Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Category: Parish Imagination

Being Socially Engaged in the World

the_palette_knife_people_living_tight__really__abs_abstract_art__abstract__32c72d6af963b7a1875205e334808628My experience with church has not been a good one. I have been constantly sickened, disillusioned, and bored with what I have been presented with as “church” in North America. I think there is some beauty to the idea of God in the world, but what we have created of that expression with very little community and contemplative spirituality is disheartening to me. A church without a rootedness in community and contemplative spirituality is very shallow, hypocritical, colonial, and lacks the mystery that is so essential to the vulnerability of love.

  • A new way to be the body of Christ together

I have been drawn to the phrase “the parish” or the “parish imagination” to describe a new way to be the body of Christ together in everyday life. The word parish was initially used by Catholics to describe the geographic place where people lived who went to a particular building for a service. If you did not live within the proximity of the building you were not encouraged to go there for a service. The parish meant the local, geographic place where you happened to live in proximity with others.

  • Local, geographic place

I grew up Catholic, so this is a familiar concept for me, but I want to reframe the parish as the local, geographic place of a particular neighborhood in which we happen to live as neighbors with one another. Let’s not think of the parish as a building or a service, but as a particular place where we become rooted and practice becoming neighbors in everyday life. This is the place where we do not shun proximity anymore. We get out of our cars and we put away our cell phones long enough to encounter friendships face to face in everyday life.

  • Crying out to be loved, seen, and valued authentically

This is not a ministry, a program, a lecture or anything else that we try to make the body of Christ into. It is simply the risk of living in a place, not above it, so we can learn to love others well together. Our neighbors are crying out to be loved, seen, and valued authentically. We are the ones called to do this together in everyday life!

We are the body of Christ touching others with our love without any words, but with deep listening.

  • Unity, compassion, and authenticity

Let’s stop our boxed up ways of “prayer” and “worship” and “church,” getting out of our dualistic thinking and upwardly mobile ways, and learn to find our spirituality in our love for our neighbors. “Church” as we know it needs to be reimagined in the twenty-first century as having everything to do with loving our neighbors together in everyday life. To do this we must live as neighbors and work together as body of Christ to love with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength as Jesus taught us to with unity, compassion, and authenticity.

  • Our addiction to money, power, hierarchies, buildings, and rules


We need to have the courage to follow Jesus with courage and lay aside our addiction to money, power, hierarchies, buildings, and rules. Maybe God is trying to tell us to stop going to church and learn to be present together as neighbors, learning to love, listening deeper in the world right where we live. Maybe this is the new movement of the “church” in the twenty-first century world. It feels a lot better to me as someone who will never go to church again in my life because for me it is not authentic.

These church systems keep me from deep thinking, finding my true self, exploring risk, connection, and solidarity.

  • Are we afraid to be neighbors?

Just as Jesus had trouble with the religious people of his day, the Pharisees, we need to challenge all the ways in which the church does not show love together in the world. Are we afraid to be neighbors? Have we become twenty-first century Pharisees in our own world of “church” as we know it? I am convinced that the “church” has done so much damage in the world because we have gravitated more toward the spirit of the Pharisees rather than the spirit of Jesus.

  • Is spirituality really about rules or about love and compassion?

Are we motivated by love or by the fear stirred up by modern day Pharisees? Is spirituality really about rules or about love and compassion? I can’t stand rules, but love and compassion are so beautiful and healing to me. I am on a path of transformation leading me deeper into the place I live in community, in the parish.

We need a new imagination for our lives today.  

  • Being socially engaged in the world

 What I do resonate with is “church” as living in a particular place in community with others, being present as neighbors, being socially engaged in the world together, practicing hospitality, deep listening, and seeing God in the face of my neighbors in everyday life. There is so much life here as I have been rooted in my neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma for over a decade. Community is my priority more than money, possessions, power, influence or anything else. My relationships here are teaching me not to be a narcissist, to be kind and compassionate.

