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Friday, February 28, 2003

I've increasingly over the last 12 months begun to think about, read, and reflect on the need for, and importance of the formulation of an Aotearoa New Zealand theology, ecclessiology etc. Merlin Davies wrote the following in an NZ literary journal in 1966 when I was two . In my lifetime there has been no significant change, and in many ways we are still practitioners, and participated in a Christian faith largely informed and shaped by imports.

"...Religion has conserved some values from the past and contributed too little in shaping things to come. The stimulus for most theological thinking in New Zealand has come too exclusively from overseas; too rarely has it been a response to the New Zealand situation here and now. No religious faith has become truly indigenous..."

Go into any Christian bookshop in New Zealand and look for New Zealand books missionally engaging with our New Zealand culture. Look for any New Zealand theological reflection.......more than likely you will find nothing. Ask what % of total books in any shop are New Zealand authored and published...I suspect though that not many New Zealanders would buy them or read them even if they were there. It's been helpful to see more Australian work appearing. Whilst we share differences; we also share a lot in common. The journey of forming an indigenous theology etc. for Australian's will have many overlaps for us, and may help sharpen our reflection etc. with regards to our unique New Zealand context. 'Recent' work by people like Hugh Mackay, John Carroll, David Tacey and others; work in journals like Zadok Perspectives (published by the Zadok Institute for Christianity and Society) have been helpful to me.

I've been so grateful to Kiwi's like Steve Taylor, Mark Pierson, Mike Riddell, Kevin Ward and Neil Darragh (of whom I'm most familiar) for the mental acumen and thought they've skillfully brought to bear on this subject...we need more of it and every level of Aotearoa New Zealand society. Increasingly important are the books and movies which tell our story and reflect on the gospel / culture(s) interface. My recent, and very simple reflection on the NZ movie Whale Rider was an attempt to start making some links with the story and imagery of that Maori myth, and the ways in which might provide a way of speaking about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The week before last we had Mike Riddell in Hamilton. Unfortunately I didn't get there but a friend kindly got me a copy of his paper: "Speaking the Lingo: Contextualisation as a Prerequisite for Mission to Pakeha Post-Christian New Zealand." I read the bulk of it last night - a wonderful experience. Jonny Baker has commented elsewhere about the effect of reading material by Mike. I nned to read more. It's becoming increasingly important to me, and necessary if I'm going to missionally identify with and particpate in my culture.

Mike in his paper illustrates the following "threads" which he believes are worthy of exploration as part of formulating a Pakeha (simplistically, a European New Zealander, as distinct from a Maori New Zealander):

(1) The Land - "The key to New Zealand identity is land. It lies as the heart of who New Zealanders really are, and it also, though more indirectly , shapes our ideologies of who we think we are." (Rob Steven)
(2) Voyage - All who have a connection with these islands are migrants who have arrived here after travelling great distances. Our original homelands have dropped below the horizon. A paradigm for thinking about the search for God etc.
(3) Beating the Odds.
(4) Fair Play.

Paul Fromont 2/28/2003 10:33:00 AM
Thursday, February 27, 2003
The latest online verson of the Gospel and our Culture Network's (USA) newsletter is, you guessed it.........online! (here) Check it out, subscribe to it.......I've been getting it since 2000. Great for those wanting to engage missionally with western culture...the latest copy also has the bonus of an article on the spiritual health of our neighbours across the Tasman sea...Darren, PHUTURE, gets a mention...so perhaps you've already seen the article. Have you read "Re-Enchantment" by David Tacey....?
Also this interview with David Tacey - here - "True and False Spirituality in Australia" (May 2000)...says alot about New Zealand too...with a few differences, because we aren't identical twins....

