Thursday, July 30, 2009
John la Grou has recently posted an interesting piece on his blog, Microclesia, in which he discusses the pros and cons of lecture-style preaching compared to virtual preaching via anyone of a number of different methods. One of his commentators points out that perhaps la Grou's approach of listening to great preachers on MP3 is just as 'consumerist' as expecting people to sit quietly and listen to a preacher in a church with a stage.
How do faith-based organizations respond to virtuality? The hardest part may be convincing the community that there’s a good reason to sit and stare at a stage, listening to a religious lecture. The virtually-connected church now has on-line access to the finest teaching imaginable, accessible at their convenience, 7 x 24 x 365. Of what value is physically proximate information (e.g., stage-centric pastor) when the average person can now access the best sermons, preaching, teaching, and cross-referenced commentary on-line?
The rest of the post is here.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Every spiritual master in every tradition talks about the significance of small things in a complex world. Small actions in social life, small efforts in the spiritual life, small moments in the personal life. All of them become great in the long run, the mystics say, but all of them look like little or nothing in themselves. Joan Chittister (sorry, no other source given)
You can read a much more extended extract from the Joan Chittister book In the Heart of the Temple on one of my older blogs, The Daily Writer.
In her writing, Chittister is sometimes a bit dense, but give her time to make sense to you, and she will(!)
Monday, July 27, 2009
World Wide Scripture Engagement Consultation
Just some of the topics being looked at are:
- Unlocking the Bible in a non-book culture
- Contextualising Scripture in cultures condemned as irredeemable
- Building bridges between HIV and AIDS and the Bible
- Using poetic storytelling and music in helping people encounter Scripture
- Engaging visually with Scripture
- Creating safe and sacred spaces for young people
- Building interpersonal biblical conversations among lay people
- Helping pastors overcome the “Big Man” syndrome through participatory learning
- How NOT to impose prejudice and cultural assumptions on engagement
- “Open source” on-line engagement resources
- The challenge of Scripture Engagement among believers in secret
- Scripture Engagement in Churches
- Scripture Engagement among Marginalized Peoples
- Scripture Engagement among Children and Youth
- Scripture Engagement in Post-Christian Societies
For details about all other aspects of the conference, click here.
- They simply want a break from church (27%);
- They felt church members are judgmental and/or hypocritical (26%);
- They moved to college and didn't find another church (25%);
- They have work responsibilities that keep them from attending (23%);
- They moved too far from church (22%);
- They just got too busy, even though they'd still like to attend (22%);
- They didn't feel connected to the church in the first place (20%);
- They disagreed with the church's political/social stance (18%);
- They decided to spend more time with friends (17%);
- They were just going to church to please their parents (17%).
We've talked a lot - and with enthusiasm - about facebook, twitter, and so on. These things are of value when there are real connections. Yes, it's great to have lots of facebook friends, and lots of followers on twitter - but in both cases there has to be a connection that makes the friendship and the following real. And that does happen: not with everyone, but certainly with some.
Of course, they're at a business conference. And of course they're talking to business people. But isn't it refreshing to hear them saying what they're saying - with such fire!
Sunday, July 26, 2009
What he proposes to do is video brief interviews with people who have engaged with McLaren's presentation, as they answer follow-up questions to McLaren's claims about the American Episcopalian Church. He's looking for both 'I dream of a church where...' statements as well as practical 'next steps' comments. The aim is to offer a sense of vision to new leaders in the Episcopalian Church.
McLaren states that this is 'The Episcopal Moment' - a moment of opportunity and possibility, precisely because of the challenges. He then lists four advantages that denomination has, and four disadvantages, and ends with five elements that are required for movement forward:
1. a 'bring them in' spirit
2. a 'let's experiment' spirit
3. a 'we're beginning again' spirit
4. a 'transcend and include' spirit
5. the Holy Spirit!
Each of these elements is explained in more detail on Brackett's blog. Whether your church is Episcopalian or something else, what is said here is well-worth thinking about: do we want to bring them in? Are we prepared to experiment? Have we a sense of renewal? Are we prepared to overcome things that hold us back, and accept people who aren't what we think they should be? Have we 'room' for the Holy Spirit? (Not such a silly question!)
According to the latest UMR survey, the happiest men in the country are in the Nelson/Marlborough region, and the happiest women come from the Bay of Plenty. Wellingtonians, however, are the least happy people in the country.
