Friday 30 June 2017

Write! Have you heard the call?

Writing for Publication Workshop 26-28 June 2017

Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this.
(Revelation 1.19)

There’s been a Writing-for-Publication Workshop on the PTC College Calendar this year, 26-28 June, and we give profound thanks to God for such an encouraging, stimulating, rich, insightful and laughter-filled few days. It all happened because of a conversation I had with a Bishop of the Church of England in the back of a minibus in Seoul. See how the Holy Spirit works?

Eleven theological and missiological papers were presented; seven from women and four from men, inspired by real-life reflections and convictions from across Oceania. We touched on topics ranging from a Pacific eco-theology of pregnancy, through the American Samoan eyes and experience of Filomena... a reassessment of Catholic mission in Tonga from Viliame (above), soon to be ordained as a Marist Father. After comments, responses, talanoa and ‘tweaks’, all the papers were web published straight after the workshop, including an additional paper generously offered by Dr Bird. It was moving to see these projected at the workshop’s Closing Eucharist and pray,

Faithful God, we dedicate to you these writings and those who laboured over them. May they serve your mission and purposes we humbly pray, in the name of Jesus, Word of Life. Amen.

Rev Geraldine presents on Jonah

The published papers can be freely accessed and read by visiting Twelve tangible outcomes, much laboured over beforehand and then brought to birth. Works in progress which, like any new shoots, will benefit from continued weeding and watering, pruning and feeding. The authors welcome interaction, comment and ‘talanoa’ around their presentations, and of course the flexibility and immediacy of the web allows for this in a way that print publication cannot.

The workshop marked a new collaboration between Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion (MTAC) - a worldwide, and very ecumenically minded network - and PTC Education by Extension (PTCEE). The Rt Revd Dr Graham Kings, the Mission Theologian who coordinates MTAC, came in person from London to be one of three co-chairs. We are so grateful to him and for MTAC sponsorship of FJ$4,250 [GB£1,600] towards costs. The Director of PTC’s Institute of Mission and Research, Mr Aisake Casimira and yours truly were the other co-chairs. 

Wise encourager and Theological Consultant among us was distinguished Pacific theologian and minister of the United Church in the Solomon Islands, Rev Dr Cliff Bird.

Misson Theology in the Anglican Communion  describes its purpose as follows.

To raise up new 'Doctors of the Church' in the global South to write, network, publish and engage with theologians in the global North, to renew the worldwide Church and influence society.

Fr Anthony and Rev Billy deep in concentration..

Rev Kara adjusts his world view?

The ‘raising up’ is significant. None of the presenters are formally titled ‘Doctor’ as yet, but are still – and why would we be in the least surprised by this? - brimming with theological capacity, missiological wisdom and rooted, contextual, Pacific experience from church and community. Unfortunately this can be belittled or underplayed when conversations about ‘academic status’ set our agendas or the loaded word ‘student’ is used of those already bringing years of experience to the table. Sisters and brothers at varying ages and stages of theological education have things to say that the rest of the Pacific and the world beyond can usefully hear. Even better: read. 

Rev Leinamau presents on Christian Education in Vanuatu

We don’t have to go far for a biblical mandate, with reference again to the Book of Revelation:

I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, (Rev 1.10-11)

MTAC is sounding a trumpet call to those in mission and ministry all over the world to write down what really matters in their real-life contexts, communities and churches, so that the world can be enlightened. This is exactly what our workshop has been about. The thinkers and writers who took part heard that trumpet call with clarity and the fruits of their labours are now published on the worldwide web. 

Deaconesses Litiana and Verenaisi of Methodist Church, Fiji present their insights...

Rev Marie 'paddling against the tide' as a Samoan woman in Church life

As Acting Principal of PTC, Revd Dr Gwayaweng Kiki said, in his speech to the community at the workshop’s closing feast, ‘Through the work of a few, the whole community of PTC and all the churches we represent throughout Oceania are lifted, honoured and blessed.’

Kanaky, Kiribati, Samoa...

Tonga, Vanuatu, American Samoa...

There is still a great lack of published, Pacific, theological writing as Dr Cliff Bird reminded us more than once. ‘I am so excited by this initiative’, he said to the gathered presenters. ‘You have done some great papers. Please keep developing the discipline of writing, and don’t be fearful to share it with the world. We are writing history and theology from now; from present experience’.

Traditional 'sevusevu' welcome to Bishop Graham 
by the graciousness and kindness of the Fijian 'vanua'

This is an excellent wake up call. In the Pacific, we enjoy speech more than pen, perhaps. Vocal cord more than computer keyboard. But when we write consistently and share our work generously, with ample doses of confidence and humility, this is commendable service for God, from the Pacific, in challenging and changing times. As we all know, it only takes a few Google searches under terms such as ‘theology’ and ‘mission’ to throw up masses of horrifically dubious material from highly questionable sources. Pacific theologians can surely help to redeem the web through offerings of much greater substance and integrity.

Cross on the table at Morning Prayer...

We thank once again, sincerely, Bishop Graham and the MTAC network for investing in and partnering with us in this first Writing-for-Publication workshop. 

Who's up for the next one?

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