Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: parish

Do We Live as Citizens or Residents?


After living in my neighborhood for ten and a half years, I am finding the value in the idea of citizenship over just being a resident who is taking up space.  My citizenship is calling me to invest in this place I am living.  I am always asking how can I become an expression of love?  This has been a challenge, but also a great gift.

  •  An integration of stability

How else will others see and feel our love if we do not stay in our local community practicing an integration of stability?  We need to learn to live within the diversity that others have to offer us.  We need to learn to see beauty in diversity.  We just might discover that we are not as diverse as we think.

  •  Cooperation, building trust and seeking justice

Our place always begins to reveal our commonalities.  We need to learn skills of cooperation, building trust and seeking justice among our neighbors.  It is the parish we inhabit together as the body of Christ that will teach us these things over time.

  •  Preserving civic virtues

The parish is the foundation of preserving all civic virtues.  Without the parish, without our locality, we have no basis for citizenship.  We lose our lives in fragmentation and dualisms that confuse our love for others.  Without citizenship we cease to live authentic lives.

  •  It is easy to live somewhere as residents not as citizens

It is easy to live somewhere as residents and not as citizens of a place.  Residents don’t care that much about place, citizens do.  Our citizenship is rooted in the parish imagination.  Stability is so hard because we are always pressured to find our identities in economic motives of upward mobility instead of relational motives of genuine care in a place.

  •  The limitations of mobility

The parish imagination is not obsessed with mobility.  The parish imagination sees the limitations of mobility.  By limitations, I mean the fragmentation and loneliness our mobility leads us to.  While most American believe in the freedom of mobility, the parish imagination is teaching us to see our mobility as secondary to our commitment to place.

  •  Enduring in a beloved place

James Howard Kunstler says, “The freedom to pick up and move is a premise of the national experience.  It is the physical expression of the freedom to move upward socially, absent in other societies.  The automobile allowed this expression to be carried to absurd extremes.  Our obsession with mobility, the urge to move on every few years, stands at odds with the wish to endure in a beloved place, and no place can be worthy of that kind of deep love if we are willing to abandon it on short notice for a few extra dollars.  Rather, we choose to live in Noplace, and our dwellings show it.  In every corner of the nation we have built places unworthy of love and move on from them without regret.  But move on to what?  Where is the ultimate destination when every place is Noplace?” 

How can we become citizens in the place we live over just being residents?

Being Rooted and Linked in the Twenty-First Century


The last ten and a half years of my life have been an experiment in living relationally in the local community of where I live in Downtown Tacoma.  The first five years of this process was disorientating as I stopped believing in a lot of traditional church structures.  The church I had known was no longer providing what I needed for my own growth and formation.  So I started to listen more deeply and cried out to God for a church in North America that has lost a sense of connection to place, community, authenticity, formation, incarnation, embodiment and imagination.

  •  The teachings of Christ are lived out locally

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.

  •  Being rooted and linked is essential

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.

  •  Being a troubling alternative to the power imbalances in the empire

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…” 

  •  Is it possible to live authentically together?

It is possible to live 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.

  •  Listening deeply in the parish

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 love into our neighborhood contexts.  This causes us to listen deeply in the parish.

  •  More intimate, local, connected, and authentic

Robert Inchausti asks the question 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

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.  The abstract will lead us to dislocation.

  •  Not getting trapped in the box of the abstract

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 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!

Do you think that living locally is important?  Why or why not?  What is your experience?

The Inspiring Story of Mary’s Faithful Presence


The place I live in Downtown Tacoma is becoming the context where I practice being the church together with others.  I love listening to the stories of scripture and learning about how different people stewarded their faithful presence throughout their lives.  It is inspiring to think that I can follow in that path myself as I seek to live out an authentic way of life in my local community.  I have recently been thinking about the story of Mary giving birth to Jesus into the world and how that came about through a young women who was faithfully present through listening.

Maybe we could learn more from this story as God is communicating in the world all around us all of the time.  God communicates in small, ordinary ways through our context and relationships in the parish where we live.  I have been experimenting with listening to my faithful presence through the context that I live.  It has turned out to be fun and a source of joy in my life even though sometimes it is difficult.

