Tuesday, December 29, 2009

To those growing older and soon to part

The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa NZ publishes a monthly magazine called Candour. While it's available online, it's only accessible by a username and password, and obviously I'm not at liberty to pass those onto people reading this blog.

However, I am at liberty to let you know about a particular piece that appeared in the Sept 09 edition. It was written by Rev Jim Battersby, a retired minister living in Auckland.

The piece takes the form of a letter, and is entitled, To those growing older and soon to part.
The letter addresses the issue of how to come to terms with the fact that eventually any couple will be forced to face the issue that one of them will die before the other. This is especially pertinent for those who have been together for many years, and may be in their seventies or eighties or older.

Jim lost his own wife when he was 72 and has been on his own for 11 years. He knows the pain of separation, and the how it feels to cope after the loved one has gone. Suddenly all sorts of household responsibilities fall entirely on one pair of shoulders. Things that were shared have be done by one person alone. Domestic duties effectively double.

But there are other things that aren't so obvious, things that Jim says should be looked at before one or other partner dies. These include where to find important documents (often one person looks after these); how bills are paid, where family records are kept, the addresses of people on one side of the family who may not be so familiar to the other side.

For the wife there may suddenly be issues of maintenance. (In my house this would be no problem as my wife is the one who does most of the maintenance!) For men who have seldom cooked meals, there is the issue of dealing with daily food requirements. There may be a disability one or other spouse has: how will they deal with that when they're alone?

Some people may find it hard to deal with arrangements for a future funeral, but it certainly eases the burden when the day comes if some things are already in place. And then there are those issues that have never properly been resolved. They may still not get entirely cleared, but talking about them before a person dies is better than having them still hanging over you once they've died.

In the space of a couple of pages, Jim covers all these issues and more. I've been given permission by him to email or post copies of his article to anyone interested. Send me an email if you'd like a copy: email mcrowl@gmail.com. 

PS. Or you can now find it on my other blog.

Simple approaches to wellbeing

In the October edition of In Touch, the newsletter put out by the Mental Health Foundation of NZ, five ways to improve your wellbeing were noted. Wellbeing and wellness are much of our focus here at National Mission, and so I'm passing on these five points (with a few of my own comments in brackets).

They begin by saying that wellbeing is a state of feeling good and functioning well. The five ways to wellbeing - all simple, straightforward approaches - are as follows:

1. Connect: develop your relationships with friends, family, colleagues and neighbours. These connections support you and enrich your life. [Tapu Misa wrote about this aspect of health in one of her recent columns.]

2. Give: do something for a friend or stranger and see yourself and your happiness as linked to the wider community. [Think of the 'Pay it Forward' approach]

3. Take notice: be aware of the world around you and see the beauty in [both] everyday and unusual things - reflecting on them helps you appreciate what matters to you. [Note the word reflecting: taking notice takes time.]

4. Learn: try something new or rediscover an old interest, or take on a new responsibility or challenge. Learning makes you more confident and can be fun.

5. Be active: physical activity helps you to feel good so find something that you enjoy and that suits your personality. [The biggest difficulty with this is that when you feel down, it's hard to get moving in physical activity, even something as simple as going for a walk. Having someone else to do the activity with you makes a huge difference. The same applies to point 4.]

Monday, December 28, 2009

Top Ten NZ Christian blogs (for October 2009)

The stats are a little behind, but for those who are interested in such things, here are the top ten NZ 'Christian' blogs as at October 2009. (The post I found this on was actually published only a couple of days ago.)

I've put 'Christian' in quotes only because some of these sites, while written by Christians, don't necessarily focus primarily on the subject of Christianity - and some of them such as Something should go here - maybe later, a blog I'd never heard of till today, are as in-your-face as they come, while still definably Christian.

The MandM site, which posted this information, comes out on top. The blog is written by a husband and wife team, and tends to focus more on the political than the spiritual. However, their foundation is Christian.

  1. [1.] MandM 14.5 (3 – 26)
  2. [2.] NZ Conservative 17 (5 – 29)
  3. [3.] MacDoctor Moments 17.5 (18 – 17)
  4. [4.] Something Should Go Here, Maybe Later (HalfDone) 19 (10 – 28)
  5. [5.] Say Hello to my Little Friend (Beretta Blog) 21.5 (8 – 35)
  6. [6.] Being Frank 34.5 (36 – 33)
  7. [7.] Liturgy Worship Spirituality* 37 (34 – 40)
  8. [8.] Brad Heap 44.5 (46 – 43)
  9. [N.] Manawatu Christian Apologetics Society 46 (43 – 49)
  10. [N.] The Briefing Room 51 (81 – 21)

While you have a few moments, check these blogs out. I've only ever come across the 1st and the 5th before, myself, so I'll be doing some investigating of the others over the next period.

Christian Disciplines

Phyllis Tickle (most recently, author of The Great Emergence) talks briefly about the need for the Christian disciplines in our lives, and the way in which those same disciplines transformed the early church, and also about being convinced that Jesus is God...

Monday, December 21, 2009

5 Barriers to Church Growth

Back in August this year we posted a piece relating to Charles Arn and his five principles of church growth. [Church growth principles remain.]

I've just come across another piece by Arn, which looks at the same issue from the opposite perspective. He calls it 5 Barriers to Church Growth. (Mr Arn actually cheats a little - there are nine points in all in his article, but we won't quibble too much.)

The five barriers are simply stated: the Pastor himself can be the first barrier, the Congregation can be the second, perceived irrelevance (on behalf of the community the church is situated in) the third, using the wrong methods the fourth, and finally having no plan for assimilation.

No new words there, you might say, but these are things that we need to keep reminding ourselves about. That church down the road that is growing: does the pastor have vision and communicate it? Does the congregation have a sense of being ministers to their local community (which will deal to the third issue)? Is that church using methods that we might consider trendy or faddy or out in the left field? Do they have a way of making sure new disciples grow?

If the answer to more than one of these is Yes, then perhaps they're doing something right. Worth checking out!

One Size Fits All?

Movie distribution being what it is, it's unlikely you'll have seen or heard of the Canadian documentary, One Size Fits All? It came out last year, and there's information about it on the Net (although not, as far as I could see, on the movie site, imdb.com, which is usually the oracle of oracles when it comes to movies).

The movie has its own website, which has a number of different segments, including this note on the homepage (they don't do capitals, apparently)

it’s official! we’re sold out of dvds.

after barely a year since its release, our little independent film has done and continues to do the job it was intended to do: inspire, encourage and stimulate conversation. the feedback i’ve received over the last year has been overwhelming and i’m humbled that an idea that hatched on an innocent walk in kingston blossomed into a catalyst for so many. thanks to everyone who’s played a part so far.

