Thursday, April 11, 2024

stashes as research methods in researching making

coding I’m writing!!

As I planned the 2024 year, I set aside April and May to progress analysis and writing on the Ordinary Knitters research project. Since Ordinaryknitters began, I have been privileged to interview 43 people from 4 countries who knitted for a public project, collected over the last few years.

There are knitters who cared for their community by making Christmas angels. Other knitters cared for creation by knitting climate scarves, encouraged peace-stitches through “French knitting” peace loom installations or personalised their place through knitting remembrance poppies. Each person making as a way of connecting their Christian faith in public ways with the wider world.

To understand these experiences of making, I’m using reflexive thematic analysis. Reflexive thematic analysis values three things. First, the intuitions and interests of the researcher. Second, the unfolding nature of analysis. Third, the ways in which the particularity of one experience can illuminate the particularity of another experience.

I see reflexive thematic analysis as a way of making. I’m sifting through a rich stash of wool. My stash is unique, shaped by the active role my interests and networks have played in gathering the wool. I compare balls of wool, believing that fresh and new connections can emerge as different colours and textures (interview quotes and stories) are laid alongside each other. As I make, the unique colours of each ball will remain. In all I do, gathering, comparing, knitting, my craft as a maker will be visible. Yet the whole will be greater than the individual parts.

Practically, I undertake reflexive thematic analysis not with an existing set of themes to look for. Rather, I read “reflexively.” I start with the first interview and read it noting what I think are key words (codes).

I try to cluster these key words (codes) around big ideas (themes). I read further interviews. As I do, I work in “pencil” (reflexively) because the key words (codes) and conversation (themes) shift as I read. The experience of one knitter invites more codes, or a reworking of a theme, to better cluster a range of unique experiences. These reflexive changes require me to reread the earlier interviews. As a result, experiences from a range of interview are informing the experiences of another interviews.

I track the shifts in reflexivity by using mind maps and tables. These make visible my unfolding analysis. The mindmaps and tables allow me to keep track of my decisions and reflect (reflexively) on my assumptions.

This approach, of reflexive thematic analysis – assumes that I as a researcher have an interest and a set of values (why else would I be asking for an interview) which I bring to the interview and the analysis. This approach assumes that naming my interests and the way I make decisions will decrease the chance of imposing my research agenda on those being interviewed. It also assumes that insights emerge over time, particularly as the uniqueness of each interview is brought into conversation with the uniqueness of other interviews.

I love the making of reflexive thematic analysis.

Posted by steve at 10:24 AM

Friday, February 09, 2024

Douglas Coupland, Charles Taylor, and Spirituality in Modernity chapter in Bloomsbury Academic

bloomsbury book title

I’m delighted today to sign a contract with Bloomsbury Academic for a chapter on faith in contemporary culture, a dialogue between Douglas Coupland and Charles Taylor. Coupland is an author and artist, famous for writing Generation X. Charles Taylor is a sociologist, famous for big books on secularisation.

The chapter is a co-authored piece, with Tony Watkins. Together, we outline the work of Charles Taylor and in particular his biographies of conversion in modernity. We then bring these into conversation with converting moments in 3 of Coupland’s books – Polaroids from the Dead, Generation X and Generation A. We outline how the characters in Douglas Coupland’s fiction are experiencing transcendent moments, and what that means for contemporary faith.

The chapter began as a sermon at Graceway Baptist Church, way back in the day! I did some work on Douglas Coupland in my PhD, which became a class at Laidlaw College (Christchurch), in which I explored salvation in modernity. Then at Uniting College, I offered an honours course on Charles Taylor. I began to write about Charles Taylor’s conversion biographies in my 2019 book, First Expressions: innovation and the mission of God, when I looked at how art and creativity in alternative.worship communities connect with contemporary culture in public mission.

