Thursday, March 31, 2022

“masterly” and “groundbreaking”: 7th academic review of “First Expressions” in Journal of Contemporary Ministry

There is another academic review of my First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God in the Journal of Contemporary Ministry 6(2022), 126-128 by Benjamin Jacuk. Benjamin Jacuk is an Alaskan Native reader, and a ThM, MDiv Graduate from Princeton Theological Seminary. The review has many affirmations.

– Taylor “masterfully develops a clear and contextual understanding of ecclesial innovation”
– “argues for the use of empirical data and theology working hand in hand to discern the working of God”
– “appreciated Taylor’s willingness to tackle the hard questions which are commonly asked concerning the demise of certain “first expressions” communities”
– “reveals the richness that can come out of these innovative movements within the larger Christian community”
– “groundbreaking in understanding new workings of the Spirit within the Church”
– “First Expressions successfully describes newer and contextual expressions of faith in Britain, providing distinct categories along the way without devolving into a “how to book.”
– “a rare account of church innovation that thoughtfully helps individuals creatively think and foster creative expressions of worship within their own contexts”

There is one critical reflection, on how I use the word indigenous. Thanks Benjamin for the careful read and for raising a point I will take into account in further writing.

This is the 8th substantive review of First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God. For each review, I am very grateful. The other reviews (that I’m aware of) are summarised by me –

  • here in International Bulletin of Mission Research
  • here in Theology;
  • here in Church Times;
  • here in Ecclesial Futures;
  • here in Practical Theology;
  • here in Ecclesiology;
  • here in Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal.
Posted by steve at 08:29 AM

Sunday, November 07, 2021

more grounded, more international

I completed 3 major project milestones this week.

First, the 6th and last Mission For A Change for 2021. What was a spark of an idea at the start of the year – to offer online resourcing on mission – has become interviews with women and indigenous thinkers who are writing in areas of mission and change.

Second, the completion of a Codesign report. At the start of this year, I was contracted with Val Goold to undertake a consultation about researching the future of theological education and ministry formation across the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and the Pacific. 55 interactions later, after listening with over 160 people, an 8-page report this week summarised a 2nd stage of the Codesign, as we checked our listening with various stakeholders, and outlined 10 research strategies for what could happen in 2022.

Third, the completion of Learn Local. Funding from the Synod of Otago Southland and the support of the Southern Presbytery has enabled me to offer education in local mission. Over the last month, I’ve been privileged to work face to face and online with folk from 7 local churches and 1 Queenslander who have walked local communities as a mission learning experience. The visual is notes from the final “online” session, by the amazing Lynne Taylor, as participants shared their “walking” learnings and as I gave input on forming faith in local mission.

notes from learn local 4

There is much more to process on each of these and more plans for 2022. But it’s nice to savour 3 milestones, all resourcing mission in different ways across different denominations. I feel more grounded in local communities and more international, resourcing across countries and organisations all at the same time.

Posted by steve at 09:57 AM

Monday, October 04, 2021

“a unique contribution”: Andrew Dunlop reviews my First Expressions book

Another (7th) international academic review of my First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God is out in International Bulletin of Mission Research, Vol 45, Issue 4, 2021, 441-442, here. The review is by Andrew Dunlop, who is Tutor in Context-Based Training at Ridley Hall and oversees pioneer teaching for lay and ordained. The review is a highly accurate summary of the book, with many affirmations.

Since the review is behind a paywall, here are some of my highlights
– “a first — a longitudinal study” of new Christian communities
– the empirical research of new Christian communities is “particularly engaging” with my “woven ecclesiology” (90–91) offering a “reframing” of sustainability in fresh expressions of church. (Instead of longevity, numbers, and finance, I argue for leadership development, inter-generational faith formation and creative resource making).
– “a huge amount of deep missiological thinking”, particularly as from the empirical date I develop themes of authenticity, ambient witness, creativity, sacramentality, and governance, explored through the credal framework of the church being one, holy, catholic, and apostolic
– noting my conclusion, that “innovation is what makes church “church,” enabling it to remain faithful to this credal structure (232)”

Andrew concludes that First Expressions makes a “unique contribution” to ecclesiology questions around resourcing and sustainability. The book is of “particular interest to those studying new Christian communities.” First Expressions also provides “a valuable addition to theologies of innovation.” Thanks Andrew for such an accurate review, along with such a range of compliments.

