Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spirit walk: a great example of a spiritual takeway

This is fascinating example of spirit2g, of offering spiritual takeaways.

From the creative, missional mind of Ben Edson, (who planted Sanctus, a Fresh Expression in Manchester) it’s linked with the Manchester Mind Body Spirit Fair and involves six locations around the city centre broadcasting six meditations. Participants collect a set of headphones and a map from the ‘Spirit of Life’ stand and then go on a 30 minute pilgrimage interacting with the urban environment, opening themselves to glimmers of the Divine.

And more (from here)

The meditations, of both words and music, will provide a unique soundscape for the site this year, reflecting on both the site location and also on a particular stage of the silent journey

I love how it’s urban and outdoors. I love how it lets the person set the pace. I love the tactility of it. All I’d want to add is some way for people to engage and enter conversation. Perhaps this happens as the headsets are returned.

Posted by steve at 08:17 AM

Monday, November 15, 2010

spirituality of blood and bone: another fresh expression

Some mates are web-journalling their guerrilla garden attempts in Christchurch. Currently the virtual looks much more impressive than the real, but knowing the rainfall of Christchurch and the power of spuds and rhubarb, I’m sure it will change.

I do think that gardens make an excellent place to ground (pun intended) a fresh expression. I’ve blogged before about

  • the spirituality of composting (here)
  • the spirituality of gardening (here and here)
  • about a gardening centre as a future church model (here)
  • about an outdoor faith indoors (here)
  • about how we brought back the harvest festival at church last year in response to the Global Financial crisis and as our families headed back to the garden (here)
  • a funny story that emerged because we as a church gave out vege plants at our annual Spring Clean community contact day
  • about why I’m a vegetarian (here)
  • about how much (little actually) land you need to feed a family of 3 (here)

Here in Adelaide there is even more interest in fresh food and local produce than in Christchurch. What about a fresh expression that met on Saturday while the Central Market was open, and used stations – of thanks, of fair trade justice, of community – that the thousands who attend the market could engage?

Posted by steve at 08:46 AM

Friday, October 01, 2010

pioneer leaders as attending to birth narratives (thanks Rowan Williams)

A few days later, I wrote a post reflecting on the need for pioneer training not as technique and structure, but as a way of deepening spiritual and emotional intelligence. I read the following quote this morning:

“And the sense Christ makes is not in his masterly reorganization of the world, his provision of explanations and programmes, but in his comprehensive loving, forgiving attention to the world that has somehow brought him to birth.” (Rowan Williams in the brilliant Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin).

This fits with my presentation at the Evaluating Fresh Expressions Research Consultation, including the image that I used during the presentation, of fresh expressions emerging from the Orans icon.

Christ is wanting to be made real in the world. As Mary says yes, so to we are invited to say yes, to be part of bringing to birth fresh expressions of the body of Christ.

This is not steady as she Sunday goes leadership. This is why I major on listening and discerning in my leadership courses. In the 21st century, new forms of church are being brought to birth and we are invited to pay attention to what is being brought to birth, to recognise the contours of Christ. This is leadership that seeks to be both spiritually and emotionally intelligent.

Posted by steve at 11:16 AM

Sunday, September 19, 2010

ode to fresh expressions below durham cathedral

Long ago (1,100 years)
little Cuthbert wandered
shepherd share and prayer
left this legacy?

Durham Dominator
Cathedral (in capitals)
largely impassive
little moat crossers pale shadows
Solid Church (in capitals)

Fresh Expressions legacy
white people in white room
definitional impurity meets
mission seachange, tick
patient love buffs, buffeted in urban deprivation
hurt butts youthful can-do
as Durham bells ring
Solid Church
(in capitals)

Mission stories today
curate, VJ and coffee
little Cuthberts wander
left this legacy?

God forbid

Posted by steve at 11:59 PM

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

So what was the shape of your ministry today?

Was the question as I walked in the door. It’s been a rich day. So pour yourself (and me) a drink and let’s talk.

1. I presented my findings in review of a fresh expression. It’s been a fascinating experiment – an attempt to build an online community. I was invited to be the “missiologist-in-residence” as it were, which was an enormous privilege. There is not much written on this, so it has been such fun linking fresh expressions thinking with online website tools. I ended up writing about 2,500 words. So it has the makings of an article at some point.

2. I got to talk to someone about their “restless” heart and to discuss their journey toward ministry. A potential pioneer leader IMHO.

