed himself” as present and active neither in a building nor in a clearly religious activity, but beside a Lake and in the everyday, working day actions of fishing. Listening in mission assumes that God is active in the everyday working world. This assumption invites us to pay attention to our local communities, to look for Jesus in the ordinary and everyday.

A second assumption is that existing approaches yield little fruit. The disciples have fished all night, but “have no fish.” (21:5). This is the experience of many of our churches. What used to work, the ways we used to gather fish, are not yielding the same results. Our communities are changing. There is nothing wrong with the activity, skill or dedication of the disciples. It is simply that they have no fish.

This results in a third assumption, to be open to surprises from outside ourselves. The invitation from Jesus in verse 6 is to try the other side of the boat. This required the disciples to stop and listen, to attend to a voice from outside their hard-working circle, from a person they did not yet recognise. In Christ, there are new possibilities. These emerge as we pay attention to voices from outside ourselves.

A fourth assumption is that we need the body of Christ. In verse 4 – ‘disciples did not know” and in verse 7, Peter needed John as part of the process of discernment. While we can wonder at why this lack of recognition might be, the text makes clear that the discerning of Jesus was a shared task. This notion of shared discernment is central to being Presbyterian. Aware of our human sinfulness, we enact shared governance. Hence any listening in mission must be communal. We need others to help us looking for Jesus in community.

These 4 assumption
• God is active in the world, so pay attention to local
• Old ways are not working
• Jesus invites to pay attention in new ways
• We need each other
shape the design of Listening in Mission.

Participants are invited to
• gather local because our everyday communities are where God is present
• engage in disciplines of listening, a double listening for God in Scripture and in community
• take time, because new possibilties and new habits are not always immediately obvious
• keep gathering support – both local and in engaging with KCML

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For a 90 second video introduction, shot in my friendly local cafe, click here …

listening in mission from steve taylor on Vimeo.

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For a musical – pop culture, Kiwi contextual – framing go here

Posted by steve at 08:43 PM