This is the 7th substantive review of First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God. The other reviews (that I’m aware of) are summarised by me –

  • here in Theology;
  • here in Church Times;
  • here in Ecclesial Futures;
  • here in Practical Theology;
  • here in Ecclesiology;
  • here in Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal.
Posted by steve at 09:26 AM

Sunday, May 23, 2021

“important data”: Emma Percy reviews my First Expressions book in Theology Today

“The book is a useful read for those engaged in Fresh Expressions and Pioneer ministry and those making decisions about what and how we support such initiatives.”

Emma Percy reviews my First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God in the latest edition of academic journal Theology 2021, 124 (3): 215-216. Theology as a journal considers itself the best journal available for students in ministerial formation, for theological educators and recent ordinands, as well as for laity and clergy keen to keep in touch with developments in Christian thought and practice. So it’s great to have the book reviewed!

Dr Emma Percy has research interests in feminist theology and ministry and is Chaplain and Welfare Dean, Trinity College, in Oxford. She affirms my research has generated important data and considers the book a useful read that is beginning a needed conversation, particularly when new initiatives are linked to financial grants. She considers my theological conversation partners (Janet Soskice and Julian of Norwich) are interesting and notes how I’ve chosen them because of the gendered nature of the formal Fresh Expressions movement of the Church of England. She affirms my questioning of the overvaluing of permanence in ecclesiology as “important” and requires further “nuanced theological reflection.”

She has some critical comments. First, she thinks the book has too many theological strands, with a need for greater coherence. Second, she wanted more engagement with the more critical voices in the debates around Fresh Expressions. Third, she ponders the reality that metaphors have limits. She considers how the birthing theologies I develop (from feminist theology) work given my data and how to understand the closure of first expression gatherings in relation to death of babies and infants. At the same time, metaphors have potential, which is clearly evident as Percy begins to work with my metaphors of craft and compost in seeking to think about the ecclesiology of first expressions.

Foregrounding some of his other metaphors from ecology or craft may have enabled him to play with the idea of things springing up and then being dug back into the ground or a faulty pot being remade into something new.

Finally, a conclusion, that the book is timely and important for the Church of England, particularly given current financial constraints. Thanks Dr Emma Percy, for a really thoughtful review, that helps me keep thinking, particularly about metaphors of craft and compost.

…….

This is the sixth substantive review of First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God. There have been five other reviews (that I’m aware of)

  • here in Church Times;
  • here in Ecclesial Futures;
  • here in Practical Theology;
  • here in Ecclesiology;
  • here in Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal.
Posted by steve at 10:45 AM

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

First Expressions “a compellingly honesty narrative” book review # 5

“If you met Steve Taylor, you would instinctively like him. He might say some things you didn’t agree with; and you’d have to put aside a generous amount of time to hear him out.”

So begins Dr Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester. It is intriguing and highly personal reflection on “Steve Taylor-the-writer” that Warner glimpses as he reviews my book First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God. The review is in Church Times 26 February 2021. Church Times is a weekly English Anglican newspaper.

Warner finds First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God is “a compellingly honesty narrative,” with a bravery that is “honest and challenging.” The ecclesiology  being developed in the book is affirmed as having a “courageous freedom to be immediate and provisional” that seeks “authenticity and depth.”

The review concludes by linking First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God with the global pandemic. Hence First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God has value not only in studying the history of Fresh Expressions in the United Kingdom, but to invite “a shared experience, one that belongs to this time and place in such a way as to connect us with every time and place.”  It’s a wonderful connection, an affirmation that a provisionality in being church can open us to Christ.

…..

This is the fifth substantive review of First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God. There have been four other reviews (that I’m aware of)

  • here in Ecclesial Futures;
  • here in Practical Theology;
  • here in Ecclesiology
  • here in Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal.
Posted by steve at 10:21 PM

Monday, February 22, 2021

First Expressions “important insights”

To date, there have been four academic reviews (that I’m aware of) of my First Expressions: Innovation and the mission of God book. (To date on the blog, I’ve highlighted the 4 academic reviews — here in Ecclesial Futures; here in Practical Theology; here in Ecclesiology and a here in Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal).

Now I’ve become aware of a more industry-focused review from Church Missionary Society. As a missionary society, they produce a Summer reading catalogue and in 2020 readers are encouraged to read First Expressions: Innovation and the mission of God because it offers “important insights for the future of Pioneer and Fresh Expressions movements, gained from extensive research … excited, connected, curious.”