3. I got to help align a student research masters with a supervisor. It’s sort of a form of discipleship. Someone wants to do some thinking, some serious thinking, about what it means for them to love God and neighbour. And I get to help them align some people in ways that will maximise that learning. Huge privilege.

4. I got to meet with one of my PhD students. She’s just beginning a fascinating journey, wanting to explore how to help marginal voices, particularly speakers of English as a second language, do theology without imposing Western ideas on them. Stimulating.

5. I got to write up some of my own research. Again fascinating – to listen to some recorded interviews with pioneer leaders (of the alt.worship variety) and attempt to reflect on their stories missiologically. I’m developing a hunch and here it is: that “fresh expressions of church” is fundamentally an unhelpful phrase in a mission sense. I’m still working on my logic to support this hunch. But I am loving the reading, reflecting, probing.

Cheers. Thanks for listening.

Posted by steve at 05:50 PM

Friday, August 27, 2010

fresh expressions adelaide vision day: putting legs on the local

Key words: dreamers and sponsors, wonderers and strategists
Key sense: taste
Key question: How can fresh expressions emerge within and alongside local congregations, agencies, schools ?

Had an excellent 90 minutes planning a (1st ever?) local Adelaide Fresh Expressions vision day with the Synod Fresh Expressions Core team. Put a ring around November 27, 11-3:30 pm, Christ Church Uniting, Wayville. Having had a swag of outside input on Fresh expressions, this day is ideal for local communities thinking about putting local legs on local fresh expressions.

Programme (draft):
11-12 pm – Introducing Fresh expressions: Who, What, Where, Why, How – Steve Taylor. Being Uniting, being emerging? a CMS team

12-1 pm – Local lunch – people are invited to bring local produce to share

1-2 pm – Putting legs on the local – interviews with three diverse local fresh expressions. A rural story, an art story, a justice story (TBC). Exploring how dreamers and sponsors work in life-giving partnerships.

2-3 pm – Conversational workshop – share challenges and opportunities in conversation either with local dreamers or local sponsors.

3-3:30 pm- Space with candlelight reflections community.

Posted by steve at 09:53 PM

Sunday, August 15, 2010

a sociological reflection on the growth of fresh expressions

Interesting article by David Allis, exploring growth (numeric) in new forms of church/fresh expressions.  David is a Kiwi, who withdrew from the more Pentecostal end of church life to focus on a home church in his local neighbourhood. The article is a few years old (2007), but makes some good points. David suggests that when we look at new forms of church we need to realise that:

  • The drain created by existing models. “The existing church models are the norm, and people (both churched & unchurched alike) think this is the only way to do church.” This means that alternative models require people to have thought through new forms, or with new converts. Further, “It is difficult for a new small tree to grow under the shade of a large tree, as the large tree drains the nourishment from the ground and; also shades the light.” Yeah, all you light shaders! 🙂
  • Exhaustion. Potential leaders are most likely to come from people who leave the organised church structure. They are often more ready to want to ‘take a break’ from church activities, rather than throw themselves quickly into something new. (I can certainly relate to this one. I’ve struggled to stay afloat in the last 6 months, let alone have energy for something else.)

(The full article is here). I think the points are well made, and as always, value any comments.

Posted by steve at 08:40 PM

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fresh expressions. Import or Local (South Australian) produced?

I wrote the following for New Times, the monthly denominationl magazine here in South Australia. Others beyond might be interested.

South Australia is famous for our local produce – Kangaroo Island honey, Riverlands dried fruit, McLaren Vale reds. So it is worth reflecting on Dave Male’s recent Synod input in light of what is happening locally in South Australia.

Dave suggested that a fresh expression goes through a number of stages in their formative journey. This starts with “listening to God’s call”, moves to “loving service”, then is followed by “forming community” and “disciple-making”. The result is “church” emerging in a fresh space, opened up in response to the creative work of God’s Spirit.

So in light of Dave Male’s input the Fresh Expressions team cast an eye over what is being locally grown here in South Australia.

Candlelit Reflections at Modbury have sensed God’s call and their “loving service” has involved creating a quiet, meditative space. The next step in their “fresh expression” journey includes how to appropriately gather individual seeking spiritual searchers into community.

