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:

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 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
(However, you have to subscribe to this to read it.)

Church in the workplace

In another article on, 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 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

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!