From Reform to Renewal: Scotland’s Kirk, Century by Century – Review by Kerry Enright

Reform to RenewalFinlay MacDonald’s book From Reform to Renewal: Scotland’s Kirk, Century by Century is a help to discerning what it’s worth holding on to, and what needs letting go in the Presbyterian Church.

It is a lively, fascinating and accessible account of the history of the Church of Scotland since the Protestant Reformation. Full of intriguing stories, it is eminently readable and maintains interest. It helped me understand more of how our Church gained its shape and identity. Experiences generations ago, often repeated, have nourished a wisdom that alerts us to practices that too easily harm people and compromise integrity.

The author, Finlay Macdonald, is a respected former principal clerk and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He is a good storyteller.

New Zealand pragmatism, the attractiveness of secular gods and generational hubris can lead us to discount valuable inherited practices. Our Church deserves appreciative inquiry of our past, of how we came to value certain principles and practices. We will not understand them unless we know their history. We will not properly apply our Book of Order without appreciating the history behind it. Finlay Macdonald’s book is a good account of that history. It speaks of a broad Church seeking to be faithful to the way of Jesus Christ. It describes a sibling Church facing challenges like our own. I commend it wholeheartedly.

Macdonald, F, (2017) From Reform to Renewal: Scotland’s Kirk, Century by Century, Edinburgh, Scotland: Saint Andrew’s Press.

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“These Hipsters get it right” – Review of The Bible Project by Carolyn Kelly

bible project

The Bible Project is the brainchild of a couple of guys hailing from Portland, Oregon – Jon Collins and Tim Mackie. Collins has digital media and marketing flair (as well as a theology degree), and Mackie is a pastor and biblical scholar at Western seminary. This combination, of biblical scholarship and pastoral grounding in a contemporary form, gets a lot right. Continue reading

God whispers a secret about telling secrets – Geoff New

Rev Dr Geoff New is Dean of Studies at the Knox Centre for Ministry & Leadership and is based in Dunedin.

I was ambivalent about accepting the invitation to write this blog. I found myself with something to say but unsure if I could say it; unsure if I had the vocabulary. I’ll try.

When I was young, too young, I became aware of the Holocaust. I was too young to appreciate the enormity of it and that expressed itself in a morbid fascination with it. Yet over the years that morbid fascination matured into raw realisation. Continue reading

Review – Mosaic

Reviewed by Christine Harrex, Lawrence-Waitahuna Presbyterian

Mosaic - God is love

I have always had a strong belief in the value of small groups.

More than twenty years of Sunday school teaching has shown me that when children are taught in small age-specific groups, meaningful relationships are established and learning is deep and personal. I have always been scathing of big group programmes where these opportunities are limited. Continue reading

Review: Chronicles of Paki

Alison Mitchell of St Andrew’s Matamata has reviewed popular series of New Zealand children’s books, the Chronicles of Paki. 

Chronicles of Paki Te-Powhiri2-sml

The Chronicles of Paki series of children’s books tells of our early New Zealand Christian history as the Maori people interact with the arrival of missionaries and new settlers.

Delightfully written using A4-sized pages in a pictorial format, the stories have large illustrations, speech bubbles, captions and short passages of script telling the story.

Iconic kiwi, Paki, acts as a guide and explains meanings of words and phrases, translates Maori to English, and gives facts and dates. This makes the books easy to pick up and read or simply to look at the pictures and captions for detail. Continue reading

Big Little Bible

The “Big Little Bible” app from the New Zealand Bible Society is a great introduction to the Bible for young children and their families.  It’s also a novel approach for families who read their Bibles every day.  The app is easy to navigate and features people and stories from major events throughout the Old and New Testaments.  It’s written in the Contemporary English Version (CEV) so the text is fairly clear and easy to understand.  The illustrations are colourful, playful and beautifully assist with the telling of the story.

My eight-year-old son, Gabriel, had a look at it for me and gave me his feedback.  He really liked the format of having a circle to tap for each story.  He liked having the story on a screen and was fascinated by the sounds it made when clicking on the app.  Gabriel thought he’d still like to use his book Bible, but this would be handy to look at if he was out and about and had to wait for me.

I found the illustrations captivating and enjoyed the features such as the ability to highlight favourite passages.  Highlighted passages are then saved to a screen that’s accessible from the home page.  There is a really good introduction and I found it handy to have the bookmark and questions feature at the top of every page.

One thing both Gabriel and I missed was the ability to have the passage read aloud.  I know that this adds a whole new technical dimension, but it would expand the usefulness of the app.  As a matter of taste, the CEV is a bit more paraphrased than I prefer.  Also I would call this a “Storybook Bible” as opposed to a Bible since it is not the complete text.

Those little things aside, I think this is a wonderful tool to expose children to God’s word.  It would be best used on a tablet or iPad with a larger screen, but I found it quite handy on my phone.  Congratulations to the New Zealand Bible Society on catering for our youngest Bible readers!  This is an inspirational tool that will expand the reach of God’s word.

Kaila Pettigrove

Kids Friendly Part Time Coach

Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

Review: Church Refugees

Church Refugees:
Sociologists reveal why people are DONE with church but not with faith
by Ashleigh Hope and Josh Packard, Group, 2015

Reviewed by Wayne Matheson

Do you know that thought you have that something is going on; you have your own suspicions or ideas…and then you read something and have one of those ‘aha’ moments? I had seen, heard others talking, and wondered about the stories that lie behind statistics…for it seemed to me I was becoming aware of a group of people who had been activity engaged in the church, and then left. They still had faith…just that they were done with church. Continue reading

Review: Worship: A History of New Zealand Church Design

Worship: A History of New Zealand Church Design
by Bill McKay and illustrated by Jane Ussher.

Reviewed by Wayne Matheson

It is a little hard to know where or how to start a review of this stunning and beautiful book. It sets out to be a tribute to 200 years of church architecture and design. Architectural historian McKay thoughtfully explores the history and diversity of church building, while photographer Ussher captures an array of churches the length of the country.

McKay’s forebears were Presbyterian Scots who came to Waipu. He wants the churches to show the chronological development of church buildings in New Zealand, and tells that story by reverse chronology!

One has the sense that there is a little more that underlies this work. Continue reading

Review: The Emotionally Healthy Church

The Emotionally Healthy Church: Updates and Expanded Edition: A Strategy for Discipleship That Actually Changes Lives. By Peter Scazzero

Reviewed by Richard Dawson

Peter and Geri Scazzero founded a church in the poorest part of Queens, New York 26 years ago. They were then and still are committed to a vision of the church which was both multicultural and active amongst the poor and dispossessed. Today that Church is made up of people from 73 different countries and is pastored by Rich Villodas of Hispanic heritage.

After working incredibly hard to establish the church Peter and Geri went through a huge crisis of faith in the mid 90’s because of the demands they had placed on themselves to ‘make this church work.’ In short they’d worked themselves to a standstill Continue reading