Sunday, June 20, 2021

raincoat prayers

The lectionary texts for Sunday included Mark 4:35-41 and Psalm 107:1-3; 23-32. Both texts introduce God as present and active in the storm. So in preparing for Sunday, folk were contacted during the week, asking them to bring a raincoat to church. This built a little bit of curiosity. During the sermon, I reflected on God as present during storms. I began with a story of when I was caught in a hailstorm, which enabled me to put on my raincoat, and so preach with my raincoat on. All helping to make the sermon more memorable.

As the sermon concluded, I invited a prayerful response, in relation to the raincoat that people had been invited to bring (while playing Tracey Chapman’s “I used to be a sailor,” from her Matters of the Heart album).

  • You could use the prayerful time to think about your own journey of following God. What does it mean for you to keep adventuring with God – to keep saying yes to the storms of life? As a way of saying yes you could put on the raincoat you were asked to bring.
  • Or you might use the raincoat to pray for someone you know who is going through a storm – perhaps a hard situation at work or a difficult relationship – that they would have the courage to keep finding the God of peace in the storm. Again, you could also put on the raincoat you were asked to bring, as a way of praying for them.

It was a tactile way to pray, first in the bringing into church of something from everyday life, second in the physical actions of putting on the raincoat, third in the memories that were created, which might well be recalled as the raincoat is used in the future.

Posted by steve at 01:47 PM

Monday, May 17, 2021

Easter in Art

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 160 plus films later, here is the review for May 2021.

Easter in Art
Reviewed by Steve Taylor

“That Jesus film,” said the cashier, somewhat suspiciously as we requested tickets to Easter in Art. Outside, a southerly drizzle left me pondering if the darkness of Good Friday included rain. Upstairs, the Dunedin architects’ gathered, their noisy networking loud enough to disturb the opening credits of Phil Grabsky’s Easter in Art.

“That Jesus film” is actually art history. Since 2009, director Phil Grabsky has brought art and artists to cinema screens across 61 countries. Easter in Art takes this art history approach to visual portrayals of the Jesus story.

Four different voices read the four gospel narratives. A soundtrack marks shifts in mood, from Palm Sunday’s courage, through the betrayals, love and suffering of Holy Week, to the redeeming surprise of Easter Sunday. Slow camera panning of art, from medieval to modern, is spliced with interviews with leading art historians. Easter, we are told, is the most illustrated story in the Western tradition.

Opening and closing scenes highlight how profoundly multi-sensory is the Christian faith. An Easter gathering, likely Orthodox, proclaims that Christ is risen. The words are surrounded by icons and incense. Candles illuminate statues, while bells and music invite listening and singing. Worship includes the bodily actions of walking in pilgrimage, standing to sing and making the signs of the cross. Sights, smells, sounds, touch and taste: all are engaged in the Jesus story.

The art history commentary clarifies the participatory nature of faith. Viewing art is not a spectator sport. Instead, Easter in Art outlines how art positions the viewer as a participant. Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper adorned the refectory of the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Refectory originates from the Latin word “to remake.” The actions of Jesus “remake” the everyday activities of eating with others. Ruben’s Descent from the Cross was created for an altar in Antwerp Cathedral. As the faithful gather, they are invited to imagine carrying in love the body of Christ. The Isenheim Altarpiece was first displayed in the Monastery of St. Anthony, which specialized in hospital work. The sick suffered not alone, but accompanied by “that suffering Jesus.”

The result is a checklist for preacher and hearers. Sermons and worship are for participants, not spectators. Seeing “that Jesus” can remake us, changing how we eat and act together. Hearing about “that Jesus” should connect with the human experience of courage, suffering, love, and redemption.

Next Easter, you could download the Easter story in Art (here). If you are preparing to preach, you could purchase John Drury’s Painting the Word: Christian Pictures and Their Meanings or Richard Harries’ The Passion in Art. If you want a global Jesus, ponder the twelve images in “Searching for a Jesus Who Looks More Like Me” (New York Times 10 April, 2020) or Rev Dr Wayne Te Kaawa’s “Jesus Christ meets Ihu Karaiti.” Each, in different ways, invite “that Jesus” to remake us, not as watchers but as participants in a global story of suffering, love, courage and redemption.

