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 | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Dave Dobbyn dropped into class (again) singing Nau Mai Rā (Welcome Home)

Dave Dobbyn dropped into my Listening in Mission class again this week. I am teaching a Listening in Mission (intern) cohort. There are 4 sessions over 2 months:

Mission as gift, call and promise
Being present and listening in neighbourhood/context
Cultivating congregational spaces for conversation and shared practices of missional attentiveness
Discerning and understanding local narratives

These four online Listening in Mission sessions support an action-learning project in which folk gather a group and work with them in listening in their local communities. So the online experience provides support, encouragement and resources. We offer this online support in mission to ordinands training for ministry. We also offer it separately as life-learning for the wider church – a taster Thursday 29 August and first class Thursday 26 September.

listeninginmission2019

Last week, Dave dropped into Mission as gift, call and promise to sing “Waiting for a voice,” from his 2016 Harmony House album. It worked really well – providing a different way of engaging, offering a change of pace.

So Dave dropped in again this week to Being present and listening in neighbourhood/context to sing Welcome Home. First in English, Welcome Home

Second in te reo, Nau Mai Rā (Welcome Home).

It is inspiring to see an older Pakeha man learning a second language. That in itself is an example of listening in mission, stepping as vulnerable into new spaces.

There were also really helpful links to be made from Nau Mai Rā (Welcome Home) as a song to the theme of the class. Reflecting on welcome, as guest and host, the grace of being able to “offer my hand” and how the Jesus story might resource the challenge of “maybe we’ll find a new way.” The ways that the notion of home and hospitality work in different ways

  • to belong – “woman with her hands trembling, and she sings with the mountains memory”
  • to enfold – “see I made a space for you here”
  • to extend – ‘I offer my hand … I bid you welcome”

Now the pressure comes on for the next class. What song from the Dobbyn catalogue might Cultivating congregational spaces for conversation or Discerning and understanding local narratives?

Posted by steve at 06:08 PM

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Craftivism across cultures

Preparing to speak in Durham, UK, in the next few weeks, I’ve been in the Hocken Collections, researching the history of knitting in Aotearoa. Here is some of what I discovered yesterday:

“In Aoteoroa, knitting arrived with the missionaries. Hannah King, who arrived in 1815, was a gifted knitter and over 200 years later, examples of her craft still exist in the Waimate North Mission House, including her husbands beautifully stitched preaching shirt and a baby gown. What is interesting is how from the 1820’s, knitted garments from Scotland were imported and then purchased by Maori, who unpicked them, recycled the wool and wove it into the borders of their garments – kaitaka (flax coats) and whatu kākahu. When painter and travel writer George Argas visited Aotearoa in 1844, he wrote (Savage Life and Scenes in Australia and New Zealand, 1847, 324) that brightly coloured wools had replaced feathers of the kaka bird. “[W]ool of the gayest colours has long been preferred by [Maori]. Blue and scarlet caps, and the variegated “comforters” brought by the traders, find a ready market amongst the women, who pick them to pieces to from the tufted ornaments of their dresses.” It is a fascinating example of creativity across intertidal zones of cultural contact, and the tactile ways in which indigenous agency can re-make, as the artefacts of another culture are unpicked, unravelled, and woven into the existing cultural forms” Steve Taylor, Craftivism as a missiology of making, Durham, 2019.

16068-2

Posted by steve at 09:41 AM

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Faith of girls and the mission of men

I write a column for Zadok, an Australian print publication, every quarter. It is a print based publication which they let me share on my blog, to resource more widely and generally. Here is my column for Autumn 2019, on gender and mission.

IMG_7525

Faith of girls and the mission of men

When I hear talk of gender and faith, I think of Tarore, an indigenous Maori girl, born around 1826 in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Her father Ngakuku, came into contact with pioneer missionary couple, Rev Alfred and Charlotte Brown. Ngakuku’s daughter, Tarore, aged ten, showed an interest in learning to read and write, using a Maori language translation of Luke’s Gospel. She was a gifted student and quickly became an oral storyteller. Crowds, sometimes 200-300 people, would gather to hear Tarore share in Maori the Good Samaritan and Prodigal Son. Ten years old and a woman, she became known recognised in her Maori community as an evangelist.

