Till and Sow
Over three evenings, we held the first series of Till and Sow, a collaborative initiative between Laidlaw College, Venn Foundation, and the Auckland Church Leaders Association. This was a chance to hear from business leaders, social justice advocates, and international development experts as they shared the challenges and opportunities they’ve faced as disciples of Jesus Christ in their work.
Over drinks and nibbles, we gathered with a community of like-minded young professionals and heard from men and women of faith sharing their key learnings, and their journeys toward deeper understanding of God, the world, the church, and their work. Together, we imagined what it might look like to work purposefully for the good of our city.
April: Israel & Jessica Cooper, Founders and Owners of Home, a national development and construction company on a mission to end homelessness.
May: Jessica Palmer, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Humanities at the University of Otago.
June: Dave & Phoebe Atkinson, Founders of Forrest Hill Community Garden.
Why Art and Artists Matter: A Conversation Evening with Dr. Adrienne Chaplin
Auckland, March 2023
When it comes to the value of the arts, perspectives vary wildly: some elevate the arts to the highest spiritual plane; others reduce all artistic endeavour to bare usefulness in commerce.
Why do art and artists matter? What role do they have in human flourishing? In this Conversation Evening, art historian and philosopher Dr. Adrienne Chaplin reflected on these questions, and on the way in which the arts and artists can find their place within a fuller vision of God’s purpose.
Check out Sam Bloore’s podcast with Dr. Adrienne Chaplin on Venn Presents << here >>
To Walk Beautifully Upon the Earth: A Christian Vision of Creation for an Age of Disenchantment
Auckland, October 2022
Sometimes it hurts to look. Our relationship with the other-than-human world is broken and the signs are everywhere: rising temperatures, poisoned waterways, felled forests, eroded soil, lengthening extinction lists; and in our own lives, we feel cut off from the natural world, ill at home in a disenchanted cosmos.
Together, we face an urgent question: how might we learn to “walk beautifully upon the earth?” (John Moriarty). To this question, the Christian tradition has wise, rich, and wonderful things to say. But too few of us are familiar with its treasures. We are, in Christopher Thompson’s phrase, “indoor Christians.” We don’t see, feel, experience, or care for the natural world as Christian faith would have us. We need to take our faith outside.
Held as part of Auckland Climate Festival 2022, and in collaboration with Valley Road Church and Central Vineyard Church, we gathered for drinks and nibbles, before Andrew Shamy leads us in conversation around the Christian vision of Creation. Together we asked, how might we recover a sense of wonder in our disenchanted age, how might we learn to live wisely and well upon the earth?
There and Back Again: How reading Tolkien can restore the world to us | A Conversation Evening with Andrew Shamy
Auckland, October 2020 • Christchurch, June 2021 • Wellington, September 2023
What’s the use of a dragon? Or an elf? Or a hobbit?
Fantasy stories don’t have a good reputation today. They’re just for children, surely, or a form of escapism, a flight from reality, not for serious adults living in serious times.
In this Conversation Evening, Andrew Shamy explored the work of J.R.R. Tolkien to argue fantasy literature is not (necessarily) a flight from the real, but toward it. Fantasy has the capacity to recover for us a clear view of reality and provide resources for living well within it. There is an urgent need for stories of the fantastic in our modern world, and in Tolkien we meet a profound model for a Christian approach to the arts in our “serious times”.
Andrew Shamy led us in a discussion on the life and imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien and the wisdom he might offer for our lives today.
A Māori Expression of the Christian Faith | A Conversation Evening With Bishop Te Kitohi Pikaahu
Auckland, January 2020
The last couple of years have seen a huge resurgence of interest in te reo Māori, with courses oversubscribed around the country. There is also a growing awareness among Christians of the role that Māori had in the rapid spread of Christianity through Aotearoa in the mid-1800s. Against that, some have suggested that to be authentically Māori requires returning to ideas of traditional Māori spirituality, and either an abandonment of Christian faith, or at least a revision of the faith.
The pou whakairo, tukutuku, and kowhaiwhai at Te Karaiti Te Pou Herenga Waka represent an authentically Māori expression of the Christian faith. They offer a third way, between revisionism and colonialism. They express a pathway to retaining the orthodox content of Christianity, expressed in a genuinely indigenous form.
At this Conversation Evening, Pihopa/Bishop Te Kitohi Pikaahu, who was involved in the construction of Te Karaiti Te Pou Herenga Waka, shared the story of the different visual elements of the church and the way they form a unique, indigenous expression of Christian theology.
Community and the Need to Belong | A Conversation Evening with Nigel Dixon
Auckland, October 2019
As the Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand realises she is now a fringe community in social, economic, and political life, we must re-address who we are, how we maintain identity, and how we embody the gospel. The rise of missional thought is suggesting we need to turn our attention to our own post-Christian world, but do we have the relational health to do this?
This Conversation Evening with Nigel Dixon was an exploration of the challenge of community building. Together we sought to understand what community means and discussed some of the ways we can grow in our relational health.