The DVDs they're referring to are the second lot, the first having sold out. So it may be difficult even to get a copy of this movie. However, if you can, you'll find that it looks at a wide range of Canadian non-traditional churches (and some trad ones, too, I think), and shows that while the Americans make a lot of noise about doing church differently, the Canadians just get on with it. (Sorry, couldn't resist that!)

The 'web shorts' section of their website has half a dozen videos relating to the movie; the first couple are from a television interview, but I think the others are all clips.

Wrong/Right about buildings

Earlier this month, Dan Kimball (he of the most extraordinary hairstyle) wrote a post on the Out of Ur blog saying that he was wrong about church buildings, that is, wrong to say that people who built them weren't missional and were basically building for their own sakes.

He seemed to make good sense.

However, this week along comes Ken Eastburn with a response - and a fairly impassioned one at that - in which he says Kimball was right before he changed his mind. In Eastburn's view, church buildings are a hindrance to mission, and he knocks down most of Kimball's arguments with equally valid ones. (Eastburn belongs to a community called The Well - their website is called, Leave the Building.)

Certainly church buildings have been synonymous with Church for centuries: they've been refuges, places for opponents to burn down, centres of towns, the sites of local cemetaries, places of worship and far more. And while not having a church building does have its advantages (it's a good deal cheaper to maintain for starters), it also brings its own set of problems. (I belong to a church community that hasn't had its own building for over a decade now, and knows just what a pain it is to have to set up in someone else's hall every Sunday.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Is the Church acting this way?

From Seth Godin's blog - a post called 'You don't have the power'

A friend is building a skating rink. Unfortunately, he started with uneven ground and the water keeps ending up on one side of the rink. Water's like that, and you need a lot of time and power and money if you want to change it. One person, working as hard as he can, has little chance of persuading water to change.

Consider this quote from a high-ranking book publisher who should know better, "We must do everything in our power to uphold the value of our content against the downward pressures exerted by the marketplace and the perception that 'digital' means 'cheap.' ..."


You don't have the power.

Read the rest of the post (at the link above) - maybe this is something worth considering in relation to the church. Does it have the 'power' to keep on doing the same things it always did, or to stop people from moving forward in a different way? The uneven skating rink is a great picture - like an updated version of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Keeping it Simple

Here are some significant marks of a faith-based, holistic program of communication and caring organisation, as expressed in Mark 6:7-13 (in The Message translation.)

He sent them off with these instructions:

‘Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this.
You are the equipment.
No special appeals for funds.
Keep it simple.’
And no luxury inns (6:7-10).

This is a brief extract from John Smith's Who Needs an Agenda from the Faith Page?

John Smith describes himself as a Keynote Speaker, Biker, Business Anthropologist, Author, Advocate. I'm not entirely sure what a business anthropologist is....

See also the quote from Barbara Brown Taylor on The Daily Writer.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mission in Walthamstow

Jonny Baker writes about an Australian Anglican priest, Tony Cant, who's working in the town of Walthamstow in England.

Jonny tells how Tony and his small church community have taken church out of the building and into a farmers' market, which Tony manages. This happens on a Sunday morning.
Not only that but the church community joins in and makes free cups of tea and coffee for those attending the market, spends time talking to the people around them, and passing out one of three postcards:

churched - welcome to st lukes on the high street your local anglican church

dechurched - disillusioned with church? you're not alone

unchurched - not interested in church? neither are we in the ways you are probably thinking about church

The congregation get together on a Wednesday night for worship and fellowship. Does the thought of shifting away from-always-in-church-on-a-Sunday-morning scare you?

Missions e-books

An increasing number of books are available as e-books, in various formats (to read online, to download as pdfs, as Kindles and so on). One of the Christian publishing houses - Authentic Books is now offering e-books on their site.

They write that their "passion is to equip the missional community with great content. With our ebooks, people anywhere in the world have the ability to select a book and be reading in seconds."

Digital formats are proving to be particularly useful in areas of the world where print titles are unwieldy or too expensive to order and ship. And in countries that restrict access to Christian materials, digital downloads can provide isolated believers with essential resources.

To celebrate the launch into e-publishing, Authentic is offering visitors to its website a free ebook and a monthly e-newsletter. Books come with a satisfaction guarantee and will be replaced free if customers are not happy with them.

The books on the site are a bit of a mixed bag: some mission biographies, several titles relating to new ways of doing mission overseas, some leadership books and a few others, like Cat and Dog Theology, or, If Nobody Loves You, Create the Demand, or Adrian Plass's Bacon Sandwiches and Salvation that seem to have strayed in from another publisher...

However, there are some very good titles amongst them, and since the list isn't that long at this point, it's worth checking them out. Prices are pretty reasonable, as you'd expect.

Making Old Age Worthwhile

The following piece, credited to an anonymous 83-year-old woman, is found in a number of places on the Net - but I thought I might as well make that number of places plus one. (I was alerted to it by the Rumors ezine - see below.)

I’m reading more and dusting less. I’m sitting in the yard and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I’m spending more time with my family and friends and less time working. Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savour, not to endure. I’m trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them.

I’m not “saving” anything. We use our good china and crystal for every special event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, or the first Amaryllis blossom.

I wear my good blazer to the market. My theory is if I look prosperous, I can shell out $49.49 for one tiny bag of groceries.

I’m not saving my good perfume for special parties, but wearing it for clerks in the hardware store and tellers at the bank.

“Someday” and “one of these days” are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it’s worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now.

I’m not sure what others would’ve done had they known they wouldn’t be here for the tomorrow that we all take for granted. I think they would have called family members and a few close friends. They might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles.

I like to think they would have gone out for a Chinese dinner or for whatever their favorite food is. It’s those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew my hours were limited. Angry because I hadn’t written certain letters that I intended to write “one of these days.” Angry and sorry that I didn’t tell my husband and parents often enough how much I truly love them. I’m trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives.

And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that it is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is a gift from God.

I don’t believe in miracles. I rely on them. Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance.

Ralph Milton's RUMORS is a free Internet ‘e-zine’ for Christians with a sense of humor. To Subscribe: send an e-mail to: rumors-subscribe@joinhands.com

Monday, December 07, 2009

Does being a Sinner still 'work'?

David Fitch discusses the issue of whether telling people they are sinners still 'works' in a postChristendom age...