Fresh expressions are never only urban. In the Barossa, Greenock Uniting Church have seen people begin to gather around a building used for “loving service” not on a Sunday, but in a mid-week café with local art and craft. The next step in their journey also involves the challenge of “forming community.”

Hungry no more, at Mt Barker, has seen their “loving service” naturally lead into “forming community.” Their challenge now includes “disciple-making,” with the realisation that the people they are ministering with have unique needs. Hence discipleship and church will definitely need to take shape as a “fresh expression.”

A fresh expression journey is never linear, as is evident in the Esther project. An initial dream to form church around theatre production then took shape in 2009 around storytelling. Community began to form, but recent changes are causing a re-think.

City Soul or Eco-church would be an example of Dave Male’s final stage, “church” taking unique shape, whether around student life or environmental concerns. Both are locally grown, and missionally creative, fresh expressions.

The Synod Fresh expressions team are keen to build on these, and to encourage other locally grown products. The Regenerate pub conversation serves as a bi-monthly resource (for information contact Nicola Shaw at Uniting College). Plans are underway to offer a Fresh expressions vision day on Saturday, 27 November, 2010 and Fresh Expressions training through the Mission-shape ministry course in 2011.

Steve Taylor, Director of Missiology, for Fresh Expressions team

Posted by steve at 03:46 PM

Friday, July 30, 2010

planting fresh expressions down under: a tale of seven churches

Here in South Australia we recently enjoyed the visit by Dave Male. One of the big helps for me was when Dave talked about the size of the core team in planting fresh expressions. He was making the point that the smaller the team, the slower the progress, but the more likely it would be radical re-expression of missional life. In contrast, the larger the core team, the more quickly the plant might grow, yet the more likely the new plant can end up look like it’s planting parent.

It helped me make sense of my fresh expressions experience.

My partner and I planted Graceway in 1994. That was last millennium, when noone was talking about fresh expressions or emerging church. But we knew that our mates were dialling out of church, yet still were encountering God. We started reading the literature on cultural shift and out of that emerged Graceway. We had values of community and creativity and participation, so we met cafe style, always had food, had a barstool for open sharing and explored the whole-body in worship. The planting team was small and it was such a long, hard slog, real pioneering.

There was simply none of the infrastructure and conversations and books that there are around now. We endured at times quite active hostility. But we learnt heaps and plugged away. We made mistakes but we saw God move. We saw some unchurched find faith, developed a distinctive way of life, built networks with the community and found ways to serve and love people. After 9 years we moved on. Graceway was fragile but had some good leaders.

We moved to Opawa in 2004. We were at Opawa six years and in that time had a go a planting six fresh expressions. One per year is good going when you think about it! (I talk about the multi-congregational ethos, which gave this initial shape elsewhere on this blog).

First was espresso, a Tuesday night discussion community for those wanting to explore faith questions is a conversational, open way.

Then came the hymn service, soup on Sunday afternoon, choosing of favourite hymns, a testimony and a sermon. connecting with those for whom hymns was an important part of faith formation.

We tried a number of experiments for spiritual seekers, running a journalling course in a local cafe, offering Sense Making Faith course. Each was important in connecting us with spiritual seekers, but none developed into a cohesive congregation. (Still important, still a great learning, still saw folk baptised.)

We re-planted our evening service in two different forms. One was a monthly Soak service, as a time to “soak” in God. Not so much a pioneering work, but more a contemplative space for people to make time to engage (soak in) God. Sung worship, lectio divina and then a range of stations. Lot of attention paid to the space, which, being in main auditorium was always big and worked really well in terms of contemplation.

The other was Grow which used the table as the main metaphor. People gathered in groups and on each table was an A3 sheet of paper in which people were invited to reflect on two theological questions – who is God and who are humans. Grow had a three week focus and each evening used multiple inputs – video clips, interviews, during the week challenges, top 10 quiz, sermon, prayer.

Another trial was made with the Gathering, which used a local community cottage to work with folks local and close to the church building. Lots of food, gathered around a big wooden table, Bible open.

Looking back, using Dave Male’s lens, helped me see that Opawa was a totally different way of planting fresh expressions than Graceway. Rather than lone “ordained” pioneers, we were involving teams of lay people. (Which you simply don’t have when you are the lone pioneer). Each expression looked for 4-5 people who gathered around an “itch” to explore new possibilities. Each faced the downside, the danger, of becoming a new form of worship, rather than a genuinely missional new form of church.

