Thursday, April 29, 2004


I know this whole area of exploration is of interest to many looking at pre-modern spiritual resources that can be used in a new context. Mailings I put up here on Godly Play are a good example. Another resource drawing on Brueggemann's work is the use of the creative imagination. In particular I have been thinking about the mystical poetry of R S Thomas, for which I have to do a presentation on Monday for MA course in Cambridge.

If interested, please see the leader notes and short history and the two poems I used below.

Leading notes for R S Thomas.pdf

Short history of RS Thomas.pdf

The Coming & Coming Poems.pdf

Saturday, April 17, 2004


Mark Pierson writes: ‘It is Finished.’ After 8 years of doing Stations of the Cross installations at Cityside over Easter, my last one is done. 45 Citysiders involved directly in about 80 different roles; 900 punters through the doors over the 30 hours we opened; 80 in the small space at peak times (far too many); newspaper reporting (wrongly) that we’d had ‘hundreds of letters of complaint about photos of naked buttocks being flogged’; dozens of comments that this was the best installation yet and of life changing encounters with the God who is responsible for Easter.

A video welcome in New Zealand Sign Language supplemented the verbal welcome and installation notes at the door. The centrepiece of the installation was a 6 metre (20 foot) x 3 metre (10 foot) oval black water reflecting pond about 90mm (4inches) deep. Everyone was given a candle as they came in and invited to light and float it as a symbol of their prayers for some person or situation, and to also take away a stone from around the pond as an ongoing reminder of what they had done. The 14 pieces of art by Citysiders were installed around the black fabric covered outer walls of our small space. Media included video (running on 4 different screens and vcrs), a beautiful handcrafted ‘scrapbook’, oils on canvas, a brick wall, mixed media collage, 6 meter high raffia and wire sculpture, huge recycled brass and copper sculpture, etc. Halfway around the stations our usual church foyer (tiny) was converted into a stunning reflective space with beautifully crafted wall hangings, a crucifix and communion elements. The Exit space ran a video doco of last years Stations (by a couple of Citysiders), comments book and the necessary donations urn. An original ambient soundscape ran continuously in the space and was replaced by an hour of live soundtrack by a solo performer each evening. It was a very beautiful, relaxing, intimate, warm, low lit, ambient space.

This was my eighth pond. Six of them have leaked. Water is really thin stuff, it gets out anywhere! This time the pond would have to last not just a few hours but a full 5 days. So I went out and bought an expensive pond liner, the kind used by farmers to make earth ponds. Thick, rubbery, waterproof membrane. No problem. I lovingly crafted beautifully radiused curved ends from timber and draped the liner over them. When I added water and a ring of underwater Christmas tree lights (specially designed to not electrocute anyone) it looked stunning. And every candle that was added made it look even better. It was magnificent.

8 hours after adding water the carpet around the pond was soaked. The bloody thing leaked! Eight ponds, seven leaks. It was the lowest point of my life – in the last week anyway. I was very tired from 10 days of setup and we still had 4 days of opening to go. I was ready to hang up a ‘Closed due to unforseen circumstances sign’. Or more likely ‘Due to a death in the family…’ But the true alt.w spirit kicked in and a 21 hour day saw the pond deconstructed, carpet partially dried, and a new liner and pond constructed over the wet area, stones poured around it and opened just in time. Four days later and the only water in the carpet was that from the first night. Nine ponds, seven leaks. The average is improving.

So…as I write the blowers are running to dry the carpet, hopefully in time for us to get the furniture back in the church for Sundays services. It took 5 days and $500 last time. It will take longer and cost more this time. And it smells a lot worse. If there are unbelievers out there they will be able to put their hands on the marks on the floor and their noses can smell the carpet. Then they will believe.

All up it cost us about $4500 New Zealand. I covered that by getting sponsorship and hitting on a few friends and family. Cityside doesn’t contribute directly as a matter of policy (my policy! I believe that those who have the dream should fund that dream themselves and not expect others to fund it unless they choose to. And if I bring a project to the church for funding, who is going to vote against it? Cityside doesn’t fund any projects as a church.)

Was it worth it? Sure it was. Our Stations is primarily a Cityside project done by our community as an opportunity for some of our artists to have a project to work toward. Most of those involved never produce art outside of Stations. That we invite the general public in is a by-product of what is firstly for ourselves. That’s why I never take any notice of complaints unless they come from Citysiders. Last year 2 of the Stations made it to the finals of a national art award and one was purchased by that national arts trust. The composer of the very first soundtrack has gone on to become a national figure in the electronic music field. Significant stuff that owes it’s genesis to involvement in Stations.

We were involved in supporting - with advice and art – three other Stations installations in other parts of New Zealand and know of 4 or 5 in other parts of the world that were inspired by what we have done so even if no one else at Cityside picks up the reins, there will be other Stations happening in the future. I’m well into writing my Master’s thesis on the response of punters to our Stations last year, and that material will be included in a book that is well underway on using stations, Stations of the Cross, ambient spaces and vigils in worship. So I hope that will also encourage more groups to use them in worship and to tell the Story out in the market place.

I move to Melbourne in a week and commute back to Auckland every 3 weeks to do a transition week at Cityside. This will probably continue until Christmas when I will move fully to Melbourne, hopefully with my wife Robyn. I expect to be at Greenbelt in August to catch up with a few of you.

