Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Easter 2010 "BluesFest"

I have just begun making contact with the organisers of the "East Coast Blues and Roots/Bluesfest Festival held at Byron Bay each Easter!! The crazy idea I have is to take a small group of 18-30s plus some leadership away to the Festival over Easter next year! The idea would be to either Camp or do a local Church Hall thing plus cooking...
We could spend the morning reflecting on: Easter in this context; who and where we were; and we'd engage in the Festival like any other 'punter' AND then at the end of the day we could do 'hot chocolate' and a closing reflection and ponder, explore, hope and learn what can/should be our response!!

I don't want to draw energetic leaders away from existing Easter Camps and yet see this as a logical next experiment for some who are naturally moving on from that space plus others who've never necessarily been to such a camp!!

It's an experiemnt in engaging with the context/culture and exploring faith in life, rather than withdrawing to do so!!
It's a Festival that draws acts like: Luka Bloom; Missy Higgins; Blues Traveller; John Butler Trio... the sting is that Festival tix cost $399 this year [stay tuned] but there may be a group discount and I may have access to some subsidy. I do have an eye on other chaeper events as an alaternative but this Festival is the biggest and despite it's title has embraced many more mainstream acts in recent times!!

"Breath" Tim Winton

In the past from my very first exposure to the writing of Tim Winton, I so wanted to be really into his stories! I heard snippets from 'That Eye the Sky' at our national youth event evening 'experiences' and also saw the play. I tried to read Cloudstreet, The Riders and Dirt Music but something stopped me from really getting into them.
Not so with "Breath." I picked up a paperback copy at the airport a few months ago in case I didn't have enough reading in the newspapers... and I couldn't stop reading it... from the gripping first chapter, through the lead characters discovery of surfing and into his life and struggles!
I am not a great and enthusaistic reader [at all] except if a biography grabs me, or the humour of Ben Elton or a 'cracking' sports yarn!
I've downloaded the audiobook of 'Cloudstreet' now to give it another shot. For an genuinely Aussie life story of a kid and man who struggles, loves the surf and begins life's journey in this story I recommend it as a Tim Winton beauty!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Soon to be a U2 Free Zone

My blog is soon to become a U2 free zone! Not because of their tax avoidance activities or summer villas in the south of France but because they are churning out material like never before, about a concert tour which has no plans, rumours or chance of coming anywhere near us anytime soon!
BUT before that it's worth mentioning that they want to keep up the reminders and pressure about the house arrest and unfair teatment of Aung Saan Suu Kyi...
After being democratically elected in 1990 the miltary didn't accept that result and refused to hand over power. Since that time she has been mostly under house arrest.

U2 are encouraging fans to print off and wear a mask to their shows and beyond plus listing websites across Europe where you can go to learn how to help in the protests and efforts to bring change to Burma!!

Friday, June 26, 2009


As soon as the games are finalised and the covers come back from the printer there will be a new collection of some old favourite games, icebreakers, GTKY questions etc mixed in with recently invented ones and put together in this collection to serve groups, events and camps in coming years.
It will probably sell for $19.95 tbc and builds on the excellent work of a number of keen writers and contributors.

Michael Jackson Dead

The worlds media has changed!

I usually tune in for a few news headlines and the weather on the local Nine network TODAY Show [not that wierd cult known as 'The Sunrise Family'] before sorting the kids breakfast and school run.

This morning was one of those amazing days when news came through of the reported cardiac arrest of 'King of Pop' Michael Jackson. That's a very sad and predictable event. BUT the amazing thing was the drive to be 'first' or most informed about the developments and the prominence of reports on TMZ.com website that Michael had died.

Hosts were reticent to 'call it' but knew that TMZ gets the story. If you check their website now you'll see live feed of the gathering crowd outside the LA hospital... the world really has shrunk.

The story pushed reports of the death of Farrah Fawcett to a sideline as Richard Wilkins surfed his Blackberry and Karl Stef tapped away at the indesk internet connection!

So try as they might to not go down the path, we now get our breaking international news from a gossip website! Check it out here

RIP Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Clips Various

Reflecting on peoples impression of 'church'

"Magnificent" U2

"Raise the Alarm" The Living End

"Fall At Your Feet" Jesse Attwood/James Blunt

"How Can We Be Church in Secular Society?" PART 2

"The world is changed, I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air"
Galadriel LOTR The Fellowship of the Ring, who expressed not just knowledge of history but feelings, permeating the times.

Likewise Chris, who asked this question, knows it's true, but also sees and experiences the change. Change from several confident decades to a more complex and confused time.
[Leaving many with nostalgia for the 'good old days' or the way things used to be]
But if they were so 'good' where are all those people now?

