Friday, October 07, 2011

Study leave report September 2011

For those interested, here is my September 2011, Study leave report. In some ways it is a summary of the UK Adventures blog series. But it also develops a bit more clearly some of what I reflected upon and raises some possibilities that might be part of 2012

Study leave report, September 2011

I spent two weeks of study leave in England. My time involved four places.

Manchester. I decompressed from jet lag by spending the weekend with friends, the Edson family. Ben is also the Fresh Expressions Missioner for the Manchester Diocese. I walked the City Centre, went to a number of galleries, saw the oldest known fragment of the New Testament at the John Ryland library and went to the Antony Gormley Another Place sculptures – 100 life-sized cast iron figures facing out to sea, spread over a 3.2 km stretch of beach.

On the Saturday I got to be an observer at a msm course, watching John and Olive Drane present two sessions. It was great to see msm happening in the UK from the perspective of a participant.

St Johns College, Durham, for the Ecclesiology and Ethnography network. This is a research project held between Regents College, Kings College, Luther Seminary and University of Aberdeen. The focus is on researching Christian faith as it is lived by people and in Christian communities. Funded by the British Academy, it gathers twice a year and currently has two publications at press.

I presented a paper “Finding “fresh expression” ten years on? Initial findings from a longitudinal study of an “emerging” church.” This was a chance (a deadline!), to present some research I’ve been working on over the last 12 months, in which I have gone back and re-surveyed the emerging church I studied for my PhD. There are not many places to present this sort of research in Australia, so it was excellent to have time and engaged minds exploring my research with me.

My paper generated good discussion and with time, I would like to weave the new data into my PhD and seek an academic publisher.

During the conference I had lunch with Pete Philips, Director, Centre for Biblical Literacy and Communication, St Johns College. It was a valuable networking time and a number of possibilities emerged, including the idea of some sort of academic conference on the emerging church and being a possible location for my sabbatical.

John Swinton, University of Aberdeen was at the conference and was intrigued by our Ministry Practice Journal concept and asked for a follow-up conversation.

One of the conference presenters, Paul Murray, Professor of Theology, Durham University presented a superb paper on a Catholic perspective on ecclesiology and ethnography. He is coming to Adelaide in July 2012 and was keen to present something academically. I am having informal conversations with him about using his paper and my paper as the seed to offer a Ecclesiology and Ethnography Downunder conference. I can think of a number of other folk doing research in Australasia. A number of our post-grads could be encouraged to present. Attendance could also be part of a 3 credit Guided Reading for our Masters/Doctoral students. This could come under the umbrella of the Centre for Theology, Science and Culture. It could also fit with the Pioneer research project with NCLS ie a specific focus on ecclesiology as social entrepreneurship.

Holy Island Lindisfarne. I spent 5 days on retreat with the Community of Aidan and St Hilda. This is a dispersed, ecumenical body drawing inspiration from the lives of the Celtic saints, working “together to nurture a holistic Christian spirituality for today that can benefit both traditional and ermerging churches.” It was a rich time of walking, bird watching and doing some research into missiology of the Celtic Period.

It was also a time to reflect on the relationship between a physical space and a dispersed community. The Community of St Aidan and St Hilda are 300 members worldwide who share a set of values, and yet the Holy Island is a physical place that has catalysed and nourished. Which got me thinking about College as a physical space, alongside our commitment to form students in placement. In what ways do we as a physical place catalyse and nourish the values that form missional leaders?

Cliff College, has Methodist roots, is set in the beautiful Peak District in Derbyshire and offers a variety of post-graduate awards in missiology. I spoke to their Master of Mission class and then did a day with their inaugural cohort of PhD Missiology students. Practically, the lecturing helped pay for some of my travel. Study wise, it gave me a chance to work on some material I have had brewing but never had time to develop, linking Bosch’s paradigms of mission with mission stories.

One of the more intriguing moments at Cliff was a conversation with Revd Sonja Arnold, student in the Master of Mission, and Tutor in Context-based and Pioneer Training, at Trinity College, Bristol. They have a distinctive approach in that they offer context based training, not individually, but in group placements. Thus you train as a group of 5-10 students in a particular community or communities, seek to live near other students in the context community, become part of that community with your family, work with local clergy in a variety of church and community activities, reflect as a group on your experiences once a week, with the help of your Trinity tutor. There is a choice of four contexts: one rural, two in urban deprived areas and one urban. Basically they are pioneer planting alongside existing congregations and thus offering a rich range of mission and ministry experiences both within and beyond the established church.

In sum, personally study leave was renewing and life-giving. Communally, it is a very practical way to helping achieve the Uniting College core value of being excellent in scholarship, both by enabling research presentation and in developing networks.

Thanks to my family who let me go, Uniting College who encourage study leave, Nichola Shaw’s fantastic transcription skills in preparation and all the friendly folk in the UK who made my time more human.

Steve Taylor
5 October 2011

Posted by steve at 03:33 PM

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