Thursday, February 24, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake

Thoughts and prayers are with all those effected by the devastating earthquake in Christchurch NZ this week... it's not a time for lots of words and yet it's a reminder that we as humanity are kidding ourselves to think we are 'in charge'... and... yet also sees us at our best responding by helping, listening and praying!!
I'm mindful of colleagues/friends and their sense of 'loss of place' being here in Oz when this is all happening!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Radiohead 'The King of Limbs'

My [what's the right word?] 'deep thinking'/sanguine/reflective... friends will be excitedly clearing their schedule and putting on the brand new music from 'Radiohead'!!
Here's a taster for the new album!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Lent Event" 2011

"Lent Event" is a brilliant and inspired story of one person's idea being supported and encouraged by a faith community's key leaders as God's activity in [and desire for] the world finding a way to be exercised. The idea is to breathe life into the faith practice of 'giving up...' for Lent and by living simply in some way, give the money saved to change lives somewhere in the world where that's needed... in fact through a few chosen projects!!
Lent is that period from Ash Wednesday through to Easter Sunday [40 days not counting Sundays] and encourages a time of reflection and preparation.
I particularly like the part of the story where the Uniting Church expression of partnerships with churches across the world known as 'Uniting World' quickly sees the inspired nature of this and joins the project of one person after hundreds of churches and thousands of individuals have signed up.
The other aspect of Lent Event are the resources for worship or personal reflection which resource your time... get onboard by checking it out here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Contextual Tools for Ministry and Mission

There's a lot of focus these days [wisely] on 'contextual tools for ministry' and only certain writing, workshops and focus available. I think much of this comes from it's intuitive nature, context being local and diverse by definition, the need for experiments and a rapidly changing context. After some time 'banging on' about the need to take the context seriously, no wonder those convinced are looking for access to the 'how to' or at least measuring their own hunches... This post is about my 'thinking out loud' about general tools and some things specific to my context and will of course later be contradicted, retracted and corrected by smart people... so it's provisional, but...

1. Reading
I/you cannot avoid the need at some point to read stuff by people who have wisdom to offer in this whole area. Even skimming ideas you test out in your context is a start but like being exposed to missional thinking and then finally reading David Bosch who inspired so many to explore, it's good to go to the seminal source and hear where those echoes came from.
'The Shaping of Things to Come' Frost/Hirsch is not a bad place to start because there's stuff there: to agree and disagree with; original stories; and stuff poached from people who know what they're on about. It's just one example.

2. Listening, listening, listening [what Steve Taylor calls] 'in your local...'
For me that includes: the newsagent; pub; school playground with other waiting parents; in the media; and on radio. Where is the intersection between your faith communities desire to be servants and the hurts and hopes of the community around you?
I heard a news item last night about an urging that community organisations consider 'healthy breakfast programs' in every school in NSW... what an invitation to church's to offer this ministry to their local schools as a visible symbol of their hospitality and desire to helpfully serve and care!!

3. Reading newspapers and magazines
There are endless stories, spin and community issues canvassed in the newspapers etc... things you'll worry about, disagree with or take onboard for exploring further. I store up an tremendous ammount of trivia, gossip, and factoids alongside news stories but later when I'm reading someone's take on our context/culture/s I can test whether I've seen evidence of what they say in the media or in my listening/observing. About 2-3 years ago I recall [3] newspaper stories within one week which prompted an email to a community of faith nearby:
- One was a story about local residents taking matters into their own hands and organising crews to do weekend graffiti clean up and making a point that this included a range of senior citizens. I sent an email wondering if the local Uniting Church could see itself organising sandwiches for lunches to offer the participants... just a thought...
- The second was about a local girl organising an 18th birthday party where the Function Centre cancelled the booking at the 11th hour. Another local congregation had purchased a former function centre building and I wondered if they might be able to offer a venue.
- Thirdly, a Hunter Valley man was ready to move on/donate his expansive Elvis memorabilia collection then housed at the local Leagues Club. Aware of the Parkes 'Elvis' Festival I wondered if the locals might like to do what they could to broker a move to Parkes alongside the growing collection of Greg Page [the original Yellow Wiggle]... you'd augment the gospel jazz worship and develop a healthy reputation 'on the community grapevine' [Kennon Callahan]
None of these progressed but that's not the point... 'it's not rocket science!'