Rev Dr Steve Taylor is author of First Expressions (2019) and writes widely in areas of theology and popular culture, including regularly at www.emergentkiwi.org.nz.

Posted by steve at 12:15 PM

Monday, December 21, 2020

Vocation, call and a burning bush

A prayer I wrote a few months ago, leading a Listening in Mission class online, beginning with the practice of Dwelling in the Word with a group of KCML interns.

Burning bush prayer

Lord,
When I’m working – tending sheep, being responsible
Help me turn aside to contemplate mystery, seek warmth, feel the burn of wilderness sand

Lord,
When I don’t understand – burning bushes not consumed
Help me trust you, hear you, in the crackle and pop of all that confounds as holy

Lord,
When I’ve nothing to go to – no clear future
Help me say, like Moses, like Isaiah, like Mary, “Here I am, send me,”

Posted by steve at 04:38 PM

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

crafting of call in the knitted theologies-of-ordination series

Last year, during my sabbatical as part of my research into craftivism and knitted angels, I learnt to knit. It is one thing to research intellectually. It is quite another to research by actually making. It certainly locates me as a dependant learner, feeling helpless and needing instruction.

With the sabbatical ended and the journal article submitted (“When ‘#xmasangels’ tweet: a Reception Study of Craftivism as Christian Witness,” Ecclesial Practices 7 (2) 2020, (co-authored with Shannon Taylor)), I kept knitting. Another scarf, then a babies cardigan, then some fingerless gloves from re-found op shop wool.

With a week of holiday recently, I found myself knitting dishcloths. During the week, I was sitting with the emotions of my resignation as Principal of KCML. The sadness at the ending of my relationship with ordination formation, mixed with the release from a demanding role which was at such odds with the understandings by which I had been called. As I knitted, I found myself thinking back over a decade of teaching and leading in the forming of ministers, beginning in the Uniting Church in Australia, followed by the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa.

In the Uniting Church, when deacons are ordained, they are given a gift of a towel (along with a Bible, water, bread and wine), to indicate the diaconal call to a ministry of service.

A group of people, representing those amongst whom the minister will serve, comes forward. They bring a Bible, and water, bread and wine, along with a bowl and towel. Other symbols related to the field of service may also be brought.

One of them says: We are the people of God. We bring the holy Bible, and water, and bread and wine as signs of the ministry to which you were ordained.

Another says: We are the people of God. We bring the symbols of our common life and service.

The minister takes the Bible, opens it and places it on the lectern or pulpit; takes the jug and pours water into the font; and takes the bread and wine and places them on the communion table. S/he then takes the bowl and towel and any other symbol/s and places them in front of the communion table.

As I knitted, I realised that dishclothes offered a similar symbol. I was “hand-making” a symbol of service, that embodied the call to mission and ministry.

So began the knitted theologies of ordination series! Dishclothes, each of which speak to theologies of call to mission and ministry.

First, co-mission.

dishcloth2

Knitted dishcloths as a symbol of ordination as a service of Christ; the colours an affirmation of the creative humanity upon which the Spirit of Christ falls and by which service to Christ is made/woven into the church in mission. Three colours to demonstrate the three strands of word (teach), sacrament (baptise) and discipling (make disciples) by which the co-mission (with other disciples) of Jesus (Go into all the world) is fulfilled (working with the wonderful work by Paul Avis, A Ministry Shaped by Mission).

Second, formation.

ordination3

A symbol of service. Handmade because every act of service in ministry and mission is handmade – is “truth through personality.” In the making of this dishcloth a blemish was discovered – a strand so thin the wool needed to be broken. Despite this blemish, the knitting continued. Such is the call of God, weaving human brokenness into a tapestry of love. Indeed as I knit, it becomes clear who this gift is for.

