Wednesday, October 14, 2009

15th October - Global Wave of Light

Over the past years it has occurred to me how unfair it is that in our society although you can be a motherless daughter you can never be a daughterless mother (or father). Today - October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness day (officially declared so by the US House of Representatives in 2006). It is a day when we acknowledge those mothers and fathers whose much loved and carefully nurtured children never made it to life beyond our wombs. It is a chance to publically share the untold stories of these short lives. So often these children of ours are invisible, their names left unused and unspoken, their rooms unlived in. October 15 is a day when together we can find the strength to speak their names, a day to remember the dreams and hopes that we had for our children. It is a day when we have permission to give tangibility to the life that nestled within our care for too short a time. It is an opportunity to acknowledge that the grief and loss that we feel is as real as the life that was lost.

An awareness day is about reminding each other that we are not grieving alone. Part of the awareness campaign is the Global Wave of Light; we all light a candle as a symbol of remembrance for our babies and in solidarity with others. In New Zealand we get to start off the Global Wave of Light when we light our candles (and leave them burning for one hour) at 7pm. For more information about pregnancy and infant loss awareness day see: or

Give voice to your unvoiced dreams – what were the dreams and hopes for your child that you have never shared?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nuture your inner Four Year Old

I came across this quote which I liked and wished to share. (It's too long for twitter!

"A good case can be made for nurturing your inner four-year-old. From four to five we are all romantics; we are all embryonic royalty, budding ballerinas, or intrepid astronauts; we are all fearless, open, affectionate, and beautiful."

George Vaillant cited in Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas. - Geeks and Geezers.

What did you want to be when you were four?

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Call of the Tui

The warble of the tui.

Every since I was a child I have enjoyed the sound, I can remember my mother always prompting me to stop and listen to the tui and try and get a glimpse of its glossy black feathers. Recently in the winters we have had more Tuis around the house, and thankfully I have never seen the cats catch one.
For me the call of the Tui is a call forward, a pull towards our country of New Zealand and a cry of identity as New Zealanders. The Tui has a distinctive cry; it is instantly recognizable and unique.

As kiwi-Christians do we have a recognizable and unique cry?

From the times of the early church in Paul’s day Christians have gathered to discuss their dual identities as citizens of the Kingdom of God, and of the culture they live in. If however we do not have a robust identity as kiwis how does that impact on our ability to wrestle with our dual identity. In Revelation 5 we read of the “saints from every tribe and language and people and nation” worshipping Jesus. In the most basic of interpretations of this passage we can see that our identity as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven does not need to obscure or negate the distinctive of our cultural identity. If we take the position that Jesus came to transform culture not to stand against culture (Paul Hiebert), then how does that change the way we look at our kiwi identity. Perhaps part of how Jesus would and does transform our culture is by solidifying our identity. Our diversity and uniqueness is something that delights God, and should be celebrated and affirmed.

In New Zealand our Christianity has a base of Victorian English missionary involvement, the first sermon was preached on the beach at Marsden cross in 1814. We have therefore inherited a Victorian English form of Christianity, the church here in NZ being sustained by imports from the UK from 1814 until the present! I believe that these roots (that I have deep respect for) have left Christians without an authentic expression of spirituality that we could call kiwi. Dependency has therefore developed the equipping and empowering of the local culture to develop an authentic expression of spirituality that is true to its identity never occurred. Kiwi Christians are now overly dependent on Christians in other countries to form our faith. We have no place to wrestle with the issues of what it means to our cultural identity as kiwis to be Christian and what it means to our Christianity to be kiwi. We can no longer go on uncritically imposing an anglicized and Americanized form of Christianity on NZ.

My challenge is that we stop looking to the traditional countries of US and UK for inspiration and information. It is time to shake off their colonial hold over us and our dependency on them. My challenge is that you go for one year without reading anything written in the US or UK. How will that inform and reform our ecclesiology and spirituality. How can we be informed by and learn from Maori spirituality? How can we begin to develop something that is really us, that feels that it comes from within and wells up from who we are, that is dependent on the bible and yet expresses and celebrates our uniqueness as kiwis?

well I could go on but I want to hear from you first ...


