Dr Brian Harris; Vose Principal

As a decade begins

With the twenty teens recently ended, I thought I would post a bit of an update about the blog, fill you in on an exciting new venture I am part of, add some reflections about the start of the twenties, and close with a prayer I have found meaningful.

This site has carried 359 posts since it officially launched in August 2015. Some have been picked up by other sites and reposted over and over again, yet others have made it onto the reading list of a variety of courses and are sometimes quoted back at me, and yes, some have been read by only a smattering of faithful followers, before quietly fading into obscurity. I’ve enjoyed writing each post, but have often been perplexed at the response. Several I consider to be the best have had little response, whilst some pretty ho hum ones have been read by thousands and reposted widely. I’ve concluded that I am not a good predictor of the popular, and long ago decided to write about what I feel matters, and to be content with whatever the response is. That remains my stance.

Reading that I imagine you are thinking, he is about to announce that this blog is closing. Not really – but it is about to take an interesting turn.

Many of you know that I serve as principal of Vose Seminary – a theological college located in Perth, Australia. I get to work with some amazing colleagues, and we often collaborate on a range of projects related to the seminary. More recently I worked very closely with Jon Bergmann, the director of our VET sector training, on producing Open Book: A Biblical Literacy Project, which Vose produced for Christian Schools Australia. The project has been enormously successful, and Jon and I enjoyed working on it so much that we decided to launch an ongoing project, The Centre for Faith and Life. Its byline is “Spacious hearts – Curious minds” – and that is what the centre hopes to cultivate. We are trying to nurture faith without fear – in other words, an understanding of the Christian faith that leads us to a genuine openness to the other (a spacious heart) and which is genuinely curious about the complex questions lying before us (curious minds). It’s an intentionally future focussed project – looking at the contribution of the Christian faith as we move more deeply into the twenty first century, and affirming its ability to speak creatively and helpfully into the complex societal and personal issues we face and are likely to face. At times it might be a little provocative, but when it is, it is always to make sure that we are thinking deeply and well about things. We believe that following Jesus leads to the fullest and richest version of life – the flourishing life – and so will often reflect on what the flourishing life looks like (and to be clear, it bears no relationship to the silly claims of the health, wealth and prosperity gospel that tries to ignore the genuine issues of our time, and has the shallowest of understanding of what it means to flourish).

This is all a long way of saying that in future most of my blog posts will be on the Centre for Faith and Life site. Jon Bergmann and I will be the main contributors, though we have already been in touch with some talented and thoughtful writers who we hope will serve as associates of the Centre, and whose work will often feature. In future the Centre also plans to start a regular podcast – so I am looking forward to participating in a number of significant conversations when that is launched.

Let me tell you a little about Jon Bergmann, seeing as he and I will be working closely together on this project. You might know that I am 62 – Jon is 31, exactly half my age. We have done a lot of speaking together, and have been struck by how positive the feedback has been. I think it is because while we essentially agree on the big things, we often approach them from a different angle – Jon as a Millennial, me as a Boomer. Jon has challenged me to rethink through a raft of issues, and to unpack the cultural layers that I have allowed to settle on some of my thinking. He has helped me to spot many things in the Bible that previously I have paid little attention to. I am grateful for him and his insights. In turn, I think I have been able to provide a broader frame and more nuanced theological perspective to help challenge his thinking. Whatever – it works well, and we are both hopeful that our collaboration will enrich your understanding of the Christian faith. At a personal level, Jon is married to Nina and they have 3 young children – so while I am grappling with what it means to be a grandparent, Jon is facing rather different issues – and I think that enriches our work as well.

So what are my reflections on the start of the 20’s. Actually, I’m enormously excited by the start of this era. Being able to think about the future of faith – both at Vose Seminary and through the Centre for Faith and Life – will keep me more than a little busy, and I like to think this might be my most fruitful and creative decade yet – though ultimately that is in the hands of the God I have learnt to trust, love and adore.

I recently preached at a church which sang as its closing prayer this simple but hauntingly beautiful song (which I had never previously heard). It struck me as being richly appropriate for the start of a new decade, and is indeed my prayer for you… It has been set to music by Robin Mann.

May the feet of God walk with you, and his hand hold you tight. May the eye of God rest on you, and his ear hear your cry. May the smile of God be for you, and his breath give you life. May the Child of God grow in you, and his love bring you home.

Amen and amen.

As always, nice chatting…

 

To read more from Dr. Brian Harris, see what he has posted from his blog onto our website.