Paul Fromont 2/27/2003 12:08:00 AM
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
I took a day off work today and spent the day in a learning retreat conducted by Catholic Priest, Fr. John O'Connor. The aim of the day was to allow a time of reflection, guidance and prayer, and an opportunity to grow in sensitivity to the action of the Spirit of God in our lives. It was a very useful day. As is mostly the case, I was again the youngest person present. I continue to wonder about the place of prayer and spiritual formation in the lives of young people - they continue to be the missing demographic at anything 'built' around spiritual formation, prayer (especially meditation and contemplation), dreamwork, retreats, spiritual and personal development etc. Is this the way it's always been? Is it more the result of the place I'm at, and others a lot older than me are at in their Jesus-following journey's...is it anything to do with silence, reflection, contemplation etc? I also have the following comments in mind from one of the person's who participated in our alternative worship experience last year - SPACE (no ordinary 'Sunday' Christian gathering!). The atmosphere for this evening, once a month, was deliberately quietish, and reflective. This person, who is in the late teens / early twenties age group wrote in response to the question, "I think or don't think I'd be comfortable bringing a non-Christian to SPACE."

"...No, it would meet their (read young person) stereotype of church and Christians, e.g. quiet, solemn, and boring...I don't think SPACE would be an effective way to reach students. I think SPACE may be effective for older non-Christians, they enjoy quiet from the busyness of life, whereas students enjoy the busyness..."

Interesting comments. One's I've thought a lot about. If I'm honest, I was little disappointed. I thought it would appeal to younger Christians bored with typical Sunday fare. The statement prompts, from me anyway, a lot of questions about the nature and content of church from a young person's perspective....about the place of spiritual formation and the nurturing of a truly Christian identity and worldview...do we just wait for them to work through those years? How do we accompany them? Connect with them in meanful ways? Incorporate them into the life of the church community without separating them from the diverse demographic of church? Should we expect anything of them in the area's of prayer, and the rich Christian traditions by which we allow God to draw us toward himself; to deepen us, and to form us? ....etc.

Paul Fromont 2/26/2003 11:11:00 PM
Early in February (11th), Steve Taylor posted an interesting comment entitled “The Sound of Spirituality” – a Graceway reflection / exercise. Reflecting on the sounds of my Spirituality was an interesting exercise. Thanks Steve, I’d never thought about it before. I also took time to reflect on “The Sights of Spirituality.” For me, the following “sights” are important:

 The ocean, waves, and rock formations on a really stormy day on the West Coast of the South Island.
 My wife and children.
 Movies.
 The night sky – all of the stars.
 Glimpses of love, gentleness, and affection that I see very occasionally on the streets of the city outside of my office window.
 The large icon of Jesus crucified in St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral, Hamilton.
 Great art – esp. Ralph Hotere and Colin McCahon. Art by Rachel Langham and many other very talented New Zealanders.
 The shape and symmetry of poetry.
 Colour
 Cathedrals.
 The desert landscape of the Volcanic Plateau in the centre of the North Island of New Zealand

Paul Fromont 2/26/2003 12:07:00 AM
Sunday, February 23, 2003
"Sin" seems a much maligned word today. The doctrine of "original sin" seems archaic to many. Much damage has been done around the ways in which Christians 'point the finger' with regards to sin. We seem to have a lot of trouble talking about "sin" today. How do we recover it's reality and significance without all the baggage that has accumulated around it over the years?

Reflecting on that, I found this statement by Mike Riddell very helpful. For me it connected my thinking to the sermons and writings of the warm old English Puritans, Luke 7:44-47, and the doctrinal reading & reflection of my early Jesus-following years :

There is, in Christian circles a "fallacy...that sinners are those outside the church. This error in judgement has profound consequences. A deep appreciation of one's own participation in sin is a prerequisite for experiencing and valuing grace. The biblical affirmation is that we are free from the power of sin in Christ, not free from it's reality. Once again, cutting ourselves off from our deep sinfulness has the effect of distancing us from humanity...a healthy sense of sin keeps alive the profound amzement that the grace of God in Christ continues to suffice to keep us on the way. It also builds bridges between ourselves and those who have not yet encountered grace. We gain as sense of identity with them as fellow sinners. If we have anything to share it is a sense of hope for our common predicament. Because of this, we come to others as fellow travellers, rather than those who used to be like them, but have now moved on. The self-congratulation of any kind of convert is ultimately patronizing and distancing..."