  • Learning to live in the present moment

I am learning to live in the present moment and to see all of life as a gift. There are so many unexpected gifts in community, in the parish. I want to explore with my life a parish imagination within me in the place I live. May I align my dreams to that imagination.

  • Express our love without words

 We need desperately in the twenty-first century to be the church instead of hold onto our addiction of “going to church” or else nothing will change in our times. In our local community we have the opportunity to be the church together and express our love without words. This is a whole new way of life together. This gives me some hope into the future as I try to figure out the meaning of life in the world which can be difficult.

  • The sacredness of place

 As Sarah Bessey states so eloquently, “In our world of globalization, technology, and mobility, we’ve misplaced the sacredness of place.”

  • Dare greatly with vulnerability

There seemed to be a sacredness to place, to the earth, to the land we walk on that has been ignored in our time. Can we live in the questions that foster deep meaning within us leading to the unexpected gifts of community in the particular place we find ourselves in the world? Can we dare greatly with vulnerability to embrace the parish imagination in the twenty-first century?

Why are we afraid to be neighbors in everyday life?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

Wake Up and Regain Hope

images (44)I have lived in my neighborhood in Downtown Tacoma for over twelve years now. When I first moved here I had hopes of being a blessing to this local community in all kinds of ways. As time has gone on, it seems I have lost hope. It seems I cannot readily assess what I am doing here and if anything really matters anymore.

Is community really that important in this world? Do I really believe in a deep embodiment of love, compassion, and truthfulness anymore? I think I am struggling to find my path of meaning, purpose, and authenticity.

Sometimes I think, “Everything around me doesn’t matter anymore.” I am losing hope in who I am and what I can do in the world. Does any of it really matter anyways? Drowning in a sea of depression, anxiety, and fear has made me question what I once held value in.

But this place is calling me back into a way of solidarity. Where will I go if I move on in anger, disillusionment, and fear? I am called to live right where I am. I cannot give up my hope of love, humility, vulnerability, and compassion.

I say to myself, “Wake up and see the wonder of life all around you.” Don’t move on because there is no better place for me somewhere else. This is my life right now. At this moment, there is no better time to live and embrace my own pain than now as hard as it might be.

Stay where I am and learn to express the deepest ground of my being. Let love lead me to deeper places of truth, vulnerability, and honesty. I want to be free, alive, and hopeful for the future. Let me smile on this day with gratitude, stability, and peace.

  • Getting away from the mindset of upward mobility

God is calling us to an integration of stability in everyday life together. By stability, I mean a rootedness in our local context. By stability, I mean resisting the temptation to live somewhere that is better than where we are. An integration of stability is about getting away from the American mindset of upward mobility.

  • An embodiment of stability

We are often desiring to move to the best possible neighborhoods, the best possible living conditions, the best possible career at the expense of neglecting our neighbors and making the parish secondary to everything else. But what we do not understand, is that an embodiment of stability in the place we inhabit together is how we love our neighbors. Without an integration of stability there is very little love for others, there is almost no relationship with the parish, and there is hardly any deep listening.

  • Take root in a local community. living and loving there

Marlena Graves states, “We cannot love well and be loved ourselves if we are not committed to a community…  Loving and being loved require that we become stable… We take root in a local community, living and loving there…”

  • Reconciliation, embodiment, and deep listening

Our stability will shape us constantly. A place we inhabit together is a powerful medium of liminality. We will be challenged with the relational ways of reconciliation, embodiment, and deep listening. We cannot escape this anymore. This is our calling. This is our path to following the teachings of Christ to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

What stands out to you?

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How Our Gifts Can Flourish

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I used to think that I had no gifts to offer anyone.  I was depressed, isolated and beaten down by life.  My confidence was gone and my self-esteem suffered.  I became detached and unaware of my true self.  The self that was authentic, full of love, wisdom, kindness, grace and serenity.

After many years I began to think about community more.  What could this look like?  How could I root myself in a place seeing this place as my parish, the place where I share life with others and practice a spirituality of love in everyday life.  The church as I had known it offered very little to me as far as encouraging me on an authentic, vulnerable path.

