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Sunday, 20 July 2014

#hof2014 - household of faith conference - blog about 3rd day of conference

yesterday I was at the 3rd day of the Household of Faith Conference 2014 (running Thursday 17/7/14 to Saturday 19/7/14) at Sussex University (Falmer Campus).  

here is my post on the 1st day      and  here is my post on the 2nd day.  

The main body of this post is my summary of what I heard on the 3rd day.

I found the talks at this conference to be excellent and in particular Rev Dr John Wasterhoff's keynote addresses (known to some on twitter as " the hoff") were jam packed with thought provoking stuff.  Fantastic as "the Hoff's" content was  - what was equally impressive was that:

1) the hour or so of delivery for each keynote address he made (there were 6 in total) was the man talking us through his thoughts and reasoning verbally without slides (powerpoint or whatever) - and it was riveting stuff

2) "the hoff" consistently told us that these were his current thoughts, that they might change as he considered the issue more, and that he was telling us them not to get us to agree but to prompt us to work out what we thought - and how we might think  - about the subjects he covered

Please use the comments on this post to add your views if you want to.

3rd day Saturday

Keynote 5 – Rev Dr John Wasterhoff – Being and Becoming Human (the process of teaching and learning in the church)

Servant hood is about: 

- being present – open to discovery and surprise, participating in life
- Vocation and ministry  - how serve God in every moment
- making and keeping human life human – that is – like the image of God
- not believing the soul is immortal - instead believe in the resurrection

Understandings of how we mature and grow

1) Chronological – people are a valuable raw material.  A teacher is a skilled technician who puts something into children to turn the raw resource into a pre-determined design. (this was the dominant understanding and still is in more conservative environments)

2) Development stages – we move from lower to higher maturity levels through stages.  The teacher is a gardener who tends the seeds so they develop into what they have it in themselves to be. (this is a cognitive model and is the current dominant understanding particularly in liberal environments - it still has a hierarchy)

3) Life as a journey – we are all pilgrims and we journey together – children and adults. All are of value and there is no hierarchy of maturity on the journey.  In this approach – which John prefers – there are 3 equal value pathways into the heart of God

  1. 2/2 people of all ages participate in journey of faith through pathways of experiential, reflective & integrative learning

a. Experiential – an intuitive pathway often with arts, nature, ritual, symbolic actions and spiritual dimension of life.  An experience of God in life, being attentive to the world.  A discovery of God’s grace.  Children often experience this pathway but it is not limited to them.  This pathway is less used in academia.

b. Reflective – searching – making sense of experiences, critical reflection - maybe starting with questions.  Often happens in mid-life – but not limited to that time.

c. Integrative – a unity of a) and b) where all of us are called back to both a) and b).   In this the child has as much to teach as we who teach them.  In this approach a bible study might not be about what the passage means but how it is (What does this mean.  Well think about what happens when different people look at a piece of art.  They will see different things.  They may even see things the artist hadn’t seen. So in this approach the heart of meaning isn’t understanding)

4) Hereditary and environmental factors – do we have free will – or are we determined by these factors – or are they an influence but not determinants?

5) Non-material influencers – the Holy Spirit – the spirit of evil – both are interior voices.  They don’t determine us – but they are there.  Evil = absence of good  - but evil doesn’t call us to do evil directly - instead the spirit of evil appears to be God or from God - calling us to do something good.  So if your nature is contemplative - evil might call you into more contemplative prayer with yourself and your thoughts - and so less time and connection with others. And if your nature is active - then evil might call you to new problems to solve – and eventually you will dry up.    For these reasons an awareness of the spirits – a discernment  - is important

Westerhoff: "We are not called to do things 'to' people or 'for' people but 'with' people"

Other points John made

- How do we go about helping ourselves to have more free will – how do we focus on who we are and being and how best we can be with children?

- Contemporary culture is - we are what we do - how we add value – how we perform. It is not who we are – yet in who we are  - there is no difference in our value

- Do you think God created or caused this all to be and then sat back?  Or do you think God determines all of what happens? Have you ever thought that God is present in human life but not in control?  The Almighty sets aside power by choice to be dependent upon us – to be in relationship with us (whereas we are by nature are dependent on God and on each other).

- Our contemporary culture doesn’t like dependency.

- If I can’t say no to God then I can’t say yes to God

John then went through some thoughts and ideas concerning baptism and confirmation and communion

- Baptism is to help us understand human nature and pathways – it is a beginning.