4. Reading [again] blogs, research
In ministry with young people the Aussie Christian Research Association did great work on Gen Y and even the split team who wrote seperate books provides a good contrast to explore.
I reckon one blog leads to another, so start with 'Rethinking Youth Ministry'

5. TV 'behind the news'
Programs like the Aussie Network TEN '7pm Project' and many others [e.g. Triple J 'Hack' orABC 'The Drum' ] take a longer and 'behind the story' view of many issues, trends and events. Always compare and contrast media stories, test research and 'listen' to check whether stuff is 'on the money' or just banging on e.g. Father Bob and Ruby Rose spend a day at Melbourne's BIG DAY OUT here

6. ARIA Music Charts or equivalent
Finally too old to wade through many of the current music shows on TV the actual charts are helpful in sourcing music which addresses issues, perspectives and questions that are out there.
They are often addressing issues simply not canvassed elsewhere and help open them up with groups in worship, Bible Study and group work generally... here's a recent example... adding to a Bible Study but making room for punters to 'make meaning' themselves.

We made plans to kiss the sun at night
Hopeless dreamers, hopeless types
Shedding skin you show your beauty scars
Don't forget me or who you are
You know this don't feel right Who knows what we feel?
I just met you I can read your thoughts
What they tell me is what I want
I'll keep you guessing keep you wanting more
'Cos where we're going no one knows
You know this don't feel right
Who knows this could feel right
I just met you, I swear I read your thoughts
So don't forget me or what you want
Light up the stage, make your move, give me something
So I can dance in your light and to your rhythm
Soon it unfolds who we are in this masquerade of stars
Tear off the mask, the face you hide is what I'm missing
We made plans to kiss the sun at night
Hopeless dreamers, hopeless types
One was turning, one was standing still
I won't forget what was promised here
You know this don't feel right Who knows what we feel?
Birds of Tokyo EMI 2010

7. Non judgemental questions for reflection or that shape your time, space and listening. Colleagues like
Duncan McLeod point to a specific form of questioning and reflection called
'Appreciative Inquiry'
This is a way of thinking, seeing and acting for change in a community or organisation. It's kind of about seeking the positive life giving potential which exists and working out how to have 'more'. It's not a problem based approach but is about observation and unconditional questions seeking to grow possibilities, recognising we are changed by our conversations. So in this case it's about being in conversation with your context/community/world.
I live in an area of mixed social circumstances where at least one of the three nearby shopping complexes [small suburban basics] appears to attract a poorer crowd. I often sit and listen, observe and wonder. I see anti-social behaviour, a gambling tavern onsite open all day and people young and old, unwell or struggling. I am challenged to remember that they too are created, loved and cherished by God. We seem different in some ways and very similar in others and I try really hard to Christ in all the faces and to represent that in honest communication and relationships. My reflections and questioning need that tone to engage me in genuine connection with my world. It seems to me appreciative inquiry is a methodology and standpoint for helpful engagement. More on what questions might help, later...

8. Ask, 'where is God active here and inviting me/us to join that activity?'... then where do we connect, find energy for, seem to fit... in that activity... being the people of God in this place at this time... One example could be by becoming familiar with the local 'community calendar' of festivals, fetes, celebrations and commemorations. These are opportunities to volunteer, contribute a stall, serve, bring a unique flavour, design worship, engage in debate etc...

9. What about 'worship'?
Key ideas:
- access the creative arts and media and local images/stories/issues/themes
- build participation in the planning and leading of worship as authentic expression
- try to ask but but not always specify the answers to questions
- question your assumptions, language and hoped for outcomes
- ...
Grab a copy of 'The Art of Curating Worship' by Mark Pierson and see how much that challenges or affirms your approach...
do something different
worship challenge and focus on participation

10. Build a culture of 'experiments'
Avoid the 'we tried that 15 years ago and it didn't work' culture and step out of some generational or attitudinal stereotypes by understanding that some things ventured may not work out or be the long term way forward. Utilise these as learning steps, not stumbling blocks. It's all trial and error or trial and effect!!

11. 'Intuition, science, theology'
What do you reckon? Out of all you've read, feel, see and hear... what makes sense by whatever methodology predominates for you...
The critical thing is 'evaluation'.... how did that work out, do I need to explore, listen, question my theory or my understanding...?