And in case you’re wondering, if I had to choose between 14 tons of sand (last years installation, that is still blowing around the street outside the church and in the corners of the church) and half a ton of water…I’d take the sand every time. Except the effect of the water and candles is outstanding…I wonder if there’s any way to do stations underwater….and bigger flames would be interesting…

Monday, April 12, 2004


Before Gareth gets anymore slushy - please note that the Moot group takes no personal responsibility for some of his postings!!, I thought it a good idea to post up some news from down under. Now that Steve Taylor has moved from Auckland to Christchurch, Graceway have appointed a new and exciting pastor. I met him last autumn and was impressed. He became pastor in Feb - our winter their summer, and was interested in what he was thinking..... See the interview in RTF format below.

Mark B's story.rtf


Good Memories
Have had five days off from work which has been nice and restful - well to be honest I have been ill and have mostly stayed indoors :-(

Went to the park by Charing Cross station today with my fiancee Phillipa. We relaxed on a bench and remembered that this was the first place where I had first raised the topic of marriage, and where we both, filled with nerves, had sensed it was something we may one day explore. Sat there today we are 2 months away from getting married and it was nice to reminisce on this memory, which seemed very appropriate as the flowers were coming out to bloom, and signs of new life were everywhere.

Appropriate both during this Christian festival, and for both of us who will soon start out on a new life, filled with lots of exciting possibilities.

(apologies to all you people out there who dislike such love-induced blogging)

Sunday, April 11, 2004


God ascending to a cosmic rebirth,
restoring the created;
bringing humanity wonder-filled possibilities.
Choosing joy, community, hope and
doesn't stop

Friday, April 09, 2004


God descending into finity,
embracing the created;
entering humanities godforsakenness.
Choosing suffering, loss, despair and
full stop

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Spirit of the World
A few months ago I posted some thoughts about a new (or re-emerging) view of the Spirit within the emerging church movement. I have been mulling this thought over for a while and have a few other 'offerings' for people to read/comment-on. I have put the key points in bold for easier digesting :-)

As I see it there are two contrasting views of the spirit: -
• traditional evangelical: the spirit indwells the believer (either upon conversion, or baptism depending on whether you are a Pentecostalist or not). The spirit leads the church through speaking-to/leading/transforming (depending on whether you are charismatic etc...) the person and people of the church, and in doing so, establishes the kingdom of god.

Evo view: in short, the spirit works only in and through the believer/church (as espoused by Turner, Menzies et al).

• emerging church: by and large most groups agree with the traditional evangelical view of the spirit with one major shift. the work of the spirit is no longer purely confined to the activity of the church/believer - a more open view has developed. This view has been influenced by certain creation theologies that stress the role of the spirit in creating and maintaining life, as well as by leading liberation theology thinkers (Moltmann, Boff, Gutierrez), along with some Catholic theology.

emerging view: in short the spirit is now at work in the wider world, recreating and bringing life in and through those who desire to (whether christian or not) - thus the spirit restores the whole of creation, not just the human race, and not just christians.

I think this shift is caused by several other changes in peoples/groups thinking: -

• from androcentric to eco-centric/creation-centred thinking
(from human/male-centred to environment/creation-centred)
The emphasis on the Spirit now becomes more creation centred - feminist thinking also causes us to conceptualise the spirit in feminine terms which also helped develop this shift.

• from christocentric to theocentric thinking
(from christ–centred to god-centre)
Jesus is not the centre point within these faith communities (although many still claim that he is their theological outworking in liturgies etc.. does not bear this out). God becomes the centre, so the Spirit is no longer only the spirit of Christ - and therefore the spirit that solely works through christians.

• from exclusivist to pluralist thinking
(from jesus alone saves to an openess to 'salvation' through other religions/journeys)
The shift from Jesus-centred to god-centred also means that salvation* is no longer necessarily found through Jesus alone, other religions and paths can lead you to god. the spirit must also help/sustain/lead people on other faith journeys.
*(emerging church also struggles with the word salvation prefering journeying to describe the process of 'salvation')

• from heaven to earth
(from salvation as ticket to heaven to journey as quest for justice)
Emerging church groups have justice as a central aspect of gods character, they no longer are satisfied that this creation is doomed, but rather see it as in the process of being saved (just as we are) - the spirit therefore joins in this process of restoration, bringing about the justice of god within creation not just leaving creation alone. social and environmental transformation become key themes and concerns within emerging church - they are no longer interested in 'saving souls' from 'hellfire and brimstone'.

Obviously not all emerging churches would share all these views, as not all conservative evangelical churches would disagree with them, they are just observations I have made in seeing various groups services, as well as speaking and listening to peoples concerns and viewpoints.

In summary: for me this is a welcome shift, one that reflects a rather more OT and Johannine view that sees the Spirit as the source and maintainer of life. And a welcome, if dangerous, shift that allows the spirit to work freely within creation, through whom the spirit wills, meaning that we are called to join in with those who seek life and justice.

Sunday, April 04, 2004


As part of my devotional life entering Holy Week I went to see the Mel Gibson film the Passion of the Christ. It was very powerful and stripped me of all my western consumerist comfort, taking me to the bare bones of human existence. I have found it hard but extremely helpful to me personally to re-assert the central reality of the passion story. It has remained with me entering into Palm Sunday, and I am very grateful for the film as media of spirituality, which has resourced and helped me to renew my commitment to the faith.

I heartily recommend seeing it, yes the violence was hard - but not indulgent - it affirms the rawness of the passion story in an un-watered down fluffly way. GO and see it - not easy but very helpful. See the film website

It wasn't antisemitic or over-indulgent......... check this out

Friday, April 02, 2004


Mark Pierson is on the right. It was with a level of shock that my good friend Marl Pierson of Cityside informed me that he was moving from Auckland New Zealand to Melbourne Oz, to meet new challenges. To read an interview about what that's about, see the doc below. Mark has been as inspiration to many of us for sometime. I even did a placement with him as a student, for which he was very gracious in his marking.
markpierson interview.pdf

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