Interestingly, people on less than $20,000 a year are slightly happier than those earning between $70,000 and $100,00. People earning over $100,000 are the happiest of the lot. People in the middle income brackets ($30-70,000), however, are the least happy. (Which probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise: they'll be the ones trying to bring up a family, pay off a mortgage and so on.)
Wellington.Scoop reports: The key things that make people happy are their relationships with their family and friends and their job. For women, the relationship with their family and children is a far more significant factor in their happiness than it is for men. However, for men their relationship with their spouse or partner, control over their life or destiny, recreation time and hobbies are more important than they are for women.
UMR finds that people are less happy than they were when the previous survey was done in 2007/8, and that overall, females are happier than males. People in mid-life are less happy than the young or old (which is hardly a revelation - who has all the responsibility?!), and ethnically, Maori and Europeans were the happiest groups, with Asians the least happy. (However, with a large number of people classifying themselves as 'other,' ethnically, this area of the survey is somewhat skewed.)
Another not-surprising point: widow(ers) and married people were happier than single and divorced, though there might be a certain irony in the fact that widowers were little happier than widows, and married women were a little happier than married men. Curiously women in de facto relationships were happier than men in the same boat. Which seems almost at odds with how people in these relationships are generally viewed.
People living without children are happier than those living with children. At first this seems a point that doesn't bode well for our future, until you realise that it's the lack of dependent children that makes people happier.
And just to prove that we're a quirky lot: Labour voters are happier than National voters. Go figure.
Where would we fit in, as a Church, on the happiness scale?
Photo by Jill Greenseth from 'Four Happy People'
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Gerard Kelly is the founder of the Bless Network with his wife Chrissie. They live in the Netherlands, where Gerald is Senior Pastor of Crossroads Amsterdam, a church of 40 nationalities. Gerard also writes poetry (see Spoken Worship) more recently he has shared some of his verses through twitter under the name twitturgies.
Kelly coined the name Twitturgies, asking "Why not use Twitter as a means of prayer, all the time accepting the constraints of communication in less than 140 characters? In essence I simply took the Twitter question “What are you doing?” and translated it as “What are you praying?” taking the prayers I was praying in any case and crafting them into personal liturgies."
240 Twitter prayers later, he's found that not only do hundreds of other people appreciate the prayers, but that being disciplined into 140 characters makes his prayers very focused.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s top Catholic Cardinal Sean Bray has urged his flock to use Twitter as a means of prayer. In a speech in honour of the late Father Patrick Peyton, the Priest famous for coining the phrase “the family that prays together stays together,” Cardinal Bray insists that a new movement of prayer can arise using new technology and social networks.
Photo is of Gerald and his wife, Chrissie. Courtesy of the Godspace blog
More than 700 million TXT messages are sent through Vodafone's network each month. Many of these are between young people - and some texts bully the recipients.
Alison Sykora, Head of Company Communications and Corporate Responsibility, says Vodafone has always worked to be proactive about ensuring young people are kept safe. Now they're providing a free TXT service to help anyone affected by bullying.By TXTing the word 'bully' to 4001 Vodafone will be in touch to get info and investigate.
IF necessary there are a number of things Vodafone can do to help, such as warning the bully, stopping TXTing from their account, temporarily barring their account or even permanently deactivating their account.Up till now people could TXT 777 for help. However, Sykora says, "Many young people are more comfortable sending a TXT than making a call and we're hoping this will encourage them to make contact"
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
CODEC is a research initiative based at St John's College in Durham - a new institution in a hundred year old College exploring the interfaces between the Bible, the digital environment and contemporary culture. CODEC is set within the World Heritage Site of Durham's medieval Cathedral and Castle, an integral part of St John's College, Durham University. We have close links to the Department of Theology and Religion at the University.
CODEC aims to
- explore the interrelationship between Christianity and the media, spirituality and the internet
- understand the development in human relationships and self-perception within a digital media world
- research and develop teaching tools appropriate for a digital media world
- assess and resource the Christian community's appreciation of the digital environment
- increase the Church's ability to communicate effectively in the digital environment
- Convincing church leaders that responding to the digital revolution is much more than simply setting up a website or a facebook page, but thinking through how it will affect the very practice of the church or agency
- There is a need for more academic writing/thinking around virtual ministry.. in particular solid theological thinking in relation to such topics as sacraments within the virtual setting, the non-physical nature of online identity, the nature of online community, and jurisdiction (to name a few)
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
A few extracts from it:
A new report by the US Census Bureau called An Aging World: 2008, shows that within 10 years older people will outnumber children for the first time. It forecasts that over the next 30 years the number of over-65s is expected to almost double, from 506 million in 2008 to 1.3 billion – a leap from 7% of the world's population to 14%. Already, the number of people in the world 65 and over is increasing at an average of 870,000 each month.