12. Gather Stories
How do your stories:
a. define identity
b. create community
c. resonate
d. determine reality

They are tools of transformation just like the old stories they used to tell 'in the Shire' as stories of HOPE [Sam in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings"]

13. Avoid the goal of 'Excellence'
This is a tricky topic because people use the term 'excellence' in subtly different ways. I'm saying avoid the false goal of wanting everything you do to be 'impressive' in performance terms as it may come at the expense of 'having a go', up and comers or more authentic expressions of who you are as a community. On the other hand there's nothing wrong with wanting to do things well, rehearsal, mentoring, evaluation and seeking to avoid cringe worthy moments when with a little guidance or experience, people could do better.
It's about asking and being reminded of what your priorities are... how you shape a culture of power sharing, exploring and trial and error. Making space for the contribution of others is one empowering style of leadership... but forget about the old BHP Steelworks model of 'throwing people in at the deep end' in favour of resourcing, supporting and mentoring people to grow their skills. More on this in future... but it's also the case that people learn through struggle, pain, and challenges or through opportunity... an 'excellence' culture can squash honesty or create the impression that we don't share those experiences here...

14. Affinity, Social Justice Action, Rights of Passage and 'Communion'
Borrowing from a few sources I bring together:
- Rather than 'groups' or programs lending themselves to membership, think about activities, causes, reasons to gather, with which people in your community share an affinity or connection
- Particularly younger generations seem at the moment to find great motivation for social justice action experiences and the relationship between values and acting them out
- Some 'rights of passage' have become blurred or have disappeared in contemporary society and we could help design liturgy, movement, activities and gathering around modern forms
-Authenticty, authenticity.... or a community in which people experience a sense of the transcendent are attractive to many

15. Cross and Multicultural sensibilities
Different cultural groups generally complicate all of the above by ensuring the need for more than one emphasis and different skills of observing and interpreting values and what's at play. This doesn't just mean 'other than' Anglo but the whole mix. It does mean factoring in another layer around the spectrums of theology, cultural practices etc etc.. what voices are missing? what's the picture when you compare a community profile with that of your existing congregation? How do multi-faith dynamics play out?
Who is your 'mission field' and who is Christ in that time and place?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Art Express 2011

Art Express 2011 exhibits a selection of 'the best' 2010 HSC [final year at high school] student art across NSW and it's currently at the Art Gallery of NSW until April 10th!! Check the website for regional places and dates... a newspaper article I read about it focused on the curator's opinion that this years collection showed a more positive hopeful kind of outlook or perspective than recent years... I'm going to have a look as soon as I can get there...

Ben Elton [on life support] from Planet Earth

"Oh dear!!" Those were my first words when I tuned in last Tuesday excitedly hoping that the brilliant comedy of Ben Elton would find a place at self proclaimed Channel Nine 'the home of comedy.' Elton writes and does stand up brilliantly but what I saw on Tuesday night was akin to the worst bits of the 'Comedy Company' or a Camp Concert. I got the idea, just not the jokes!!
The skits were introduced and then referred to after like an RSL skit comedy gig from the 1980s and I thought it might bomb!! The 'Top Gear' lead in with 900,000+ viewers started well, dropping to 600,000 in 15 mins for a low of just under 300,000 at the end [luckily this is spoken of in averages] but NCIS basically picked up a lost audience very quickly!
I then tuned in the next night to Adam Hills at Gordon St, a foray into chat show by Hills while Spicks n Specks takes a rest.... a bit old school, low budget, tame... but it seemed brilliant by comparison. Highlights included simple ideas like being prepared for audience interaction by pre reading their online Q&A answers so Adam could extract a funny story or in this case send Pete Rowsthorn to Perth with a 'digger' to retrieve $15 buried rather than handed in to a fundraiser way too late when the audience member was in High School. It wasn't earth shattering but it was made to look great by comparison with the previous night. I enjoyed the idea that 'guests bring a gift' and that audience surprise could be a strength in coming episodes!!
My worst fears were confirmed by reading in the Sunday papers that Ben Elton basically has one more week before either being shifted to GEM or heading home to Perth to lick his wounds and write another blisteringly funny novel!!
BEN, more of your stand up, observational stuff, maybe bookend some videos to make your point, choose one skit and a band each week and put it on an hour later and you've got me [and maybe 500,000 others]If not I'll give it another go on Tuesday before it disappears into the archives next to Mick Molloy's tapes!! Adam Hills Show is plugging the 'Spicks' timeslot but should also be at 10:30pm!! imho...

Rugby Union 2011 Here We Go Again

While I've increasingly stuck more to core topics here at Pumphouse it's still my main blog [besides Church Noticeboreds] and so occasionally sport, life and stories break in...

