10 Ways Pilgrimages Cultivate the Parish Imagination

by Mark Votava

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I have experienced the blessing of being faithfully present in my neighborhood together with others for over a decade.  It seems that community can easily be lost without this.  But sometimes living locally can become too insular if we are not learning from other contexts in life.  I have had many rich experiences of learning from other places that has been so essential to my own growth and cultivation of imagination within me.

Here are 10 ways that pilgrimages cultivate the parish imagination within us.

1. Opens us to exploration

The parish imagination is undiscovered in a lot of our local contexts.  The parish imagination needs to be activated and embodied in everyday life by the body of Christ.  Our pilgrimages help us to explore and exercise the parish imagination within us.

Phil Cousineau says, “Remember again and again that the true pilgrimage is into the undiscovered land of your own imagination…” 

2. We become creative and free

Pilgrimage is about connecting to our undiscovered parish imagination among us.  There is unlimited potential within the parish imagination.  There is a lot of life that we can receive through the parish imagination.  The parish imagination is creative and free.

3. We learn from other contexts

Being rooted and linked helps us to inspire the parish imagination.  Learning from other contexts could help bring the parish imagination to life in our neighborhood.  Learning from other contexts will help us to become rooted and linked into the future.

4. We dream about the possibilities

When we go on pilgrimage and spend time with others who are embodying the parish imagination in another context from our own, we learn so much.  We become inspired by their everyday life together.  The parish imagination becomes contagious.  We need to dream about the possibilities of the parish imagination in our neighborhood.

5. We find empowerment and inspiration

When we start to dream and learn from other contexts, God will begin to shape us.  We will begin to see the importance of networking through being rooted and linked.  Our pilgrimages will empower and inspire creativity and innovation among us as we begin to dream again.

We must not let our dreams die within us.  We must cultivate the dreams of the parish imagination within us as the body of Christ in everyday life together.  The parish imagination is filled with dreams to be explored and experimented with.

Jenny and Justin Duckworth state, “…we learn so much when we go and spend time with others who are living out the dream in a different context.” 

The dream of the parish imagination is within us.  The dream of the parish imagination is among us.  The dream of the parish imagination is calling out from the world we live in.  The dream of the parish imagination is slowly breaking through to us as the body of Christ in everyday life together.

6. We become rooted and linked

Pilgrimage could awaken us to all of this.  Pilgrimage could help us to become rooted and linked.  Pilgrimage could help us through our struggles in the parish.  Pilgrimage could teach us to learn from others.  Pilgrimage could help us to be human.

“After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you – for I will be going through Macedonia.  Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go.  I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you…” (1 Corinthians 16: 5-7). 

7. Furthers our own presence in our local context

Spending time with friends from other contexts will help us immensely.  We need support from friends in other contexts who are living into the parish imagination.  We need times where we experience pilgrimages as important to the furthering of our presence in our own local context.

8. Shapes our perspective on life

Pilgrimages shape our perspective on life.  Pilgrimages help us to strengthen our paradigm of being rooted and linked in the parish.  Being rooted and linked cannot happen without pilgrimage.  Being rooted and linked calls out for pilgrimage in us all.

9. Creates a posture of listening in us

When we go somewhere on pilgrimage, it should be intentional.  When we go somewhere on pilgrimage, we need to go with a posture listening and learning from the other.  When we go somewhere on pilgrimage, we need to embrace the paradigm of being rooted and linked.  Being rooted and linked will bring us empowerment through pilgrimage.

10. Helps us to see the sacredness of all of life

Pilgrimage is a sacred act of learning from another context, of listening in another context, of experiencing relational connection in another context.  This sacred act could add a lot to our own parish.  There is a sacredness to pilgrimage that cannot be ignored as we become rooted and linked.

How have pilgrimages shaped you?

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