Traditionally, the first move in evangelism is to convince the non-Christian that he or she is a sinner in need of God (or that he or she is deserving of God’s judgment and going to hell without Christ). “You must admit you are a sinner in need of God!” We evangelicals inherit this ‘starting point’ from our Reformed theology (which for many reasons starts with the depravity of humanity). This starting point was effective in Christendom where so many were determined by the ever-present Western guilt derived from the Roman Catholic ethos of the European medieval time period. This guilt however is waning in the new cultures of post Christendom. As a result, some of our evangelistic techniques must go to greater and greater lengths to prove to the non Christian that they are indeed sinner.

Time Management

How does [Jim Collins] manage his time? "I use a stopwatch," he says.

Does that mean that like any excessively busy, highly successful business researcher, author and consultant, he runs from meeting to meeting, tethered to his Blackberry calendar, measuring out his worklife in minutes and seconds? When I sat down with Jim at the annual CIPD conference and asked him, among other things, about his working style, I was surprised to find that rather than filling up his time, he intentionally empties it.

When he says he uses a stopwatch, he means that he tracks his time to make sure he gets the most from his waking hours. He divides his life into blocks — 50% creative time, 30% teaching time, and 20% other stuff ("random things that just need to get done").

Read the whole article here: Manage Your Time Like Jim Collins - Harvard Business Editors’ blog

A brief comment: we're afraid of 'creative time.' We're afraid that we're not doing enough 'for the Lord' and that He'll berate us for wasting time. I remember when I was (temporarily) in full-time care of a church that my biggest concern was that I was afraid to relax, in case someone caught me not 'working.' It's a dangerous approach to pastoring as well as business.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Changing face of Priesthood

On the Prodigal Kiwi site a few days ago there was a post in which Jemma Allen reflects on her first ten years as a priest, and looks at what's changed. The post starts with a list of points:

1. The changing face of priesthood (while she reflects on her journey, and it’s changes; the bigger picture is that the role of the priest has changed).
2. What distinguishes a priest when you take away the clerical clothing?
3. The importance of “time for you”; of time for the other.
4. The priority of listening, and of being with others (especially outside of a congregational contexts – Jemma is a University Chaplain).
5. What happens to priesthood when you take away what is regarded as a central function of priesthood – officiating at the Eucharistic table…? The role of priest as “gatherer” is often used to describe this function – they gather a congregation around the central act of worship. What happens to ones identity as "priest" when your context and activity is beyond the edges of a more traditional parish context? What function and role does priestly identity and gifting serve outside of the congregational context?
6. The importance of subverting cultural measures of effectiveness: “busyness” and “productivity”. The importance of offering an alternative way of being in the world.
7. The recognition (albeit, implicitly) that the cultural landscape has changed markedly. As Alan Roxburgh is fond of saying, we live in an “unthinkable world” and there is a need to see “with different eyes”. For me, this includes how we see the contemporary role of the priest, a role that is at once ancient and future, although in contemporary contexts too often the emphasis is on the “ancient” rather than on the “future” and the missional formation of priests.

The post continues with some further reflections on the priesthood - and the way in which, being a University Chaplain, her views of the priesthood have had to change. (Since these words were taken directly from Anna's own blog, I've given the link for that. You might just like to explore it a little fur)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Leadership is Leadership, in whatever sphere

In the latest NZ Institute of Management newsletter there's a short piece on some master classes held by visiting speaker, Paul Aitken (the author of Developing Change Leaders). Aitken calls the following ten points the 'dynamic capabilities' needed by change leaders.

1. Dealing with ambivalence – having the capacities to “wait and see”, keep an open mind and be comfortable with contradiction;
2. Accessing the diverse range of capabilities across the leadership team;
3. Creating a learning environment;
4. Future sense-making combined with strategic thinking which requires a strong external focus;
5. “Total” or authentic leadership – ie, an ability to continually walk the talk;
6. Trans-cultural competence – an awareness that one size doesn’t fit all;
7. Relational skills – the ability to coach;
8. Dialogue skills – or process consulting;
9. Emotional intelligence;
10. The ability to manage the high quality performance challenge, culture and dialogue.

Aitken says, If people can’t relate well or have quality conversations
with people, then they’re not going to be leading anyone. Church leaders, take note!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mental Health Library & NZ's great interloan service

For those interested in issues relating to mental health - a topic that we often post about on this site - you can now access the NZ Mental Health Foundation's library catalogue online.

The layout appears to be pretty simple and you don't have to be a library member to use the search part of the site. There's a login area for registered Mental Health Foundation library members, who can now access their membership details, check current loans and overdues, and reserve titles online.

I'm not sure from the info on the library site how you become a member if you're not already one, but no doubt a quick email to this address will let you know: nfo@mentalhealth.org.nz

An alternative method of accessing the books in the library is by getting them through your own local library's interloan system. At the cost of $5.00 a book (and usually an interloan period of a month) you have access to an enormous range of materials from around the country.

To check whether any book is available anywhere in the country, go to the New Zealand Libraries Catalogue. This amazing resource lets you know which libraries in the country have copies of the book you're looking for; from there it's just a simple step: contact your library and ask them to interloan. The book will usually be available within a few days.

Book photo by Dawn Endico

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kaiapoi Pa

In recent weeks one could be forgiven for thinking that Pakeha in New Zealand are either continually at odds with Maori (or vice versa) or that our history together has been one of contention and nothing else. It might also be thought that the history of the church vis-a-vis Maori had always been fraught.

News, like that about Hone Harawira, doesn't tend to help much. (See Wikipedia for a very up-to-date summary of his situation.)

However, today I came across a blog post written by Steve Taylor which draws out three stories that present a rather different picture of our mutual history. They each connect to the Kaiapoi Maori pa, which was put to seige and finally destroyed by Te Rauparaha; the other link in the stories is Christianity, and its power to change and bring forgiveness and peace.

Check this sermon out (and don't be too picky about the lack of proofreading!)

Monday, November 23, 2009


SimChurch: Being the Church in the Virtual World.

Douglas Estes tackles the brewing questions surrounding the legitimacy of an online church. Yet, while many church leaders are still trying to discern and discuss the "what is the church?" question that's been going for years, growing numbers of other church leaders are asking about online worship experiences and forming relationships and communities virtually.

For a detailed discussion of the book's online offshoots, check out the Digital @ Leadership Network site. There are more links on this one page than you could follow up in a month of Sundays.