So I do not believe in the systems that we call “church” anymore that do not support a person’s life of authenticity.  I have become so disillusioned about everything.  The love of God is so beautiful to me, but the church systems that we have created do not manifest that love very much.  Often times our church systems create a rigid life of conformity, judgment and oppressive hierarchies which make almost no room for community among us.

How can anyone find their giftedness in all of this?  How can we manifest community in all of this?  How can we find a rootedness in all of this?  How can we find some peace in all of this?

It seems my various gifts as I live rooted in my local community have not been seen and valued by what we call the “church” as we know it.  This has made me angry in the past, but I am over it.  I don’t care what others think anymore.  I am learning to take responsibility for my own feelings.

What we have labeled as “church” in North America no longer makes sense to me.  It seems not to recognize the gifts we all bring to each other’s lives as neighbors.  When the church has more focus on mobility, wealth and buildings it becomes lame in my opinion and losses all meaning to me.  I want to have a rooted faith in my local community where I can live in simplicity, love and humility as I share life together with others in everyday life.

I don’t want to “go to church” in a building that boxes me up and secludes me from society.  I want to be the church in a place together with others where I experience community, love, grace, compassion, honesty, vulnerability, friendship and hospitality.  This is where our gifts can flourish!

  •  All of us have gifts to contribute

All of us have gifts to contribute to our locality.  There are many ways to contribute our lives to the lives of others in the place that we inhabit together.  All of us have relational gifts that contribute to the local fabric of social care in the parish.

  •  Using our gifts for the common good

Brian D. McLaren says, “We should use our gifts for the common good…” 

  •  Our gifts live within us all

Our gifts are manifested in our humanity naturally through relational integration.  Our gifts live within us all.  We have gifts of love, gifts of grace, gifts of humility, gifts of authenticity, gifts of listening, gifts of compassion, gifts of presence, gifts of honesty, gifts of vulnerability, gifts of empathy, gifts of friendship, gifts of reconciliation, gifts of forgiveness, gifts of nonviolence, gifts of sensuousness, gifts of celebration, gifts of joy, gifts of seeing beauty, gifts of kindness, gifts of gentleness, gifts of peace, gifts of patience, gifts of learning from others and gifts of passion.

  •  Relational engagement with others in everyday life

Gifts don’t necessarily have to do with skills that we do; but are more about the things we manifest within us through relational engagement with others in everyday life.  We have a multitude of gifts living within us all; but they cannot develop without an integration of taking ownership, investing and responsibility in a place.  These gifts are place-based and flourish within the parish imagination for the common good.

What gifts do you have that sometimes go ignored?

Top 12 Ways to Embrace the Wisdom of Stability

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After eleven years of being rooted in the place that I live in Downtown Tacoma, I am coming to see that stability is important to my humanity.  The biggest thing about stability is that it teaches me to love my neighbors.  It is not always easy to be rooted in a place when almost everything in our society is about moving on and consuming new experiences in new places.  A lot of us move from place to place every couple of years for various reasons and never give ourselves enough time staying somewhere long enough to find a sense of belonging and community.

1. Slow down

Gerald W. Schlabach writes, “In an obsessively mobile society, one wonders whether Christians can be the body of Christ together at all if we will not slow down and stay longer… and practice something like a vow of stability.  Slow down: because there is no way to discern God’s will together without commitment to sit long with one another in the first place.  A vow of stability: because it is no use discerning appropriate ways to be Christian disciples in our age if we do not embody those ways through time, testing, and the patience with one another that transform good ideas and intentions into communal practices…” 

2. Value the years together

We need years together of practicing stability in the parish to embody love, compassion and grace.  We need a shared history together throughout time to practice our discipleship with others.  We need to be put to the test by the stability we practice together as the body of Christ in everyday life.  The parish imagination will test our commitment.

