Friday, April 24, 2009

what are we building? musuem or ?

At Opawa, we buried one of our saints today. 93 years old, faithful in prayer and love for Scriptures. It was a lovely service, with much honesty. During the (5) eulogies, one of her sons commented that she had a 19th century faith.

Which got me thinking. Generally as a society we put things from the 19th century in a musuem. It’s a mark of respect and that’s how we remember.

So what do we do when it comes to faith? If it is 19th century, do we seek to preserve a church that holds that faith.

Surely the answer is no. Churches are simply not meant to be living museums, a snapshot of the past. Jesus is the risen Christ, the Incarnate one. As the same yesterday, today and forever, that risen Christ must speak to every generation, calling for disciples to carry their cross for such a time as theirs. Faith is renewable, a living thing that shapes hearts and minds across diverse cultures and different times.

But neither should the alternative be amnesia. Our saints are gift to us, and deserve respect and to have their faith nourished not only in their twenties, but also in the old age. It is reckless to plunge into the future with no regard for our history, 20th, 19th, and back even further.

Which then raises the question of how we respect and remember 19th century faith, without needing to create museums?

I’m a bit tired after having conducted the funeral, so I’ll ask you, my blog readers, to help me. What are the metaphors that might allow us to not only respect and not only remember, but also renew? If church is not a museum, what might it be?

Posted by steve at 06:35 PM


  1. Maybe more school like – elements of tradition in emblems, mottos, honour boards, but new ways of learning. However the big difference is that a school’s members are only there a short time whereas a church is home for folk for a long time and that would make change more difficult.

    Thinking of museums, they have changed a lot and may not be such a bad metaphor. Took our kids to Motat in Auckland (Museum of transport and technology) and it spanned old to cutting edge, with both being interactive and catering to all ages.

    Comment by Jack — April 24, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

  2. good point Jack. te papa is another example of a changing museum – interactive, pick n mix.

    the school thing is interesting – so much easier to create learning communities in schools imho cos you have people for a set period of time on a regular basis.


    Comment by steve — April 24, 2009 @ 11:42 pm

  3. Auckland museum is another good example with their current experiment “late night’s @ the museum. Honoring the past, drawing on the past, engaging the comtemporary and imagining the future.

    Another good way for me to think about it is to think in terms of diet, dietary needs, and changing constitutions – as we journey through life our dietary needs change of necessity and taste. We discover new food, new cuisine, we “fuse” old and new, in mid-life we often discover spice… fine dining… and often, in latter years, our tastes become more simple; we discover that while we need a good range of healthy food, we need less food… Sometimes we harken back to the loves of our early life, sometimes they journey with us (in my case, it’s apple pie, rice pudding, and curry sausages).

    If I think of my parents, and my 100 year old grandmother, their tastes in food a markedly different from the food I’m eating and liking. When we gather, as we will today, for birthday’s, we honour their need for certain kinds of food (“three vege & meat”), but that doesn’t stop us also including food we like on the menu. There is variety, as needs and likes necessitate. What kinds of food did Jesus eat with his followers? What kinds of food would he eat if he sat down to a meal in Opawa? Would that change if he shared a meal and, as it were, broke ‘bread’ in a variety of homes…?

    Comment by Paul Fromont — April 25, 2009 @ 9:30 am

  4. Meals is really helpful and very fruitful for my imagination. thankyou.

    At Opawa we have a multi-congregational approach as a way of trying to offer diversity ie diverse meals. Yet wise people also tell me at Opawa that I have to be careful not to accomodate to people’s preferences, because stretching the palate is an important spiritual discipline. It is easy for those who like baby feed to think that their diet is the ONLY way of teaching, when in fact teaching is happening through creativity and discussion. So at times I need to not serve what is palatable.


    Comment by steve — April 25, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  5. Exactly Steve. The pereceptions of others can be helpful in our own growth and development, but we can’t be all things to all people. We can only be ourselves, selves that are growing, deepening and becoming more fully and freely human.

    I couldn’t agree more with the last few lines of your second paragraph. Menu’s aren’t limitless and as numerous cooking programmes currently on TV are reminding us, menu’s need to be simple (i.e. not compex and laden down with options. Imagine being the chef responsible for cooking that kind of menu!), fresh, interesting /adventurous (yet also including a restaurants signature dishes – the dishes people will keep coming back for)… BUT always hinting at the delight of a new taste, a new way of cooking something familiar, a new combination of flavours that await a diner willing to try something they’re not so familiar with…willing to step out of their comfort zone in pursuit of life in all its fullness.

    Comment by Paul Fromont — April 25, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

  6. “We can only be ourselves, selves that are growing, deepening and becoming more fully and freely human” – that’s both a glorious sentence and a painful sentence.

    the pressures to conform are enormous and so many feel insecure and so perceive someone offering something different as a judgement, a criticism.

    it is hard to be ourselves in museum cultures. it is hard for museum cultures to feel respected in a Te Papapa world,



    Comment by steve — April 25, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

  7. A university knows the past and history yet many are at the front of scientific discoveries of all kinds
    A university seeks knowledge and encourages students to discover and learn for themselves
    A university is concerned with truth (well they claim to be) and is not governed by whimsical politics or popular opinion (mostly)!
    A university fosters an environment where people can learn
    A university builds skills to ensure students continue learning and seeking knowledge after they leave
    A university is the starting point in a ‘higher education’

    Comment by Mark — April 28, 2009 @ 9:15 am

  8. Mark
    excellent. great analysis.

    perhaps a negative is that university’s are considered a bit elitist?


    Comment by steve — April 28, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

  9. I wonder if the metaphor of a garden is useful. Beautiful gardens usually have a mixture of older trees of varying ages, that are sound, healthy and well placed that provide shelter and shade for the other plantings, without choking out all of the water and nutrients available. The trees don’t dominate the garden, they are its backbone providing a place for younger or more delicate plants to grow to maturity. Healthy old saints do the same thing.

    Comment by kerry — April 28, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

  10. I wonder, Steve, if your recently departed sister-in-Christ would have described herself as having a 19th century faith?

    It’s sometimes possible to place our own assessment on an older person, whereas they see themselves as having a vibrant, up-to-date faith.

    So, my metaphor? Boy Racers vs. The Little Old Lady From Pasadena!

    Comment by Merv — April 30, 2009 @ 10:11 am

  11. Hi Merv,

    In my post (I’m sure clumsily worded) I was seeking ways to honour both, let both flourish and gain strength, without needing to be at the expense of another. So I’m uneasy with your “vs”. I worry it sets up a comparative, either/or. There’s also so much negative publicity about boy racers at the moment, (or maybe that’s a Christchurch perception)


    Comment by steve — April 30, 2009 @ 11:09 am

  12. Yes, touché (oops! another competitive metaphor).

    On reflection though, perhaps both would feel honoured, both would flourish & gain strength. But, yes, it’s hard not to compare engines.

    So let’s go with Little Deuce Coupe.

    Comment by Merv — April 30, 2009 @ 11:44 am

  13. Merv,

    if we’re talking about cars – what about mini and mini 2nd; or VW and new VW ! 🙂


    Comment by steve — April 30, 2009 @ 11:47 am

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