The link on the book title at the top of this post leads to the Amazon page for the book, which is worth checking out not only because of the useful overview of the book itself, but because of the list of questions that Estes asks (and answers) within it. The writer of the review, coincidentally is Chad Estes, who's apparently no relation of the author. The questions he lists are, in their way, more useful than the host of links on the Digital Leadership site, because they are left open for you to think about, and maybe answer.

More on the workplace chaplain

Last week we made note of an article on Cyril Gowler, who is a workplace chaplain in Canada. The second part of his interview with Brian Proffit is now available, and Gowler has some interesting things to say about:
  • how he approaches the job,
  • how he incorporates his faith,
  • what additional training he's done,
  • how another company might bring a chaplain into their workforce.
Gowler is a paid employee of the place he's chaplain to, which he admits is unusual. However, his comment on this is:

There’s often an argument in the world of chaplaincy that it’s better to have a chaplain contracted through an agency because they don’t answer to the boss. They’re rented out, so to speak. But I think it’s better to be an employee because you better understand some of the problems and develop closer relationships with the employees. I know that a lot of firms in the U.S. are set up so you can hire a contracted chaplain from an outside firm. My own opinion is that it works better when the chaplain is an employee of the company.

I also liked what he had to say about the starting point for a relationship with another employee (or a member of an employee's family):

When a person comes to me, I first look for what their felt need is. If it’s an immediate need for assistance with an immigration issue, a marital issue or a challenge in parenting, I can speak to that need directly. As I gain the trust of that individual a relationship between us develops, and somewhere down the road I’ll have earned the right to share my faith with them. It works really well. Whenever you’re able to help someone with a need—the whole Matthew 25 thing—they immediately become aware of your level of sincerity.

Building Community

After nearly a decade of work, Mike Riddell's book, The Insatiable Moon, is finally being filmed in Ponsonby.
It's been a long journey which Mike has written about in various places, including the earlier parts of the blog relating to the film's coming to birth.
Being a person myself who is often involved in stage productions, whether musical or theatrical, and knowing how communities are formed during the rehearsal and performance times, it was interesting to read the following in the post dated November 19th.

At the core of the process is the willingness for all involved to trust each other's abilities. It's a great exercise in temporary community building. Author Scott Peck wrote about communities that they require the relinquishment of the temptation to control others. Ironically, in the highly structured chain of command of filmmaking, this is as true as anywhere else.

Every person brings something special and unique to the process, without which the entire enterprise would fail. The secret is a deep trusting and respect of those around us as we work in highly pressured situations. It allows the love to flow, and the wonder to be captured.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Caribbean parallels

Somewhere along the way, says general secretary of the United Church in the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) Rev Dr Colin Cowan, the church has lost its deep-rooted connection with its people. The church had stopped being relevant amid the hardships that communities faced. It had stopped offering real answers to real problems. In short, it had stopped listening.

This is an opening paragraph from an article on the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, where the Church experience in many ways parallels the (Presbyterian/United) Church in New Zealand. After a five to six year appraisal time, the church has come to various conclusions, including:

1. Instead of putting programmes together centrally and passing them onto congregations, the church is now getting the synod to “mirror what we hear God saying about what these communities really need.” Congregations can then interpret this within their own locality. The emphasis is on the synod as facilitator, not dictator.

2. A rigorous new training and appraisal regime has been rolled out as an integral part of the programme, aiming to bring ministers up-to-date with congregational needs and how to respond to them.

"We felt that the lack of growth with the church was directly related to these deep-rooted feelings across Jamaica and the Cayman Islands,” Dr Cowan says. “Responding to people’s needs became critical and an urgent call on the church. We realised that the church couldn’t give up – that hope remained the most critical instrument available to us. We had to ask ourselves: how do we use hope?

"It became clear that it was critical to empower the local congregations, to understand what was happening in people’s lives in the here and now,” Dr Cowan says. “The time had come to put the individual at the centre of our ministry and then get our congregations supporting the individual.”

“If we had left things the way they were I think we would have become more and more nominal as a church, existing without energy, power and dynamism. Members would continue to drop off and we would start to disintegrate, losing our cutting edge and our engagement with our communities."

Does it all sound familiar - and are we prepared to do the same sort of rethinking?

Photo of the Elmslie Memorial United Church, George Town, Grand Cayman Island, by J Stephen Conn a semi-retired clergyman.

Preaching Golf

Do you think this is how some congregations hear what they're preachers are saying?

Note that this guy leaves the best till last.

Thanks to Bosco Peters on the liturgy site for bringing this to our attention.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Imagination and Culture

Kevin Vanhoozer, editor of Everyday Theology: how to read cultural texts and interpret trends (Baker Academic, 2007) and professor of theology at Wheaton College Graduate School in Illinois talks in an (abridged) interview on Leadership Journal.net about the need for preachers to preach with the culture in mind, exegeting it as well as exegeting the Scripture texts. Some preachers do this as a matter of course; some get more tied up in 'topics' than in text, but there is a need to get a good balance.

One of the more important things Vanhoozer says is this:

Imagination is the ability to grasp things together in a meaningful pattern. Imagination is at work when a scientist develops a hypothesis that enables her to see how something causes something else. We all do that. We all look at the world with a framework of belief and interpretation, and that happens on the level of the imagination. The question is, are we doing it with biblical categories or are we just following cultural templates?

Preachers should not only be trying to take every thought captive to God's Word, but also every imagination. The imagination is the core out of which we live. The problem with culture is how it captures our imaginations through indirect communication. We can spot direct anti-Christian communication; that's easy. It's the indirect propaganda that's harder to spot.

(My emphasis in the above quotation.) The full version of th interview and Preaching Today's review of Kevin Vanhoozer's book, Everyday Theology, is available at www.preachingtoday.com
(However, you have to subscribe to this to read it.)

Church in the workplace

In another article on rev.org, Brian Proffit talks to Cyril Gowler, who is employed full-time as the corporate chaplain of all the plants and branches of All Weather Windows, and the way in which Gowler sees this company as both a 'mission field' and a 'church.'

Chaplains, of course, have been missionaries within the workplace culture for decades. Workplaces are still one of the few places where the word 'chaplain' isn't denigrated (although here in NZ, some of those who were called chaplains now go under slightly different names - workplace chaplaincy has become workplace support, for instance).

All Weather Windows has over 1,000 employees representing 46 different countries, so Gowler is working with people from different religious backgrounds as well as with those who have no spiritual upbringing. "We have Sikhs, Buddhists, and a number of Hindus. (The population of our plant is probably 20% to 25% Vietnamese, so a lot of the eastern faiths are represented, especially Buddhism.)"