The ground has shifted, what is the HUGE gap?
The GAP between the culture of the CHURCH and the culture of the SOCIETY/WORLD!!

I can't say I know the answer, but I know 'some things' and am grumpy enough to assert some of them. Things I have copped FLAK about for years!! BUT let's explore those together in this space and the table activity!!

The reading from Matt 9: 17 reminded us, no-one puts new wine in old winskins, they BURST!

There is a HUGE hunger for SPIRITUALITY, just not church
There is a need to REFRAME the ANCIENT message [in post modern forms]
e.g. the reframing of 'Fall at Your Feet' ballet clip with an activity of 'Confession' is a reframing or juxtaposition to experiment with the experience of the prayer...

We're called to be servants, to make a difference through practicing our faith in day to day ways,
i.e. Luke 14: 34
" salt is good, but if it no longer tastes like salt, how can it be made tasty again...?"

In "8 Track Church in a CD World" Nash offers [3] purposes of the church:
1. Offering the truth of God's grace and love to it's culture/context
2. Enhancing the spirituality of its members
3. Cultivating caring community [living out a world lived according to the values of God]

Those changes referred to:
#Spirituality as evidenced at least by TV: Ghost Whisperer, Greys Anatomy, Medium, LOST etc
Movies: Da Vinci Code/Angels & Demons, Seven Pounds etc

#Absolute truth is dismissed/refuted
#The Christian faith is marginailsed
#There are changed and changing patterns of community [choices]
#Multi-faith context e.g. note the change to disaster commemorations, Steve Irwin's Funeral
#Church no longer dominates the cultural scene
#Technology, globalisation, pluralism, privatisation, individualism

People express this in different ways e.g. "Raise the Alarm" The Living End

Acknowledging thse need unpacking...

[a] We need to foster active faith development and increase spiritual vitality
[b] Move away from the battel between TRADITIONALS and PROGRESSIVES
[c] ASK
What kind of 'community' are people looking for in the 21st C?
What will people want, what does God expect?
[d] Change from the MODERNS appeal to REASON and SHIFT from the values of the inerrant
[e] Worship needs to deal with real stuff
[f] 60s/70s re-evaluation of the world led us to the confusion of STYLE over SUBSTANCE
[g] Decrease focus on denominationalism where people are finding meaning in 'movements' and
especially those engaged in social action/community development
[It's a time of polarisation between those who narrow in on the Bible and those who open up]
[h] People want a new REALITY and to ASK,

[i] 'THE GRAND NARRATIVE HAS BEEN FLATTENED' and we have competition
[j] Traditions/Programs are not the answer
[k] BEING a COMMUNITY of LOVE and GRACE means? move OUT of the ruins,

[l] The BIBLE ITSELF holds the answers, BUT by using it as a mirror, to ask who we are,
where do we locate ourselves, what STORY are we TELLING?
The challenge of MOVING to the MARGINS
[m] JESUS taught, hung out, shared hospitality, RECONCILING
clothe, feed, set free, LOVE ENEMIES [different clothes, words, values, culture, context]

Be people living out the values of God NOW!

[n] Rediscover the foolishness of the cross
GOD's story that cannot be EXPLAINED
[we can't explain the UNIVERSE]
GOD's STORY is the story out of which I LIVE MY LIFE!

[o] New definition of SPIRITUALITY [maybe the DANCE with GOD imagery works for you?]
It's a journey, not one point
Pre packed evangelism is dead [resuscitated by a vibrant faith community]
Some CHURCHES must and will DIE [making space]
[p] Live out PRACTICES of our faith in your journey
[q] Get OUT of the CHURCH
[r] Less propositional truth, more EXPERIENCE of God
e.g. my crazy idea of Easter at the 'Bluesfest' at Byron Bay with a bunch of young adults
Engage in the biblical story exploring HOW peoples lives are TRANSFORMED
[u] Practice joyful worship
[v] Live out Faith - RISKS
Learn from other Christian traditions
Learn from history
Celebrate Communion
Observe 'sabbath'
focus on 'spiritual direction'
[w] Risk things like the 'EMERGENT MANIFESTO'
opt to be vulnerable
being taken advantage of
absorb pain and suffering
receive the gift of inconvenience
ask CREATIVE ?s vs Clever ?s
[x] Practice communal ethics
Focus on experiences
Develop narrative/missional theology
Practice relational leadership
Be aware of non-linear 'formation'
Be 'Community'

Background References:
"An 8 Track Church in a CD World" Nash [1997]
"An Energent Manifesto" Paggitt & Jones et al [2008]
Various bits of Loren Mead's work
"Shaping a Future" NCLS Kaldor et al

"How Can We Be Church in Secular Society?"