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lost Preaching

On Saturday I attended Towards a Kiwi Made Preaching (TKMP) an event organised by Paul Windsor in his new role as associate director of preaching for Langham Partnership. I came away from the event once again saddened and frustrated by the lack of creativity and imagination in the NZ Church. I was deeply upset by the lack of will among older people to really engage with generational issues and to shift from their modern mindset into something that will reach post-moderns.

Now before I go on I must offer the following things to take into consideration. Firstly the organisers recommended that I stay for the full day as they envisaged progression and flow throughout the day and I unfortunately had to leave at lunch time. Secondly I chose topics I was interested in, this meant that I had already done reading and thinking about the area and was several steps ahead of most of the participants. Thirdly engaging post-moderns is my passion, it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning and it’s the lens through which I view the world, the church and the world. I have to acknowledge that this is not everyone’s call and focus.

Paul Windsor started the day by bringing to our attention the many different words used for ‘to preach’ in the New Testament and the wide variety of methods of communication, and the variety of places that communication occurred. I found that encouraging and challenging. We then went into a wide variety of electives (so my experience will not be everyone’s experience). In contrast to Paul’s initial session, in the electives that I attended, the predominant preaching paradigm that seemed to be in people’s minds was a man, standing at the front, offering a monologue to a church filled with Christians. One of my disappointments (shared by some others I spoke to) was that TKMP was advertised as a forum, a place for ‘synergies to flow’ ‘to probe questions’ and ‘to explore’. However it was actually a regular seminar format, with a short time for questions at the end, and not a lot of encouragement to engage with each other. In fact all the rooms were set up in rows with the presenter at the front, which did not facilitate easy interaction between participants at all.

So if my experience was that frustrating why did I go at all? Well deep down I am committed to a Kiwi-made Biblical preaching, it is just that my idea of what that looks like is very different to what it looks like for the majority of those that attended. Going into analogies I long to see preaching like Lost, whereas what I am mostly seeing (and hearing discussed) is preaching like a 1960’s news broadcast.
Lost is a current TV series (that I don’t actually watch so feel free to jump in with corrections dear readers), it follows the lives of plane crash survivors who are struggling through life on an island. Both the current lives of the characters on the island are followed as well as storylines from their lives before the crash. It is one of those series that you don’t really know what is going on, little by little more of the plot is revealed. Watchers are drawn into the story, they are engaged in figuring out what is happening, they gather to watch the series in pubs. Watchers discuss the plot with friends in an attempt to figure out what is happening and they watch reruns in order to increase their ability to predict what will happen. There is a gradual unfolding over time (5 series), with drama and suspense, it makes you feel clever when you work out some of the mystery, and as a watcher you have a sense of ownership and involvement in the story.

Contrast that with an old-fashioned TV News (who watches the news anymore? Not post-moderns who prefer to get their news with the immediacy provided by the internet) broadcast. You have a single (male) anchor, in order to increase his trust and respectability he wears a suit. He presents the news as a series of statements or propositions. The anchor expresses very little of his personality and none of his life or opinion, there is no engagement with what he presents. The news is presented in one 60 minute slot, all there is to be told is said in that time frame. The preaching I see again and again and that was the predominant image in participants minds on saturday reminds me of this.

We need more lost preaching - Can you imagine, people engaged with the gradual revelation of God’ story? Discussing it with their friends (and in online forums)? Exploring the mystery with their friends? Caught by the suspense and drama? Presenters who are excited, involved and caught by God’ story and share the awareness that it is their story?
What would it take to uncover more Lost Preaching? What would it look like in our churches? what would it look like in out lives?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Who's Listening?