Third, ending.

ordination3

Casting off is required for completion. Repetitive stitches, knit two then pull one over. So close, yet more care is required. My stubby little fingers struggling to pull one stitch over another. A theology of ending – repetition, patience, trying not to rush, little human fingers requiring kindness. Ending a ministry of service is unique work.

As I keep knitting, I hope to add to this series …

Posted by steve at 10:28 AM

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

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

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Craftivism as a missiology of making abstract for Ecclesiology and Ethnography Conference 2019

I’m hoping to be in the north of England for a few weeks in September. I have 2 weeks of sabbatical I need to take. I am hoping to link that with being able to participate in the Ecclesiology and Ethnography Conference 2019 at Durham. I’ve just submitted a paper proposal. This proposal is a development of the paper I’ve had accepted for ANZATS in Auckland in July 2019, as a result of some of the data analysis I’ve done during my sabbatical.

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Where #christmasangels tread: Craftivism as a missiology of making

The church is formed by witness. A contemporary ecclesial embodiment of witness is craftivism, which combines craft and activism. One example is the Christmas angels project, in which local churches are encouraged to knit Christmas Angels and yarnbomb their surrounding neighbourhoods. This paper examines this embodiment of craftivism as a fresh expression of mission.

Given that Christmas angels were labelled with a twitter hashtag, technology was utilised to access the tweets as empirical data in order to analyse the experiences of those who received this particular form of Christian witness. Over 1,100 “#christmasangel” tweets were extracted and examined. Geographic mapping suggests that Christmas angels have taken flight over England. Content analysis reveals a dominant theme of a found theology, in which angels are experienced as surprising gift. Consistent with the themes of Advent, this embodiment of craftivism was received with joy, experienced as place-based and understood in the context of love and community connection.

A Christology of making will be developed, reading the layers of participative making in dialogue with David Kelsey’s theological anthropology. The research has relevance, first, exploring the use of twitter in empirical ecclesial research; second, offering a practical theology of making; third, challenging missiology in ‘making’ a domestic turn.

Let’s see what happens. In the meantime, back to learning to knit 🙂

Posted by steve at 07:12 PM

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Decolonising the (theological) curriculum through place- based pedagogies

IMG_7087

After teaching Theological Reflection on Saturday – on place-based methodologies – I spent some time reflecting on the experience. It was shaping up to be a hot afternoon, so in the morning I worked up a new activity, inviting the class to walk the local botanical gardens in order to break up a 3.5 hour lecture slot. It began out of compassion, but as I reflected, there were some interesting learnings happening. A potential reflective-practice journal article abstract began to take shape

Decolonising the (theological) curriculum through place- based pedagogies

A Theology of Place from :redux on Vimeo.

How to teach place-based theologies to those who might feel shallow-rooted? My practice-based research sought to investigate place-based teaching in the context of theological education among those being formed for the vocation of ordained ministry. I sought to decolonise the curriculum, introducing indigenous theologians, who document the way that identity is formed through  generations of relationships connected to place.  Richard Twist (Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way) emphasises the need to do theology in relation to a primal sense of connection to birth place, Denise Champion (Yarta Wandatha) examines the interplay between land and people, while Maori approaches to pepeha develop identity in relation to landmarks like mountains and river. 

The challenge was that the cohort was not indigenous. As migrants, or descendants of migrants, experiences of a sense of relationship to place can be limited.  In addition, the class was experiencing dislocation, gathered from various national locations into a context not familiar to participants.

The space between indigenous knowing and migrant experience was presented as an opportunity. The writing of Alifeti Ngahe (Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight) was instructive, providing vocational examples of how he migrated into new communities and developed place-based theologies.  Students were invited to locate themselves as “other” and in that epistemic rupture (Rosemary Dewerse, Breaking Calabashes) find a posture of investigative curiosity.  The class was sent in groups to examine statues in a local Botanical Park. They were provided with a short history of various monuments and instructed to see if they could do what Alifeti had done, make theological connections with place. 