Paul Fromont 2/23/2003 12:38:00 AM
Wednesday, February 19, 2003
I went to see the award winning New Zealand film, Whale Rider (104mins), last night. Rather than a full review I’ve linked to the synopsis here, and really only want to ‘bullet-point’ a few comments:

 This is a powerful, redemptive story. Very much a story for our transitional times – a story of dislocation and exile. A story within which the pull of needing to connect with, and remain in continuity with the past, and the seeming disconnection of a people from their heritage and traditions – their myths of origin and identity – create for Koro (the tribal chief) a personal and leadership crisis. The generations (old and young), like many people in our churches (Christian ‘tribes’) feel adrift in a changing and unfamiliar world – adrift for differing reasons. The ancient has been largely forgotten and to have been rendered irrelevant. The present seems hope-less. Strong connections can be made with the issues we face as church. Significant questions are being raised, ones that we should be asking ourselves, e.g. what, in practice forms us as a people? What influences / stories shape and form us? What gives us hope? What is the nature of leadership? Does tradition have a place, and if so, how do we breath life into the ancient? Again, if tradition has a place, how do we contextualise it? What in practical terms ‘anchors’ us as a people?

Some other themes / connections:

 Paikea (‘Pai’) is a messianic figure; hoped for, but unrecognised. A “Messiah / Saviour” but one who does not fit the categories of expectation. Do we recognise Jesus and the signs of his continuing mission amongst us?

 The “communion of saints” (‘ancient ones’ / past generations) – symbolised in art and a frayed piece of rope.

 The nature of leadership. The characteristics of leadership. Recognising leadership gifts amongst our young. The process of nurturing leadership.

 The intertwining of creation, redemption, culture, place, and humanity. The much broader scope of redemption – redemption as something bigger than my personal salvation.

 Kathryn, my wife, just read this and pointed out that the story also illustrates the character of unconditional love - Paikea towards her Grandfather, Koru.

Paul Fromont 2/19/2003 09:37:00 PM
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
I love the following quote from Peter Gabriel

"...Traditionally the artist has been the final arbitrator of his work.
He delivered it and it stood on it's own. In the interactive world, artists will be the suppliers of information,
and collage material, which people can either accept as is, or manipulate to create their own art . It's part of the
shift from skill-based work to decision-making and editing work - where choice becomes as important as the
actual piece of work. That's what's so exciting - the fluidity and flexibility of technology is a good complement
to the human arrtistic spirit

I've imagined what if I inserted words around the notion of "church", and of "spiritual formation," "spiritual disciplines" into the paragraph. If I replaced words like "art" and "artist." What if we thought in terms of "liquid churches," "resource stations" or "church portals" etc ? What if church was more about meaningful participation...? About life in the Spirit in a technological world...what might that look like?

Paul Fromont 2/18/2003 09:54:00 AM
Monday, February 17, 2003
For those of you with access to 'hard copies' of Christian Century, a couple of interesting articles have been published recently:

Dec. 18-31, 2002 - Resurrection Faith: An Interview with NT. Wright.
Jan. 11, 2003 - Embracing Theology: An Interview with Miroslav Volf.


Paul Fromont 2/17/2003 11:52:00 PM
Sunday, February 16, 2003
I talked about the following last year, but Brian McLaren says it so much better in his new co-authored (with Tony Campolo) book, "Adventures in Missing the Point:How the Culture-Controlled Church Neutered the Gospel." Kevin Miller uses the passage in his response to NOMO POMO.

"...Let's talk about the term postmodern. Nearly everybody is
sick of it. And no wonder, since it is used in a jillion
different ways. . . . Another reason for widespread fatigue
with the term postmodern: people like me who talk about the
subject too often indulge in facile dualisms. This is so
modern, we say with self-impressed arrogance, and that is so
postmodern. Such facile contrast is not only annoying, but
stupid. . . .I'd rather be a humble modern than a snobbish
postmodern any day. Better yet, I'd rather be a humble
Christian seeking to do God's will in our fast-changing world
in harmony and collaboration with all God's people (whatever
their taste in eras)..."

