10 Ways the Parish Imagination Will Lead You

by Mark Votava

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I love the idea of the parish as being a place where you live and become connected in everyday life in community with others.  This has been so healing for me as I have now lived in the place I am at for almost eleven years now.  Time has gone by fast and I am getting older, but this experience for me over the last decade has shaped me tremendously.

I no longer go to church because the parish to me is not a building or a meeting, but a place I am becoming faithfully present to.  The parish is the neighborhood that is becoming a part of my salvation, my identity, my history, my true self, my vocation, my passion, my hope.  A lot of times I feel like a marginalized exile, but I am coming to terms with losing all expectations of where my life will take me.  I am trying not to fear and just live into the authenticity I know right now.

After more than a decade of exploring this new paradigm of what I think the church is, I am becoming more free, creative and alive.  I am discovering my true self that is beautiful, authentic and beloved by God.  Vulnerability is not so frightening.  Fear is not so overwhelming.

Jesus is teaching me to love.  I am leaning to be less like a Pharisee and more compassionate.  I am learning that all that matters is love in everyday life with others in community.  This is what my imagination is drawn to.  This is my hope and dream for the world I live in.

Here are 10 ways the parish imagination has led me and can lead you too:

1. To love our neighbors together in everyday life

The parish imagination has been ignored for too long.  We need the parish imagination if we want any kind of legitimacy before our neighbors in our changing culture.  We need the parish imagination to love our neighbors in everyday life together.

Wendell Berry states, “…you must reach for a reality that is inaccessible merely to observation or perception but that also requires imagination, for imagination knows more than the eye sees…” 

2. To create an embodied expression

The parish imagination may seem like an impossibility, but if we lived more in tune with our imaginations God could do ordinary miracles among us.  We need to reach for the parish imagination at all times.  We are not the body of Christ together without an embodied expression of the parish imagination in the place we inhabit.

3. To follow the leading of the Holy Spirit of love, compassion and humility

The parish imagination is where the Holy Spirit is leading us.  The Holy Spirit is teaching us the importance of the parish imagination in the place we inhabit.  The parish imagination can embody things that we have never experienced before.  We can be faithfully present to the parish imagination in our everyday lives together in beautiful ways.

4. To become creative and innovative

God has created us with powerful imaginations that are extremely creative and innovative if we practice cultivating them.  God has not abandoned our imaginations, but resides within them.  God manifests love to the world through the parish imagination in the place we inhabit.

Richard J. Foster writes, “God created us with an imagination…” 

We are created with a parish imagination to be the body of Christ together in everyday life.  The parish imagination is intertwined with the local community we find ourselves in.  The parish imagination calls out to us in everyday life.

5. To embrace beauty

The parish imagination is beautiful.  The parish imagination is rooted in our ways of life together.  A holistic counterculture is absent when we are not passionate about the parish imagination.

6. To listen deeply

The parish imagination teaches us to listen deeply.  The parish imagination teaches us to give up our colonial ways and care for our neighbors.  The parish imagination inspires us to be human.  The parish imagination embraces us as the body of Christ in our local community as we share life together.

7. To embrace something deeper than words

The parish imagination is a powerful voice in the world.  It says more about the gospel than any words ever could.  The parish imagination speaks to our creativity and potential in all kinds of ways.  The parish imagination lives within us, we just don’t understand this yet.

The parish imagination cannot be oppressed by institutional Christianity anymore.  The parish imagination is tired of being ignored and not valued.  The parish imagination wants to have the freedom to celebrate and dance in us as the body of Christ in the place we inhabit.

Dorothy Day says, “The imagination is part of our lives – part of reality…” 

8. To welcome authenticity

The parish imagination is authentic.  The parish imagination lives within us.  The parish imagination is about embodying the life of Christ in the place we inhabit together.

9. To live in freedom

We cannot truly be alive without the parish imagination.  We cannot see without the parish imagination.  We cannot live in freedom without the parish imagination.

10. To become the hands and feet of Christ

Our spirituality will become anything but authentic without the parish imagination.  The parish imagination is where we become the hands and feet of Christ in our local context.  The parish imagination is where we find true peace and beauty.

Have you taken the risk to embrace the parish imagination within yourself?