Each group reported a range of insights. Work was then done as a cohort to shape the insights into prayers of approach for use in the context of vocational ministry. The liturgical movements of thanksgiving, confession and lament provide room to examine a range of important movements in the journey of decolonisation. This enriched the place-based reflection and provided vocational application.  

The argument is that practice-based pedagogies inform the practise of place-based ministries. Outdoor experiences, paying attention to local monuments, naming epistemic rupture and listening to indigenous theologians provide important resources in place-based teaching.    

Posted by steve at 10:33 AM

Saturday, September 22, 2018

built for change workshop

I tried a new approach to teaching today. I was asked to provide a keynote address in Northern Presbytery as they began a more regional approach to leadership training. I had my book Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration but wanted to move beyond talking head and instead offer  an interactive, engaging workshop task.

As everyone arrived, they received a handout, a summary of my notes. Each handout also had a different coloured sticky note (one of 6 different colours). As I spoke, in introducing the Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration  material, I linked the (6) different colours to the six images of leadership Paul offers in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4.

  • Servant – light yellow
  • Garden – green/blue
  • Build – red
  • Resource manage – pink
  • Fool –dark blue
  • Parent – bright yellow

The workshop task involved dividing the room into three around three church change projects.
A – If you wanted to care for creation in your local community …
B – If you wanted to engage your wider community through social media …
C – If you wanted to diversify your Church Council – younger or more culturally diverse …

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Each person was asked to speak to their selected change project through the standpoint of the colour of their sticky note

  • Servant – light yellow
  • Garden – green/blue
  • Build – red
  • Resource manage – pink
  • Fool –dark blue
  • Parent – bright yellow

Tasks:
1. Think of ways that Paul’s image/the colour of your sticky note is needed in this change project.
2. Think of what would happen to the project if Paul’s image/the colour of your sticky note was not part of this change project.
3. If you finish, see if there is an actual church change project in the group you could brainstorm

There wasn’t time to debrief the groups. But watching the groups, I was struck by how quickly mutual patterns of leadership emerged, with groups looking around going “OK, which colour is next.” And so quickly, every person was drawn into the change project, rather than privileged voices.  Listening into the groups, I heard comments like “oh wow, I can see how all these 6 work together”.

A workshop exercise worth developing.  Invite me 🙂

Posted by steve at 05:01 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

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Call for papers: CHRISTIANITY AND THE ARTS IN ASIA

A project I’ve been involved with as part of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership for last 2 years – now stepping it up

CALL FOR PAPERS: CHRISTIANITY AND THE ARTS IN ASIA

A Symposium
September 28-29, 2018
University of Otago, Dunedin

Art is an essential dialogue partner for Christian faith. From earliest times, art has given expression to Christian faith. It is a means of contextual theological expression and enriches understandings of doctrine and practice. Art has also served to offer critique of Christian faith.  
  
The Christianity and Cultures in Asia Network calls for papers that reflect on art and Christian faith in Asian cultures. Themes could include:
 
• How has art in Asia expressed, interpreted and challenged Christian faith?
• How might Christian doctrines be uniquely expressed through Asian art and Asian art forms?
• Can art from Asia shed light on the complex and continually contested relationship between art and faith, including interpretation, authority, hermeneutics and performance? 
• How might art in Asia give new insight into biblical texts?

Art is interpreted broadly, including architecture, music, literature, painting, visual media, sculpture, dance, and calligraphy.  Presentations that include art are particularly welcomed. This symposium follows the successful symposium on the movie Silence held in March 2017. All abstracts will be blind peer reviewed. 
 
The Christianity and Cultures in Asia Network is a partnership between the Theology Programme at the University of Otago, the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, and the Presbyterian Research Centre at Knox College, Dunedin. The Symposium will encourage use of two substantial collections of print resources held by the Presbyterian Research Centre, the Rita Mayne England collection on Christianity in Asia, and the Chrysalis Seed collection on Christianity and the Arts.
 
Please submit paper proposals not exceeding 500 words by July 2nd 2018.
Presentations will be 30mins in duration followed by discussion.