This is its ninth report drawing together data from around the globe since the Census Bureau first focused on the trend in 1987.
Its latest projections warn governments and international bodies the tipping point will present widespread challenges at every level of human organisation, starting with the structure of the family, which will be transformed as people live longer. That will in turn bring new burdens on carers and social services providers, while patterns of work and retirement will similarly have huge implications for health services and pensions systems.
One way of measurement is the older dependency ratio, or ODR, which acts as an indicator of the balance between working-age people and the older population that must be supported by them. The ODR is the number of people aged 65 and over for every 100 people aged 20 to 64. It varies widely, from just six in Kenya and seven in Bangladesh, to 33 in Italy and also Japan. The UK has an ODR of 26, and the US has 21.
Life expectancy after retirement has already reached 21 years for French men and 26 years for French women.
Church: get ready for the elderly!
Monday, July 20, 2009
In just a short period of time the net has grown to around 35 billion pages with some 1.6 billion people using it.
There are around 55 trillion links between all the web pages in the world.
Every day there are some 100 billion mouse clicks made.
Every second, 2 million emails are sent.
Every two seconds in terms of data size, the equivalent of the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, is moving across the web.
The internet is massive and growing at an extraordinary rate. It’s predicted that this year more information will be created on the Web than in all previous years combined.
And this phenomenal growth it isn’t simply limited to western nations, with Africa as an example, experiencing more than 1,000% growth in net users in the past 8 years. There is also a big push happening at the moment to make available internet access for all people, including those in the two-thirds world, with such projects as the Google backed O3B network (The Other 3 Billion).
Mark asks: What if we were to move into this digital space and offer an experience of church, of the Bible in the language and the culture of the digital environment?
Like it or lump it, this is a huge harvest field....to paraphrase: It's Church, Jim, but not as we know it.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
- A total of 63% of bus drivers were aged 50 years or more in 2006, and 80% were men.Your gut instinct probably told a good deal of this, but it's always helpful to have it confirmed...
- The age profile of HR professionals is younger than that of the total workforce and has become intensely female – in 1981, 28% of HR professionals were female, but by 2006 that had risen to 69%.
- Relatively few women work in engineering, ranging from 2% in industrial and mechanical to 8% in civil, 15% in electronic and communications and 36% in chemical.
- A third of the dentistry and social work professions were aged 50+ in 2006.
- In the police force, women tallied 9% of the workforce in 1991 and 22% in 2006.
- One in three firefighters was aged over 50 in 2006. Overall, 95% of firefighters are male.
- The peak age for labourers has been falling, and was 15-19 in 2006.
The following notice appeared in the latest Mental Health Foundation ezine:
Want something different to do in 2010? Social networking media: Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter, texting and blogs!
If you are not frightened by that headline, really know how to use social networks to communicate with young people, and want to make a positive difference in their lives, here's an opportunity to work on an exciting new project in 2010.
The Mental Health Foundation wants to engage with social networking sites and other innovative ways of communicating with young people, so we're shaping up a project to do just that. As with most not-for-profits, we partner with other organisations to support our work and this is why we are looking to the Vodafone World of Difference programme to help us make this project happen.
Each year the Vodafone programme pays the salaries of six gutsy people who want to make their mark on the world by working with Kiwi youth, and you (or someone you know) could be one of them!
If you're interested in taking a break from your current employment for a year and coming to work at the Foundation, check out the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation, or contact our friendly fundraising team for more information.
This seems to me to be a great opportunity for some young Presbyterian worker to get involved in....!
You can see more about the World of Difference and their projects here.
Monday, July 13, 2009
1. Although men and women follow a similar number of Twitter users, men have 15% more followers than women. This is interesting in view of the fact that only 45% of Twitter users are men, while 55% are women,
2. An average man is almost twice more likely to follow another man than a woman, and 40% more likely to be followed by another man. Women are 25% more likely to follow a man. What is surprising about this is that on a typical online social network, most of the activity is focused around women - men follow content produced by women they do and do not know, and women follow content produced by women they know.
3. The top 10% of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets. Many Twitter users use it once, or rarely. Compare this to Wikipedia, where 15% of the most prolific editors account for 90% of the edits.
There's more detail in the article, which is worth checking out if you're interested in stats, and the conclusions that can be drawn from them. And then considering how any of this relates to how we 'do' church...
