Prayers On The Way – Martin Stewart

I have been experimenting this year on how I frame the prayers for congregational worship.  I’ve been calling the early prayers in the service of worship ‘Prayers on the way’ as a way of finding a language for what is going on for those who are strangers to some of the old language, and those of us who are bored by some of that stuff!  And I’ve been calling the prayers in the later parts of the service ‘Prayers for the road’.  The feedback from people has been positive, though quite a few others seem not to have noticed!

I wonder sometimes about what we lose when we step back from preparing prayers by either making them up in the moment, or borrowing  prayers from other sources.  Both practices, of course, have their place.  The prayers that rise up in the moment can be profound, but they risk carelessness in language and theology, and sameness in content. The prayers others have crafted can draw on a wonderful collection of prayers from those who have prayed before us and those who pray around us, but if not carefully curated and adapted, they risk being in a language and style that is far from the world of the people before us.  Both styles can also encourage a kind of laziness, where those who prepare worship simply bounce off for whatever is in their head or reach uncritically for whatever resource they can find to rescue them. Continue reading

5 reasons to celebrate 500 years since the Reformation with children – Jill Kayser

Jill Kayser is our epic PCANZ Kids Friendly Coach!

When asked to write an article on explaining the Reformation to children, I realised I needed to boost my own knowledge. Martin Luther gained some credibility in my mind some years back when I attended a conference led by an amazing Lutheran called Rich Melheim.  Listening to this ‘Luther-inspired’ man I had a ‘When Sally meets Harry’ experience: ‘I’ll have what she’s (he’s) having!’ and so I set out to discover what this ‘one man who changed the world’ Continue reading

St Paul’s Opunake: the light shines again

A walk-through Christmas display is one of the many new ways St Paul's is serving its community

A walk-through Christmas display is one of the many new ways St Paul’s is serving its community

Four years ago, St Paul’s was a church with a congregation of 25 in the rural town of Opunake in Taranaki (population 1360). They had no employed minister and no children or families attending their Sunday worship or connected with their church.

The leaders decided that if they were to survive they would need to focus on mission. But where should they start? Continue reading

Sermon for New Year – Andrew Nicol

Andrew is the minister at St Margaret’s in Christchurch.  He preached this sermon on New Year’s Day 2017 at a combined service of the Knox, St Margaret’s St Mark’s, St Lukes & The Village congregations, held in the St Andrew’s College Memorial Chapel.

According to Rolling Stone magazine “Won’t Be Fooled Again” by The Who is the 134th greatest song of all time.  For the young at heart I mean the theme music from CSI Miami.

From a certain point of view, this may be a pretty apt New Year resolution.

The song gets to the point most clearly in its famous last line, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

At the turn of the year we are again faced with news of self-interest, power and control.  Somewhere between our memory and our dreams it can seem that things don’t really change.  Continue reading

Thank you for an amazing year: 2016 in review

Thank you to all of our readers: 2016 is not quite finished yet, and we have already reached some great milestones here on the Candour blog:

  • the blog reached more people,
  • we have posted more stories,
  • received more comments, and
  • have more followers than in 2015.

These are all good signs – indicators that you are finding the Candour blog useful, so thanks for the endorsement of our work. Continue reading

Research Position Knox Centre

Thornton Blair Research Fellow: Christian Education

Do you have high quality research skills, experience in the design of higher education and a passion for educational formation for Christian leadership?

Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership (KCML) is seeking a uniquely gifted person to undertake action research in education design. This will involve undertaking qualitative research among key stakeholders, designing adult education delivery mechanisms and piloting the delivery of education in Christian leadership.

The Research Fellow will deliver a project that helps KCML clarify how to provide postgraduate educational formation for Christian leadership. Specifically to
1. Publish research into re-reforming post-graduate ministry and mission practice in contemporary contexts
2. Design education material that meets both stakeholder needs and higher education accreditation frameworks
3. Develop a strategic plan for education delivery
4. Initiate pilot projects, with stakeholder feedback.

The successful applicant will have experience in Christian education, project management and the use of qualitative methodologies in social sciences. They will have demonstrable skills in theological reflection, the ability to work collaboratively with diverse stakeholders and excellent verbal and written skills, including research and writing. It is desirable that they have experience in post-graduate accreditation in higher education and teaching in online environments.

This is envisaged as a fixed term (22 months), part-time (0.6) position. Start date is February 2017 . The successful applicant need not live in Dunedin, provided they can demonstrate how they might build and sustain strong working relationships with the KCML team.

KCML especially welcomes applications that will enable it to meet its commitments to being a bi-cultural and intercultural church.

Applications close 9 am, Monday, 5 December, 2016. They must include a CV; a letter of application addressing the essential and desirable criteria and two references.

Enquiries to Rev Dr Steve Taylor
Principal, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership

Generally Assembling #6

This is it.  Back home.  Last posting.  A parable.