While there is no 'proselytizing' allowed, Gowler has plenty of room to speak to people about faith issues when they arise. He uses his own Christian background as a base to discuss these issues, whether the people he's talking to are Christian or not.

Changing Face of Church?

In a short(ish) piece, Todd Rhoades and Dave Travis outline what they think is the changing face of today's church.

Some of their suggestions may be temporary - multi-site churches, for instance, seem to be a fairly controversial approach in some quarters, and may not outlast the idea that church is local. (See David Fitch, for example, on the topic.)

The widespread adoption of social media - not necessarily in church, as in using tweets to tell the preacher what you're thinking - but in the culture at large.

Internet campuses, online giving, the use of iPhones, more multi-racial churches....and the list goes on. I'm sure there are other trends we should be keeping an eye on - Rhoades and Travis don't make any mention of the Saga Generation, though of course they talk about young people (who apparently are 'flooding' non-institutional churches).

What's your take on the changes?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Grab 'em while they're young?

Barna Research begins its comments on recent research into the correlation between regular attendance at church as a child/teenager and ongoing attendance and faith as an adult by saying:

What is the connection between childhood faith and adult religious commitment? Parents and religious leaders are naturally interested in knowing if spiritual investment in young lives pays off in the long run.

A 'pay-off' may not be how you view your 'spiritual investment' in children, nevertheless, there's no doubt that bringing children to church as a norm when they're young, and aiming to keep them involved through their teenage years does make a difference in their adult view of faith. They may change their views, they may slide away from regular church attendance, but the spiritual input from the early years is seldom lost entirely.

Check out more detail on Barna's research on the Long-Term Effect of Spiritual Activity among Children and Teens here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Catholics ask the same questions...

When I worked at OC Books, one of the New Zealand authors we stocked was Neil Darragh, so it was good to come across him again in a different context, this time as the speaker at the Pompallier Lecture for 2009. Neil is a Catholic priest, so his focus is on the Catholic Church in New Zealand. Nevertheless, there's a great deal to be learned from his lecture, whatever denomination you may be in.

The title of his lecture is: Where to from here? A present and future church, and in it Neil asks firstly, What is the church for, and secondly, How should we arrange ourselves so as to achieve this?

He follows these questions by expanding on them: The ordering of these two parts in important. It is based on the principle that missiology comes before ecclesiology. We need to know first what the church is for. On that basis we can work out what kind of church we need to be in order to get there. This principle is particularly important for people in the church whose involvement includes leadership or planning. Leaders run the risk of devising plans for a well-resourced and well-oiled church that isn’t actually doing anything except looking after itself. The dog is chasing its tail.

If this sounds at all familiar...it ought!

Let religion come...

"In a secular time the majority of people no longer come to religion and do not participate in religions' rituals, so religion has to go out to the people. The locus of engagement is no primarily the sacred building, where most people are not gathering, but the wider secular community in which a great deal of human activity and restlessness is taking place. In a sense, the whole world becomes the new temple, because anywhere in the world can be made potentially holy by the advent of homecoming, that is, by the recognition of presence, of something sacred at work in it. Wherever and whenever the sacred is recognised, God is glorified.

David Tacey: What is religion for? Drawing out the Sacred in Secular Times

in Reimagining God and Mission, edited by Ross Langmead, pg 47

“…rather than coming to people with fixed answers and dogmatic solutions, which serves to alienate [searchers & wayfarers] further from what they dislike and fail to understand about religion, let religion, instead, come to them with a listening heart, with an attitude of receptivity and attentiveness. This is slow and tedious work, to be sure, but it is the way that yields results that have lasting power. True power comes from within, and any ‘show of power’ from without will have an alienating effect. I’m not sure what this means at an institutional level for religion,
but I think that what I have in mind is something akin to spiritual direction and counseling...”

Ibid, page 56

My thanks to the Prodigal Kiwi site for alerting me to this essay, which is well worth reading in full.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Churchless Faith - do churches help?

In a recent post in the Prodigal Kiwi blog, Paul Fromont writes the following (taken from an email conversation with a couple of friends) about 'churchless faith':

Crises often function to highlight our unfreedom and lack of wholeness. Thus they also highlight our need for deep liberation and healing. And in this sense I think that Richard Rohr and David Tacey are right in highlighting the place and importance of crisis (which includes disillusionment etc). I also think that churches are incapable of helping in any deeply meaningful way. In this sense church will invariably, and I’m going to say, needfully fail us for this is a journey that we must own and take responsibility for. Sadly too, the church, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, often acts to prevent people from encountering and experiencing God (and so research by someone like Paul Hawker can suggest that people in church seldom, if ever, experience God). Church all too often gets in the way, both intentionally and unintentionally – church and belonging, in particular ways, doing particular things, fitting particular expectations etc become more important - become central to church belonging.

Often too, the local church often seems incapable of opening up the kind of space needed for people to explore the deep questions, aspirations and longing of their lives, while continuing the belong.

[He comments on the above] People therefore invariably find that these deep questions etc take them beyond the edge of church belonging... and as Alan Jamieson’s most recent research indicates (published in 2006 as Five Years On in NZ), very very few ever return to a local church context, even though they may continue to belong in a much broader and more marginal sense than a lot of church goers are comfortable with.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Clergy Self-Care?

I do not think clergy need more lectures about self-care.

It seems that at every ordination or installation service I attend there is a charge given about clergy self care. One minister stands up and tells another minister that they know they are about to work themselves to death, so resist the temptation. “Take your day off…set boundaries…don’t try to be all things to all people.” All this is done in front of an audience of lay people who are supposed to be impressed that we clergy would need such a lecture. It has become a cliché, and seems to have trumped prophecy, theology and the love of Jesus.

Lillian Daniel begins a short post on clergy self-care in the above fashion. Is she right about what she's saying: do clergy make more noise about self-care than they do about actually achieving anything in this area? Are clergy worse off than the average working person? Do you think her answers to the question are the right ones? Read the post and let me know.

STAANZ Conference Starts Next Week

We mentioned the STAANZ Conference some while back when it was still in its planning stages. It's now ready to roll and takes place next week on the 19th and 20th (November).

There will be a small charge of between $10 and $15 to cover the cost of the hall (not quite sure why that's still ambiguous) and the venue is the Ponsonby Baptist Church at 43 Jervois Rd in Auckland. There is also morning prayer at All Saints in Ponsonby - this is just around the corner at 284 Ponsonby Rd, and starts at 8 am.