This is a huge year in rugby union:
- World Cup in NZ [where I am going to the Final!!!!!!!]
- New Super 15 comp with more local derby's
- Thinking about getting back into helping with coaching at my club 'Wanderers Newcastle'

And so we again read the foolhardy hopefulness of 'The Waratahs' [NSW Rugby] as they identify being 'outmuscled' by the South Africans in last years Finals and embarked on a pre season bulk up of their forwards [good grief] and then celebrate the return of the tackle busting, ball carrying Wycliff Palu...
First we've seen the stupidity of the muscle debate with Stephen Hoiles under national coach John Conolly and Kurtley Beale under the various Waratahs coaches in previous years. Please note the recent rule changes suited the formerly speedy and creative Hoiles who slimmed down again and was a revelation for the ACT 'Brumbies'. Kurtley Beale lay off the McD's and has been a World XV class player. Hopefully the new improved Ben Mowen isn't just stucck to the ground and needing to be replaced by a taller player to begin with.
As for Palu, he is all the things people claim, but he's also lazy and goes missing. Totai Kefu from QLD had similar talents but rarely shirked his defensive or decoy duties. I left Palu out of my last pick of the World Cup Wallaby XV so I'll be the first to acknowledge he had a heart transplant along with his knee surgery if he proves me wrong.
This is one of those rare occasions where I'd refer to a previous post here re Hoiles/Beale and hope the selectors/coaches don't go backwards in this World Cup year... as I said in June 2010, these 'Wallabies' CAN win the World Cup [perhaps prizing it from Kiwi hands in a boilover Final] but will only if everything goes right!!
Why such a Beale fan... some of it is six degrees of separation or getting word early that he could 'be' one of our greats and then watching him through Schoolboys, as a developing player and now seeing the early 'fruits' of that... A mate from Wanderers came back from Sydney's GPS rugby [wanting to support one of his junior centres who's gone off to school] raving about this other Year 10 kid [Kurtley] playing 5/8th and that he'd be a 'Wallaby' one day... seeing he and Quade Cooper in the crowd of an ACT Brumbies trial in Canberra when they were at the AIS for a development squad in Year 12.... he's the closest to the famous Ella brothers that I've seen and caps it off by moving last year not just to fullback but from Northern Suburbs to Randwick and keeping them in a Grand Final run against the likes of Sydney Uni right up to the GF!!
Anyhow.... back to ministry, mission, pop culture and media.... for now!!

Here's what all the fuss is about:

Friday, February 04, 2011

Top 5s A tentative beginning to 2011

Although I have a few days holidays left I am beginning to think about 2011 and beyond and enjoy blogging and gearing up for things. I also wrenched my left knee last week so I am doing plenty of lounge surfing and TV catch ups... so this is a good diversion... In 2011 I plan to include a sporadic post of Top 5s to encapsulate resource ideas, thoughts, leadership or some other musing around ministry with young people, culture & context, mission or whatever comes along... kicking off today as I was reminded of an article in our Youth Unit 'MESH' magazine about 'Resources which can change the world' e.g. a pair of rolled up socks for instance.... the article talks about games they can facilitate

TOP 5 Worship Ideas
1. Worship should reflect the missional context, culture and presence of the participants so a Top 5 list will always need to be tested by those parameters rather than just being a list you steal
2. Engaging responses through: grafitti wall; post it notes; taking symbolic cards; dropping a pinch of sparkler powder in a bowl of lit metho soaked clay based kitty litter [be very careful as metho causes severe burns and requires risk assessment and planning alongside competent supervision and practices]; choosing a red or blue jelly bean; taking an orange card and blue card for 2 different responses to remember; creative writing; photo reflections; artwork etc etc
3. Newspaper Prayers with clippings or full copies asking individuals, pairs or groups:
- what's the story?
- what's the story behind the story or what questions does it ask?
- therefore what should we pray for/about?
- how might we act locally to make a difference globally in light of these issues?
4. Brown paper lunch bags, a handful of sand and tealight candles. Making sure they are clear of the bag, these make great instant outdoor lanterns or worship space ambience creators. They can light a path or mark a journey as well.
5. Playback Theatre has been on my wishlist for worship and Bible Study with groups for years. Recently we made time for it twice at our national youth event by selecting a troupe of punters as 'players' who at session end were given 2 minutes to design a skit which demonstrated what they had learnt or experienced in that time.... worked really well and created an immediacy and participation

Perhaps I'll include a resource/book/website idea outside the 5
'The Art of Curating Worship: Reshaping the role of the worship leader' Mark Pierson is a must read I will blog about seperately another day soon... read about it here at this great new website