Proposals should be submitted to: murray.rae@otago.ac.nz

Posted by steve at 07:21 PM

Thursday, March 22, 2018

preaching to a burgled church

Last weekend I was preaching at a local church. I arrived in the morning to the news that the church auditorium had been burgled overnight. The sound system and data projector were gone. With the Police on the way to dust for fingerprints, there was no way the auditorium could be used.

broken-window-1501606 (not an actual picture of the actual burglary)

The church had a hall and with 15 minutes to go, I suddenly not only had a whole group of strangers to meet and greet for the first time. I also had a church service to re-jig. My preparation had included a number of creative moments that relied on the now absent sound system and data projector:

  • the use of three art images to illuminate the Lectionary text, to be shown via the data projector
  • a digital file of a song for during the offering
  • a digital file of a song for the end of the service
  • a responsive contemporary Immigrants Creed

In addition, there was a hall to set up, along with the range of emotions that would be present. Which meant some rapid mental reshuffling and some interesting learnings.

First, at the beginning, the value of humour and a settling prayer.  As we began, I introduced myself, noted the burglary and that as a result, this would be a service I would never forget. So could we pause and in this new and unsettling space, take a moment to gather ourselves.  I then named some of the emotions running through me and invited God to be present. Doing this provided some instant connection and a sense of solidarity.

Second, at the end, as a key leader in the church stood to thank me for the worship and sermon, the comment was made “It is good to be reminded we don’t need a building in order to worship.”   In other words, the enforced shift provided an experience in which the shared realisation could emerge – that worship does not rely on bricks and mortar.

Third, thank goodness for hymn books. Yes, all the words for sung worship had been carefully loaded ready for data projection and these could no longer be used. But a stack of hymn books meant that we soon had something to sing. More importantly, everyone had something to hold, something familiar. This gave a sense of comfort. It also meant that the absence of the digital songs I had planned for the offering and the end of the service could be quietly dropped.

Fourth, the enforced shift made it easy to implement immediate change.  I was suddenly no longer the visiting speaker but the leader in an unfamiliar space. “How do you want the chairs?” was the first question. “Ah, circle please” I said, not sure if this was allowed. But in a new space, with no tradition, the churches were quickly arranged in a lovely relational, intimate arc. They say you need to build relationship in order to implement change. Well not in a burglary. So never waste a good crisis. Use it to enact different patterns of connecting.

Fifth, the value of being up close.  When it came time for the worship by considering three art images that illuminated the lectionary text, I announced that because of plan B – B for burglary, I would show three art images by walking around with my laptop.  I asked that a hymn be played quietly, and invited people waiting for the images to enjoy the music.  As I walked among the chairs, I noticed people leaning forward to look at my laptop. There was body movement, in a different way than if the images had been on a big screen. There was also often spontaneous comments, like “that’s the best one” or “is that a baby?”  When I mentioned the art images later in my sermon, I included these spontaneous comments, pointing to people and saying “you were right, it was a baby.”  Being up close invited a different type of bodily engagement in the act of seeing and contemplating, along with a set of interactions between myself and those present. All of this enhanced the sense of connection.

There was certainly truth in my observation that this would be a service I would never forget. It was a great morning. The burglary enabled a very different sort of worship experience, one which might in fact be remarkably useful for a church needing to continue to change.

Posted by steve at 09:24 PM

Monday, February 05, 2018

Lent-inar

(part of a work project I’m playing with)

snapshots

During Lent 2018, KCML is offering (free) web-inars. Weekly, two of the contributors to Snapshots in Mission will be interviewed via online video conferencing.

  • What sparked their writing?
  • What piece of music speaks to their article? What are the implications, for church, ministry and mission?

There will be time for Q and A, using video conferencing technology. Thursday’s (February 22; March 1, 8, 15, 2018, 4:30-5:15 pm). Attend one. Attend them all. Learn how to link to the Lent-inar by emailing rosemary@knoxcentre.ac.nz

Posted by steve at 09:11 AM