Last night I had the privilege of seeing The Who perform live. Unlike my friends who are a bit older than me (and who claim that the Isle of Wight was their best concert ever) this is probably the only time I will see this influential band. For those of you who are (young?) unfamiliar with this band you probably know them as doing the theme songs for the CSI programmes. You guitarists might like to know that Pete Townshend was influential in the invention of the Marshall amp, apparently the fender wasn’t loud enough and so he used to wander down to the Marshall workshop and convince them to make it a bit louder!

The concert led me to ask is there any work that I do today that I would be proud to stand up and present in a stadium full of people in 39 years time? In today’s disposable world are we creating anything that will have longevity? In today’s hurried world do we thinking about the quality and influence of our work?
On the other hand is the plethora of reunion tours pandering to baby-boomers who are sentimentally clinging on to their misspent youth, and failing to move with the times?

How do we find the middle ground between moving toward a different future that allows each generation to express itself, and yet creating things of influence and worth?

Talk to me friends- What are you thinking?


Thursday, March 12, 2009

More Than Words Can Say

As part of my theology class last year I began exploring the topic of sacraments, most of us evangelicals do not have much knowledge or experience of the role of sacraments and symbols in our faith, one person in my class had even never heard the term sacrament before. Even Anglicans who tend to be more sacramental in their approach rarely have a good understanding of the sacraments (unless they have studied). I have been wondering ever since if we have lost our ability to express our faith and our community through sign, symbol and sacrament and what impact this loss is having on our faith.

A sign is an arbitrary reminder or expression of something invisible (a green light). In a sacrament the symbolic is linked more overtly to the invisible concept it expresses (e.g. blood and wine). Originally the word ‘sacrament’ came from secular usage of the term ‘sacramentum’. This was the oath of fidelity and obedience to one’s commander sworn by a Roman soldier upon enlistment in the army. Or the term could designate bond money deposited in a temple pending the settlement of a legal dispute.” So sacraments give us an opportunity to reaffirm our oath of fidelity to God and our community of faith but there is more to them than that. They have also been described as outward signs of an invisible grace, and they are an opportunity for divine interaction and action. Symbols signs and sacraments can usefully mediate God’s truth to our human understanding. In the pre-reformation church there were seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Marriage, Ordination, Last Rites and Communion. After the reformation this was reduced to two: communion and baptism. Post-reformation (particularly due to the reformers emphasis on the word) and assisted by the rise of modernity our faith came to be word oriented and rooted in conceptual language. Robert Weber states: “the use of imagery, symbols, and even subtle language is relatively unknown among many of us. We have locked ourselves into discursive speech as the preferable, if not the only form of communication.” One reason why we evangelicals prefer verbal communication over symbolic speech has to do with our view of the Bible. We see the Bible as a book of words. It is God’s written revelation. This emphasis on the written words of Scripture coupled with neglect of the symbolic forms of communication (which constitute a large portion of Scripture) cause a loss of understanding.”

This loss of understanding is reflected in our attitude to the two sacraments that are left to us. It seems (especially for Baptists) that communion and baptism become became memorial events focussed around the words we speak and the actions themselves are not understood or seen as having as much importance. Robert Weber again says: “Baptism has become the means by which the converting person declares his or her faith; the Lord’s Supper has been reduced to an intellectual recall of Jesus hanging on the tree. We have reduced the ritual of water and of bread and wine to understandable actions. The mystery is gone.”

When faced with situations that defy verbal description, when words cannot express our relationship with God, when we are left in a place where God’s action seems incomprehensible the Church has not given us the space or tools to express ourselves. Yet our faith is one that contains a great deal of mystery, signs, symbols and sacraments are one way that the mystery can be expressed. Do we gather together as Christians just to talk or to be talked at? Grenz suggests that our gathering should be more than that “we gather to tell and enact the story and to go forth to live by the Christian metanarrative”.