  •  A longing for connection and rootedness

The parish becomes like food, water and education that we need to survive.  Stewarding our faithful presence stirs a longing for connection and rootedness in the parish.  We are born into a conversion of place as we steward our faithful presence.  We need the surrounding place that we inhabit together.

  •  An incarnational way of being

We become one with the surrounding place and can no longer be content with a rootless lifestyle.  Stewarding our faithful presence is about an incarnational way of being through the parish imagination.  Stewarding our faithful presence is not about our independence from place, but our integration and collaboration within it.  The life of the body of Christ depends on this solidarity with place.

  •  The story of Mary and the birth of Jesus

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God…  For nothing is impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.  “May it be to me as you have said.”  Then the angel left her (Luke 1:26-35, 37-38).

  •  Mary practiced stewarding her faithful presence

Mary was one who practiced stewarding her faithful presence in everyday life with her soon to be husband Joseph.  She must have been a young woman of deep listening and love for others in the place she inhabited.  She must have been a seeker of God in everyday life.  She must have lived in solidarity with God, others and her local community.

  •  Bringing something beautiful into the world

And out of this stewarding of her faithful presence, she became the mother of Jesus.  She brought something beautiful into the world.  God used her to bring Christ into the world as a human being through the incarnation.  If Mary had not been someone who practiced stewarding her faithful presence; she would not have had the ability to listen deeply, to sacrifice her life and marriage, to risk being marginalized, to act with courage in an unknown situation where she simply had to trust the God she believed in.

  •  If it wasn’t for Mary there would have been no early church

It must have been frightening for her.  Joseph may not of even understood her.  If it wasn’t for Mary we wouldn’t have a Christianity today.  There would have been no early church.

  •  Mary didn’t understand how everything would work out

There wouldn’t have been much of anything.  Mary stewarded her faithful presence and believed that God could do what she might have thought was impossible.  As Mary stewarded her presence, she lived with an embodied trust that she would follow the mystery of God even though she might not have understood how everything was going to work out.

Do you believe that Mary understood everything that was going on in the birth of Jesus?  Please comment and share!

How Can We Restore Faithful Presence in Our Lives?


My journey of faithful presence has been one of a slow transformation over the past decade of my life.  Because of the power of faithful presence in the parish, I am understanding how to love more.  I am starting to understand humility in ways I didn’t understand before.  I am coming to work out my redemption in everyday life in a local community where I seek to embody the ways of Christ in the world.

This power within me is a miracle indeed.  It leads me to love.  It leads me to give my life to the poor and marginalized.  It leads me to simplicity.  It leads me to peace.

This graceful power of faithful presence is my identity and meaning in life.  I am being shaped constantly in many ways.  I am learning how to love others in community.  This is bringing more happiness and joy into my very being.

  •  Dying to our desire to run the world

Jane Rubietta writes, “We confuse control with strength and surrender with weakness, when the reverse is true.  When we die to our desire to run the world, we come into real power…” 

  •  Giving up our need to control others

We seem to have more self-control in everyday life as we give up our need to control others.  Good power does not need to impose anything on anyone in the parish.  Good power does not originate from the intellect detached from an embodied experience of faithful presence.

  •  Embracing the good power of faithful presence in everyday life

Good power always stems from the love within us.  The parish imagination is not colonial.  The parish imagination embraces the good power of faithful presence in everyday life.

  •  The graceful power that lives within us

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile…” (Romans 1:16).  Our salvation is based on good power.  We should not be ashamed of the graceful power that lives within us as the body of Christ in everyday life in the parish.  We need to trust in this power within us.

  •  Expressions of love, grace and humility

We need to embody this power within us through expressions of love, grace and humility.  This power is more of a reality within us than our sin.  Sin has been given too much emphasis in our spirituality for too long.  When will we start exploring the good power of faithful presence within us all!

  •  The world needs more miracles of faithful presence

Words have lost power and often times lead to colonial ways of manipulation and control.  What would happen if we embodied a good power of faithful presence together beyond words that was based more on listening, love and grace?  This would be a miracle indeed!  And the world needs more miracles and less talking!

How can we embody faithful presence in the place we live?