Brian McLaren.

Paul Fromont 2/16/2003 11:02:00 PM
Saturday, February 15, 2003
"...The Spiritual life is to be lived in all circumstances. Holiness is not an antiseptic state of isolation from the ordinary world. It is absolutely practical and concrete. Holy people are immersed in the dirt and sweat of real life where light and darkness contend with real consequences, for that is where God is at work. If the word I hear on Sunday has no bearing on the way I relate to my spouse, child, neighbour, or colleague; no bearing on how I make decisions, spend my resources, cast my vote, or offer my service, then my faith and my life are unrelated. The spiritual life is not one slice in a larger loaf of reality but leaven for the whole loaf.

Without such an understanding, [any] discussion of the centrality of family life in spiritual formation would be without foundation. If, on the other hand, we comprehend that the whole of life is intended to be a response to the gracious spirit of God's residing in and among us, we can ill afford to neglect the critical role of the family in spiritual nurture and life patterning. It is precisely among our most intimate and abiding relationships that the character of our spiritual life is not only shaped but seriously tested and revealed for what it is..."

from "Family: The Forming Center: A Vision of the Role of Family in Spiritual Formation" by Marjorie J. Thompson.

Paul Fromont 2/15/2003 10:02:00 PM
Friday, February 14, 2003
Back from three days in Auckland. Need to find some time to catch up with what's been happening in your lives (via your blogs)...it feels funny, not having had that daily 'contact'.

An interesting statement from an e-mail I recieved from my friend Geoff Mannell. An 'article" by Kevin A. Miller entitled, NOMO-POMO. Some of you may have read it.

"...Until recently, PPMs (Proponents of postmodern ministry) have
overlooked (or sometimes, delighted in) the fact that, as J. I. Packer writes,
postmodernism is parasitical: it lives off the achievements and
failures of modernism but offers nothing positive of its own.
Its only construction is deconstruction. True, some edifices
need to be demolished, but architectural awards
are not given to wrecking crews.

Thankfully, Brian McLaren, an author of several books on
postmodern ministry, writes in his latest that he has "a
desire to move beyond a critique of modern ministry (a hobby
that can be dangerously preoccupying)." And he and others are
beginning to offer something creative and generative. Soon
we'll know what it's like, really like, to live and minister
in the pomo church. We will have enjoyed the candles and icons
and warehouses and begun to answer what you do with children,
how you deal with conflict and leadership failure, and how you
finance it all. The entire church will benefit from those lessons

This will increasingly become an challenge, for some of us, something that many of you have commented on a various times.

Oops. I've just started catching up on other blogs...I see Andrew Jones has already picked up on NOMO POMO...being the "peace-maker" I'd want to say, that both make relevant and important points...I want both conversations to be occuring, not polemical distance...the BODY OF CHRIST has many parts, many "voices." I'm choosing to listen, to challenge when appropriate, to learn, to look at myself, my attitudes etc to enter into an ongoing conversation in which I'm prepared to learn....Andrew makes very valid points. So does Kevin - many of us have recognised we've been more into de-construction than construction; many of us have recognised that de-construction and construction go hand-in-hand; come-times we need to create crises (challenge and deconstruct etc.) in order to stretch and grow - to think outside of the square....

Paul Fromont 2/14/2003 11:39:00 AM
Sunday, February 09, 2003
Kathryn got a really interesting business book out of the library today - "Digital Aboriginal: The Direction of Business Now: Instinctive, Nomadic, and Ever-Changing" - Look inside at AMAZON - here. Seems to be saying, within a business context, a lot of what Pete Ward (Pete presents his vision of a Liquid Church that addresses the needs of the isolated consumer-Christian by providing connection and community, located in common cause and similar desire for God), Mike Riddell. and others are saying about 'Liquid Churches"...I could in lots of instances readily insert the word "church" in place of business. Both Pete and Mike have relevant essays which are linked elsewhere on this site.