3. Allow our authenticity, love and humanity to be shaped in us

The parish imagination will test our authenticity.  The parish imagination will test our love.  The parish imagination will test our humanity.  Stability will either shape us to become disciples or we will give up on our faith altogether and lead individualistic lives.

4. Do the hard work

Stability is hard work and does not come easy in a culture that has forgotten this virtue.  But the parish imagination is calling out to us for a rootedness in the place we live.

5. Become accountable to the place we live

As we practice the value of stability, we cannot live individualistically anymore.  We are encountered with a shared life with others.  We cannot escape this possibility anymore.  It is our place that we are accountable to.

6. Resist colonialism

We cannot misuse the parish if we care for it.  We cannot practice colonialism if we care for the good of others.  We cannot ignore our local context when we have a parish imagination of rootedness.

7. Have an openness to life with other people

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove says in his insightful book The Wisdom Of Stability, “Stability demands that we do the long, hard work of life with other people in the place where we are.” 

8. Count the cost

Stability will requires everything from us.  Stability will require a strength of perseverance.  Stability has deep wisdom to reveal to us in everyday life.

9. Life, identity and purpose become reimagined in us   

Stability teaches us of life with others.  Stability teaches us compassion.  Stability teaches us humility.  Stability teaches us how to love.

10. Learn relational connection

Stability teaches us relational connection.  Stability teaches us grace.  Stability teaches us simplicity.  Stability teaches us proximity.

11. Become the body of Christ together

We abandon stability at our own peril.  If the body of Christ will not practice stability it ceases to exist.  There is no body of Christ in everyday life without stability.

12. Take a relational wisdom seriously

We cannot even understand the scriptures anymore without a practice of stability.  Stability reveals a relational wisdom that cannot be found anywhere else.  We need to take the practice of stability in the place we live seriously as the body of Christ in everyday life together.

What do you think about the wisdom of stability in a mobile culture?

Top 14 Ways of the Spirit of Social Capital


I have struggled with this idea of social capital in my life.  Social capital is the building of relational trust with our neighbors in the place we live.  This practice seems to be vanishing in our twenty-first century world.  But maybe it is more important than we realize.

My journey in the Spirit of social capital has been one of teaching me the importance of rootedness.  I need to stop moving around and center myself in one place to grow roots and a life there.  This will help me to learn the ways of loving my neighbors as myself.  And I think this is the whole point of my spirituality, to learn to love.

How can I learn to love if I am not rooted in a place, if I am not about embodying community in the place I live?  Community will only happen if there is social capital among us.  When there is no trust between neighbors, there is not much of a life of community there.  We stumble around in isolation, fear and live by invisibility.

It seems God is calling me to come out into the light of social capital, to be known and not to fear visibility anymore.  I am being called to see God through the face of my neighbors.  In the neighbor, through the practice of love, God is revealed to me in so many ordinary ways.  This is the great miracle of life and brings meaning to my existence.

Here are 14 ways we can live into the ways of the Spirit of social capital.

1. We live interdependently

Without the neighbor, there is no friendship in life.  Without the neighbor, there is no partnership.  Without the neighbor, we are destined for loneliness.  We live interdependently on our neighbors when there is social capital alive in the place we inhabit together as the body of Christ.

2. We collaborate with our neighbors in everyday life

We need them to teach us that we must become a friend not an enemy.  There is no place for wronging the neighbor and not seeking his or her good will through the parish imagination.  The parish imagination collaborates with the neighbor in everyday life.

3. We come together around place

New connections and relationships grow as social capital and neighborliness are present among us.  This web of connection and collaboration signifies a care for the common good of the parish.  There is a powerful synergy that develops when others come together around place.

4. We live out of love and compassion

There are so many assets among us and between us relationally.  When we develop social capital and neighborliness we are living out the gospel of love and compassion.

5. We create new connections and relationships

John McKnight and Peter Block say, “…we know that the power of what we have grows from creating new connections and relationships among and between what we have.” 

6. We find meaning in our life’s work

Our relational connections give us meaning in our life’s work.  Our relational connections build trust between us.  This social capital is miraculous when we can see it and feel it in the place that we inhabit together.  It is mysterious yet practical.  It is simple yet complex.

