Nurturing Imagination in Our Congregations
When I was younger I was convinced that I did not have an imagination. And yet, when I rode my horse, I found myself racing to lands unseen and villages unknown. When I was scared, I pictured my grandmother sitting by my side. When I was happy, I found myself dancing in a sea of other happy people of all different shapes and sizes.
My imagination helped me see a path into and out of many different situations. I pictured new possibilities and dreamed of different realities where people were healed, friends and family who lived around the globe connected for tea parties, and God was a constant presence that never left my side.
Working with children, I have learned that our imaginations help us engage with God and others, seeing the world God is calling us to help create. Imagination is a divine gift that helps us as we grow in and participate fully in a faith that testifies to our “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NRSV). One writer has said that imagination actually makes faith possible! Through our imaginative musings we see images of what might be and we dream of what God is calling us to do.
Recently I have participated in several conversations around “the loss of the imagination.” I have spent time with adults experiencing a “faith crisis,” as they cried out: “I don’t even know if God exists anymore. How can I believe in something I cannot see or feel? What if we are all alone in the world?” In these moments imagination is a gift for survival. It invites us to consider a reality different than the one we are experiencing and to feel at peace in the midst of chaos, knowing we are not alone.
In a world full of violence, divided by racism, and overrun by poverty, a world where injustice seems to be the running tape on the news, our imaginations offer us a way to live in hopes of a better world. Together we can imagine and work with God and neighbor towards the Kingdom that God has promised and is creating with our help.
Ways to create space for practicing and nurturing imagination:
- Identify teaching opportunities when persons can be invited to use their imagination. This might include worship, sermons, small groups, or committee meetings.
- Model imaginative thinking. As you tell a story, describe what you see, smell, feel, hear, taste. Invite others to imagine with you, asking what they see, smell, feel, hear, and/or taste.
- Ask open ended questions and avoid giving one “final” answer. Instead ask: “I wonder what this could look like? I wonder how God is calling us to respond?”
- Invite persons to reflect on their faith as they engage their imaginations. Take time to consider all of the possibilities a person’s imagination presents.
- Affirm what you hear: “What I hear you saying is…”
- Follow up with a question that continues the conversation. “I wonder how you, God, and others might create this possibility?”
Think about it:
- How has imagination helped you connect with the Holy?
- What dreams do you dream?
- What steps is God calling you to take as you live into your dreams/visions/call?
- With whom is God calling you to imagine and work?
- How do you incorporate imagination into your teaching and learning?
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