The All Blacks were playing Ireland.
New rules had been developed by the Rugby Union some months earlier and not everyone was happy about the rules, or the changes, but they needed to be taken on board.  There was no choice.
When it came to game day the All Blacks tried as hard as they could, but they found that the rules had been adapted to better by Ireland than by them.  They were outplayed.  They found rule changes were an affront to their style of playing because, in their opinion, the changes challenged their idea of the essence of the game.
Also, to top it off, the ref made a couple of key mistakes with the whistle.
They had rallied in the dying stages of the game and were hot on attack, but a controversial late penalty against them sealed their fate – the ball was kicked out, it was full-time, and they lost the game.
Fronting up at the press conference after the game, the captain and coach were deeply disappointed. And it showed.  The coach and captain explained that the ref was at fault for making bad calls at critical points in the game.  They also complained about the rule changes, and, even though someone in the media told them that the changes were clear to both teams many months before the game, the captain and coach kept on insisting that the game was rigged against them.
The next morning the comments in the media picked up on the deep feeling after the game.
Some media commentators were supportive of the complaints the All Blacks had made, citing other instances of shocking decision making.  One commentator even suggested that the rule changes and how they were being implemented by the referees had never been made clear to the various rugby unions.  He demanded that the referee be sacked and the decisions about the rule changes be discarded.  He even demanded that the game be played again.
But other commentators pointed out that the complaints were groundless.  They said that the players had participated in the game on an equal footing, knowing the rules and expectations of the referee, and that it was simply poor sportsmanship on the part of the losing team making the complaints.  And further more, this expression of poor sportsmanship was bringing the game of rugby into disrepute.

The church voted to call Andrew Norton back as Moderator.  No one knows why, but it is what the church has done.  Andrew provokes, pushes and punches – like a prophet.  He is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the church has called him back.  I appreciate that in all that we attended to we finally agreed to support him.  Well done!

Generally Assembling #2

Well hello again.
I should be a prophet, it has rained and is raining and I got wet in dear old Dunners.  But a day has passed and I was in it and it was more than ok.

In summary:
The Ministers’ Resourcing Day was ok.
The gaggle of ministers turned out to contain not much gaggling and quite a pile of friends.  I reacquainted myself with more than a few of them and had several deeper conversations with delightful colleagues who I have never really had a yarn with before.  What we have in common of course outweighs our points of difference, but so often we don’t get to listen to each other, so we judge and misjudge.
Then I find that there are a quarter of them who I don’t know at all.
Then I find a relic or two from my years of training and we look at one another with amused looks on our faces.
Then the content of most of the parts of the day is really interesting.
So, I find myself in a warm haze of gratitude and I admonish myself for my cynicism and promise to turn over a new leaf, but the Assembly hasn’t really started yet, and I am still young and foolish.
The evening was ok as well.  I entered Knox Church in my new-found confidence because of Knox’s healthy seismic rating and had to sit at the back because it was full.  Up the back is raised a bit and thus it was easier to count the number of balding heads.
The powhiri was somewhat make-shift (the rain), and the service was long – two and a half hours my friends, and that after the half-hour powhiri!  At one point anyone who wished was invited to greet the newly installed Moderator and I immediately banned anyone from our back-row seating to even contemplate it as there were some 300 people sitting in front of us, and if they went, and we went as well, we would be there until Christmas!  As it happened no one greeted the Moderator because firstly, he got stuck behind the Columba College Choir and secondly, everyone got to listening to the choir and, as they followed the words that were being sung on their service sheets it was at the end of the song that the invitation to greet the Moderator during the song was printed.  Thus alone and awkwardly the Moderator stood throughout it all, stoically pretending that he was comfortable with the lack of engagement with him.  And my heart went out to him and I begged a chap from our row to go down and do the decent thing but he chickened out and the Moderator sighed and sat down.
The Moderator, of course, is Richard Dawson – Right Reverend Richard as we now call him.  He has become alliterated!   Richard was in my year group during our training as ministers – we have now sacrificed two of our year group to the Moderatorial Fires, but it shows our age – we began getting ‘done’ 30 years ago and now we are facing old age!  The RRR offered some thoughtful words in his sermon on Hope, including this wee gem: “As we’ve failed to listen to one another we’ve been unable to hear God.”  Yes!  I say.  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!
And the music was very good – very very good!
So, a good day, but one main thing to work on: decent coffee!  I say that every GA and still it is rubbish!

In anticipation:
We start at 8.30am tomorrow – and go at it until 9.30pm.  Um… are you kidding me?
We sorted two Council of Assembly notices of motion in an apologetic whirl at the opening service, so that leaves next to nothing left from its report… so… see you next time.
Maybe I am being mean, but this has got to be the most challenging of seasons of being the church and the group charged with discerning the future direction of the church doesn’t have much to say…so it must be ‘no worries mate, she’ll be right!’  I wish I was as confident about the state of things!
But you see, the agenda looks very light anyway.  I am not against light agendas, indeed I want them lighter and the Presbyteries being empowered to handle more of the stuff.  The problem is that we still mix the little business we have to do with inspirational stuff, and I usually end up going away from these events thinking that the business has systematically dismantled us and the inspirational stuff.
I think that we sometimes behave in ways that we wouldn’t countenance in our church communities where we care for each other.  So… why not talk this out and think a bit about how we want to be together more care-fully in Assembly?  But we don’t talk about it, and we carry on doing divisive stuff at each other as if it doesn’t matter, and as if God approves, and I question that… I really do!
So…tomorrow is coming to suck me into the 13 hour Presbyerianathon!  Yay!


To Bless and to Curse – by Martin Stewart

I was thinking recently about some of the people I struggle with and to what degree my struggle with them is about me.  They are, of course, complete and utter idiots – whereas I am not.  Actually, they are not such things any more or less than I am, but my dismissal of them is expressed in a tone of self-righteousness .  It is a tone of cursing.
I have been reading some of John O’Donohue’s writings this year.  He has written books of blessings.  It is like he learned to see and speak in only one way, that of lifting people up and seeing the light about him and them.

I came up with these words…

Blessings & Curses
Let us be careful with our words, our thoughts, our judgements.

To bless is to lay aside any sense
that we have the right to hold anything over anyone. Continue reading