7. We live in a liminal state

It is surprising yet challenging.  All these paradoxes keep us in a liminal state of embodied neighborliness.  We are constantly being shaped by our developing social capital among us.

8. We value the neighbor before us

Social capital sometimes feels like a tangible salvation we experience in everyday life together.  The power and energy it bring our lives is undeniable as we live out our lives to value the neighbor before us.

9. We do to others what we would like them to do to us

“Do to others what you would have them do to you…”  (Luke 6:31). 

10. We treat others with respect

This is such a simple teaching from Christ yet it is embedded with mystery and life.  Social capital and neighborliness are about treating others a certain way.  We treat others with respect regardless of beliefs, lifestyles or attitudes.

11. We seek the common good together

We seek collaboration.  We seek partnership.  We seek the common good because that is always how we would like to be treated ourselves.

12. We resist hatred and oppression

Everyone hopes to be treated with good will instead of with hatred and oppression.  Nobody likes that!  Through building social capital and neighborliness we have the opportunity to treat others like we would like to be treated.  That is one of the greatest truths about social capital and neighborliness.

13. We live by the Spirit

They bring us together instead of pulling us apart in the parish.  Social capital and neighborliness are traits of love.  And love happens to be of the Holy Spirit.

14. We embody reconciliation and solidarity

The Holy Spirit is all about love and treating others with respect and dignity.  The Holy Spirit always leads to relational connection, reconciliation and solidarity.  The Holy Spirit is leading us to neighborliness and social capital in everyday life.

What do you think about the Spirit of social capital in our lives?

13 Ways Being Rooted and Linked is Empowering

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As I have lived in community in my local context for quite some time now, I am finding that being rooted in a particular place as well as being linked to other places is important to my way of life.  How my imagination grows as I am exposed to different contexts where people are embodying love, grace, peace, justice, humility and compassion.  It is a mysterious thing to encounter the body of Christ in other places that strengthens my own expression of love where I live and share life together with others.

Here are 13 ways that being rooted and linked can empower us.

1. Will bring about a parish imagination

A movement of locality that is rooted and linked will bring about the parish imagination.  We must inhabit our neighborhood as a counterculture together.  We must experience locality as a movement working within us, shaping us, guiding us, leading us in the parish.

2. Is a protest against the empire of America  

This movement of locality is subversive toward the empire that we live under.  Corporate power loses its grip on us as we embrace this locality movement.  Living locally is a protest, in a way, against the empire of America.

3. We stop believing in the dominant framing story

If we banded together to live locally and became rooted and linked, over time, we could rise to become a holistic counterculture that would quietly threaten the powerful empire before us.  We would stop believing in the dominant framing story of the empire and seek an alternative parish imagination in our local community.  We would live by a different narrative that is much more holistic than the one that has dominated us for so long.

4. We live out the teachings of Christ together  

The teachings of Christ will only be lived out locally together.  Christ’s teachings are always about what is before us locally and relationally.  We cannot separate the teachings of Christ from the local, everyday life of daily living together in the parish.

5. Is essential to partnership with God in the world

Christianity was meant to be a movement among us of the parish imagination.  So being rooted and linked is essential to partnership with God in the world.  God works through the parish imagination as a movement of locality.

6. We become a radical, troubling alternative to the power imbalances  

Michael Frost in his book Exiles says, “The Christian movement must be the living, breathing promise to society that it is possible to live out the values of Christ – that is, to be a radical, troubling alternative to the power imbalances in the empire…”

7. Teaches us the wisdom of shared life together

It is possible to live our lives authentically together in our local context.  The parish imagination is leading us to this.  The parish imagination does not fear empire.  Being rooted and linked will teach us the wisdom of the parish imagination as the body of Christ in everyday life together.