This moment in the life of Tarore reminds me of Lo-ruhamah in Hosea 1 and Namaan’s wife’s slave girl in 2 Kings 5. All three are pre-pubescent girls and all three are agents of a new theology. God is made more real, more understandable, more present, through the faith of girls (For more, see The Faith of Girls, Routledge, 2017).

Tarore’s story is consistent with the history of mission. Time and again, the Gospel has spread not through missionary preaching but through indigenous proclamation. It begins with the Spirit at Pentecost as those from diverse cultures hear “in our own tongues” (Acts 2:11). The missionary is essential, Peter will preach but the Gospel spreads as people giving voice in their own language.

As 1836 ended, Tarore’s world grew increasingly tense, with increased conflict between local Maori tribes. On 18 October, Tarore was killed by a raiding party. At her funeral, her father, Ngakuku, proclaimed the need for forgiveness: “Do not you rise to seek a payment for her, God will do that. Let this be the finishing of the war. Now let peace be made.”

Meanwhile, Paora Te Uita, the man who killed Tarore, took her belongings, which included her beloved Gospel of Luke in Maori. Paora Te Uita couldn’t read. But he had a slave, Ripahau. Like Tarore, Ripahau had learnt to read through contact with missionaries. Ripahau read Luke (in Maori) to Paora Te Uita, who was deeply moved. He sought out Tarore’s family to seek forgiveness. Once again, we have a hearing in their own language and once again, we have an indigenous person, radically embodying the radical Gospel.

Meanwhile, Ripahau, upon release, returned to his home with Tarore’s copy of Luke. Those who listened included Katu Te Raauparaha, a local chief, who set out to make peace and halt a spiralling cycle of violence. Again, in the lives of Ripahua and Katu, we glimpse how faith is transmitted, carried by indigenous people who hear in their own language. (For more, see For more, see Nga Kai-Rui i Te Rongopai: Seven Early Maori Christians, Te Hui Amorangi ki te Manawa o Te Wheke, 2013).

I thought of Tarore when the news of the death of John Chau broke. John Chau was a twenty-six year old American, who made an illegal—and tragically fatal—voyage to visit a remote tribe in the Indian Ocean. The media sifted through John’s social media profile and suggested a range of motives: an adventuring spirit, Western optimism and a passion to reach the unreached.

Clearly there are differences between Tarore and John. One was indigenous and female, the other Western and male. One was a reciever of initial mission, the other wanted to be an initator of initial mission.

Yet there were also similarities. Both died early, with many years of life ahead. Both died at the hands of another. Both died in the context of missionary zeal and cross-cultural tension.

In the history of Christian mission, those who initiate mission have rarely been effective as proclaimers. Missiologist Lamin Sanneh examined the contradiction: Christianity has spread, yet rarely by missionary preaching. Sanneh, an adult convert from Gambia, became a Professor of Mission at Yale Divinity School. Sanneh argues that mission spreads as missionaries focus on translation. In Jesus, the Word becomes flesh and through the Spirit, the Word is heard in their own language. Sanneh calls this the “translatability” of the gospel (Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture, Orbis, 2009).

This has four benefits. First, it turns the missionary from initiator into a receiver of indigenous knowledge. Second, it makes local culture a carrier of grace, as God moves into the neighbourhood ( John 1:14), accessible through local language. Third, Bible translations tend to use popular language, a liberating move in hierarchical cultures. It results in a pre-teenage girl like Tarore being recognised as an evangelist. Fourth, no one culture is ever above critique. In Africa, among the Zulu people, translation resulted in the missionaries being told to read the Bible. Surely Genesis 27:16 affirm not the colonial safari suit, but indigenous practices of dressing in skins. Fifth, as people hear in their own language, they become agents of change. The cyles of violence in New Zealand cease as indigenous people embody the Good Samaritan and Luke’s radical call to forgiveness.

Tarore and Chau are very different, yet side by side, they teach us much about faith. There is great potential when missionaries are not initiators but learners and indigenous people are the primary Gospel heralds. That even in the unbearable pain of losing a child, peace can be made.

Posted by steve at 05:06 PM

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Indigenous home-making as public theology – Wiremu Tamihana

Unknown-12 Happy Steve, stoked to have a book chapter published on the life of Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana, in which I argue he’s an extraordinary public theologian.

