college travels

Monday, March 17, 2008

North Coast Christian Youth Conference

Have just come back from NCCC YC up at Evans Head. A great weekend! About 150 young people from the Far North Coast. We stayed at Evans Head K-12 Public School. The theme of the weekend was "I'm on my way.. " picking up the old Proclaimers tune and adapting for a journey through the Psalms of Ascent Psalm 120 to 123. We saw the movement from the Badlands as the Old Testament person of God began to focus on the pilgrimage up to Jerusalem to gather with God's people in worship.

The weekend challenged and encourged me in a number of ways. As evangelicals we react at times in a polemical way to movements or theology that may not be helpful or even wrong. However our reaction may move us to an extreme that also pushes the boundary of truth. What I am thinking of is worship. The Old Testament people of God gathered to worship Yahweh in Jerusalem and it was a mix of both reason (theology) and experience. When we gather as the new people of God to sing praises to Jesus we are worshipping him. Worship rightly is more than singing, (Romans 12:1, 2). However, singing praises to Jesus must be included in the broader category of worship (Revelation 5:8, 9). And when we sing praises to Jesus our King it is to him. There must be a vertical element in our worship to Jesus. It is not merely horizontal, an encourgement to those gathered.

We had great times of worship, singing praises to Jesus our King up at NCCC YC., lead by Jon (thanks bros. for your input and enthusiams to worship with our minds and our hearts in a real way). We worshipped Jesus as we listened to the Bible being read and spoken about. We worshipped as we responded to Jesus as God's great King.

Thanks to all the crew up there who put so much work into organising a great weekend.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Surprised by God!!

Recently I was invited to Moore College for my final interview for Ordination. I have to admit that I had butterflies in my stomach as I waited, with my husband Graham, to be asked in. We were the last interview for the day and had no idea what to expect. The three people interviewing us were warm and welcoming and did everything they could to make us feel at ease. They were interested in us as a couple and took time to learn about our journey of faith and the opportunities that we have in ministry.

As I had previously mentioned I was feeling anxious, although I don’t think this was apparent to the others in the room. However, as I re-lived the interview in my mind, I recognised that I had become more extroverted and had ‘lots to say’. I shared my desire to see Children’s Ministry valued by our churches, to have men and women of all ages taking up the opportunity to be trained and for ministry with children to be recognised as a viable and sustainable career move. Ordination into Children’s Ministry is one way in which I believe people will be encouraged to think long term about ministry with children.

The biggest challenge, however, during the interview was when they asked: “What’s in it for you”?

"Well, what IS in it for me", I thought? I remember replying that I hoped to join the network of ministers within the diocese, to have the support of the Anglican Church, for opportunities to teach the gospel and to be ‘a voice for children’. These are all true and yet I found that I was left feeling as if I had missed something.

Later I tossed and turned, praying, thinking, wondering, examining my motives and asking yet again. Why am I doing this? What is in it for me? SHOULD there even be anything in it for me? As I considered this question I came to the realisation that there is something in it for me. In fact there are many things that benefit me directly from this experience.

Firstly, in order to be ordained, I have embarked on further study. Without the need to do this I would have found it difficult to find the motivation to complete an extra eight subjects for the Advanced Diploma. How sad it would have been to miss out on Andy’s subject on Families and Jim’s teaching of Isaiah.

Secondly, I have been forced to move out of my comfort zone. Writing and presenting my paper, ‘Look at me. I’m a Princess!’ was challenging. I’ve always enjoyed the practical teaching components of my work and struggled to do the critical theological reflection that must stand alongside this. God in his kindness has placed me in an environment that continually encourages me to stop and think. This has not only benefited my ministry but also my personal and spiritual life. It is my hope that being ordained will continue to provide opportunities for rigorous theological reflection on all areas of my ministry.

Lastly, I have been given the opportunity to ‘live the dream’. Many years ago a handful of Children’s Ministers met in St. Andrews House to ‘dream, dreams’. As we shared our vision it was very much with the thought that we would not benefit ourselves but others, particularly our children in the future might benefit from the strategies implemented. The decision by the diocese to ordain Children’s Ministers brings to fruition one of these dreams.
So there you go – although it shouldn’t come as a surprise, God was working things out for my benefit as I sought to benefit others, without me even realising it!

Isn’t our God wonderful in that as we work for him and the building of his kingdom, he is simultaneously working in our hearts and building us to be the people he wants us to be!

It just goes to show that the “what’s in it for me” question does not have to be self-centred but rather can give God glory as we see what he is doing in our OWN lives through our ministry as well as in the lives of those we minister to!

Any thoughts?

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 10, 2008

So you think you can dance?

What is it with Dance?

So You Think You Can Dance Australia has become an unexpected hit on Australian TV. Opening with 1.47m viewers, the Monday night results show is still attracting that size audience one month on. In particular, it has attracted 55% of the 16-39 age group.

So what’s this telling us about Australia? And what will a bit of critical reflection on this cultural phenomenon teach us about children’s and youth ministry?

Why is Dance Australia so popular?

Is it because Australian young people are really into dance? I think not. Yes, we watch a lot of music videos, and they dance a lot in them – but that might explain an interest in Hip Hop and Krumping, but Contemporary and Ballroom? And yes, Strictly Ballroom was a great hit at Australian cinemas in 1992, but we went to laugh at the ballroom dancing antics and cheer for the underdog who shakes off the confines of the establishment to chart his own course and finally win the day (another retelling of the great Australian colonial story?... but I digress).