A question: "Has anyone got anything positive to say about Gene Edwards book, "How to Meet in Homes"? I've always had a certain level of cynicism about his books. I wonder about the historical veracity of his data. However, that said, his topic has a certain appeal at the moment. Can anyone recommend it?

Paul Fromont 2/09/2003 11:17:00 PM
Friday, February 07, 2003
Up early trying to tidy up Sunday's sermon/conversational exploration - an experiment in not spending the whole time as a monologue up front. The passage I'm working with, trying to get inside, and listen to is Mark 1:21-28. My two challenges, as written in my notes:

"Mark’s account of Jesus is built around three key themes: Mission, journey (to Jerusalem), and conflict.

I want to challenge a surface reading of Mark 1:21-28; I want us to think about one particular way in which this passage introduces and helps make sense of one of these key themes – that of Jesus’ conflict with a compromised, elitist, and oppressive Jewish religious institution, the “powers” and influences behind it, and to hint at some of the ways in which Jesus’ words, and especially his actions pointed to a radically contrasting agenda – that of God’s Kingdom."


APPLICATION – Listening to the voice of protest, the voice from the margins.

How might we contemporise this story? What contemporary role might Jesus take? I want to suggest that of a protester – somebody who promotes an alternative God/Kingdom perspective (Alan Creech – “constructive criticism”) – constructive protest – His are the symbolic actions and words of one who in challenging the ‘authority’ and ‘practice’ of the ‘status quo’ seeks to construct something different. Jesus continues to be the voice of constructive protest that challenges what the present Institutional (‘Status Quo’) Church has become – about what we as a local expression of the "Body of Christ" have become. He holds out and gives ‘flesh’ to a contrasting alternative.

See Alan, your 'voice' will be added to our conversation...the global input!

Paul Fromont 2/07/2003 09:49:00 AM
Thursday, February 06, 2003
Another useful little test is this one...a simplified adaptation of the Myers-Briggs personality/temperament profile - a free online version here...whilst providing useful insights around the area of human dynamics and interpersonal relationships, I used my full profile to explore and develop my prayer life, and awareness of the ways in which God draws me toward him...I'll post more on the subject at some point.

Do the test if you haven't recently. I found it/still find it tremendously helpful....

Paul Fromont 2/06/2003 12:44:00 PM
A quote from Brian McLaren

"...We must not get distracted. At the end of the day, being a Christian isn't about being ancient, medieval, modern, or postmodern. It's about following Jesus, becoming more like him, participating in the kingdom he announced and invited us into, serving him. There is a place for this conversation about postmodernity...but I look forward to the day when we can forget the term [and all the debate and dissipated energy that swirls around it] and focus as never before on the work of the kingdom of God."

From, The Church on the Other Side, p.201.

I find a regular return to this statement a healthy counter-balance...

Paul Fromont 2/06/2003 12:37:00 PM
Tuesday, February 04, 2003
The Results of my simplified on-line enneagram test....I'm a peacemaker...... Thanks Darren...

Paul Fromont 2/04/2003 01:24:00 AM
Saturday, February 01, 2003
The third and final of our three aims for PARABLES below:

"...Finally, and importantly, movies as parables help us see what “good news” might mean in our day. They provide us with language, feelings, and images that help us begin to understand the pressing concerns of society – to see and feel what’s happening below the surface – to begin to imagine the ways in which God’s unfolding drama, from Genesis to Revelation, might be meaningfully spoken into those concerns. Looked at rightly they help us “begin to wrestle with communicating God’s truth in this…world.” To begin to make the gospel-connections with the real issues and needs of peoples lives."

Also, Jonny Baker advises his new book, Alternative Worship is out on the 21st March, 2003. Pre-order it now. Also, thanks to Jonny for this link to a wonderful Mike Riddell article...read
Beyond Ground Zero: Resourcing Faith in a Post-Christian Era Or visit, Jonny's blog post of Jan. 28.

Also here's the contents list of Brian McLaren's soon to be published book, The Story We Find Ourselves In: Further Adventures of a New Kind of Christian. As you'll note, a sequel to "A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey."

Paul Fromont 2/01/2003 11:57:00 AM

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