As Dave says, both types have their strengths and weaknesses. Multiple congregational planting with lay teams is much easier, while pioneering is much more radical.

I’m not sure what the point of this post is. (In fact, I’m not actually often sure what the point of this blog is.) Perhaps someone might find some resonance in one of these tales of seven fresh expression churches.

Posted by steve at 09:04 AM

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fresh expressions formalised in South Australia: updated

Exciting weekend here in South Australia, with the Uniting Church Synod (council of all Uniting churches in South Australia), voting to accept a number of resolutions including the following:

  • develop Fresh Expressions and Church Plants throughout South Australia
  • develop a network/community of Pioneer Ministers
  • ask the Uniting College (of which I am a part) to take the lead in developing training for Pioneer Ministry, both for lay people and for those wanting to live out their ordination as Pioneer Ministers

(Updated: full resolutions here)

So there we are – a church denomination making Fresh expressions a priority, and formally charging it’s training arm to train pioneer leaders.

It dovetails beautifully with the fact that as a Uniting College staff, we’ve been putting in hours of work in the last few months into developing a unique pathway by which to train pioneer leaders. This will be as part of our new B.Min degree programme. If our application is successful it will mean we are offering two training paths. One path will be a more conventional mission and ministry degree.

The other path will also offer a B.Min degree, but with a focus on innovation and pioneering. It will offer learning by doing, in situ in a fresh expression, observational intensives so people can broaden their vision and practice of ministry, expect mentoring – both individual and in community – along with integration through study in areas of leadership, mission, Bible and Christian discipleship.  So if you sense God calling you to train as a fresh expressions pioneer leader, we at Uniting College just may be able to help you.

All quite exciting.

Posted by steve at 08:36 PM

Friday, June 18, 2010

new forms of church: eco-festivals

In my The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change book, I suggested a variety of emerging church forms:

  • Art collectives
  • Postmodern monasteries
  • Weekly participative communities
  • Festival spirituality

Some were dreams, needing legs. So it was wonderful to see this …

an ecofestival
(hat tip Michael)

St Johns, Durham, 11am-5 pm, in the church grounds, with locally sourced food, live music, a range of activities for all ages including stalls with info about renewable energy, where cyclists can have their bike serviced, learn more about Durham Wildlife Trust, buy Fairtrade, take part in craft activities. The afternoon will end with beer and hymns. There’s even public intercession (a balloon release with prizes, with the balloons carrying messages of how visitors would like the world to be in years to come)!

Fantastic. Outside the church, resourcing body, mind and soul. All age friendly.

This from the 2008 church Annual report:

A final mention must go to the Neville’s Cross ’08 EcoFestival. This was an ambitious
undertaking on the part of St John’s to conceive, plan and bring to fruition a large-scale
community festival. The event was entirely planned by church members and took place in and
around the church buildings. A variety of events, activities, stalls, games, music, debate, advice
and so on was on offer, all relating to the themes of Trade Justice and Climate Change (which had
grown out of a parish away-weekend 10 months earlier). On the day we were blessed with
splendid weather alongside the dedicated enthusiasm of all involved, and it was a delight to see the
whole church precinct alive with people of all ages throughout the day.

It all sounds grand, but it emerged so simply. Chew over an idea. Commit to give it legs in a way that involves a variety of gifts. Take a deep breath and have a go!

Posted by steve at 02:36 PM

Friday, April 16, 2010

re-framing the prodigal in regard to fresh expressions and established church

Ben Edson has re-written the parable of the Prodigal son/Waiting Father/Faithful son/absent prodigal daughter (choose your title with care, because each character opens up a different interpretive lens).

There was a mother who had two sons. The youngest one said to his mother, mother thanks for the years that you’ve looked after me, thanks for all that you’ve give me, but I think that you’ve got it wrong. I’m going to take all that I have inherited from you and go off to country foreign to you and experiment.

After being away for sometime the younger son started to recognise that he had been foolish and needed the love and support of the mother. He decided to go home back to the mother. He would say to her: I am sorry that I left you, your resources are so diverse, I miss you and I want to be part of your family.

The first part is here. The conclusion, offering 3 alternative endings

  • the institutional church’s slow grinding to death of innovation
  • the arrogance of fresh expressions
  • an embrace between margin and centre

is here. It’s a wonderful example of re-framing and re-creating, and a fascinating use of Scripture.