The theme of home yields rich insights when it is examined through diverse cultural lens, in this case in relation to New Zealand history. Methodologically, an approach of biography as missiology has been used in researching the life of Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana. In word and deed his reimagining of home has been outlined: in planting an alternative indigenous community, in leadership reorganisation and in public speechmaking as a set of ethical acts shaped by a christological ethic. Translation theory has clarified Tamihana’s reading of Scripture, including the reversing of what is foreign and domestic, and a household code shaped by Christology. What Wiremu Tamihana offers is a theology of homemaking as a public theology of empire resistance. His theology offers significant resources for those seeking to reimagine home in response to dominant cultures, in encouraging a Christology interwoven with ethics and the use of place-based readings to reverse categories of what is foreign and domestic. It suggests that creative responses to the empire can emerge through the ongoing renegotiation that happens as people move in the tides of history. A flexible justice-making is encouraged, one that uses the translations from the empire in resistance against the empire.

This is part of research begun in 2017, which has resulted in 3 conference papers, 1 (unsuccessful) research bid, 2 keynotes, 2 sermons, 2 short publications for the Presbyterian Church and now this longer academic piece. It is published as one of the conference papers from Australian Association of Mission Studies 2017. It was nice to slip a New Zealand indigenous story into the mix!

Details: “Indigenous home-making as public theology in the words and deeds of Maori leader, Wiremu Tamihana,” Re-imagining Home: Understanding, Reconciling and Engaging with God’s stories together, edited by Darren Cronshaw, Rosemary Dewerse and Darryl Jackson, Morling Press, 2019, 188-207.

Available from Morling Press. Thanks to Darren Cronshaw, Rosemary Dewerse and Darryl Jackson for their editorial skill, Morling and Whitley for their hospitable approach to scholars and scholarship.

Posted by steve at 10:20 PM

Monday, May 20, 2019

Daffodils film review: crafting a Kiwi lectionary

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 May 2019.

Daffodils
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Daffodils packs an emotional punch, a Kiwi soundtrack in which the songs actually silence the words that sustain relationships. Daffodils began life as a play, created by Rochelle Bright in 2015. Returning from New York because she wanted to tell New Zealand stories, she starts close to home with the tale of her own parents falling in, then out, of love.

The plot is artfully constructed. Kiwi songs – Bic Runga’s Drive, the Mutton Birds’s Anchor Me, Dave Dobbyn’s Language and Crowded House’s Fall At Your Feet – are like pearls, each sung by Maisie (played by Kimbra) and her band in front of adoring fans. As Maisie polishes these well-known Kiwi pearls, her estranged father Eric (played by George Mason), dies alone in a hospital bed.

2019 is a year for movie musicals. Daffodils shows New Zealand can foot it with the likes of Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born. Songs carry emotion and narrate life.

Individual pearls shine brighter when strung together. Continuity comes in Daffodils with the story of Eric, meeting Rose beside the daffodils in Hamilton Gardens. We watch them fall in love, get married and have children. Yet as they mature, they can’t shake the immaturity of the lies they let themselves believe about each other’s lives.

One way to understand Daffodils is to turn academic. Tom Beaudoin, musician and theologian, touts contemporary popular culture as the amniotic fluid in which young adults become familiar with themselves (Virtual Faith : The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X, 1998). We love, laugh and lament to the songs that define our generation. It makes sense of the story of growing up in Christchurch told by local lad, Roger Shepherdson. In Love With These Times (2016) is the story of the birth of Flying Nun Records and the creation of a distinctly New Zealand songbook, songs that define an era and thus a generation.

What is significant for church readers is that the Daffodils’ songbook comes devoid of religious hymns. The tunes from bygone Britain no longer evoke memory or stir emotion. Rose and Eric get married in a church. But when relationships get rocky, the hymns of the wedding and the rote learned vows have no reconciling power.

Yet neither do the Kiwi pearls. This is the ironic sadness of Daffodils. Kiwis might have a unique pop culture soundtrack, but the songs as sung actually silence the language needed to sustain relationships.

For preachers wanting to connect with a Kiwi culture, why not ditch the hymns. Instead take the songs from Daffodils and link them with a Gospel story:

• Bic Runga’s Drive with Mary’s haste to connect with Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-45;
• Dave Dobbyn’s Language in conversation with Jesus Heals a Deaf and Mute Man in Mark 7:31–37;
• Crowded House’s Fall At Your Feet in harmony with the events of the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:36-46;
• The Mutton Birds Anchor Me as a tune alongside Jesus’ reinstating of Peter in John 21:15-19.