It’s so encouraging to have this type of feedback from an international missionary society, especially one that is focused on mission both local and global, and in such creative ways.

Posted by steve at 09:11 PM

Saturday, February 13, 2021

First Expressions “contribute to the vitality of a broader ecclesial communion” book review # 4

A really interesting review of my book, First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God has been published in the latest issue of the Ecclesial Futures journal. The review is written by Dustin Benac, who at the time of reviewing, was Postdoctoral Associate at Duke University Divinity School, but is now Visiting Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Baylor University.

The review is over six pages, and works by comparing First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God with Church Planting in Post-Christian Soil: Theology and Practice and How Change Comes to Your Church: A Guidebook for Church Innovations. This creative comparison by Benac results in a synthesis of insights, including the value of change for church, the necessity of approaching church using interdisciplinary frameworks and the need to nurture an imaginative ecclesial wisdom.

In terms of academic reviews of First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God, this is the first review to pick up on my use of haiku. At over 95,000 words, my book needed some “soundbites” and so I tried to clarify each chapter not by writing more prose but by utilising the 5-7-5 syllable structure of the haiku. Hence Benac’s review describes my writing as “equal parts a descriptive and imaginative inquiry … Taylor displays the “gift of poetic imagination” … that ecclesial innovation requires.”

The review by Benac also affirms the unique contribution that my work is making to practical theology, noting that my “longitudinal design advances ecclesiological inquiry, providing a template for future studies of change within communities of faith.” The review also appreciates how researching ecclesial innovation can “contribute to the vitality of a broader ecclesial communion.”

So thanks Dustin for reading and reviewing, in such an affirming and creative way.

The full review is in Ecclesial Futures Volume 1, Issue 2 (December, 2020), 118-123. Benac’s review is the 4th academic review of First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God (that I’m aware of). A 3rd review occurs in Practical Theology, the international journal of the British and Irish Association of Practical Theology. The two other academic reviews are in Ecclesiology and a Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal.

Posted by steve at 03:06 PM

Friday, February 05, 2021

Serving the world: weaving a diaconal missiology in times of unravelling

It was a privilege to provide this week a 90 minute lecture – Serving the world: weaving a diaconal missiology in times of unravelling – to Uniting Church Deacons as part of the ordination training. It was online, me in Aotearoa engaging with participants from 4 different states in Australia.

In order to help with engagement, particularly touch and memory, prior to the lecture, participants had been invited to bring some

  • some wool in a colour that appeals
  • some knitting needles
  • a darning needle

The input had the following structure

Part 1 – Knitted dishcloths and the call to ministry
UCA Service of Induction of a Deacon
John 1:47-8, Psalm 139:13, 15, Jeremiah 1:5

For personal reflection on the call to ministry – who were you under the fig tree? What true colours will you bring to ministry? What gifts, talents, experiences might God be weaving?

Part 2 – Weaving the call: the shape of diaconal missiology

A cluster of character methodology. Since deacon as a title is only used once in the New Testament, I considered a number of characters who acted in diaconal ways.

  • God is weaving ahead of us, like Philip (Acts 6:1-2, Acts 8:5-8, Acts 8:26-38)
  • God is weaving fresh expressions, like Dorcas (Acts 9:36-38)
  • God is weaving resources, like Joana/Junia (Luke 8:1-4;24:1, 10; Romans 16:7)

For personal reflection on the call to ministry – how might these characters inform your practice of diaconal mission?

Part 3 – Resourcing and resilience (darning and knitting needles)

In order to explore spiritual resources for times of resilience, I showed an animation by Lou Baker, not of weaving, but of unravelling.

I offered a chapter from First Expressions to reflect on spirituality when communities experience unravelling. I then reflected on my own recent experiences of unravelling, offering 7 practices in a spirituality of resilience.

For personal reflection on the call to ministry – what has sustained you in times of unravelling?

For me …

  • Attend to your body
  • Add “season” specific practices
  • Attend to the big picture
  • Nurture blessing
  • Practice gratitude
  • Rituals of transition
  • New practices

I really enjoyed putting the session together, weaving my experience and missiology from recent years together. The work on spirituality of unravelling really struck a chord with participants and the levels of sharing were very deep.