How Would We Be Shaped If We Embodied Stability?


Practicing stability for over a decade has taught me about life, people, God and myself.  I am learning to love, show compassion and practice humility in my everyday life.  The practice of gratitude has become something that keeps me from getting overwhelmed from what isn’t.  The place I live has taught me to see the similarities in others rather than our differences.

I am learning to find balance.  I am learning to be kind and forgiving.  I am finding God revealed to me through the ordinary things in everyday life.  Freedom is not just an idea, but an embodied experience I live out each day.

  •  Practicing stability together in the parish

We need years together of practicing stability in the parish to embody the gospel.  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.

  •  Testing our commitment, authenticity, love and humanity

The parish imagination will test our commitment.  The parish imagination will test our authenticity.  The parish imagination will test our love.  The parish imagination will test our humanity.

  •  Shaping us into our true selves

Stability will either shape us into our true selves or we will give up on our faith altogether and lead individualistic lives.  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.

  • Encountered with a shared life with others

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.

  •  We cannot ignore our local context

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

  •  The long, hard work of life with other people where we are

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

  •  Stability teaches us compassion, humility and love

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

  •  Stability teaches us relational connection, grace and simplicity

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

How can we practice stability together as the body of Christ in everyday life?

Dancing to the Drum of Social Capital

Toronto Yonge-Dundas Square

Sometimes I look at all of this commuter church stuff and just think that the people leading these kinds of gatherings should give up the whole thing and shut it down.  I don’t see any point to the body of Christ if it is not embodied in everyday life together in a particular place for the good of the culture around them.  I think commuter Christianity is so destructive because it creates a massive duality between our everyday lives and our spirituality.  This medium suggests that our spirituality has nothing to do with our everyday lives as the medium is the message.

  •  Living in collaboration

We must live in collaboration with men and women in the place we inhabit together to build social capital and neighborliness among us.  We must connect with others in this way to cultivate the parish imagination.  We must work cooperatively in neighborliness with others to create a different kind of world for all of us.  A new world will begin to develop through social capital in the parish.

  •  There is no time for destruction, for hatred, for anger

Twentieth century visionary Ivan Illich writes, “We must therefore strive cooperatively to create the new world.  There is no time left for destruction, for hatred, for anger.  We must build, in hope and joy and celebration.  Let us meet the new era of abundance with self-chosen work and freedom to follow the drum of one’s own heart.  Let us recognize… that we will choose those areas of activity which will contribute to our own development and will be meaningful to our society.”

  •  Following the drum of social capital

We need to follow the drum of social capital and neighborliness through the parish imagination in the place we inhabit together.  We must build this with a sense of celebration.  We must build this with a sense of love.  We must build this with a sense of intuition.

  •  Leading us a long way together

This is work that is good and meaningful in our postmodern culture of confusion and fragmentation.  Is there anything meaningful still today?  Social capital and neighborliness could lead us a long way together in the place we live.

  •  Relational care in the parish

Social capital is all about others.  Neighborliness is all about others.  Social capital and neighborliness are about relational care in the parish.  This is what the body of Christ is to practice together.

  •  The neighbor cannot be ignored

Social capital is about loving your neighbor.  Neighborliness is about loving your neighbor.  The gospel is about the neighbor.  The neighbor cannot be ignored in the parish.

  •  Other people make up life

The neighbor is all that matters to God in the place we live.  Legendary social activist Dorothy Day states, “All our life is bound up with other people…”  Other people make up life.

How can we love our neighbors in the parish?  How can we live into the drum of social capital and collaboration?

8 Reasons Why the Parish Shapes Us


This post is about some of the main reasons why I think the parish, a particular geographic place of a neighborhood, shapes us.  I have been thinking a lot lately about the idea of parish as I have been living in Downtown Tacoma for a little over a decade.  I love the idea of rooting in the parish over a long period of time.  Here are some of the reasons why I think the parish shapes us:

1. It presents us with a new paradigm of a spirituality in everyday life.  The parish is about connecting with others in everyday life.  It is about being the body of Christ as a network of relationships within that particular place.