An online conference in 2021, focused on the work of Douglas Coupland, wonderfully hosted by Mary McCampbell, Diletta De Cristofaro and Andrew Tate, allowed me to bring together Coupland and Taylor. The chapter in this Bloomsbury book offers a spoken conference paper in a written form.

It’s wonderful to be exploring contemporary spirituality and conversion theologies in contemporary literature and to see various strands of thinking over many years come together in written form.

Posted by steve at 08:33 AM

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Compassionate Collaboration, Christian Mission and the Bank of Dave

“Compassionate Collaboration, Christian Mission and the Bank of Dave” is a piece of my writing now published in the Practical Theology Hub, (online in January 2024).

The piece works between contemporary culture and a theology of social innovation. I work to bring the ministry of Jesus into conversation with a movie and sugges surprising insights into the nature of compassion and the depth of collaboration in mission with Christ.

The back story. The piece began as a 500 word written film review for Touchstone magazine (for whom I write monthly). As I was writing the film review, I was also down to speak at my local Presbyterian church (where I also preach monthly). As I worked with the suggested Gospel reading from the lectionary, I found some fascinating connections between the reading (Matthew 9:35-41) and the film. A listener encouraged me to write it up. Which took me a lot longer than I anticipated, as I struggled to turn spoken words into a written piece.

brightly coloured objects

I persisted, helped by the concept of a research stash, and the idea of a stash as a store or supply of something, and working to turn something hidden (shared with a congregation) into something more visible (written online). Practical theology hub were ideal. First, because they take pieces up to around 2,000 words, which was about the length of the sermon. Second, they are online and accessible, so my words would not be hidden behind paywall.

Posted by steve at 06:05 PM

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Writing in 2023: 120,000 words spread over 28 outputs

Writing is a significant part of my current vocation.

And writing is a challenge. The ability to compile evidence and shape an argument in ways that attend to detail and fill in a big picture is an exacting process.

Writing is also always a vulnerable process. Organisational psychologist Adam Grant suggests that the best way to gauge the quality of someone’s ideas is not to listen to them talk but to read their writing. Most of us can only hold 3 or 4 thoughts in our heads. So charisma and verbal gymnastics can mask weak logic.

In contrast, developing thoughts on paper allows someone to read page 5 and then flick back to page 1 to check if I am being consistent. Hence, writing makes us vulnerable because it exposes our ability to think.

words written in 2023

Stepping into a new year of work, it is good to reflect on the writing challenges of the year past. In 2023, I made myself vulnerable with 28 different written outputs, nearly 120,000 words. These included

  • 2 academic book chapters
  • 2 academic funding bids
  • 4 other academic outputs
  • 5 commissioned research reports
  • 10 film reviews
  • 5 magazine columns

Word wise, most of my output (76%, some 90,000 words across 5 outputs) was on research commissioned by organisations in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. As part of professional benchmarking, I also offer academic contributions (16%, some 18,800 words across 8 outputs). Aware that academia involves paywalls, I also look for popular outlets (8%, some 9,250 across 15 outputs).

Breaking down the 28 outputs in more detail …

Book chapters (2)

  • “Douglas Coupland, Charles Taylor, and Spirituality in Modernity,” an academic book chapter (5000 words), co-written with Tony Watkins. This piece of writing began life through a 2021 conference presentation, which is due for publication in an edited volume on artist and writer Douglas Coupland with Bloomsbury (UK) in 2024.
  • “Mission in digital cultures: Opportunities and challenges in a mundane co-mission,” an academic book chapter (5000 words) for the Oxford Handbook of Digital Theology. Two conference presentations in 2022 helped develop ideas. Written in February 2023 and revised in September 2023, this should be published in an edited volume with Oxford University Press in 2024.

Academic funding bids (2)
Seeking international funding for research involves writing, and has particular challenges in linking research approaches and plans with funder aspirations.