Key resources:

Willie Jennings, Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible

Esther Rutter, This Golden Fleece: A Journey Through Britain’s Knitted History

Stanley H. Skreslet, Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission

Steve Taylor, First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God

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

William Willimon, Acts

Posted by steve at 03:28 PM

Friday, December 11, 2020

celebrating First Expressions with my graduating department

celebrating The Theology Department at Otago University have a lovely tradition, an annual end of year celebration of books written by Faculty and former post-graduates. Since I was a PhD post-graduate student of Theology at Otago back in the day, I was invited (back!) to celebrate First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God, the book I had published late in December, 2019. Here is my “celebration” speech, trying to link the book with the PhD research.

First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God is the 2nd book to emerge from my PhD research. I graduated with my PhD from Otago in 2004. As I finished my PhD, I wanted to make the research accessible to the wider church. So I wrote The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change. This was published by Zondervan, USA in 2005 and translated into Korean in 2008. I’ve even been to visit a new church plant in Korea named “Out of Bounds Church” in honour of the book!

There was a large chunk of empirical research – ethnography, interviews, focus groups – I had to drop out of my PhD thesis. Because it was already too big. So I was keen to find a way to do something with that PhD research. So I sought ethics approval and did a longitudinal study. This involved returning 10 years later to the church’s I’d researched in my PhD.

I found that half of the new forms of church were no longer meeting as gathered communities. Which raised ecclesiology questions. Does it matter if innovation doesn’t endure? How might Easter – dying and rising –shape our ecclesiology?

During that 10 year period, the wider denominations – Church of England and Methodists in the UK – had affirmed these new forms of church. They had developed structures like Fresh Expressions to partner with them. So that raised another set of ecclesiology questions – How do organisations discern what is of God and what isn’t? How do churches as organisations best partner with grassroots innovation?

So I interviewed denominational leaders –Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and Stephen Cottrell who’s now the Archbishop of York.

Then I found a publisher – SCM. They have been great to work with.

According to Ecclesiology and international ecumenical journal – First Expressions is a “radical re-conceptualization of the marks of the Church” (more here).

According to the Scottish Episcopal Journal, First Expressions offers “in-depth theological hermeneutic, firmly grounded in Scripture and ecclesiology” (more here).

According to Rowan Williams, who emailed in January, saying he was – “impressed with the theological analysis .. [First Expressions is] an important book.”

Thanks to the University of Otago, who provided PhD scholarships and post-graduate conference funding. Thanks to the Theology Department for celebrating books emerging from PhD research. Thanks to any of you who might want to review it for Anglican Taonga or Methodist Touchstone!

Photo by Matthieu Joannon on Unsplash

Posted by steve at 05:32 PM

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

help the entrepreneurs in ministry articulate vision and direction – First Expressions book review # 2

Another review of First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God, this time by Eleanor Charman in the Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal 4, 3,(Autumn 2020), 91–93.

Rev Eleanor Charman is a priest at St Peter and the Holy Rood Episcopal Church and the first full-time curate ordained in Caithness since 1746 (According to here). So Eleanor is a bit of a pioneer herself!

After a fair review of the 4 parts of the book (and a much more positive engagement with my feminist methodologies and metaphors of innovation than the review of First Expressions in Ecclesiology), Charman concludes:

Taylor’s book reveals the myriad of complex dynamics that weave through communities as they seek to establish themselves … [Taylor] has systematically researched various aspects of the communities, through interviews and extensive reading. Taylor provides an in-depth theological hermeneutic, firmly grounded in Scripture and ecclesiology … the reader will have a better and more informed understanding of the nature of pioneering. This in turn may help the entrepreneurs in ministry articulate vision and direction with their gathered communities as they seek to establish new first expressions.

The Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal aims to be a vehicle for debate on current issues in the Anglican Communion and beyond. It invites dialogue on what it means to think as an Episcopalian in Scotland in the twenty-first century and aims to be a catalyst for prayer and theological reflection at the heart of the Scottish Episcopal Church. So it’s a really interesting context in which to have my work read in relation to helping “entrepreneurs in ministry articulate vision and direction.”

Thanks Eleanor Charman. Thanks SCM for publishing and for working hard at reviews.

Posted by steve at 10:47 AM

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

radical re-conceptualization of the marks of the Church – First Expressions book review

There is a review of my book First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God in the latest edition of Ecclesiology 16, 3 (2020), 429-431 by York St John (UK) theologian, John Williams. Ecclesiology is an international, ecumenical and fully peer-reviewed theological journal. The main focus of the journal is on the mission, ministry and unity of the Church. So it’s great to have the book reviewed in that context.