8. We become practitioners that resist what is impersonal and abstract

We need to resist the abstract by becoming practitioners in our local community.  The parish imagination resists what is impersonal and abstract.  A movement of locality will cause us to become practitioners who are rooted and linked.  This embodies our love into the local context we find ourselves in.  This causes us to listen deeply in the parish.

9. We make our lives more intimate, local, connected and authentic

Robert Inchausti says in his fascinating book Subversive Orthodoxy, “Will we make our lives more impersonal, global, abstract, and artificial or more intimate, local, connected, and authentic?…” 

A movement of locality causes us to become more connected and authentic in everyday life.  The abstract will get us nowhere.  The abstract will lead us to noplace.

10. Keeps us from deconstruction without imagination

The abstract will lead us to dislocation.  Being rooted and linked through a movement of locality will help us not to get trapped in the box of the abstract.  The abstract will only lead us to deconstruction without imagination.

We don’t need anymore of that!  We need more of a parish imagination that is rooted and linked.  We need a movement of locality that spreads throughout the land with great imagination!

11. We repent of the kind of Christianity we have created

I believe we need to repent of the kind of Christianity we have created that has abandoned the practice of shared life in our local community.  We have abandoned a movement of locality and turned Christianity into something that is abhorred and distorted.

We have seen no need for the parish imagination.  We have ignored being rooted and linked.  We have a Christianity without Christ who had real face-to-face relationships with his neighbors in a local context.

Brian D. McLaren says, “…we are beginning to reassess and repent of the actual versions and formulations of the faith we have created…” 

12. We create something that is embodied and authentic

We have created this, but we can create something much different into the future that is more authentic.  We can create something together that is much more relational in the parish.  We can create together a Christianity that embodies the parish imagination.

13. Loving our neighbors becomes important to our practice

We can create a Christianity together where loving our neighbors is important in the local context of the parish.  We can create together a Christianity where being rooted and linked is important to us in everyday life.  I hope for the day that this becomes a reality!

What is your perspective on being rooted and linked?

6 Benefits of Local Responsibility, Local Investment and Local Ownership

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I have seen so many people abandon what is local.  I am constantly being drawn away from local ways of life to a life of upward mobility, speed and fragmentation.  But I am finding that living locally with others in community bring a sense of peace.

When I root myself locally, I am less lonely.  I am happier because my life is not scattered in all directions by freeways and airports constantly.  I am able to center myself in resting, listening, loving, humility, grace and compassion through face to face relationships in everyday life.  This is becoming rare in a society that values technology, speed and entertainment to an extreme.

But I am coming to find that this abandonment of what is local is not healthy.  I have become filled with anxiety when the local has been lost in me.  Life becomes about making the most money we possibility can at an extremely fast pace that is centered on escaping the local context we live in.  Face to face relationships, social capital and the common good of neighbors is forgotten in our relentless pursuit of upward mobility.

This is no way to live.  This is not the way of the spirit of love, compassion or humility.  Are we destroying the world because we have abandoned locality?  This is the dilemma we find ourselves in today and must face in order to bring some healing to our world we live in.

Here are some thoughts on the benefits of local responsibility, local investment and local ownership.

1. We become cocreators of the future

We are to be cocreators of the future of the place we inhabit together.  It is our local responsibility, our local investment and local ownership that will develop the parish imagination among us.

Tom Sine writes, “Incredibly, God invites us to be cocreators in giving imaginative expression to God’s new creation in the here and now…” 

2. We escape the franchise approach

We are called to be “imaginative expressions” of the body of Christ in everyday life together in the parish.  There is no franchise approach to this.  When we cocreate with God through the parish imagination our expressions will be organic, grassroots, creative, contextual, relational and based on our gifts together.  All our assets will come together to create the parish imagination in everyday life.

3. We begin to subvert the empire and the status quo

This is the cocreation of beauty in our world together in everyday life.  Our expressions of local responsibility could subvert the empire.  Our expressions of local investment could subvert the status quo.  Our expressions of local ownership could subvert the systems that are creating fragmentation, loneliness and isolation.