- Adult baptism might be something we normalise to – but that doesn’t exclude child baptism

- Baptism is a sacrament – it isn’t magic

- Infant baptism reminds us of grace before a response – we grew into – it isn’t earned

- Adult baptism is remembering and growing into adoption into Christ’s body

- Augustine words re communion – when serving bread and wine – Be what you see – receive who you already are – live accordingly

- If infant or adult baptism means as above - then the need for confirmation is what?

John then went through the following – how 5 times a year the church used to remind  - and in a way re-baptise - those in the church

- Easter vigil – we need to die to be be born
- Pentecost – we are enthused with the Holy Spirit – we are the body of Christ in the world
- All Saints – we are all saints yet we all sin
- Baptism of the Lord – call for action
- Visitation by a bishop – we are part of a larger family

Finally John touched on sacraments and the sacramental

- Sacraments make us aware of something we already have – they don’t give that thing to us
- So all of life is potentially sacramental
- And we set aside some time to do the sacraments to make us aware – but it is worth asking do they? Or have they lost their power?

From the questions asked at the end of the address the quote from John I heard was "
All religious language is metaphorical"

After a coffee break there were then a number of seminars. If anybody has some notes on the ones I didn't attend then I can incorporate them into this post with a credit to the originator

I went to the Lucy Moore’s seminar on Practical Ways forward for Messy Households of faith – How can messy churches and others best support households at all stages of faith from atheists to committed Christians

Lucy introduced the session by saying we would look at some practical out-workings from the earlier Messy Church seminars AND that we’d also touch on some of the ideas John had been saying in his keynote addresses and in particular the one previous to this seminar.

There was a slide summarising Messy Discipleship as follows

- The start of a faith journey – stepping stones are needed

- In for the long term

- In community not in isolation

- Using formal informal and social learning

- Multiplying the effect of sessions rather than add-ons or take-aways

And there was the slide to the left on some thoughts on discipling

Lucy explored some implications these ideas might have for the welcome time, activity time, celebration time and meal time  - and thinking through how each time and area is an opportunity to encounter God and each other

Other ideas mentioned were:

- For prayer – Explore zones, prayer station, Messy messages to God – slips to fill in with prayer requests, a postbox for people to put prayer requests into

- For mealtime – Table Talk cards – like Godly play

The slide to the right sets out some other Messy Ideas

Towards the end of the session there was a discussion on how some of the ideas from John's morning keynote might apply to Messy.  So ideas discussed were

- Using the experiential, reflective and integrative pathways ideas to look at how Messy might help disciples develop

- Asking ourselves whether the approach we take with Messy to help people is largely what John categorised as chronological or development stage - and thus quite hierarchical and teacher/pupil 

- and how what we do might change if the approach we adopted was more of a journey of life approach -  where we are all pilgrims and we all journey together – learning from each other - those without a faith and those with one -  children and adults. 

Keynote 6 – Rev Dr John Westerhoff – Living into our Baptism – Understanding catechesis as life long, intentional processes of formation, education, and instruction/training.  Thee notes are a mix of the structure John set out as he talked - where I got it - and the various quotable statements he scattered like confetti (in a good way) during his keynote.

 - Are christians made not born?

- Baptism make us a christian - but the rest of life is about becoming who you are intended to be

- maybe some people are baptised without the intention - or expectation - of becoming who they are intended to be?

- this approach to the rest of life - after baptism - can be intentional, systematic and is - of course - lifelong

- an instructional/training approach has traditionally dominated our approach to helping people in the rest of their life after baptism.  This is a process by which we acquire knowledge and skills which are foundational to the christian life of faith - so for example - what scripture means  - the cognitive ability to read and study it and interpret it - how to think theologically (often this is overlooked)

(at this point John ran through a hierarchy of knowledge - so running from the bottom of the hierarchy to the top we have:

- Repeat what heard or read
- Take what heard/read and put it in your own words
- Apply what you know to other knowledge
- Take 2 bodies of knowledge and unite them into something new
- Have the ability to make rational judgements about truth

John commented that we rarely help people get to the top of this hierarchy)

- more recently a formational/nurture approach has emerged and moved towards in terms of helping people in the rest of their life after baptism. But sometime this approach throws the baby out with the bath water - (this formational/nurture approach should be the primary key way - with support from the instructional/training approach  - see paragraph above - and the Education approach - see paragraph below).  It is a natural way - some might label it socialisation - and it happens all the time - we are alwasy being formed.  It is the participation in and practice of a christian life.