  • “Digital activism as justice-making. Evaluating decolonial public theologies on Christian social media platforms” was a research bid that gained funding and research support from the University of Edinburgh, planned for June and July 2024.
  • “Race and justice in Glasgow’s mission history: a reappraisal of South Sea missionary networks and their relationships to “blackbirding” was a research bid submitted to the University of Glasgow Library Visiting Research Fellowship (awaiting decision). The application was built on a successful 2022 application and seeks to extend the archival work I did in August and September of 2023.

Other academic contributions including book reviews, journal editorial and online article (4)

  • A book review of Keeping Faith: How Christian organisations can stay true to the way of Jesus, by Stephen Judd, John Swinton and Kara Martin, was published in Australian Journal of Mission Studies in December 2023
  • A book review of Constructing Mission History: Missionary Initiative and Indigenous Agency in the Making of World Christianity by Stanley H. Skreslet for the Anvil Journal of Theology and Mission
  • Editorial for the December 2023 issue of Ecclesial Futures, an open-access academic journal I co-edit with Nigel Rooms.
  • “Compassionate Collaboration, Christian Mission and the Bank of Dave” was a conversation between contemporary culture and theologies of social innovation. This began as a written film review, then a spoken sermon, and finally a written output submitted to Practical Theology Hub on October (and published online in January 2024).

Commissioned research reports (5)

In my work for AngelWings, I provide high-quality research for organisations and agencies. The research is co-designed, with results provided as written reports for boards and key leaders.

  • Theological education and ministry training review – working with a colleague to develop a 20-year framework for theological education and ministry training. A report of 55,000 words was delivered in April 2023, along with four six page summaries
  • Evaluation of innovation – assessment of an initiative to bring congregations and a social service agency closer together. A report of 9,100 words along with a two page press release was delivered in October 2023.
  • Missional needs and opportunities review – working with two colleagues to review how a denominational group resources mission. A 12,500-word report was delivered in July 2023.
  • Property use – an 8,200 word report documenting stakeholder perceptions relating to sale of property and mission was delivered in December 2023.
  • Educational consultation – A 5,500-word report peer reviewing a new higher education initiative was delivered in November 2023.

Together, these 5 outputs total 90,000 words. That’s a lot of ink. Because this research is commissioned, what is written belongs to the governance boards that provide the funding. However, I continue to explore avenues by which elements of my commissioned research that have public interest could be reworked.

Film reviews (10)
Monthly I watch a movie and write a 500 word film review for Touchstone, a Methodist denominational magazine. I enjoy the discipline of writing to honour the integrity of a film in conversation with theology and ethics and in 2023, provided ten film reviews.

Zadok columns (5)
Quarterly I contribute a column for an Australian magazine, offering Christian reflection on various contemporary issues. So, in 2023, to meet deadlines, I provided five 850-word contributions.

Posted by steve at 12:04 PM

Friday, July 21, 2023

write-streams for AngelWings Ltd

work desk with writing symbols On the AngelWings Ltd work desk sits my current writing map. I have 2 empirical research projects that are due to industry stakeholders in the next 2 weeks. They involve a lot of data – together amounting to 76 interviews and focus groups, along with 120 survey responses. All collected over the last 11 weeks.

One of the projects has the joy of working with a team, so the writing and editing are shared. But others in the team have other workstreams. So a daily writing map is needed to apportion time and keep projects moving.

Around the writing map are my ending symbols. In ending every research project, I find a symbol expressing the project’s uniqueness. They watch me as I work. “You’ve done this before – juggled, drafted, edited.” They give me confidence.

And hope.

Because soon, there will be time to choose another ending symbol. Or, in this case, two!

Posted by steve at 09:47 AM

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

thrilled with Ethnography as Pastoral Practice 2nd edition

I’m delighted to have a piece of writing published in revised edition of Ethnography As A Pastoral Practice by Mary Moschella, who is Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, at Yale Divinity School.

“When Christmas angels tweet: Making matters and practical theology in researching mission online,” Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice. An Introduction, 2nd edn. by Mary Clark Moschella, SCM/Pilgrim Press, 291-305.