4. We engage with society in the place we live

Local responsibility, local investment and local ownership take a great amount of engagement and risk.  The parish imagination is about engagement with society in the place we live.  There is no running from our culture within the parish imagination.  The parish imagination cocreates within the twenty-first century world.

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch say, “It is truly an adventurous thing to embrace the risky call to societal engagement in our own neighborhood…” 

5. We realize our gifts, assets and passions

Our local community is calling out to the parish imagination within us.  Our local community is calling out to our gifts, assets and passions.  We have so much to offer the place we inhabit together in everyday life.

6. We create a local fabric of social justice and care

The parish imagination is helping us to be grounded in our incarnational ways.  The parish imagination is helping us to live intuitively by local responsibility, investment and ownership.  The parish imagination is helping us to create a local fabric of social justice and care among us.

What are some ways you have taken local responsibility seriously?

10 Ways Pilgrimages Cultivate the Parish Imagination


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?

8 Ways Innovation and Creativity Will Bless Our Lives


When I think of innovation and creativity I get excited about the possibilities among us.  So much of North American culture is boring because of a lack of imagination.  Our lives are becoming almost invisible because we have given ourselves over to the market and empire without hardly any resistance.  Embracing innovation and creativity could change everything about how we experience our lives.

My family has taught me a lot about the status quo lifestyle, but I am coming to see that life is so much more than what I have learned from my family.  It has been a struggle for me to live with an imagination beyond what I received from my family, but I am trying the best I can.  In a culture that promotes individualism, narcissism and speed how can I find something more authentic amidst it all?

Maybe it all starts with having the courage to embrace innovation and creativity in our local community.  Maybe it starts with awareness.  Maybe it starts with longing, experimentation and growth.

Here are 8 ways that innovation and creativity can bless our lives.

1. Moves us beyond the status quo lifestyle

Innovation and creativity will not be forgotten by the parish imagination in everyday life.  Innovation and creativity are the very fabric of an alternative to the status quo lifestyle.  There needs to be an integration of innovation and creativity among the body of Christ so we can become an expression of love together in the twenty-first century.

Tom Sine writes, “We need a new level of imagination, innovation and creativity…” 

2. Keeps us from becoming machinelike

Our levels of innovation and creativity need to be unleashed into our everyday lives together in the place we inhabit.  We cannot allow the status quo to dictate who we are and what we do in our local community.  The parish imagination will not be frightened by the status quo.  The status quo is uncreative and machinelike.

3. Preserves what is beautiful within us

We lose our humanity when we embody the status quo.  The status quo is not countercultural.  The status quo does not follow Christ.  The status quo steals almost everything that is beautiful within us reducing our lives to meaninglessness.

4. Draws out our discontent

Innovation and creativity draws out our discontent with what is and our longing for something more.  Discontent and longing live within the parish imagination.  Discontent could be our greatest gift.

5. Brings about embodiment  

Discontent is of the Holy Spirit.  Discontent will haunt us through the parish imagination.  Longing is also of the Holy Spirit to bring about an embodiment of innovation and creativity among us.

6. Draws out our longing for a better life, a better society, and a better world

Diana Butler Bass says in her book Christianity After Religion, “Not many people think of discontent as a gift…  Only by noticing what is wrong… can we ever make things different.  If people were satisfied, there would be no reason to reach for more, no motivation for creativity and innovation.  Discontent is one short step from the longing for a better life, a better society, and a better world; and longing is another short step from doing something about what is wrong…” 

7. Promotes experimentation and integration in the place we inhabit

The status quo does not like any experimentation of innovation and creativity.  The status quo has no tolerance for innovation and creativity.  The status quo wants no association with innovation and creativity.  Innovation and creativity seek integration in the place we inhabit together as the body of Christ in everyday life.

8. Calls us to growth

Innovation and creativity call for growth within us all of the time.  Innovation and creativity are never static in everyday life.  Innovation and creativity are evolving constantly through the parish imagination.

How have you explored innovation and creativity in your life?

10 Ways the Parish Imagination Will Lead You

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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?