- Education - not as the two approaches above - this approach is reflecting on experience in light of the gospel.  Its function is to help us grow by changing..  Not just intellectual - also intuitive - a way of doing and knowing.  Includes critical reflection and creative activity.  So intellectual education could be viewed as per the diagram below.

If the diagram is one representation of an intellectual approach to education  - then what would be an intuitive approach?

John told the story of an exercise where he gives students a lump of clay and asks them to become familiar with it, to be its friends. So with eyes closed to touch it gently, smelt it, feel it - and then to let it form itself into something new.

He then talked us through a similar approach to reading scripture using some traditional approach (the spellings of the traditional approaches below may be wrong - its how I heard them)

- Lectio - read  - the passage slowly and carefully and know it so you make the passage your own - so you didn't need to read it to think about it - then spend 15 minutes in silence thinking through the passage

- Meditatio - meditate  - on the passage - enter into it - become the experience - the characters - (so if applied to the story of the seeds been cast onto different types this might lead you to ponder about being the seed and letting go of control of your life)

- Oratio - pray - a conversation with God on the experience

- Contemplatio - contemplate - open yourself so you might become what God wants us to be

John then turned to talking us through a way of using some universal categories to look at and analyse the life of a parish/church and discern what was really being learnt.  In starting this section he pointed out that the church is competing with the world in terms of the formation of people.

1) Participation in communal repetitive rituals - 2 examples of how the world does this is via sports and adverts
- sports - how sports are presented to us by the world leads to it subtly forming our views on what is important - winning, success, individualism, team work against another team, not just playing for the sake of it
- adverts - what we should want  - desire - value - look like - see as beauty

How can our liturgies and rituals counter the formation the world's approach to sports and adverts is trying to get across?

Parish analysis point - in looking at the church rituals what hidden learning is going on - for example - think of the collection - where several people may not put anything in as they give via standing order - how does this non participation in the ritual of giving in a service affect what people learn about giving?

2) Environment - a lecture theatre is not designed to create community.  Similarly in a church it is unlikely that people will choose to sit next to those they need to get to know or be reconciled with.

Parish analysis point - look at the church seating arrangements - how well do they allow people to get up and walk around - say during the peace - and so share the peace with those they choose not to sit next to.  Also look at how the church space is cared for - look at the bulletin boards - what hidden lessons are they teaching?

3) Ordering of time - depending on the time in the church year does it affect how we order what we do in our services?  What rites of passage and intensification and transition do we have?

Parish analysis point - look at our rites and ask what they say about what we view as being important times in our lives. Look how the community asks people to spend their time.  What is this saying is important about how we spend our time and our money and our energy?  What do our programmes and budgets say about what we think is important?

4) Communal interactions - segmenting people into age groups slows how people mature as we grow best when we are with others who are not like us.  So do you intentionally seek out friends and magazines that are not like you - that indeed take a view opposite to the one you do?

Parish analysis point - how do we treat each other, the newcomer, how do we show respect for each other, how do we talk to each other, listen to each other, make decisions, form community?  What are the answers to these questions telling us about the explicit and implicit forming going on in our church?

5) Role Models - secular culture has athletes and entertainers as role models. What are the role models your church has?

Parish Analysis point - who do we pay attention to, name buildings after, put plaques on walls for, hold forward as role models of "this is the way to be"?  And what lessons do these give you into who your church sees as role models?

6) Language - John told the story of how he was talking with a colleague at an education establishment and ended the conversation - as he then often did - with the phrase - have a good day.  The colleague called him back and said to him - are you often in the habit of telling people how they should feel?  What if I don't want to have a good day?  Since that incident John changed his greeting to - I  hope your day is good.

Parish Analysis point - how do you name God, Evil and how talk about them both?  When people are asked to do things is the language they reply in in a "I can't do that" style or a "I don't  want to do that" style?  What types of words are most used in church?  What  insights do the answers to these questions give?

7) Disciplines - so behaviours and practice

Parish Analysis point - what behaviours do we encourage and practice? What  insights do the answers to these questions give?

If you take all these 7 categories and analyse your parish's/church's responses to the types of questions they prompt - what surfaces as being the explicit and hidden attitudes and approaches your parish/church is seeking to form in others?.  How do these counter those the world is seeking to form?

With such analyse you can begin to say something about the nature of your parish/church.

You can then start to think about how you can be intentional about how you nurture/form/educate the people in your christian community to help their formation and how to build programmes to achieve such.

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