by Gary Expanding thinking and imagination is very important to me. Too often we separate those two things: believing that thinking is mature but that using the imagination is immature. But the two must work in tandem for full potential to be reached in communicating, teaching, planning and living. So I was excited recently to attend a conference at Lipscomb University titled Reclaiming the Imagination.
That is, I was excited until I saw the subtitle: The Exodus as Paradigmatic Narrative for Preaching. My first impression of this was that the conference was going to kill the theme of Imagination by tying the weight of academia around its neck and casting it into the sea of study methods, hermeneutics and didactic lectures. I know those who hold scores of hours in post-grad Bible degrees would argue that academic pursuits enhance imagination but I’ve always found that making God an academic pursuit causes me distractions from the day-to-day call to have time and emotional energy for close relationships with people and help form them to discipleship. This is just my judgement upon myself; no one else. There’s no need for you DMin folks to email me!
I’m happy to report that I was wrong about almost all of this preconception. I found that the ministers attending the conference were lively and engaging. And while a few seemed to give the air of being caught up in the pride of academic achievements, the vast majority were a joy to be with. And the theme, once the subtitle was dissected and translated to the common tongue, was very accurate and closely followed. The lecturers presented imaginative thoughts and challenges. Two well known authors were there: Walter Brueggemann and Brian McLaren.
I appreciate the access we had to the presenters. I had an opportunity to speak personally with Dr. Brueggemann with some thoughts he’d stirred in me during his first talk. The thoughts had to do with his grandparent metaphor for our role as churches. Brueggemann suggested that the role of grandparents in the family is to show that daily life is sacramental and to tell the lore and history of their family, which provides the needed roots and deepness to sustain the family. He claims that this should be the role of the Church in communities. I like his thinking and his imagination.
This metaphor caused me to consider the actual ‘grandparents’ within our churches. This consideration made me realize that I’ve not received much, if any, lore or story-heritage from the older folks in my childhood church or in my current church family. And the stories I’m thinking of are personal stories. I received a lot of teaching on Biblical stories, which are very important. But over the years, I’ve heard virtually no local stories of spiritual history from the oldest generation in my church families.
I wondered for a few hours on this: whether the oldest generation in my churches hadn’t passed on local lore/history of spiritual matters/events because we as younger generations weren’t listening, or if that generation hadn’t passed the lore on because they’d never been given permission to do so in our decently-and-in-order Church of Christ heritage, which played down or squelched the practice of personal testimonies. Are these failings in story telling from the ‘grandparents’ generic to all Christian groups in America, specific to churches of Christ or specific to my geographic area?
No matter what the cause, I began to feel cheated of my history and heritage; a heritage that should be personal and local and could help deepen who I am and deepen what my church family can be. These are the things that I was able to speak with Brueggemann about and he was gracious, patient and insightful as I explained my thoughts and as he responded.
Now that my imagination is pulling my mind down this road of thought, I want some reflections from others. Maybe the oldest generation in your church family does a wonderful job passing on personal and local histories of spiritual events and happenings. Or maybe, you’re like me and haven’t experienced much of it.
How can we change this? How can we, as younger generations, give ‘permission’ to the oldest generation to tell us these thing? How do we carve out the time for them to share: in worship time, in writings for our bulletins, in their living rooms? How can the members of the oldest generation make themselves more approachable and how might they take the lead on passing this important lore on to us; a personal, local, living piece of history that can deepen and strengthen who we are? And in passing all of this on, to help make our church families vibrant, sustainable and imaginative about the future.
What have you experienced? What are your thoughts? What should we do?