In each of these Gospel stories people are living with and in silence. Yet through Divine encounter there are ways to face the lies they’ve let themselves believe.

Posted by steve at 09:01 AM

Thursday, May 02, 2019

change of sabbatical pace courtesy of land owners

IMG_7257 A change of sabbatical pace for the next week. After an intense period of writing, a week of indigenous learning, courtesy of land owners.

First, a weekend haerenga (journey) with Karuwha Trust. A chance to learn more about the Kingitanga and to greet Ngati hau. I did a lot of research through 2017 in relation to Wiremu Tamehana, the Kingmaker and chief of Ngati hau. This resulted in 2017 in 1 video, 4 publications, 2 conference papers and 3 talks; along with a further conference paper in 2018 (Translation and Transculturation in indigenous resistance: the use of Christian Scripture in the speeches of Wiremu Tamihana). Throughout 2018 I sought to establish contact with Tamehana’s descendants and one of my sabbatical aims was to walk his country. The weekend haeranga is a chance to do that.

Second, a visit to Te Aka Puaho and Te Maungarongo Marae. Outside study leave gives me a chance to accept a longstanding invitation to visit Maungapohatu and honour Tuhoe and Rua Kenana. I’mj looking forward to time and to hear the stories of injustice and ongoing search for justice, with the 2017 pardon of Rua Kenana.

I feel very privileged to be able to participate in these ways, as part of doing theology on the land of another.

doingtheology

Posted by steve at 07:16 PM

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The week day church as a hermeneutic of the gospel: an action research project integrating faith and work in a local church

A book chapter proposal for a proposed special journal edition on ‘Mission, Faith, Work and Economics.’ I wasn’t expecting to write this on sabbatical, but last week I found 900 words of notes and resources from a workshop I led last year.

The week day church as a hermeneutic of the gospel: an action research project integrating faith and work in a local church

A distinctive feature of Christian spirituality is the commitment to sacralise the secular. Martin Luther asserted that “household chores are more to be valued than all the works of monks and nuns” (Christian History: An Introduction, 2013, 169). John Paul II argued that the church must “form a spirituality of work which will help all people to come closer, through work, to God” (Laborem Excercens, 1981, 24). So how does a local church help participants integrate their faith and work?

This chapter will outline an action research project, that of my own participation in leading one local church in the integration of faith and work. Intentional actions wil be described, along with documentary analysis of liturgical innovation.

Three areas of ecclesial life will be examined. First, liturgy, including sermons, creative Eucharist, monthly work-place pastoral prayers and engagement with a secular festival (Labour Day). Second, small group practices of discernment and action-reflection. Third, mission structures, in the form of annual commissioning days and the development of mission collectives to encourage integration of faith and work.

The data will be examined in light of Lesslie Newbigin’s claim that the re-missioning of Western cultures requires the congregation to be a hermeneutic of the gospel, “men and women who believe it and live by it” (The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 1989, 227). Newbigin develops this hermeneutic in six domains: of praise, truth, neighbourhood, engagement in public life, mutuality and hope (227-233). These domains provide a theoretical, and missiological, framework through which to examine the liturgy, group life and mission structures of a particular faith community.

The argument is that action-research in local church can sacralise the secular as it provides contextual resources that invigorate mission as faith-ful work witness.

Posted by steve at 09:38 PM

Friday, February 22, 2019

Redeeming a Past: An Ancestor Perspective

launch It is a great privilege to be part of the launch, and a contributor, to Listening to the People of the Land: Christianity, Colonisation and the Path to Redemption, edited by Susan Healy.

Susan contacted me in April 2018, asking if I could contribute some words. I had a range of deadlines looming, but I also had been doing some thinking about colonisation in light of the challenges of post-colonial literature. How do we tell stories in which the primary actors are not the colonisers? In the words of a wise kuia, Aunty Millie Te Kawa of Tūwharetoa: “Everyone talks about the famous missionary who worked among my people. But who taught the missionary the language?”