Delighted first to be published. It is an appendix in which I describe how I go about conducting empirical research, in this case into digital expressions of craftivism in general, and knitted Christmas angels in particular.

Delighted second, because it gives another lens on my research on craftivism.

“When ‘#xmasangels’ tweet: a Reception Study of Craftivism as Christian Witness,” Ecclesial Practices 7 (2), 2020, 143-62, (co-authored with Shannon Taylor).

The editor of the academic journal Ecclesial Practices called the article “rich”, demonstrating new “opportunities,” “skilful and sensitive application of ethnological tools” in “powerfully informing ecclesial research.”

Delighted third at the circumstances. Professor Mary Moschella sat in on a conference paper delivered at the 2019 Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference. She emailed after, asking if I could write for a revised edition of Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice, as she was looking for contemporary examples of high-quality, contemporary empirical research and would I write, not so much on the data as on the research journey.

Delighted fourth because I have used the first edition in my classes, teaching on mission, church, leadership and change. A short blog review from 2012 that I wrote is here. It’s a fantastic book. So to be published in a revised edition of a book I consider fantastic is pretty special.

Posted by steve at 08:10 PM

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Theological Education as “Being With” the Future Church – some AngelWings Ltd applied research

I’m delighted to have an Applied Research Abstract on Theological Education published in Review of Religious Research. Steve Taylor, “Theological Education as “Being With” the Future Church: Applied Research Among Local Leaders in an Australian Baptist Denomination,” Review of Religious Research, DOI: 10.1007/s13644-021-00480-z.

Here is part of the conclusion:

“A changing world presents significant opportunities for theological colleges and seminaries to re-invent themselves. Providers of theological formation have a significant role in resourcing the future church, particularly as they attend to collaborative and relational partnerships … [including] a renewed focus on local contextual theologies, empirical research, and grassroots partnerships. Such participation requires accompanying the local church, not as a problem to be fixed or a base for recruitment, but in a shared human quest to learn in change.”

The Applied Research Abstract draws on research I did in 2021 for Whitley College (working with René Erwich and Darrell Jackson) and the Baptist Union of Victoria, listening to some 47 stakeholders. The complete report belongs to Whitley College Board.

However, the Review of Religious Research is a journal that uniquely facilitates the sharing and comparing of applied studies between denominational and academic researchers. They offer four types of articles – Original Research Articles, Research Notes, Review Articles, and Applied Research Abstracts. The Applied Research Abstract is a type of article that summarises (without any references) an applied research study. So, in dialogue with Whitley, some of the research can now be shared more widely.

The article is online and paywalled, but if folk want a pre-publication copy, just DM me.

Posted by steve at 08:37 AM

Monday, October 10, 2022

Article acceptance – Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy journal

Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy Stoked to get news this morning of the acceptance of a journal article in the academic journal Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy.

The article is titled “Lighthouse as a transdisciplinary boundary-crossing learning innovation in Christian communities” and is co-authored with Prof Christine Woods (University of Auckland) and Mark Johnston (now University of Glasgow). Together we reflect on the Lighthouse, a social innovation incubator weekend, funded by the Presbyterian Development Society, that we developed and ran for three years for the Presbyterian Church.

Social innovation in Christian contexts is greeted with suspicion by some theologians, as is talking about the apostle Paul in some business and entrepreneurship settings. So as well as running the Lighthouse, we set ourselves the task of writing for both audiences.

It was great to be published theologically last year in the International Journal of Public Theology (“Jesus as a socially (ir)responsible innovator: seeking the common good in a dialogue between wisdom Christologies and social entrepreneurship,” International Journal of Public Theology 15 (1), (2021), 119–143). (Some of story is here) ).

We then wrote for an entrepreneurship setting through the back half of 2021, reflecting on the Lighthouse as an educational innovation using two educative theories, boundary crossing and collaborative spirals. The invitation to revise and resubmit occupied late May/early June 2022. And now news of publication!