My home congregation at 'The Dungeon' are looking at a series of peoples hard questions and I offered to help explore this one alongside the new 'future' people are dreaming of through effective use of a new hall space and redevelopment of the property.
As usual there was a lot to cover but that's mostly because with a short turn around I was still processing thoughts myself. We acknowledged the answers would not be found in one worship but the exploration could begin!
Here's what we did [that I would happily help develop further or tackle in another format together]!

Pre worship video loop 'Vunerable Flame' from Jonny Baker at Grace
1. Call to Worship
This is our worship,
This is not a concert,
Not a film, a lecture, or a party!

You are invited to give yourself time and space to hear God
Let's commit ourselves to be God's people
Here in this place and in all places

We join our story to the story of those who've gathered through history
At first, under threat, worried about a hostile society
They needed to get out from behind the four walls,
To share God, become one of us, in their community
To begin the subversive counter cultural movement following a rebel
who threatened the status quo.

Then becoming organised, with clear leadership, order, property.
Given place and authority, a rich tradition of programs,
Creating a space for shared values, propositional faith
and the transformation of the world with the promise of life in God.

Here we are, on the edges, un-noticed, there's ambivalence,
deep yearning, but some confusion, are we a sign of hope?
Bringing life and faith into dialogue, serving, active in our world.
God's Spirit guide us, disturb us, inspire us...
Church in secular society, creating spaces for grace and life...

2. Then a clip to "Magnificent" U2 to continue the 'Call'
I will post these clips asap...

3. Communal Song 'Dreams and Visions'

4. Confession 'Owning Up and Being Forgiven' Activity
Write, draw, scribble on a black card [with silver pen] and stick that to the black cloth
Watch and listen to 'Fall at Your Feet' modern ballet solo fro 'Kicks' Concert 2007

5. Reading/s [3 voices]
Romans 12: 1-8 Luke 14: 34 Matthew 9: 17
The nature of the early church community and using gifts
Salt losing its flavour
New wine, old wineskins

Next post will have the full notes
Included clip of "Raise the Alarm" The Living End
I talked for 10 mins too long at least [what's new]

7. ACTIVITIES to Explore
We spent time choosing:
a. 'Prayers for Others' writing on newsprint in between newspaper headlines from this week
b. 'How You Spend Time' writing notes about faith practices we'll work on, address envelope
Clock, cloth, notepads, pens and envelopes on table
I plan to post these back in a month
c. Clips on Screen 'Man in the Street vox pop' and 'Soularise EChurch vox pop'
7" DVD with looped clips, post it notes on cloth
Write post it notes about ideas for effective use of the new hall space
d. Photos on newsprint/Sketch pad /Mural
Pics of new space on paper, write or draw what you know about the needs and hopes of this
area and ways we might connect
e. Offering bag on a table with cloth and Leunig Prayer about 'Change'

We closed worship with an informal eucharist and final communal sending out song

I knew I wouldn't be leaving much time for discussion but I know people will come here looking for the input and clips plus they'll make their way to the Adamstown UCA website!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Does the debate over Islamic Schools point the Way?

Once again the discussion about Islamic Schools expansion in and around Sydney took place on the local radio this morning on my way into Sydney. There's a school at Hoxton Park on Sydney's exploding western fringe which is looking to expand it's campus. This follows up the Land and Environment Court refusal of a development at rural [also south western fringe] Camden on traffic and other grounds.

The discussion took the form of a question about the growing middle class of immigrants in Australia and whether this represents the same desire for their children as Anglican of Catholic families anywhere else in the city and using that comparison to shine a light on the fact local communities are raising traffic, development and congestion or historic value as a smokescreen for cultural and racial concerns [fears, hysteria].

It reminded me of several readings of David Bosch' "Transforming Mission" and the early work of Kennon Callahan and the difficulty of describing the current setting of our call and mission in our contexts and cultures. Bosch' descriptions of the various 'paradigms' [systems, ways of seeing and being, major descriptors of a period in history characterised by shifts and changes from the previous. Indeed much to many Christians disbelief I'm talking about major societal and historical shifts which have then driven demanded or caused a response on the part of communities of faith to live up to their call and sense of purpose.

Is the emerging paradigm going to infuture be clearly described as the globalisation or mutli-faith paradigm. Swamped by the waves of social change in the west since the late 60s and early 70s are we now awash from all sides with the fact that whhatever that meany we are now experiencing the crumbling of all foundations through the power and energy of cultural shift.