The students are now able (but not obliged) to take an oath along these lines.
The swear to:
• Act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.
• Safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.
• Manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behaviour that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.
• Understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.
• Take responsibility for my actions, and represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
• Develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the wellbeing of society.
• Strive to create sustainable economic, social and environmental prosperity worldwide.
• Be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.
See the full opinion piece here.
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Now Family Violence in tandem with Age Concern has produced a pamphlet to help people review their attitudes to the elderly, especially older members of their own family. One one hand it shows up the manipulations of some adult children, the stubbornness of the elderly, and the way in which grandchildren can sometimes be more perceptive than their parents about the older generation. On the other hand, it shows the need for creativity when it comes to helping older people, and the need to remember that they still like (and have every right) to make decisions about their own lives.
Simply produced, with some excellent colour photos, this is a handy booklet to put on your church information table. There's also a summary of a research report on elder abuse and neglect here.
The way of being salt and light is a role (a part and position) that Christians are called to in the world. It is a role that requires us to take up a place in our world, at work, at school, and in the neighborhood. Christians are called to imagine another world, and to do so by living amid the divisiveness, alienation, suffering, and violence, as well as the good things, the loves and hopes of where we live now.
David Matzko McCarthy
The Good Life
Powell's Books sums this book up like this: Intimate friendships, loving families, good food, and beautiful homes--middle-class Westerners enjoy so many gifts. Christians often feel guilty about their enjoyment of these gifts, but David McCarthy suggests that God provides these things for our enjoyment. In contrast to consumerism, which encourages shallow relationships, McCarthy explains how the love of God fosters a deep attachment to the world. He describes this in relation to marriage, family, friendship, hospitality, and work. A right ordering of our desires will lead Christians to an enjoyment of life that require less stuff. This book will be appreciated by all Christians trying to live well in an affluent culture.
You have to read carefully to see the words, 'in contrast to consumerism', which appears to be the crux of the point McCarthy is making. The reviews on Amazon bring this to the fore more clearly.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
1. A change in philosophy from the top of an organisation recognising the importance of social media.
2. Organisations will have social media specialists in the company.
3. Public relations will be using more social media channels
These four were the result of a variety of possibilities suggested, such as PR on social media sites; 'crowd sourcing'; hyper local news; feedback 2.0; 'maps' as a new interface; integrated video.
The information above comes from an article in NZ Management called Social Media: when context is king, by Annie Gray. (June 2009, page 36)
As always, it's worth noting how what's being considered here is of interest to the church: where does social media fit? Is Twitter just a fad or something of value to the church? Is there someone in your church who is passionate about both Jesus and social media? Can they bring these together?
Monday, July 06, 2009
These two authors, both journalists for The Economist, (one is a Catholic and one an atheist) have written several books together about trends on the global level. This latest one focuses on the (surprising) increase and revival of religion in the world, at a time when it was widely believed that secularism would predominate. And the intriguing thing is that the people who are embracing religion are not just the poor and uneducated, but the ‘technologically sophisticated, upwardly mobile, urban, well-educated, middle class – in a word, thoroughly modern – people.’
While the authors focus extensively on the way in which the American First Amendment ‘simultaneously forbids the state to manipulate religion for its own ends by creating an established church while guaranteeing citizens the right to participate in public life on the basis of their religious convictions’ and thus creates a vitality that Europe lacks, they by no means focus exclusively on Western religions. Islam of course receives due attention, but so does the uprise of religion in many third world countries, as well as Africa and South America.
The book is well-researched, written in an often witty and lively style, and essential reading for anyone who wants to get a global perspective. A much more extensive review (by New Zealander Chris Marshall - pictured at right) can be found in the June 2009 On the Road Journal.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
As at June 2008, the total student debt is $9.53 billion. (Yup, billion.)
530, 289 people have student loans of varying sizes.
The average student debt is $16,129 - but nearly 1400 people owed over $100,000, and a small number (20) owe over $200,000.
Nearly 20% of debtors are in arrears. That's some $207.1 million that's overdue.
Of these 20% (around 105,000 people) 33,000 are overseas, and their overdue repayments total some $64.4 million. Let's hope they come home!
Jason Goroncy, on his blog, Per Crucem ad Lucem, has recently culled together four posts written by William H Willimon, and given them the collective title: Advice to New Pastors.