There are lots of affirmations by the reviewer. My book is”substantial” (429) and I’m at my best when engaging in “critical theological and practical reflection on his empirical research” (429). While First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God is considered “particularly useful for those involved in Fresh Expressions” (429) it also deemed to provide a “stimulating contribution to the conversation right across the ecclesial spectrum” (431).

There are some critical questions. My methodology is overtheorized (although better to be overtheorised than under, particularly when it comes to new areas of ecclesial research) and my fourfold typology for ‘innovation’ is confusing (need to be clearer that I am working with metaphors, which by nature require different ways of thinking).

So a mirror on my strengths as a thinker (theological and practical reflection on empirical research) and weaknesses as a writer (over-theorised). And some helpful pointers for further research and writing, for which I am grateful.

And an opinion – that I am offering something distinctly original – “an alternative paradigm for ecclesiology” (431). Across 20 centuries of Christian thought, what I am proposing is a “radical re-conceptualization of the ‘classical marks of the Church” (430), an ecclesiology distinct from paradigms of the church enshrined in historical continuity, hierarchical structure or ecumenical agreement. So that is very high praise – for my book and for Fresh Expressions/emerging church.

Posted by steve at 10:50 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

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, April 15, 2019

craftivism research: recipient responses

I’m around the halfway mark of the sabbatical. After 6 weeks, I’ve completed some major tasks

  • 10,000 word journal article on mission submitted
  • 6,000 word journal article on life-long learning submitted
  • article to SPANZ completed
  • article to Candour after Christchurch mosque murders on Spirit in trauma completed
  • Sydney Learning and Teaching conference presentation completed (feedback here)

Plus I have completed around 22,000 new words on the First Expressions book project. I’m around 7,000 words ahead of schedule and I’m moving into the editing stage. So I need to adjust the shape of my sabbatical.

It’s time for a more playful task alongside the editing tasks and as a way of celebrating after the completing tasks. I will continue to write on the First Expressions book project in the morning but I’m picking up a more creative project in the afternoons.

Background: I am interested in fresh expressions of Christian witness. One recent fresh expression I’ve become aware of is Christmas angels. It is a form of How to Be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest, in which angels are knitted and gifted among communities. I spoke on craftivism at the Transitional Cathedral last year as part of their Prophets in the Cathedral series. I am interested in how these angels are received (to read my conference abstract – Craftivism as a missiology of making – go here). It is one thing to ask people why they get involved in a fresh expression project like this. But how do those who find an angel make meaning?

To address this question presented some research challenges. I live in another country, it is not currently Christmas and I don’t want to look like a stalker, chasing people who find Christmas angels to ask for an interview. Helen Kara’s Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide has been a great resource, encouraging me to think creatively about research.

Research method: To address this question, I am experimenting with analysing social media. Each angel was sent out with a hashtag #Xmasangels. This meant that people who received the angels could interact and in ways that are in the public domain. This provides a way to analyse recipent response – How people responded to the angels? What meanings did they make? With help from a colleague, I have extracted over 1,1000 #Xmasangel hashtag tweets. I am now conducting thematic analysis. This is fancy words for printing them out – all 22 pages – on A3 sheets of paper, finding highlighters and coloured pens and reading every tweet, looking for themes.

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Research methodology: As another part of the research, I am also learning to knit. I figure that it is one thing to engage #Xmasangels intellectually. It is quite another to engage by actually making Christmas angels. So I have started to learn to knit. I am keeping a diary of my experiences. It is fascinating to be learning to craft as I am researching craft – a tactile embodying of research. (For those who keep watch on how KCML staff spend their time, rest assured I am knitting after hours and not in work hours).

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What will be the outcomes? I think knowing how people respond to mission is important in guiding future mission action. It is the basis of practical theology and action-reflection modes of learning. I hope to include the results as I teach on mission at KCML and as I continue to be invited by churches to talk about fresh expressions of mission. I hope to present the data to at least one, ideally two academic conferences, as part of reflecting on mission. I hope to write up the results, so that those who don’t hear me talk can still engage with the data. This will include Candour, Spanz and an academic journal. I will also send the results to the Christmas angel organisors. They might want to engage with me and I’m happy to do that. I hope to learn to knit. Above all, I hope to continue to be curious about the world around me and especially fresh expressions of Christian witness.

Over the next few days, I will share my initial impressions of the first read (fancy word for colour coding with highlighters) of the data. While is it very early days, I am already struck by some fascinating recipient responses.

Posted by steve at 04:26 PM