Thanks Presbyterian Development Society for believing in our funding bid :). Thanks Reviewer 2: “I thoroughly enjoyed reading this paper, it is a well-crafted and thoughtful paper that offers interesting insights and tools.”

Posted by steve at 09:22 AM

Monday, September 26, 2022

Published – Theologies of Fulfillment in a Reciprocal Study – International Bulletin of Mission Research

My latest journal article is now online – “Theologies of Fulfillment in a Reciprocal Study of Relationships between John Laughton and Rua Kēnana in Aotearoa New Zealand,” International Bulletin of Mission Research here.

Short abstract: Crossing the borders of religion presents challenges and provides opportunities. This article presents a contextualized case study from Aotearoa New Zealand. Photography, as a tool in discerning lived theologies, suggests a side-by-side relationship of reciprocity and particularity. Relationships across differences are revealed not in theory but in lived practices of education, worship, life and death. The argument is that Rua Kēnana and John Laughton enacted theologies of fulfillment, grounded in different epistemologies: mātauranga Māori and Enlightenment thinking.

I’m grateful for the writings of Dr Hirini Kaa and Archbishop Don Tamihere as invaluable resources in reflecting on mātauranga Māori and the life of te hāhi mihinare. I’m also grateful for the wisdom of Dr Wayne Te Kaawa in the writing and the resource and permissions of National Library of New Zealand.

Posted by steve at 12:22 PM

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

publishing contract for Making matters and practical theology in researching mission online

Signing a publishing contract is always a great way to start the day.

This piece of writing began as a conference paper delivered at the 2019 Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference. In the audience was Mary Moschella, who is Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, at Yale Divinity School. At the time she was revising her book, Ethnography As A Pastoral Practice: An Introduction and emailed after the conference asking if I might consider writing up my research journey.

I had used Ethnography As A Pastoral Practice: An Introduction in some of my classes at Uniting College (a short blog review is here). The commitments to listening and living theologies made sense of how I approached leading change, especially during my time as Senior Pastor at Opawa Baptist. So I was delighted to rework the conference paper to make more visible my researching journey – my contribution titled “When Christmas Angels Tweet: Making matters and practical theology in researching mission online.” The revised edition of Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice is due out with Pilgrim Press in the US and SCM in the UK.

Posted by steve at 09:26 AM

Monday, June 27, 2022

writing – from beginning to end in 1 day

Today’s work covered the full span of the writing process, from beginning to ending.

At the beginning, I was providing peer review, asked to offer constructive feedback to an international press seeking blind peer review feedback on a proposed book.

In the middle, I did final edits and submitted major revisions of a journal article. Over the last few weeks, I have been working my way with colleague Dr Dustin Benac from Baylor University) through thousands of words of constructive blind peer review feedback. This is for an article presenting research into innovation and spiritual practices in NZ and United States during the pandemic.

Toward the end, I was responding to a sharp-eyed copy editor who has been polishing a chapter I wrote back in 2019 about how to research making as Christian witness. This is for a book by Mary Moschella from Yale University, a 2nd edition of her wonderful Ethnography as Pastoral Practice, that is about to be submitted for publication with 2 publishers in UK and USA.

Also toward the end, I chased up a page reference as part of checking final proofs for a journal article about to come out with International Bulletin of Mission Research.

Finally, receiving the 3 monthly statement for book sales on my The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change which is still selling the occasional copy 17 years after publication!

So there we are. From proposals to proofs to publishing! Five different parts of the writing process – all for international publications, all in the same day.

Posted by steve at 09:57 PM

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

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

22 in 21: published pieces in 2021


(Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash )

As I head into the 2022 working year, I’m glad of the work of the year gone. Much to reflect on, including the opportunity to write. Numbers-wise, in 2021, I had 22 pieces of written work published. 11 were academic pieces and columns, 11 were film reviews. It’s a mix of scholarly and accessible that I really like.