Here we sit describing even our Christian churches [with few exceptions] as generally being in decline while Tongan and Korean groups in particular are our fastest growing groups.

Those groups are still struggling in life and death ways with culture shock and the challenges of being 1.5, 2nd and 3rd generations.

Beyond that our suburbs, food & culture, demographic and 'values and ethics> cultural DNA' are being altered radically by the rich and varied cultures joining our indigenous and anglo mix with it's asian and european flavour.

Are we so far behind the changes that the second wave is over our heads. Do we by and large remain rusted on to the institutional models of the 1950s? Some reading tells me the challenge to our 50s+ generation is that in many cases they feel they've 'only just' been handed some power in their communities of faith [churches]. Their great gift and challenge is to flick it straight on and the bigger challenge I find is that my under 50s generation probably needs to do exactly the same.

Where am I heading... we must urgently address the shape of faith communities, the making of disciples, the resourcing and carrying out of mission to empower, give permission and make space for those under 30...

The challenge including the realities of the shifts so clear in our society:
institution to movement
commitment to compassion
this planet to the stars
solid marathon runner culture to excellent sprinter culture
top down maintenance to grassroots mission
controlling and directing to creativity and objectives
focus on the parts to focus on the whole

Hmmm, well good theory, what does that mean...
My head hurts now and I have to go... but it has implications for my own 'Dungeon' congregation on Sunday night reflecting on the missional challenge of a new property development BUT also for a paper I'd like to write as a scenario for the future shape of resourcing our ministry and missionas a Uniting Church in Australia here across NSW/ACT... more to follow!!

In short, these schools should be built where the planning and traffic are genuinely dealt with and then we can get on with the task of expressing our unique faith and life perspectives in a rich and dynamic society fuelled by faith communities seeking the explore and share the best of who we are... in God's Spirit seeking to answer the question of how we can live out our lives and faith in a way that transforms the world according to the values of God!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Australian News Gone Crazy

There's a rich vein of 'crazy' in the Oz news this last 2 weeks or so...
1. First there's the chk chk boom girl Clare Weberloff who is all over youtube with her false eyewitness account of a nightclub shooting incident in Sydney. She may just land a short term TV gig as a result with the perception she's a 'natural' for the camera!!

2. The PMs wife has shed 25kgs this year and window shots at the local gym confirm the personal trainers key role... who gives a .......! Is this all because she's an independently wealthy female spouse of a male political leader and we still can't quite pidgeonhole her and especially her fashion sense [puffy sleeves rule]

3. Chef Gordon Ramsay keeps saying 'isn't this Australia, come on...' in relation to every deeper hole he digs attempting to match our natural sense of wry humour with his ridiculous verbal banter... don't call our Tracy an 'ugly pig'!! But why are parents who took their kids to a 'live' cooking demo surprised when Gordon drops the 'f' word.... I refuse to call it the 'f' bomb sorry!!

4. Home & Away starlet Jodie Gordon is home alone after a wierd cocaine induced night out with a bikie gangster [who are all the rage in NSW at the moment]. Try explaining that to your millionaire business tycoon live in partner when he gets back from QLD? But why is it front page news ? Is Aung San Sui Kyi still in strife.... wouldn't know.....

5. Shayda Bastani is depicted in the DT as a 23 yr old fashion model girlfriend to known drug gangster and Lambourghini driving shooting victim Fadi Ibrahim and when responding she corrects the newspaper that she's 22....

6. The Govern General is overheard remarking that new Defence Personnel, Matreial and Science Minister Greg Combet has terrible handwriting... hope the SAS get paid when he signs the cheques this month then....

7. Federal Greens Senator Bob Brown is being chased by the logging industry for costs associated with a failed legal challenge... I was listening to him talk about how he might come up with $250,000 in three weeks to avoid losing his Senate seat when declared bankrupt. Alongside the $10 cheques in the mail I was thinking 'come on Dick Smith, ring up and kick in the whole ammount...'
Well, the newspapers say he is.... he's a great bloke and I suspect won't like the publicity but would accept it only to express total support for Brown who is a great advocate for the environment!!
8. Indian students are being routinely subjected to violence in Melbourne and its spreading with street protests overnight here in Sydney after two incidents at Harris Park. It's gained international coverage and is evidence of the hard work ahead for us as a nation in being truly multi-cultural!

9. But relax because Teri Hatcher is here to premiere a new film so all is good with the world as 'they're real, and they're spectacular!!

