When communicating about the ministries of Mennonite Church Canada Witness, my former colleague Al Rempel used to tell me, “Help your listeners imagine the work that is being done.”
Imaginations are powerful, liberating gifts of God. Through our imaginations, God meets us. God helps us draw from current realities, Scripture and history to paint possibilities, evoke emotions and inspire ideas. God’s imaginative work is seen in the created world. My colleague Dan Dyck regularly posts “sky of the day” photos on social media. These images remind us of God’s limitless and inspiring creativity in shaping, colouring and texturing the heavens.
God’s imaginative work also illuminates the political, social, cultural and spiritual realities of our lives. The more we, as the church, experience change and challenge, the more critical it is that we have an imagination shaped by God.
How are our imaginations seeded and cultivated? In Luke 1, Mary was invited to imagine that she would give birth, and that her son would have a kingdom that would never end. In Acts 9, Ananias was told to imagine Saul not as a first-century terrorist but as someone who would carry God’s name to gentiles, kings and the children of Israel. And Jesus called his disciples to imagine God’s kingdom at hand, to be “fishers of men.”
Imagination can be prodded by reality. Here in Cuba, from where I write, our Anabaptist brothers and sisters reminded me: “You can come and visit us, but we cannot visit you.” How do we imagine the future Cuban church and its nascent Anabaptist movement with such limited opportunity for reciprocity?
Imagination sparks thoughts of alternative realities. What would an Anabaptist community look like in Kurdistan or Sudan or Iran? How might we imagine the Mennonite church if we took the initiative to go to places in need of peace, instead of waiting for an invitation followed by a lengthy discernment process?
Many times, imagination can be sparked by observing what God is already doing. In Thailand, where the Maliwan church community is growing, leaders dream of integrating faith, farming and business, and they encourage support for believers in nearby Laos. In Burkina Faso, Siamou speakers are introduced to Bible stories in their language and imagine ways to live out what they have learned. In Germany, leaders from North America are responding to an influx of refugees by imagining a new community of peace connecting newcomers with German hosts. In the Philippines, leaders imagine peace and reconciliation teams in each of the country’s 81 provinces. And in Santiago, my Chilean brother, a self-confessed former drug addict and alcoholic, imagines a ministry serving the poorest in society becoming a model for an alternative church.
MC Canada and its area churches are living in a time of structural change, and we must draw from our imaginations to give shape to those structures.
What’s in your imagination?
Tim Froese is Mennonite Church Canada’s executive minister of Witness.