The Conference starts each day at 9.00 am, and will go till around 5.30 in the afternoon. On the Thursday night there will be dinner at various local restaurants.

Here's a list of the participants and their topics:
Day 1 -
“Holy Spirit in the theology of Walter Kasper” – Hugh Bowron
“Backgrounding Walter Kasper’s Early Thought”—John Dunn
“Wandering between two worlds: 19th Century Reflections on Hope and Hell” - Carolyn Kelly
“Completing Barth? Helmut Thielicke in the Spirit” – Martin Sutherland
“The Spirit and Longing” --Judith Brown
"Conscious Awareness of the Spirit in Symeon the New Theologian" –Jim McInnes
“Searching for Embers” –Susan Adams & John Salmon

Day 2 -
“Abortion, Harm and Eschatology” –Matt Flannagan
“Infant Salvation: Is God’s Mercy Enough?” - Myk Habets
“Participatory Glory : The Eschatological Direction of Karl Barth's Theology of the Cross”—Rosalene Bradbury
“Time’s Redemption, a pneumatologically orientated Christology”– Bryden Black
“Filioque, Personhood and Ecclesiology” –Scott Kirkland

It looks as though a couple more speakers are yet to be announced, or maybe some time has been left for questions.

If you'd like any more specific detail, please contact me on missionadmin@maxnet.co.nz

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pastors and Artists

While meeting with my supervisor a week or so ago, we discussed the difficulties artists have in being themselves in churches, in becoming part of the worshipping fabric, or of any fabric at all where they can express themselves as artists. She said churches can be toxic for artists.

Yesterday I came across a link to a post by Mark Pierson on the same sort of subject. He'd been invited to a church to talk on his experience of the interaction between art and worship 'in a church such as ours.'

Controversially, perhaps, Mark entitles his post: Are Pastors Killing Artists? - it's not very long, so read it through, especially if you're a pastor (or an artist). You may feel it's rather cynical; regrettably it isn't.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Twittering Theology?

I know that Twitter - indeed, social media in general - isn't everyone's cup of tea, and many people are not persuaded of its value in terms of preaching Christ. So it's interesting to read Scot McKnight on the topic and find that he can see value in it for Christian leaders, and for Christians in general.

Social media like Facebook and Twitter has received an abundance of critique, not the least of which is that social media users are self-absorbed. But I wonder if we might turn answers on Twitter to the question “What are you doing?” or on Facebook’s status update into an opportunity for self-examination. It might even be an opportunity for Twitter and Facebook users to examine not just what they are doing but how it aligns with our mission.

For a typical anti-viewpoint on Twitter, check out this blog post from Alan Rudnick, in a blog called On the Bema in Ballston. (Don't ask me, I have no idea why it's called that.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

ChurchMorph: How Megatrends Are Reshaping Christian Communities

Eddie Gibbs was born and grew up in the UK where he served in the Anglican Church as well as working for many years with the Bible Society in the areas of church growth and church development.   In the video on Alan Roxburgh's page, Eddie talks about the way God is working, changing the institutional church and re-shaping it.

Elsewhere he notes that it is among the 'dowdy' Anglicans and Methodists in the UK that the Spirit is at work re-shaping communities in mission for the kingdom.  Eddie writes in churchmorph how some of the gurus who’ve been telling us all the institutional, organized church is over will probably be writing books about the rediscovery of the church among the denominations.

In churchmorph, he goes beyond an analysis of causes to show how many churches and faith communities are actually breaking the downward trend.  He expertly maps current converging church movements - emerging and missional churches, mainline renewal groups, megachurches, urban mission, new monasticism, alternative worship, and expanding networks - and offers a positive assessment of the reshaping of today's church. The core of the book identifies trends and movements that provide signs of the kingdom and reveals how different faith communities are working out what it means to be "church" in a changing world.

Coping after a tsunami

Many people in Samoa, Tonga and American Samoa, as well as in New Zealand, have experienced acute stress following the tsunami - this is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Most people will manage, and when social needs are met, distress will subside over time. However, there are some
people that will have more profound reactions, particularly later on sometime after the event, and will require assistance.

Dr Monique Niumata-Faleafa and Dr Francis Agnew have produced a pdf Fact Sheet on the sort of things people may experience after living through the crisis of a tsunami, and offer a variety of helps for those in need.

They look at normal reactions, positive ways of coping, and when it is necessary to ask for help.   There is also an extensive list of places to contact for additional help. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Mike Yaconelli

From Mike Yaconelli
See what the battle in the church is today?  It is not abortion.   It is not pornography.  It is not homsexuality.   It is reality.   It is honesty.   We are afraid to be ourselves, to let ourselves be known, to come out of hiding.   What the world is longing to see in the church is not moral purity as much as moral reality.   The world wants to see a church that is made up of people who are not afraid of their blemishes, because their blemishes only point to the unblemished character of Jesus.   What we don't understand is that when people look at the church and see only imposters, they conclude that Jesus is an imposter.  But when they see followers of Jesus who are real, they see a Jesus who is real.   The church does not need to fabricate holiness, it needs to seek holiness.  Holiness is not where we arrive, but where we are going.  The power of the church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws.   The church is not made up of the whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.   The church points to Christ, not to ourselves. 

Quoted by Sam Harvey on page 279 (chapter 20) of NewVision New Zealand vol III (2008); no source given. 

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Archives Blog

This notice from the Knox College Archives Research Centre will be of interest to readers of this blog:

We are now officially on the web. A Blog
called Presbyterian Research has begun that includes both the Archives Research Centre and the Presbyterian Research Network. So far we have placed a Susan Jones Lecture on-line and over the next week or so other lectures will join hers. You will also enjoy posts from the Archives that will keep you in touch with research possibilities, up-coming events, news that may interest, and the general happenings around the Archives and the Theological site.

Please make the most of the Blog, bookmark it, and do respond; we will love to hear from you. Please tell others who will be interested by passing the address around, linking it to your parish websites, your personal face book page, twitter and any other social network. This way we can reach a wider audience. Our next effort will be an official Facebook page.

I've included a link to this blog in the links in the column on the right for your reference. Looking forward to the Facebook page!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What return?

A great organization is one that delivers superior performance and makes a distinctive impact over a long period of time. For a business, financial returns are a perfectly legitimate measure of performance.

For a social sector organization, however, performance must be assessed relative to mission, not financial returns. In the social sectors, the critical question is not 'How much money do we make per dollar of invested capital?' but 'How effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact, relative to our resources?'

From page 5 of Good to Great and the Social Sectors: a monograph to accompany Good to Great, by Jim Collins.

