I had a colleague call me today for advice on obtaining a Gravatar account. He’s writing an article for an online magazine and the editor suggested that having a Gravatar would provide an automatically generated photograph in his author’s profile. “What’s a gravatar?,” you may ask. It’s a globally recognised avatar – a photograph or image that turns up every time you write an article or leave a comment on a web site, attached to your email address. Gravatar the online service was created in 2004 by Tom Preston-Werner. In 2007, he sold his business to Automattic, the owners of the WordPress blogging platform.
Today at the Centre for Ministry staff, students and participants in the Uniting Church NSW/ACT Social Justice Forum were invited to participate in an Ash Wednesday service. Thirty or so people gathered to sing, be quiet, listen to scripture, and pray. I must admit I’m not a big fan of the season of Lent. Growing up in an austere Presbyterian tradition, it felt as though we had Lent all year round. However I’m aware that stopping, as difficult as might be for an activist, is good for the soul. Kneeling in silence, in the company of others, and focusing on God’s healing, can feel like an imposition, or a freedom from the tyranny of business.
I spent a couple of hours in the Etamoogah Pub, Rouse Hill, tonight, meeting up with fellow travellers on the missional church journey. Matt Stone, who I’ve connected with as a fellow blogger over the last ten years, made an expression of interest in forming a monthly “thinkers group”. We were joined by Rob Thomson from Wollongong, Andy Park and Lucy Jarasius from Quakers Hill. Conversation ranged from the inevitable commonalities (Forge Australia and many mutual friends and colleagues), through to interest in moving beyond anthropomorphic approaches to mission, connecting with neo-pagan communities, developing holistic approaches to learning, respectfully relating to people of other faiths, connecting with indigenous theology, honouring of artists, artisans and technologists alongside those in people-focused work, nurturing emerging generations. The pub’s courtyard behind us was full of fans watching the India vs Pakistan cricket match. After a year of working almost entirely with Uniting Church leaders in Sydney, it was good to foster some connections outside that circle. Thanks Matt!
I’ve just spent two days in Adelaide meeting with a range of people with a responsibility for education of worship leaders across the Uniting Church in Australia. Hosted by the Assembly Worship Working Group, the symposium was designed to explore the question of quality of worship leadership. Is there a Uniting Church approach to worship? What do expect from ordained ministers, people in lay pastoral positions, lay leaders? We have Uniting In Worship 2, the book and CD resource largely focused on litanies for use in a wide range of settings. Why do we have such a low usage rate in Uniting Church congregations?
In my role as Director of the Uniting Learning Network, in the Uniting Church in NSW/ACT, I’m exploring the possibility of renaming the theological college based at 16 Masons Drive, North Parramatta. This exploration is associated with the integration of resourcing consultants and associated educators alongside current and new academic faculty, ministry formation leaders and vocational education and training staff. Rebranding UTC is a way to help establish a culture of collaboration within and around the college. It’s also a way to communicate with the wider church community that we’re not looking at business as usual.
I’ve just been in Wellington, NZ, for a few days holiday, visiting family and friends, and reconnecting with important aspects of my identity. The first three nights were spent in a hotel in Tory Street, the street I worked in for six years between 1994 and 2000 while with the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa Assembly Staff. The building I worked in is now home to a digital design company, an accounting company, and a number of eating places. Eating breakfast at Caffe L’Affare in College St, at Prefab in Jessie St, and eating dinner at The Meeting Place in Tory Street, I spent some time reflecting on what I learned while working there.