Friday, August 24, 2012

Much huffing!

These last two weeks my postings have been absent. (You didn't notice?!)  Anyone witnessing my movements at the seminary would understand.  After major traumas (!) of moving house earlier this summer,  I have just moved my seminary office from one end of the academic office corridor to another.  There has been much huffing.  In my new role as less than full-time faculty my office space has been expectedly cut by half which has meant more decisions about what books and files are priorities, and what must go into storage.

I am immensely grateful for my new room which is pleasantly decorated with a new desk. It's always a privilege to have a study space.  But I told myself that I would take advantage of this move by winnowing down my library to essentials.  That I would put into large-scale practice my prioritizing of books by A,B,C and D (as mentioned in a recent post).  What a hope!  Instead it has been a mad scramble with massive deferral of such decisions, as unfiletered files and papers have piled in boxes haphazardly.

And now, with a false sense of having completed this task to mild satisfacton, I leave in a couple of days for two weeks' visit to the UK to see family and friends.  So, it is highly likely that my postings will remain absent as I connect with my latest grandchild and reconnect with so many others.  I am not sure when I shall next write something worthwhile (actually I am never sure quite what is worthwhile anyway).  When I return on September 13th. I am straightway into preaching at an ordination, teaching an intensive Doctor of Ministry (Sept 17-21) course and then term begins  Sept.24th.  I keep telling myself this is an exceptional summer - I hope yours has been for less hectic reasons!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reflective practice

Last night I led a  seminar for those responsible for leading worship at my local church - First Baptist Wheaton.  I was asked to highlight some issues from my book in order to help them focus on planning Fall worship 'to the glory of God.' 

It was remarkably generous of them to give up three hours in their busy lives with a willingness to reflect.  And what a risk there is in genuine reflection!   Reflective practice involves adult learners who have already developed expertise in being open to critique their work even while they are at work.  At its best, it will allow plenty of safe space to consider afresh issues that are often taken for granted.  And there are many of those unconsidered aspects of worship planning.   Some of them are huge - like the role of the Holy Spirit or understanding of the missional church. 

Many are smaller scale.  In answer to a question last night about the offering, I was reminded of a colleague of mine who was guest preacher in a local church.  It was their habit as the offering was brought to the front for the congregation to stand and sing the doxology.  As people slowly got to their feet with little sense of joy or purpose to do their usual, the preacher abruptly stopped them: "What are you doing?" he said.   There was stunned surprise.  Wasn't it obvious that they were singing the doxology?  But, maybe, it had become so commonplace they needed reminding that returning gifts to an extraordinarily generous God is a big deal.   I am not sure whether the preacher was invited back (!) and whether this is the most productive form of reflective practice.   But, I believe, reflective practice leads to deeper people doing deeper things.   

I don't know whether reflective practice will arise from any of that wide range of issues I raised last night.  It takes time, honesty, love, and patience.  I pray that it will!     

Thursday, August 2, 2012

So, what's on your list?

After my last post I expected someone to ask specifics about my summer reading!  When I was describing my A,B,C categories I didn't mention another group that looms large in my life: publisher's manuscripts.  When reading them I try to use the same steps for seeing the big picture and framing structure, but I don't feel I can ever skim if I am to write an honest foreword or endorsement.  Perhaps they form a category D because however I might grade them ultimately as A,B or C, I want to give my best by a fairly careful read. Its nearly always an honor to write a foreword because you already have a connection with the author or the subject - they have done all the hard work and I need only add a bow and note on the front!  Only occasionally I have had to decline because I could not be positive enough!

Currently, I have two forewords requested: Brian Harris, The Tortoise Usually Wins: Biblical Reflections on Quiet Leadership (Paternoster) and Lori J Carrell, Preaching that matters (Alban Institute). I also need to give an endorsement for Richard H. Cox, Rewiring Your Preaching: How the Brain Processes Sermons (IVP).  All D category.

In strictly A category terms my most recent read is Craig Van Gelder & Dwight J Zscheile, The Missional Church In Perspective (Baker Academic, 2011).  This is one of those 'mapping books' which help to locate where other significant missional leaders and trends belong in the developing missional story.  Based upon an incisive reexamination of the category A missional book, Garrell Guder, Missional Church,  this not only maps out four differing developments: Discovering, Utilizing, Engaging, Extending, but opens up an extraordinarily rich conversation on the key issues to engage us all.    I have found this extremely revealing as it locates much so much of my reading (and teaching) in useful categories.  This kind of book deserves detailed attention and I've not finished yet.   Good 'mapping books' are like this!