10. Australia has also qualified for the Football World Cup next year in South Africa [at this stage] by not conceding any goals so far... hence the poor crowd expected in Sydney v Bahrain this week.....

World Press Photo 2009

I missed this years expo of the World Press Photo Award winners at the NSW State Library in May but I believe it's currently in Brisbane and the winners are in a copyrighted gallery here

They are always stunning images in their reality, clarity and storytelling.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

'Vivid Festival' Sydney

Curator Brian Eno has overseen a walk of lights and the illumination of the iconic Sydney Opera House! The Festival runs until June 14th and now the rain has gone away the 'House' looks brilliant.
The lights include white and pink cubes outside Customs House, various effects on the Museum of Contemporary Art wall, a coloured space and the blue light rings around some trees which are powered by exercise bikes and passers-by!
Check it out here.
Check out the 'Lighting the Sails' webcam of the Opera House here.
I'm hoping to see the 77 million images free display in the Studio tomorrow at lunchtime!!
These things don't always cause me to think 'church property' but on this ocassion my thoughts are how it wouldn't be hard to make some of our least accessible buildings quite noticeable by asking how we might curate spaces in a way that makes them welcoming, creative and engaging?
From the simplicity of Trinity Wall Sts 'Neighbours' life sized photo display to projecting images on a prominent wall... what if for every Lent, Advent, Pentecost etc you simply lit the building with colour, images, looped audio... opened a hall with refreshments, a labyrinth, some contemplative stations and ways people could express questions, feelings, intercessions... throw in some fairwear topical t-shirts and fair trade products stall, Uniting World project audio-visuals and suddenly your a community space adding value to your local area with no agenda other than just that...
My folks congregation serves food each week to about 80 people in their 'Munch' program... they also have a small nativity scene with handouts and family decorated Christmas Trees in their inner city church. I have suggested a looped dramatic reading of the Chritmas narrative and maybe a 'stories' video with some of the 'Munch' regulars sharing their story and their Christmas reflections on video... I guess I'll have to go and video it to make it happen!!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Literal Videos

Anne W sent me this video on Facebook and I laughed a lot!!

Silverchair back in the Studio

The boys from Silverchair have been recording some basic tracks and working on potential songs with no timeline for a new record. Their 'secret' location might have been Ben's Studios on the Central Coast but they made a teaser video for their fan club to stir some interest. A more balanced joint collaboration would be good news for new sounds and a new record & tour!!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Writing Week: Games Book

This week [while wrestling with a sore throat that's limited my results] I set aside in my diary as a writing week!! I get lots of creative ideas along the way and with changes we've made to our focus this year there has been time to schedule for some work on those ideas!!
They include:
"Splash" discipleship Diary
A movie resource lectionary
HSC Survival Stuff
"Things I've Learnt in Ministry with Young People"
"A Giant Games and Community Building Book"

Many years ago Gary Topic edited a book from a variety of sources including a dozen or so I my own favourites.... add Egad Ideas, New Games for Community from Christine Gapes etc etc PLUS my own focus on group building, GTKY questions and you'll have a great companion for the evolving "Batteries Not Included" website...
I'm editing out dodgy 80's double meaning names, violence and ones that don't reflect a contemporary understanding of personal space and permission.
It did cause me to reminisce about an old favourite... 'Musical Hugs'!! Essentially it's musical chairs but you split the group by gender and if the boys are standing in a circle or oval shape then the girls stand opposite and circle around while the music plays. When the music stops... hug a boy! Boys are removed so there's always one or more less and vice versa when it's the girls turn!!
Yes yes I know! But some of my favourite memories of Camps and Communities come from playing this game in the right spirit!
Others are saying... what's wrong with that... well, we all get on well with others to a greater or lesser degree and when this game gets going you end up with no choice about who hugs you, how hard and what sort of fight ensues. People would opt out and be cajoled by peer pressure to join in... we know that after the hormonal Christianity of the 80s there are those with esteem issues who used to use this game to pump up their ego in unhealthy ways. Imagine 2 girls left where one is the hot object of desire on the part of half the boys in the group, the other is a quiet shy girl who for whatever undeserved reason is not as popular... its writ large in the body language, comments and reluctance as this round unfolds!!
We did go through an era of asking less keen participants to tap their shoulder as a sign they'd prefer just a touch on the shoulder rather than a hug... but it's still fraught with unintended consequences!!
At the same time, when this game was played with the best intentions in a spirit of fun it is quite hilarious and the groups used to chant for it at every opportunity... they were fun times! Right up there with bonnet sliding, tree stump exploding and cracker night!
Stay tuned for a publication date after more rounds of editing and writing weeks!!