One of Willimon's main themes here is what might be called the 'cultural divide' between ministers freshly minted from seminary, and their congregations. Each often talks a different language, and have to learn how to hear each other. The ministers have to learn how congregations function, how this particular social group works, what its needs are and so forth; many of the things learnt in the seminary will not have prepared the minister for this.
In talking about his first congregation he writes:
I was impressed that they knew more about some things than I. Mostly, they talked and thought with the Bible. They easily, quite naturally referred to Scripture in their conversation, freely using biblical metaphors, sometime referring to obscure biblical texts that I had never read. If they had not read the masters of my thought – Bultmann, Tillich, and Barth, then I had no way to speak to them. I had been in a world that based communicating upon conversations about the thought of others, rather than worrying overmuch about my own thoughts. I realized that my divinity school had made me adept in construing the world psychologically, sociologically (that is, anthropologically) rather than theologically. The only conceptual equipment my people had was that provided by the church, whereas most of my means of making sense were given to me by the academy. Their interpretation of the world was not simply primitive, or simple, or naïve, as I first thought. Rather they were thinking in ways that were different from my ways of thinking. I came to realize that we were not simply speaking from different perspectives and experiences; it was as if we were speaking across the boundaries of two different worlds.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
The Office for the Community and Voluntary Centre (no, I didn't know they existed, either) in a paper entitled, How do New Zealanders Give? Ethnicity and Income Research Supplement, tells us that:
No matter their ethnicity or income level, approximately three quarters of New Zealanders support the community and voluntary sector in some way.
In 2007, three quarters (75.4%) of people 10 years and over supported the community and voluntary sector. This was by any combination of giving, volunteering or other support (such as purchasing products). When compared to this population average, the differences between ethnic groups or different personal or household incomes are relatively small.
Besides this paper, which gives some extensive information on who gives to whom, there are four reports on Generosity by the same department. These have been coming out over the last couple of years, (the latest arrived only last month) and can be found here. The papers ask:
What do we mean by generosity?
What value do we place on generosity?
What do we know about generosity?
What can we do to promote generosity in New Zealand?
None of the papers are lengthy, but they have some interesting things to say about the state of generosity in NZ (pretty good) and our attitudes towards it.
In one, Google Grows Up, Scott Anthony points out the way in which Google has approached innovation: Engineers are encouraged to dream up pet projects in their spare time. Teams self form around the best ideas. Market-based principles ensure that the best ideas receive funding. It sounds chaotic, democratic...and intoxicating.
Anthony goes on to show that even Google is now having to be more disciplined in its approach to innovation, and, he says, constraints can focus creativity.
Bill Taylor, on the other hand, in an article entitled Decoding Steve Jobs, says that in terms of the impact his products have had on the world, Steve Jobs represents the face of business at its best. And yet, in terms of his approach to leadership, Jobs represents the face of business — well, if not at its worst, then certainly not as something worth emulating.
Jobs, he goes on to say, bullies staff, shrouds his company in secrecy and refuses basic accommodations to products that would make them more user-friendly. Typical of his attitude is the way he has often parked right across two handicapped parks in his own place of business.
Taylor goes on to note: the sign of true ambition [is] absolute confidence in your infallibility as a leader. Over time, though, it has become a warning sign of failure — whether from bad judgment, low morale from disillusioned troops, or sheer burnout. The best leaders I know don't want the job of thinking for everybody else. They understand that if they can tap the hidden genius inside the organization, and the collective genius outside the organization, they will create ideas that will be much more powerful than what even the smartest individual leader could ever come up with on his or her own. Nobody alone is as smart as everybody together.
He concluldes: Leaders who want to both change the game and stay in the game for the long haul have come to appreciate the power of "humbition" over blind ambition. What's humbition? It's a term I first heard from Jane Harper, a nearly 30-year veteran of IBM. It is, she explains, the subtle blend of humility and ambition that drives the most successful leaders — an antidote to the know-it-all hubris that affects so many executives and entrepreneurs.
24th June (not July as listed on the site) was International Self-Esteem Day (I’m sure you knew that already!). Then they listed five actions you might be likely to try:
1. Take time to do things you enjoy;
2. Get something done you’ve been putting off;
3. Wear something that makes you feel good about yourself;
4. Learn something new or improve your skills;
5. Do something nice for another person.
It’s interesting that nobody polled for number 3 on the list, and the majority polled for number 5.
There’s hope for NZ society yet! (Incidentally, it appears Self-Esteem Day was created by a New Zealander, Janice Davies, who says: Your life-long goal is to create happiness in your own life. While we'd all like to be happy, I'm not sure that we can make this our life-long goal....)