It is time to expand our ways of expressing ourselves and our mysterious faith. I and many (post-moderns) that I know are looking for a holistic faith, one that is not just based on the rational that engages more than our minds. Robert Weber says “We now live in a new communication era. Communication is shifting from conceptual language to symbolic language. Information is no longer something that can be objectively known and verified through evidence and logic. Knowledge is more subjective and experiential. Knowledge comes through participation in a community, and in an immersion with the symbols and meaning of the community.”

Are words enough to express our faith? What role can and should other forms of expression play in our gatherings?


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mamma Mia

“You are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet only seventeen, Dancing Queen
feel the beat from the tambourine, oh yeah you can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life… la la Dancing Queen.”

I saw Mamma Mia (the movie) about a month ago, for a few weeks I danced around with the tunes of ABBA ringing in my head. (btw U2 do a pretty good cover of Dancing Queen). After the tunes had faded I thought more deeply about the show.
Mamma Mia is fun, light and enjoyable (although the stage show was funnier and more engaging) yet there are some subtleties I would like to discuss. The show is obviously written by men with traditional values, and the gender issues raised need to be critiqued.

There are some surprising contrasts in this movie. Women are the primary characters in the movie; the men are left to play goofy sidekicks (I’ll let you guys complain about the implications of that). However the roles the women are given are merely the traditional three female archetypes that women have been protesting since the rise of feminism in the 1970’s. In Mamma Mia we have the traditional Mother, Virgin, Whore roles. Yes the roles have been updated for 2008 – the good mother no longer has to be married, the virgin is no longer sexually innocent, but is innocent in her values, approach to and experience of life. The 2008 Whore has married for money and is a sell out to brand names and capitalism. In Mamma Mia they are joined by the latest addition to the traditional roles for women, the intelligent, plump man-less best friend. The roles hardly present a challenge to the acting ability of the cast and I’m surprised that these actors who were mothers of freedom and choice for women settled for roles that promote such stereotypes.

Meryl Streep (one of my favourite actors) plays Donna an ex singer who runs a hotel and has a daughter (Sophie). Admittedly she isn’t just a mother – she runs a hotel too. However she has no passion for her business, she dreams of a man whisking her away to idle luxury on a super-yacht (money, money, money). She has worked hard on her hotel for 20 years, but is portrayed as being unable to make a success of it without a man. Sophie also needs a man to affirm her identity and to tell her that she’s good at drawing before she has the courage to experience the world and leave her mother to further her art.

There are some quite serious identity formation issues that are explored by the movie, and I don’t want to minimise the importance of these in any way. But there are some subtle messages that are spread by Mamma Mia that concern me. The first is that women are to passively wait to be ‘saved’ by a man who will ride in on a white horse, and rescue them. The passive waiting to be rescued role is surfacing more and more in movies lately, or perhaps never truly went away. Secondly we have the idea that a woman cannot be successful without a man, and if she is successful (like the plump best friend) she will be undesirable to men. Women also need to have their work recognised and declared good by men before they can be confident enough to take it to the next step.

The backwards movement in the representation of women in Movies and the media in general has also been observed by other commentators. Susan Faludi for example states, “A reflexive response to 9/11 was that the feminist movement had emasculated the American male and reduced his effectiveness in his primary role as head of the family and protector of vulnerable women and children. The media collaborated with politicians in reincarnating this old myth of masculine heroes and distressed damsels.”
Women’s representation in the media must be more strongly critiqued if we are not to fall back to traditional limited roles, that do not reflect the opportunities for and aspirations of today’s women. I want to see women who want to be successful and to take an active role in their own lives and in changing the world, not sitting passively waiting to be saved. The critique of women’s representation in the media needs to be advanced by younger women, ageing feminists like myself are ready to pass the baton on – however we do not see younger women stepping up to the plate. Who do you want to be? What images of women do you want your younger sisters to see? Are you happy that their heroes are those who have sleaze and style over substance or even talent?

Waiting for your comments