In this winter edition, a variety of authors reflect on intersections between contemporary life and theology.

 We begin with Christopher Longhurst’s article on his travels to the Southern Star Abbey, a Cistercian monastery in Kopua, near Palmerston North. While at this monastery, Longhurst gazed on a painted image of Mary and the infant Jesus depicted as Māori. As he gazed upon the image, he also looked inward and reflected on himself. This reflection led to questions that related both to himself as Pākehā and the wider bicultural journey of Aotearoa/New Zealand: “Is the Māori Mary and Jesus for the tāngata whenua only? Or, am I included in that tāngata? Does the tāngata imply all the people of the land of Aotearoa New Zealand, or just the Māori?” Thus for Longhurst, the image of the Māori Mary and Jesus offers “mediation, reconciliation, and communion.”

Mark Keown is also interested in the ministry of reconciliation. In his article, he brings a restorative justice lens to explore the contribution of Paul in restoring the relationship between Philemon (a probable slave owner) and Onesimus (a runaway slave) as seen in Paul’s Letter to Philemon. Keown argues that Paul avoids a focus on punitive justice and instead seeks to facilitate a relational reconnection between Philemon and Onesimus. While looking through a contemporary lens, the evils of slavery should not be minimised, locating the reader in Paul’s world of Rome, between AD 60 and 62, Keown argues that Paul models some of his own teachings by facilitating relational reconciliation.

In the final two articles, the authors focus on concerns of particular relevance to church life. Sebastian Murrihy reflects on how and why one should read the Bible theologically. He argues for a reading of Scripture whereby the reader is open to personal transformation; “to stand under the text and allow it to transform imagination and practice.” This is a reading that not only includes an interpretive method but is a dynamic reading which creates personal change in the life of Christian communities and individuals, who then come to themselves embody Scripture.

Then, Malcolm Gordon turns us to considering contemporary worship; a necessary and controversial topic, which commonly evokes passion and debate. Gordon engages with a thorny question, namely whether contemporary worship songs, unlike the totality of the Psalms, avoid a focus on lament and prefer a focus on praise. Gordon dissects the Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) Top 100 song list and compares it to the Church of Scotland’s Church Hymnary (1929). He finds that eighty percent of the CCLI songs reflects themes of praise and assurance. However, in studying the Presbyterian hymnary, he also finds a similar pattern - of focusing on hope without acknowledging a context that requires it, namely human suffering. Gordon offers thoughtful reflections for contemporary songwriters and singers.

As well as St Imulus, The Voice, and Ministry Corner, we have Synergeo. In this column, Yael Klangwisan from the School of Social Practice reflects on Derrida’s 1995 and 1996 lectures on hospitality, and asks “how can one as a lecturer to adult students aspire to a pedagogy of hospitality [and] what might that look like?” In the Hearts and Minds column from the School of Theology, Phil Church writes about his recent visit to Christian Leaders’ Training College in Papua New Guinea after 48 years. He reflects on the development of its mission.

This edition also features intersections between the digital world and theology. Two writers reflect on strange meeting places where the digital world caused them to think about God, humanity and relationship. Peter Jellyman reflects on an encounter of the mystery of God loving us despite our imperfections in a John Legend YouTube hit, All of me. Then, Stephen Garner encounters fresh questions about human anthropology – the nature of a person and the effects of sin – through watching the Netflix series’ Altered Carbon and Westworld.

For those who are interested in exploring intersections of theology and faith in the material and digital worlds, we welcome reviews of movies, TV programmes, and music. We are also interested in receiving original poems which also offer dialogue between persons and theology.

We commend this edition to you. Please do make responses via the Stimulus Facebook page, or by emailing

Sarah Penwarden is co-editor of Stimulus and the Practicum Coordinator and  Lecturer in the School of Counselling.