Take it easy - or go mad

I came across this wonderful paragraph in an article on something else altogether yesterday.

Idleness is not just a psychological necessity, requisite to the construction of a complete human being; it constitutes as well a kind of political space, a space as necessary to the workings of an actual democracy as, say, a free press. How does it do this? By allowing us time to figure out who we are, and what we believe; by allowing us time to consider what is unjust, and what we might do about it. By giving the inner life (in whose precincts we are most ourselves) its due. Which is precisely what makes idle¬ness dangerous. All manner of things can grow out of that fallow soil. Not for nothing did our mothers grow suspicious when we had "too much time on our hands." They knew we might be up to something. And not for nothing did we whisper to each other, when we were up to something, "Quick, look busy."

It comes from an essay by Mark Slouka entitled Quitting the Paint Factory. The reason for the title only becomes clear if you read right towards the end of the piece.

It's quite long - prints out at ten pages in Times New Roman - and his point is clear enough from early in the piece, but he hammers it home with example after example, and the whole thing is worth reading; it's worth sitting back, putting your feet up on your cluttered desk (push some of those piles of paper onto the floor, even into file 13) and chewing over what he has to say. Because it isn't just relevant to the world of work, it's relevant to the Church as a whole. The Church has taken up busy-ness as a virtue, and it just ain't.

Mission - and Health

In today's 'Star' - one of the local Dunedin freebie newspapers - there's a front page article about Dr John Arnold and his plans to open a Health Centre in the main street before Christmas.

So what, you say? Well, the difference with this health centre is that services will be free to any and all patients. John is concerned that there are a lot of people slipping under the radar in terms of health care, and he's hoping that by providing free care, more people will be able to have access to health advice and services.

And why am I particularly interested? Well, John and I have been getting together nearly every week for several years, since I first met him and took him through a discipleship course after he became a Christian. When the course was complete we decided that it would be good to keep getting together, and so we have.

The result is that I've been witness to John's long journey to get this free health clinic idea off the ground. And it's been quite some journey, particularly this year when John took a deep breath, began to work only part time at his usual practice, and spent many hours a week looking for premises and getting people involved and finding additional funding and everything else that was needed. The premises have been in hand for a couple of months, but of course there have been the usual delays from those in the world of bureaucracy.

We often hear of people going to third world countries to do medical mission. Here with the Servants Health Centre is an example of how you can do it in your own country.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Prayer for the Earth

Brian McLaren and Tim Costello of World Vision Australia have been working together to compose a prayer that could be used by individuals and groups leading up to the Copenhagen gathering on climate change Dec. 6.

The prayer begins:
Most gracious God, creator of all good things, we thank you for planet Earth and all creatures that share it.

Have mercy on us, Lord. Through ignorance and carelessness we have poisoned clean air and pure water. For monetary gain we have reduced verdant forests to barren wastes. In our craving for more we have plundered your beloved creation and driven many of our fellow creatures to extinction. Only recently have we begun to realize the dangerous future into which our current patterns of consumption and waste are driving us, especially in relation to Earth’s climate. Only recently have we begun to see our need to find a wiser and better way of life in the future, before it is too late and our choices are limited by the consequences of inaction.

There are also alternate versions of the prayer for different occasions.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Putting the Christian back in YMCA

For many years the 'Christian' part of the YMCA acronym has been pretty much invisible. Go into most YMCAs in NZ - or YWCAs - and you'll be hard pressed to find much reference to things Christian. And it's been the same overseas.

However, slowly but surely, Christians are discovering that the YMCAs scattered around the globe can be mission fields in their own particular way. It may not be so easy in the YMCA system in New Zealand, where things seem somewhat different to the set-up in the States, but an article in the latest Leadership Journal online discusses how a vision to bring church to a particular Y has begun to grow into a vision to bring church to all 14,000 of them around the world.

What started as a temporary solution for a church that was without a home has turned into something altogether different. Again, the principle of going out where the people are instead of expecting them to come to you has born fruit.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

And round we go

One of the great joys of the Internet is the way in which you are not only enabled to hop from mind to mind, but are encouraged to by the sheer curiosity of finding out more about who this new person is that you've suddenly stumbled across.

Thus, heading from an entry by Bruce Hamill on Facebook, I find myself on Bruce's blog, which I don't remember coming across before. (It's called 'boo to a goose' in the best obscurely theological tradition.)

From there, an entry on his blog led me to Michael someone-or-other's blog, Beyond the Secular Canopy, where he had posted a new version of the Serenity Prayer:
Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, grant me:
the serenity to know that all will be reconciled in Jesus Christ,
the courage to participate in the change you are bringing,
and the wisdom to remember that ‘be realistic’ is not one of your commandments.
Another skip and a hop and we find ourselves at Inhabitatio Dei (these blog names - crikey!) where the prayer was re-posted, along with a further parody by Kim Fabricius, who wrote:

To lower the tone, do you know “The Senility Prayer”?

Ancient of Days,
grant me the senility to forget the people I’ve never liked,
the serendipity to run into the people I do,
and the eyesight to tell the difference.

Kim, of course, and to complete the circle, had turned up in a post on this blog just at the end of September.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

We'd hate to call you reactionary, but...

In a recent post, Seth Godin lists twelve things that are typical of almost all news programmes on television - and aren't they familiar. (Which is why I don't watch much television news.)

Regrettably, almost all of the same twelve points can be typical of any group that's stuck in a certain mindset....some church organisations, for example, where emotional reaction is more important than careful thought.

I was going to list those of the twelve that most obviously relate to this, but on further reading of the list saw that pretty much all of them relate...!
  1. Focus on the urgent instead of the important.
  2. Vivid emotions and the visuals that go with them as a selector for what's important.
  3. Emphasis on noise over thoughtful analysis.
  4. Unwillingness to reverse course and change one's mind.
  5. Xenophobic and jingoistic reactions (fear of outsiders).
  6. Defense of the status quo encouraged by an audience self-selected to be uniform.
  7. Things become important merely because others have decided they are important.
  8. Top down messaging encourages an echo chamber (agree with this edict or change the channel).
  9. Ill-informed about history and this particular issue.
  10. Confusing opinion with the truth.
  11. Revising facts to fit a point of view.
  12. Unwillingness to review past mistakes in light of history and use those to do better next time.
And lest you think that I'm never guilty of any of these: I confess that I've hit every point on the list at some time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Not knowing who you are

Recently, on the Prodigal Kiwi blog there was an intriguing post quoting Chris Erdman, a Presbyterian minister. It comes from his book, Returning to the Centre (you can download the first chapter) and relates to a conversation he had with Sister Benedicta Ward. I would guess she's his spiritual advisor, from the conversation that takes place.