2. We can no longer hide.  When we live in a place for any number of years, if we are intentional,  we will become known for who we are.  The good, the beautiful, the ugly, the difficult parts of us will be known.  The parish becomes the medium of discipleship and a means to discovering our true selves.

3. Rootedness teaches us to love and show compassion to our neighbors.  It is hard to focus our spirituality on love.  The parish teaches us to love.  The parish teaches compassion.  To live life we need a practice of love and compassion in everyday life together.

4. It creates a context for us to practice our faith.  The parish gives us a context in the world to practice what we have come to believe God is leading us to.  It helps us to engage with our culture in a relational way of faithful presence.

5. It causes us to understand our limitations and responsibilities.  The parish shows us what we can do and what we can’t do in our bodies in the here and now.  It brings to us a posture of serenity where we accept the things we cannot change, ask for the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.

6. We have to reimagine what community can be over time.  It stretches our imaginations to dream and persevere in the difficult times of losing hope.  The parish teaches us to experiment, believe in others and value the diverse ways of human connection that happens when we stay in a place for any number of years.

7. It pushes us to engage the world in ordinary ways.  Our spirituality is no longer about abstract hype, but becomes about seeing God in the ordinary moments of everyday life together.  We start to see all of life as sacred where our neighbors are revelations of God.

8. It puts us in conflict with the dominant narratives of consumerism.  We start to become more aware of the needs and feelings of others.  We start to simplify our lives by not working so many unnecessary hours so we can buy things we really don’t need that much.  Loving others becomes more valuable than buying things.

How can we become shaped by the parish in everyday life together?

Why Faithful Presence Matters: Finding the Love Within Ourselves


There is a new movement around place that is awakening others to the importance of collaboration, community, locality, networking, contextualization, experimentation and relational embodied practice in everyday life.  This is what we were created for: to love in the here and now of the earth, land and place where life happens in everyday life.  To learn this is to start allowing the incarnation to live life through us for the beauty of the world.  This is the embracing of the true self that fosters a communal imagination within us.

  • There is no controlling technique

Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight J. Friesen write in their book The New Parish, “…there is no controlling technique, no magic code or habits of highly effective people that can take the place of practicing love, friendship and Spirit-led collaboration within the neighborhood.  In a multitude of contexts, churches, faith communities and everyday people are discovering the hope of life together in and for particular places…”

  • The sacredness of life together

Life together is such a sacred thing.  It is my longing and passion in life.  I’ve often struggled to find a way of hospitality within myself that is not buried by the weight of my learned individualism.  I want to be free to love wholeheartedly in my context.

  • Love enables faithful presence

“Without love there is no motivation to be faithfully present to the other.  Without love there is no capacity to be fully available to the Spirit’s revelation.  Without love there is no reason to drop your outcomes and enter into relationships with vulnerability.  Love enables you to be present to the other,” write Sparks, Soerens and Friesen.

  • Being faithfully present takes work

Being faithfully present to the other takes intentionality and work.  It is not always easy.  Sometimes I want to give up, but God is leading me to love even when I think that I can’t.  This is shaping me into a depth of growth, formation and maturity.

  • Figuring out what faithful presence means

I have lived in my neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma for over a decade now trying to figure out what faithful presence means for me here.  I am finding that I need to let go of all my techniques and expectations of controlling the development of life in the here and now.  This post-everything culture that we live in is a great opportunity for a new social movement of learning to embody a fabric of care in the place that we live together.  But it will take time and cannot be controlled or manipulated.

  • Learning to be a neighbor

I am learning to be a neighbor to others and show some love.  I am learning to not be so afraid of others who I think are too different to love.  Faithful presence is ruining me to life. Faithful presence is becoming my spiritual formation.  It is becoming my hope of an embodied authenticity within myself in the place I live and will continue to live into the future of whatever life brings.

How can we allow faithful presence to guide everything about ourselves?

What Keeps Us From Seeing the Beauty in Others?


As I have lived as a part of the Tacoma Catholic Worker now for four years I am beginning to have a different imagination for community, relationships, social justice, neighborliness, hospitality and compassion.  It is hard to see Christ in others in the midst of a pretty violent culture where individualism, competition, consumerism and independence is praised.  God is teaching me not to complain so much about the world I live in and learn to love it instead.  As Dorothy Day likes to say love is a harsh and dreadful thing.