Initially I loved it, the creativity, the multiplicity of endings. But now I’m not at all sure. When I have the words to name my unease, I’ll try to complete this post by explaining why … (more…)

Posted by steve at 11:27 AM

Sunday, April 11, 2010

the use of art in growing a fresh expression: being church in a time of cultural change

Church as rugby club? Or touch team? I referred last week to this question, quoting an article by Kevin Ward, in which he explores changes in voluntary groups and ways people belong. (Kevin’s article is here, my post last week is here). As I wrote in the Sociology for Ministry lecture:

So, consider that alongside the decline in church, is a widespread decline in all voluntary associations: from Lions to labour unions, from political parties to bowling clubs.

In New Zealand in 1970’s about 400,000 people played rugby. By 1990’s it had plummeted to 100,000.

Why? Factors include authoritarian and controlling environment, rigid structures, high institutional overheads, dress code, conformist culture, lack of choice, repression of individual for sake of community.

At the same time, touch rugby, while only started in an organised sense in 1990, had by the year 2000 over 272, 000 registered participants.

Why? It is minimalist, gender inclusive. Individuals can choose their own team, while teams can choose their uniform and name. Time is limited and there is a high value on socialising and fun.

In other words, traditional structures based on long-term commitment and exclusive loyalties are less attractive than single stranded, less formal, smaller groupings.

It helped me make sense of a most stimulating Sunday afternoon I’ve just had at a Resurrection and Art seminar. It’s one of four Sunday afternoons being offered by the local Catholic Theological College, exploring Jesus passion and art; resurrection and art; Mary and art; Trinity and art.

Two hours, great visuals, a mix of history, theology and spirituality. Along with a nice afternoon tea. It was a most worthwhile afternoon.

I came away reflecting that here was an institution (Catholic Church) providing a way to play touch, resourcing people’s spirituality without requiring them to in any way be part of the institution.

What intrigues me is how this can be self-resourcing and self-starting. There were about 40 people booked, each paying $20 a session. Take out a bit for facilities (which would be unused in most churches at this time of day anyhow, the advertising (which is giving you profile even if no-one turns up), and the morning tea and you still have around 30 hours for a staff person to work up a lecture. That’s enough time to put together a pretty good talk.

(I tried to do this a number of times at Opawa, but the person I kept tried to lure to start the conversation was too booked up and I was too busy and the energy required by the Easter and Christmas Journey made other forms of creativity harder to initiate).

Do it for Easter/Pentecost. Do it again at Advent. Do it again on Waitangi Day/Australia Day, using indigenous art.

Each time, provide a set of art pieces as postcards. After a time, invite people to do more research on the artist and the theology and meet again to share their findings. Or simply to gather in a few weeks to reflect on how their artpiece as helped their journey. Slowly you are building a new community – being church in a new form in a time of cultural change.

Posted by steve at 06:16 PM

Monday, February 22, 2010

Archbishop Rowan Williams on fresh expressions of church, ministry, sacraments

There is a fascinating podcast of Archbishop Rowan Williams being interviewed about fresh expressions, especially in light of the Synod report just out regarding fresh expressions. (Hat tip Jonny and originating from a collective in Nottingham called Nomad (who seem to have a knack of interviewing some interesting people, including Tom Wright, Greg Boyd and others)).

I’m teaching a class on Church, Ministry, Sacraments in the first semester and might just use the podcast in my first lecture. Here’s is my summary of the Archbishop:

Church is people encountering Jesus, with others, in a life changing way. This happens through the baptism and communion (sacraments). This has also happened in the past, and thus we have the tradition of the church. The task of ministry includes the gift of discernment – of seeing God giving gifts to the church, both in contemporary culture and historically in the tradition – and of learning how to use these gifts – God’s gifts to the church – creatively and well. Key challenges for fresh expressions of church include giving time to listen, to appreciate the words rubbed smooth by generations that can carry us when we find life thin. Key challenges for existing churches are to appreciate new forms as real stuff, and not just an eccentric fringe.

Note how similar the ecclesiology (understanding of church) is to what the Archbishop wrote in 2004, in the Foreword to Mission-shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions of Church in a Changing Context

‘church’ is what happens when people encounter the Risen Jesus and commit themselves to sustaining and deepening that encounter in their encounter with each other (vii)

I wonder what would happen if all Vicars pinned that wee definition to their Prayer Book?

Posted by steve at 10:40 AM