Out with the Old? | A Conversation Evening with Ven. Dr. Lyndon Drake and hosted by Rev. Dr. Nathan McLellan
Auckland, May 2019
At this Conversation Evening, Ven. Dr. Lyndon Drake lead a discussion about the text of the Old Testament, its place in the Christian life, and how we engage with it, particularly in the light of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. There was also an opportunity for people to ask questions they have about the Old Testament in general, and specific passages in particular.
Friendship and Prayer | A Conversation Evening with Dr. Luke Fenwick
Dunedin, September 2018 • Wellington, October 2018 • Auckland, October 2018
At this Conversation Evening, Luke guided a conversation on the nature of friendship. He led us in a conversation about John 15 and a set of friends known as the White Rose, using these two illustrations to explore our friendships with one another, and how our friendship with Christ constitutes our most fundamental common ground. Together, we asked questions like: What does friendship with Christ look like? In what ways might this friendship with Christ amend, affirm, or critique our own friendships? And what is the place of prayer in our friendships?
Josephine Butler | A Conversation Evening with Dr. Sarah Williams
Auckland, January 2018 • Wellington, August 2018
From 1869 to 1886 feminist philosopher Josephine Butler brought the plight of the prostitute to the attention of Victorian society. She challenged contemporary sexual ethics, defended the rights of the marginalised, and renegotiated the place of women in the public sphere. She was described as the “most distinguished woman of the nineteenth century.” But what motivated Butler’s critique of Victorian culture and what kind of leader was she? In this Conversation Evening, Dr. Sarah Williams explored the relationship between Butler’s Christian faith and her political imagination.
Seeing God at Work | A Conversation Evening with Alistair Mackenzie
Christchurch, November 2017
In a rapidly changing marketplace and cultural context, Christians are confronted with a number of questions: Where is God at work renewing and bringing life to the world? What do we need to understand in order to join God in this creative work? In what ways does the Gospel offer us a different way of seeing and being in New Zealand? Alistair Mackenzie provided some reflections based on his experience in community development and research into the theology of work, both in Aotearoa, New Zealand and abroad.
Søren Kierkegaard | A Conversation Evening with Rev. Dr. Murray Rae
Auckland, November 2017 • Christchurch, May 2019
In the early 19th century, a young Danish thinker named Søren Kierkegaard began writing and critiquing the counterfeit version of Christianity he saw in European culture. Kierkegaard devoted much of his life and thinking to the question: What does it really mean to become and to be a Christian? This question remains for us today. Otago University Professor Murray Rae looked at the life of this 19th century philosopher and shared his reflections on the many ways Kierkegaard can challenge us to think afresh about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Imitating Jesus | A Conversation Evening with Guests
Wellington, March-December 2017
Across six Conversation Evenings in Wellington, Rev. Dr. Nathan McLellan, Mark Powell, Rev. Jon Hartley, Dr. Sam Bloore, Andrew Becroft, and Dr. John Dennison explored what it looks like to imitate Jesus. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,” wrote the apostle Paul in the Letter to the Philippians. To allow Christ’s mind to be in us and to allow his mind to shape every aspect of our lives, including work, is at the heart of the Christian faith. From the earliest days of the Church, Christians have attended to the call to imitate Jesus and wrestled with what it meant for them personally and in their life together. Each of the speakers drew on their experiences in government, universities, chaplaincy, business, and the arts. They reflected on the habits and practices, and the postures, that have been cultivated as they sought to imitate Jesus in their lives, and how we might do the same.
Women of the Clapham Sect | A Conversation Evening with Dr. Sarah Williams
Auckland, March 2017
The women of the Clapham community were strategists, reformers, activists, authors, letter writers, mothers, homemakers, and friends. Their part in the gospel-shaped movement that emerged from Clapham was central in propelling the significant social, economic, and cultural change in 18th and 19th century Britain, and beyond. At this Conversation Evening, Sarah explored the lives of these incredible women and what we might learn from their lives for today.
Integrating Faith and Work | A Conversation Evening with Rev. Will Messenger
Auckland, February 2017
Will Messenger, Executive Editor of the Theology of Work Project led a conversation exploring what wisdom the Bible has for our questions of work and faith. Drawing on his and others’ work with the Theology of Work Project, Will considered what practical guidance the Bible has to offer our everyday jobs.
Stories of Faithful Engagement (Series) | A Conversation Evening with Guests
Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington, and Auckland, March 2016-June 2017
Dr. Roshan Allpress, Rev. Dr. Nathan McLellan, and Dr. Luke Fenwick drew on their research of faithful men and women from across history in this series, held at centres across Aotearoa. Roshan framed a discussion around the impact of the Clapham Sect—the 18th and 19th century community of reformers, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs. He looked at how they wrestled with their faith, sense of calling, and God’s mission in the world. Nathan then picked up a conversation around the Church, looking at the role of the Church in God’s mission in the world—with all its joys, frustrations, and pain. Luke then drew on 20th century German social figures, and explored how admiration might contribute to faithful engagement in our own lives.