I have spent many years complaining and being angry, but things are changing in me as I am learning to forgive and love.  The world is not bothering me so much as I have experienced God revealing to me beauty, mystery, goodness in all kinds of ordinary ways in everyday life.  The ordinary has become sacred to me.  The small things have been revelations of God’s love and compassion.

Learning to walk in the dark where confusion, pain, insecurity and even depression at times have guided me to a more abundant life of seeing Christ in others.  This imagination to see Christ in others is what I have been called to.  People are beautiful in spite of their brokenness.  The world is beautiful in spite of all the injustice that goes on around us.

So complaining about all the stuff I do not like will not be helpful.  Over time it will really hinder my flourishing as a human being in this world.  I want to be free to dance and live a life of peace.  I want to find joy in the dark seasons of life where it is hard to make sense of what I am experiencing.

Finding the love within myself to see Christ in others is such a powerful practice for me.  This is the journey of being the change I want to see in the world.  There is nothing more difficult and beautiful than this.

  •  Having the imagination to see Christ in others

Loving others by seeing the value and mystery in and through them is about having the imagination to see Christ in others.  This is a radical thought!  Does Christ really live in each and every one of us even if we have not “accepted Christ” into our lives?  I think he does in some mysterious way that we cannot always understand.

  •  We are created in Christ’s image

I believe there are dimensions of Christ that live in all of us.  How could they not?  We are created in his image.  Not some people but all people.

  • To see the best in everyone

Dorothy Day encourages us “To love with understanding and without understanding.  To love blindly, and to folly.  To see only what is lovable.  To think only on these things.  To see the best in everyone around, their virtues rather than their faults.  To see Christ in them …”  This is what the body of Christ is called to in the parish.

What keeps us from having the imagination to see Christ in others?

Having the Courage to Embrace Our Humanity


Sometimes I have not cultivated a way of reflection and rest within myself to embrace my humanity.  When this happens I have lost touch with my true self.  My interior life deteriorates when I forget my limitations and responsibilities as a human.  Christ is constantly teaching what it means to be human.

This question has haunted me as I have believed many different narratives about what it means to be human.  As I have developed a practice of reflection and rest it has helped me to embrace my humanity.  It has helped me to become a person of compassion and love.

  •  The courage to embody an authentic way of life

It takes a lot of courage to embrace our humanity.  But we need to practice a powerful courage within us to survive.  All the talk of liberty and justice for all in America, when this is clearly not the case, leaves us needing courage to embody an authentic way of life where this is true within us.

  •  Fullly and unreservedly embracing our humanity

Peter Rollins says, “…we must be courageous enough to fully and unreservedly embrace our humanity.”  The mystical imagination lives into a liberty and justice for all.  Our humanity needs to be embodied in the parish.  Our practice of reflection and rest gives us the courage to live in our culture with a powerful courage.

  •  It will take everything within our humanity to follow Christ

Courage is intertwined within the mystical imagination.  It will take everything within our humanity to follow Christ because reflection and rest is pretty much shunned by the popular culture.  It is seen as a waste of time.  It does not make sense to rest when we should all be working to the point of exhaustion.

  • Losing the meaning of our humanity

Becoming human is not really an issue for many of us because we are not truly aware of our disembodiment in everyday life.  We have truly lost the meaning of our humanity.  We have become a people who have very little time for reflection and rest.

  •  Becoming human like Christ

We have cultivated a Christianity without an interior life of reflection and rest.  Our sanity is gone with our humanity.  Our courage could help us in the process of becoming human, like Christ, in the place we inhabit together.  To be like Christ is to become human.

  •  Being alive in our locality

To be like Christ is to embody courage.  To be like Christ is to practice reflection and rest in our humanity.  To be like Christ is to be faithfully present to our locality, to live in our locality and to love our locality.  Christ was alive in his locality and we should be too.

  •  Loving our neighbors in the parish

Loving our neighbors in the parish is why we practice refection and rest.  This is how we become human.  This is how we love God in the place we inhabit together.  There is no way around this.

How can we fully embrace our humanity in everyday life?