Is it because Australians just love reality TV. Well, recent tv trends would suggest there’s a lot to that idea. Particularly the ‘talent quest’ type shows (think Australian Idol, Dancing with the Stars, and my personal favourite Americas Next Top Model, the world record holder in shallowness!). While there are probably a lot of people watching in tv land identifying with the contestants, imagining what song they’d choose for Brit Pop night, or practicing their own sashay across their living room floor, for the majority I suspect we like to sit in the judges seat.

Identifying with Matt, Bonnie and Jason, we’re given a sort of vicarious expertise, suddenly capable of sitting as authorities over the dancers who audition before us week by week. We sit back in our lounge chairs learnedly observing, ‘he’s not sitting into the beat’, ‘they’re unison is all over the place’, ‘her toes were floppy on that lift’. Add the power to pick up our phone and vote for our favourite the appeal of the original sin, ‘you will be like God’ is complete!

Is it also because it’s G rated sex? Is it just me, or was there a lot of sex and flesh on stage last night? I’m sure someone could do the analysis, but have the guys discovered that the way to avoid getting voted out is to make sure you appear without your shirt on? Maybe I’m just revealing that I’m not a dancer and couldn’t be one – but where the judges are saying, it’s not enough to act sexy and erotic but you have to BE sexy and erotic, well that makes me a little uncomfortable.

Is there suddenly a whole army of pubescent males who have suddenly found an interest in contemporary jazz fusion? Are are there a lot of unhelpful fantasies being fuelled by writhing bodies that leave just enough for the imagination to latch on to?

So perhaps there’s reason for pause when it comes to this show, but I must admit I’m still a fan. The bottom line is, I just think its amazing. I find myself turning to my wife and saying to each other ‘how on earth can they do that?’ ‘How can they remember all those moves?’ That sense of amazement I think is accentuated by the video package that precedes the performance. We see the dancers learn a routine and practice their lifts, and we get to see how hard it really is. But then come Sunday night there they are, effortlessly jumping and twisting and swirling across the stage, not only doing extraordinary things but communicating something as well. How do they do it?

Which makes me think, isn’t that what being ‘gifted’ is all about? To make something that’s difficult look like its easy? And for dancers who have perhaps not had the media attention in this country that they perhaps deserve (just ask yourself, had you ever heard of Jason Gilkison before Dance Australia?) then perhaps it’s a good thing to give them a moment in the limelight?
So what about those in your children’s ministry or youth group who have been gifted by the Holy Spirit?

We know that all who are in Christ have been given gifts by the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). A key aspect of the pastoral task is to notice the gifts in others, to encourage them in using those gifts in love and to celebrate the presence of that gift among us. Are there gifts among the members of your groups that have gone unnoticed? Gifts that could be fanned into fire? Gifts that can be celebrated as another sign of the gracious presence of the Holy Spirit among us?

The challenge of course is to look beyond the beautifully gifted to find those who are gifted in a way that our world will never recognise. From watching Dance Australia you’ll know there’s a select few who get the ‘privilege’ of standing next to Natalie as she does her introductions – is it just a coincidence that they’re all good looking, well dressed with straight white teeth?

While our televisions might be good at celebrating some of the gifts of the beautiful, will our churches be good at celebrating all of the gifts of all of God’s people?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sabbatical with Balaam

I’m on Sabbatical at the moment. Sabbatical is, of course, related to the term Sabbath, a period of rest and refreshment, a time set aside to enjoy God, family, friends and creation, both God-made: mountains, rivers streams surf, and man-made: music, movies, meals and soccer. Sabbath is related to the Hebrew word for seven sheba(, though the experts argue as to just how it is related.

We may think of decades: 60’s fashion, 70’s tv, 80’s music, 90’s politics… but the people of the OT worked in blocks of seven. Seven days to the week, the seventh is the Sabbath. Similarly the seventh year was a sabbatical year, when fields were left fallow and debts suspended (Lev 25:2-7) and then, of course, every seventh Sabbath-year a Jubilee was proclaimed (Lev 25: 8-12).

So am I having a rest?

Well yes, and no.

My sabbatical is a time to pull back from normal college responsibilities: lecturing, small groups, fireside and so on. I am having a rest from that. But Graham, Kerrie, Ruth and Jim are covering for me not so that I can have a holiday, but so that I can have a big, uninterrupted block of time to get into some further study.

I’ve decided to have a good look at Numbers 22-24, the Balaam Narrative.

On one level the choice was fairly easy. No one else seems to be having a look at this bit of the Bible so I thought I’d give it a go. But there’s also the fact that it’s seriously weird, and somewhat confusing. The challenge to make something of it was quite appealing.

But then, when you think of it, Balaam seems to come up quite a bit in Children’s ministry. I bet he’s in most Kid’s Bibles, and books of Bible stories for children. But he seems never to come up in youth or adult ministry. That’s weird too isn’t it? It’s odd that a passage that can be so helpful for kids, seems to become irrelevant once they get older. Or are we missing something? Or is it not as helpful as we’ve imagined for children? Should we stop using it at church and in SRE?

In many ways the hardest thing is to try to keep an open mind as I come to the passage. I’m well aware of the press that Balaam gets in the NT, but for the moment I’d like to try to focus simply on what Numbers has to say about this curious character and this weird moment in salvation history.