Chair's March Blog: What if... we let our imaginations roam freely?

In the early stages of a building project there is an exercise called ‘briefing’. This is when the client tells the architect what they want.

“We need more room, more light, more storage, more bathrooms...”

In some instances the client has identified the ‘obvious’ solution without fully identifying the problem. They are uncomfortable and the logistics don’t work, so ‘more’ must be the solution.

Sometimes ‘more’ is the solution, but not always. Sometimes we need to take a step back to see if ‘other’ is the answer this time. And that’s where the imagination comes into play. 

The same could be said of our explorations into the future possibilities for our Church. Do we need ‘more’ of what we’ve always done (bigger, better, stronger, higher, fuller, firmer)? Or dare we consider ‘other’ (stranger, different, smaller, deeper, easier, kinder, looser)?

I was reminded of this recently at a CPW where we considered the Church’s future. There seemed to be two broad groupings:

  • Those who began with the parish structures that we have; and who modified and improved these structures to make the church more efficient, more prayerful and more mission-focussed.

  • Those who yearned to start from another place; where roles were less proscribed and authority was given more than claimed.

The first group were fired up and ready to go, filled with zeal and purpose, and with concrete actions to take forward. The second group were equally sure of how to achieve their goals, but also realised that they invoked a certain degree of deconstruction of the status quo which would be met by resistance from the first group. And yet both groups belonged to the same Church, the same extended community. That sense of belonging made it possible for dialogue and exploration to continue.

Professor John A. Powell, Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society had this to say about the effect of belonging on the exercise of the imagination:

“One reason the problems seem overwhelming is because we’re using the wrong tools to understand them and fix them. We’re actually talking about a profound change in paradigm. It’s like trying to think about computers as fancy typewriter. So if you’re using the framework of typewriters to try to make sense of computers, it’s very clumsy. It doesn’t work. You have to really shift it altogether.”

In other words, to exercise the imagination, start by trying to forget what you know already about buildings, typewriters or Church (there will be other times when this will be necessary) and go back to when the itch started. Concentrate on “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8.

And let’s see where our imagination takes us.

Anne Dixon

Chair's BlogAnne Dixon