In the quote, he begins the conversation by saying: “...I can’t see non-judgment and leadership walking hand in hand in the real world.”

“You lead people,” she said, “I understand that, and that is required of you as a shepherd, but is
leader who you are? What did the hermit tell Joseph? ‘Ask yourself at all times, “Who are you?” So I ask you, Christopheros, who are you?”...Her question hung in the air.

Humiliated, I said at last: “I don’t think I know.”

Sister Benedicta goes on to say that we think not knowing who we are is a 'bad thing.' However, her point is that only God can know who we truly are, and it's only in prayer that we come to know this too.

The 'conversation' isn't long, but it's worth chewing over, particularly for leaders who think they have to have everything sussed before they can lead.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Church-going Habit

Two advantages of going to church (or going back to church, as the case may be) from Mark Vernon, in his comments on Back to Church Sunday, in a recent Guardian article.

A first is a community. Paradoxically, community is vital if you want to work on yourself. It is only with others that you can properly take the risk of not just reading about ideas but making them your own. That's why visiting art galleries, or listening to music, isn't really enough. It's too passive. Instead, as any educationalist will tell you, an active stance is required. Hence, a rich learning experience doesn't just involve studying, but writing your own work and reading it out to others too, in preparedness for their critique. It's rather like the risk an artist takes, or a writer of blogs for that matter.

It's also why educational establishments are highly ritualised, shaped by ceremonies and etiquette. The first universities in the west, like those at Oxford and Cambridge, took that from the medieval madrassas. They were places designed to leverage the business of studying together in order that it might shape lives. An engaged community is a crucial asset.

A second advantage that the church-going habit can exemplify is the very desire to be changed at all. Of course, many who go to church do so for the opposite reason: they fear the "changes and chances of this fleeting world" as the old prayer has it, and see the church as a kind of conservative refuge. However, I went to Greenbelt for the first time this year, the liberal Christian festival, having been invited to talk about agnosticism. What struck me was how open folk there were to ideas: they put themselves on the line when they engaged with what was said. They weren't defensive, but rather desired to see whether they might be changed in the process. This must be one of the positive aspects of a thinking evangelical faith: such evangelicals believe in the power of words, because they believe in God's word; and they believe the power of words is transformational, because they believe God's word changes everything.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Three good reasons....

H B London writes in his latest email newsletter:

Only about one-half of those who claim [in surveys] to attend weekly church services actually do. You know how I estimate who goes to church? I just walk out into a neighborhood and take a look at the houses on a given block. Most are not in church.

Fewer and fewer people are attending church these days. How do we stem that tide?

1) I think each local church must take responsibility for its own "turf," so to speak, and develop creative ways to stimulate its people to become genuine salt and light.

2) Next, I believe the church must be built on a foundation of biblical truth rather than spiritual entertainment.

3) And, finally, I really believe we must be working hard to close the "back door." We need to know why people do not or no longer attend just as much as we need to know why they do attend.

And the people who do attend church all said, Amen! All three of these points are vital to keep in mind when it comes to mission/outreach/evangelism/going out into the community - whatever you want to call it. Local, biblical and discipled.

Neighbours (nah, not the soap)

Saturday 17 October 2009 is Auckland’s first Neighbours Day but similar days are already happening in other places around the world. In Australia it took a tragedy to get people turning their streets into neighbourhoods. In Europe, Neighbours Day started with the residents of one just area of Paris - ten years later and it has spread to 29 countries.

There are some great stories of what it was like to grow up in Auckland as a child on the NZ site from a bunch of well-known Aucklanders (they call them 'celebrities' but I don't think NZ really does 'celebrities;' we all know each other too well).

Just in case you don't know what a neighbour is (I mean, the bloke in the New Testament had to ask, didn't he?) here's what's on the Aussie site. Plainly they needed a dictionary definition to help....

Neighbour = neighbor n. 1.
someone who lives near another.

2. a person or thing that is near another.

3. a fellow being subject to the obligations of humanity.

courtesy Macquarie Dictionary

Okay, you go into your house through the door on the right; your neighbour (see above) goes in and out that door that's obscured by the tree.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

An excellent article has just appeared on the Maxim Institute website called, Healing interpersonal wounds: a case for forgiveness. It's written by Myron and Genista Friesen.

In this article they discuss the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, and how the two don't necessarily go hand in hand: we can forgive without being reconciled, and in some cases can be reconciled without forgiveness arising. They look at different situations where forgiveness has been offered when it seemed the most unlikely thing to do (such as when the Amish community at Nickel Mines, PA, had several of its children murdered by a gunman) and the way in which forgiveness is increasingly being explored within the research community. (Closer to home there have been instances of Pacific Island communities forgiving those who've murdered one of their own, and of course the Sycamore Tree project in prisons is a prime example of forgiveness and reconciliation at work.)

Myron Friesen is currently a research fellow with the department of psychology at the University of Canterbury. His Masters and PhD research focused on forgiveness in individuals and couples. His wife, Genista, is an Occupational Therapist and aspiring children's author. They have been married for 18 years, have two sons, and currently reside in Christchurch.

Children and their Elders

Kids Friendly Churches is a vision that has been up and running for up to five years now in New Zealand. It aims to make Presbyterian and Co-operative churches more aware of the children in their midst and ways in which they can be incorporated into the overall life of the church. Here's a recent story about Calvin Community Church in Gore which has just been accredited as 'Kids Friendly.'

The story comes from CWM (Christian World Mission) news - CWM has been involved in funding the Kids Friendly movement.

Youth leaders from Calvin Community Church in Gore recently helped children organise and invite church elders to an evening meal where they could sit down and and get to know each other over a roast dinner.
Each church elder was assigned one or two children to greet and take care of them throughout the duration of the meal.
The idea of the event was to get children sharing a bit about themselves with the elder they were taking care of, and to help pave the way for better communication between younger and older members of the church in the wake of their new Kids Friendly status.
Youth worker at Calvin Community Church, Sandra Gow [pictured at right] said the evening was a great success for both the children and the church elders.
“During dinner the children shared a bit about themselves using photos and props. They then asked the elders about their leadership using a number of questions like: What is an elder? Why are you an elder? What do you find hardest about being a Christian?
“We ended our time of serving with one of our favourite action memory verses from Matthew 22.37 'Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' The evening was a moving and memorable time for all.”