So over a number of months, with great patience from Susan, I wove together some thinking, scattered a range of different pieces I was working on. My chapter is titled: Redeeming a Past: An Ancestor Perspective

Posted by steve at 08:40 AM

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Children of the waters journal article

Children of the waters: whirlpools, waiora, baptism and missio Dei

Keywords: Missio Dei, baptism, indigenous, Māori, early Christian art, environment

Abstract: From space, the Pacific glitters in ocean blue. What might the world’s largest ocean contribute to missio Dei? A spiral methodology is used to trace connections between the baptism of Jesus, early Christian art, recent legal (Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal) research and indigenous knowing, including ocean voyaging, ancestor understandings of whirlpools, Māori water rites and oral history of river beings (taniwha).

The argument is that indigenous Oceanic (Māori) understandings of water, in conversation with baptismal narratives, present missio Dei as an immersion in God. Mission is located not in the activity of the church – and hence mission expansion as part of European colonisation – but in the being and becoming of God. Creation and redemption are interconnected and an environmental ethic is expected. Children of the waters (ngā tamariki o te Moana nui a Kiwa) listen to creation’s voice (taniwha speaking) and act for the life (waiora) of water.

Posted by steve at 05:04 PM

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The peaceful man of Aotearoa: Te Whiti

Peaceful man, Te Whiti of Parihaka
by Little Bushmen, live with NZSO

Honouring saints. This song is a mix of lament and remembrance.

It draws inspiration from the dream of peace. The dream is a “feather dream,” in honour of the Parihaka feather, a symbol of Parihaka’s passive resistance movement. For Te Reweti (Joe) Ritai, a descendent of both Te Whiti and Tohu, it originates in a story of an albatross landing on Tohu’s marae at Parihaka (here). A feather was left behind, interpreted as a link to to the Spirit falling on Jesus.

Ihowa, Jehovah God, sent that bird down to leave that feather there, as a symbol of peace, to tell them that it was time to begin their tikanga, their system.

The tikanga, the system, becomes that of peace, “To cast no stone, With wisdom to let go of difference.”

Alongside inspiration is lament. “Still we fight, turn blood to gold.” This is much more that a story from history. This is how we live now. It is about the stain of violence and the lust for wealth. The feather still sings, the Spirit still swoops, looking for those on whom it might alight, to whisper “beloved” on those who bring Te Harinui, good tidings of great joy. This was the origins of the Christian message in Aotearoa, carried on by Maori saints like Te Whiti and Tohu.

Posted by steve at 07:11 PM

Friday, October 26, 2018

Centre for the Book Symposium on Translation and Transculturation

I did some work on this today –

Translation and Transculturation in indigenous resistance: the use of Christian Scripture in the speeches of Wiremu Tamihana.

It is an academic paper I will be presenting at the Centre for the Book Symposium on Translation and Transculturation, November 1-2, 2018.

centre book symposium

This was the abstract I submitted back in early September:

A feature of Aotearoa’s history is the role of a book, the Bible, translated, to resource indigenous resistance. This is evident in the life of Wiremu Tamehana Tarapipipi Te Waharoa, tino rangatira no Ngati Hauaa I hangaia e ia te Kingitanga, who was in 1859 the first Kingmaker. In a korero opposing Governor Grey in 1861 (GBPP, 1862, 73), Tamehana deployed Deuteronomy 17:15 and Ephesians 2:13 to challenge the aggressive actions of the Crown toward Maori in the Waikato.

Translation involves the interplay between two forces: domestic and foreign (Venuti, The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, 1998). Foreign texts are domesticated in the hope of making them intelligible to specific, in this case indigenous, cultures. Ironically, once domesticated, these triumphs of translated transcultural success can generate significant cultural change (Handman, Critical Christianity, 2015). Translation theory thus provides helpful frames: individual in examining Tamehana’s use of Scripture; cultural in examining how translation shaped Maori culture. This requires paying attention to the public transcript (the translation) and the often hidden vernacular transculturation (West, The Stolen Bible: From Tool of Imperialism to African Icon, 2016).

Translation theory provides a way to honour Tamehana’s use of a translated text, including his reversal of Venuti’s categories of foreign and domestic. When Tamehana deploys Ephesians, a once foreign translation, now domesticated into te reo, is being invoked in ways that position the Crown as foreign. When Tamehana draws on Deuteronomy, he is positioning the Bible as a book that belongs to no one domesticating culture, but to an atua beyond all cultures. This “illumination from above” (Marsden, The Woven Universe, 2003) points toward a divinised transculturality.