Academic pieces – 2 peer-reviewed articles, 2 book chapters, 1 editorial;

“Courageous, purposeful, and reflexive; Writing as a missional and emergent task,” Ecclesial Futures 2 (2), (2021), 99-120, (co-authored with Lynne Taylor, Elaine Heath and Nigel Rooms).

“Jesus as a socially (ir)responsible innovator: seeking the common good in a dialogue between wisdom Christologies and social entrepreneurship,” International Journal of Public Theology 15 (1), (2021), 119–143, (co-authored with Christine Woods).

“Unbounding learning communities: An Educational Strategy for the Future of Life-long learning,” God’s Exemplary Graduates. Character-Oriented Graduate Attributes in Theological Education, edited by Les Ball and Peter Bolt, SCD Press (2021), 420–434, (co-authored with Rosemary Dewerse).

“Faith in the boardroom: seeking wisdom in governing for innovation,” In Reimagining Faith and Management: The Impact of faith in the workplace, edited by Edwina Pio, Robert Kilpatrick and Timothy Pratt, Routledge, (2021), 90–103.

“Editorial Volume 2 Issue 2,” Ecclesial Futures 2 (2), 2021, 1-6.

Book reviews – 2 reviews in academic journals;

“Book Review: Imagining Mission with John V. Taylor.” Stimulus 28 (1) June 2021 – reviewed here.

“The colouring of grey literature. A review of “JVT quotes” and “Answers on a Postcard.”” Ecclesial Futures 2 (1) June 2021, 165¬9.

Journalism – 4 columns;

“Aging,” Zadok 2021.

“Female Christ figures,” Zadok 2021.

“Signs, wonders and the economics of hanky power,” Zadok 2021 (4).

“Walking as Resistance,” Zadok 149, 2021 (4).

Film reviews – 11 reviews, of 500 words each, in Touchstone magazine, some on this blog …

The Power of the Dog – here.

Squid Game (Reviewed by Kayli Taylor) – here


The Panthers

Black Widow

Deliver us from evil – here.

The First Cow – here.

Easter in Art –here

Cousins – here.

Dawn Raid –

From the vine –

Posted by steve at 02:17 PM

Thursday, June 03, 2021

journal article acceptance – Theologies of fulfilment in a reciprocal study

Stoked with news this week of journal article acceptance in International Bulletin on Mission Research. The journal is “an unparalleled source of information on the world church in mission. The editors are committed to maintaining the highest possible academic editorial standards.” I used to browse the journal as a wide-eyed undergraduate, never imagining I’d ever be a contributor.

My article will likely appear in pre-print later this year and in print 2023 – which suggests a pretty popular journal! This is the first academic output of the AngelWings season, written over the last few months, following presentation at the World Christianity virtual conference in early March and after reading Hirini Kaa’s Te Hāhi Mihinare | The Māori Anglican Church back in February in preparing Mission For a Change. At the same time, it began as part of lecture while I was Principal of KCML, and it’s really gratifying to have this sort of international benchmarking of my lecture content.

Theologies of fulfilment in a reciprocal study of relationships between John Laughton and Rua Kēnana in Aotearoa New Zealand

Abstract: The crossing of borders of religion presents challenges and provides opportunities. This paper presents a contextualized case study from Aotearoa New Zealand, examining the life-long relationship between Presbyterian missionary, Rev John “Hoani” Laughton (1891-1965), and Māori leader, Rua Kēnana (1969-1937). Photography, as a tool in discerning lived theologies, suggests a side-by-side relationship of reciprocity and particularity. Relationships across differences are revealed not in theory but lived practices of education, worship, and prayer, life, and death. The argument is that Kēnana and Laughton are enacting theologies of fulfilment, grounded in different epistemologies, one of matauranga Māori, the other of Enlightenment thinking.

Keywords: fulfillment theology, matauranga Māori, new religious movements, Presbyterian

Posted by steve at 09:38 PM