The result is that a translated Sola Scriptura serves as a wero of challenge toward the behaviours of the culture that introduced the book. Sealer and sailor, soldier and settler are called to act ethically.

This paper is a continuation of research, writing and speaking I did last year (1 video, 4 publications, 2 conference papers and 3 talks) on the Bible reading strategies of Wiremu Tamehana. In this paper, I am taking up in particular the work of Gerald West, The Stolen Bible: From Tool of Imperialism to African Icon and looking at James Scott’s (Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts) notion of hidden transcripts as they apply in indigenous resistance.

I’m still not sure if the paper will hang together as a coherent whole come next Friday. But I’m more optimistic at the end of today than I was at the start. Which makes it a good day!

Posted by steve at 08:06 PM

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Bird prayers: contextual Spirit at Pentecost

IMG_6535

I was asked to do a workshop at the NZ Association of Religious Education Teachers and School Chaplains (NZARETSC).  The theme was On the Thermals of Grace, so given the theme, I offered Bird prayers – a workshop which reflected on the theology of the Spirit by looking at bird images in the Bible and then pondering NZ birds in order to invite folk to write contemporary-Kiwi-Spirit-as-bird-prayers.

A creative spark was the New Zealand bank notes, which each feature a different indigenous New Zealand bird.

$5 – Hoiho (yellow eyed penguin)
$10 – Whio (Blue duck)
$20 – Kārearea (NZ Falcon)
$50 – Kōkako (Blue wattled crow)
$100 – Mohua (Yellowhead)

So I printed off some different bank notes and put different notes/birds on seats.

IMG_6537

This meant that when folk arrived and chose a seat, they were choosing a bird, which they were then invited to use in writing a prayer at the end of the workshop. I wove in some Rupert of Duetz (in The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings), who weaves Spirit in creation, with Spirit in baptism and Spirit in mission. Plus the missiology of Kirsteen Kim, The Holy Spirit in the World: A Global Conversation who provides a person of colour critique of the Christian use of the dove, as promoting a whiteness which diminishes pneumatology.

the use of the dove alone is distinctly unhelpful in communicating the reality of the Spirit of God … The dove is very white … and does not do justice to all the dimensions of the Holy Spirit or to the nature of reconciliation that the Spirit brings … we have captured the dove of freedom and power and caged it.” (Kirsteen Kim, The Holy Spirit in the World: A Global Conversation. 180).

And so we turned to the birds of New Zealand:

Whakarongo! Whakarongo! Whakarongo!
ki te tangi a te manu e karanga nei

Listen, Listen, Listen
To the cry of the bird calling – chant by Eruera Stirling, in Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds by Anne Salmond

The result was some beautiful prayers, richly located in New Zealand experience. A fun workshop. Thanks for asking me NZARETSC. For those interested, my workshop resources are here: On the thermals of grace bird prayers workshop notes

Posted by steve at 12:49 PM

Thursday, June 14, 2018

burning bushes in cultures and contexts

It’s been a real privilege to spend a week with the Church of Scotland, speaking at various events on innovation and mission. My thanks to Doug Gay, Trinity College and the Panel for Review and Reform, who generously made the time possible and did the hard work of promoting, organising and hosting. Over four days, I did 5 different events, the shortest 90 minutes, the longest three hours, all with a different focus.

Some events were open to the public and provided a chance in general to work with questions of innovation and mission. Some were focused on senior leadership of national and Presbytery bodies, or those working in theological formation. These gave a chance to compare stories and in the richness of different contexts, gain insight.

burningbush As a way of helping locate myself, and as a way to emphasis how cultures and context create space for innovation, I began each session both with a greeting (mihi) in Maori and showed some images of the burning bush in Aoteoroa New Zealand – and the role of Maori culture, Pacific migration and alternative worship. In the burning vine that is Te Aka Puaho, in the frangipani flowers added to the stained glass window of St Johns Papapatoetoe, in the pumice rocks soaked with methylated spirits that then then burn blue, there are important mission insights, about how diverse cultures hear faith differently.

Posted by steve at 12:37 AM