Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: The Communal Imagination

Getting Specific, Local, Particular – Excerpt from my book – The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together – Offered for Free this Week on Kindle!

51DJfJVBpBL (1)

Endorsed by Shane Claiborne who says, “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.”

  •  A radical reorientation towards a commitment to a particular place

To even start the process of shared life together in everyday life there needs to be a radical reorientation towards a commitment to a particular place.  The body of Christ needs to see itself as a fabric of relationships living, working, and playing within the proximity of a local context.  In other words, we have to practice inhabiting a neighborhood and committing to that place as the body of Christ together.

  •  The mediums we have created

Reimagining the local body of Christ this way breaks open the paradigm of the regional commuter church that is disconnected in everyday life and then meets inside the four walls of a building we culturally call “church.”  This is the only paradigm most of us have ever known.  But is the body of Christ supposed to be confined to such a limiting imagination?  So many people have given up on the body of Christ simply because the mediums we have created communicate that Christianity has nothing to do with the realities of everyday life.

  •  We care about the things that affect our lives

Put bluntly, it is irrelevant.  Most of the time, we only care about the things that actually affect our individual lives.  These are the things we invest our lives in, because we feel it will give us life with the most pleasure, enjoyment and meaning.  That’s why the mediums we have created as “the expression of the body of Christ” do not seem relevant.

  •  Reorient around the themes of community or parish

They communicate vibes of boredom and unpleasantness.  I have struggled with these mediums myself and my faith has had a hard time surviving through a default that produces a lack of engagement in real life.  What I want to propose is that the body of Christ reorient around the themes of community and parish (that is, contextual to neighborhood and local culture).

  •  Many ideas and definitions of community today

There are many ideas and definitions of community today that spring from affinity groups, city associations and the conversations of the emerging and missional Church, but I like Wendell Berry’s definition: “If the word community is to mean or amount to anything, it must refer to a place (in its natural integrity) and its people.  It must refer to a placed people …”  Berry goes on to say, “It exists by proximity, by neighborhood; it knows face to face, and it trusts as it knows…”

  •  Proximity is crucial

Proximity is crucial to this definition of community.  Without it there is no community.  This has to be taken seriously and then practiced together if there is to be any real face-to-face interaction as the body of Christ in everyday life.

  •  Living into a healthy expression of the body of Christ

The neighborhood cannot be forgotten.  I believe that the neighborhood or parish is the holistic medium that we need if we are to live into a healthy expression of the body of Christ that does not do damage to its local context.

  •  Specific, local, particular ways

“Here is the mystery of the incarnation,” says Gerald W. Schlabach. “Union of human and divine means that faith always must express itself in specific, local, particular ways …”

How can we develop a communal imagination in everyday life together?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413294281&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination+finding+a+way+to+share+life+together

Slowing Down to Find Peace – Excerpt from my book – The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

where-brook-meets-lake

We live in such a fast-paced world that our lives cannot keep up.  We have a hard time slowing down and creating new rhythms of a more peaceful way of life together. We take life and others for granted when we live at such high levels of speed.  We cannot root ourselves in a place without first learning to slow down.

  •  The simplicity of a slower pace of life

We cannot be faithfully present to one another in our relationships without the simplicity of a slower pace that allows us to appreciate life more.  Speed dominates our imaginations.  It has crushed to pieces the communal imagination.  We constantly disregard one another when we have no time just to be and reflect on what is going on within us.

  •  Speed damages us relationally

Speed consumes every area of our lives.  It damages us relationally in the parish.  It makes us less than human.  Speed can be addictive, just like consumerism.

  •  Speed leads us nowhere fast

Rarely will we let go of our fast-paced life.  But Christ is calling us to slow down and embrace one another more by adopting a lifestyle of simplicity that is subversive to speed.  When will we see that our speed actually leads us nowhere fast?  Christine Sine writes:

 The quest for speed and efficiency dominates our modern lives, and everyone convinces us that this frenetic rhythm is the only one we can adopt – for every area of our lives.

  •  Fragmentation and mental illness

What is our speed accomplishing for us but more fragmentation and mental illness?  It can never satisfy our feelings of emptiness.  It keeps us from looking deep within ourselves.  We fear emptiness and pain, so we live at a faster and faster pace in a desperate bid to avoid facing ourselves and others in the parish.

  •  Protecting our security and defending our preferred lifestyle

Speed has us moving around so fast that no one will ever get to know us very well.  Speed is about protecting our security and defending our preferred lifestyle.  We disregard everyone else and become apathetic about anything of value in life when the pace of life is all that matters.  Speed and individualism go hand in hand, making life together nonexistent.  Speed is co-opting our imaginations.

Do you agree that speed creates fragmentation in our lives?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408732800&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

The Future Practitioners of the Body of Christ – Excerpt from my book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

1097002_547820661951086_410534463_o

“Rooted in intellect and experience, this book is a charge for the Church to reorient its identity from an autonomous entity to an interconnected organism.  Acknowledging the high cost of such a reorientation, Mark offers a vision and set of practices that might just allow us to experience life and faith as it was meant to be lived.”  Jon Huckins, neighborhood practitioner, author of Thin Places

The body of Christ is not some mechanism with no heart and life, but a living breathing body.  All bodies breathe, move, change and relate to their environment.  When bodies are unhealthy they stop functioning properly.  When bodies are dead we bury them.  Kester Brewin says, “We must reestablish ourselves as the body of Christ, not the machine of Christ.  Bodies are organic, dynamic, sentient, and conscious…  Machines break down, while bodies evolve…”  We should be an evolving body in everyday life together.  Will we feel the pain and the joy of living life together and loving one another?

These are difficult real-life experiences that we cannot escape if we are to be human.  We are not building a machine but a body.  I don’t want to become a part of a machine where I become the very fuel that it needs to work.  This reminds me of the movie The Matrix where Neo finds out that the machine world is using human beings as fuel.  Everyone thinks they are living life the way it was meant to be, and no one realizes they are living an illusion.  It may be an extreme metaphor but the church of our day seems to be playing inside of a Matrix of its own, and a lot of people are hiding behind its clichés.

I feel that the lay people, the people who are the ordinary folk, who live common ordinary lives are going to be the future practitioners of the body of Christ in local contexts, living in local neighborhoods, receiving wisdom through experiments of local embodiment.  Living relationally, in locality, in neighborhood, doesn’t take any fancy theological degrees from prestigious schools to accomplish.  All it really takes is a willingness to be faithful to God and to others and to a place.  All it takes is a listening posture to change and live your life together with others in community.  All it takes is vulnerability and courage.  All it takes is investing your life and giving up our extreme individualism and learning how to be the church together.  Elaine A. Heath and Scott T. Kisker in their book Longing for Spring, say, “The pattern of renewal occurs over and over in the history of the church.  Worldliness creeps into the structures of the church, and God inspires His people to experiment with models of faithfulness.  Renewal does not happen when the laity ‘take control’ of the church, but rather when the laity realize we are the church.”

How can we strive to become the future practitioners of the body of Christ?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405170654&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Quotes from The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

“This book covers essential territory for building healthy communities of Jesus for the long haul.”  Kelly Bean, co-founder Convergence, author of How to be a Christian Without Going to Church

51DJfJVBpBL

  • Valuing the small things in the particulars of everyday life

“A relational call to love as the body of Christ in the parish seems small, but it’s not…  The small things are hard to value in a culture that craves anything but the small.  We think the small will make us seem nonexistent and invisible.  We want so much to be noticed that we have taken our life into our own hands and forgotten the small acts of love in the neighborhood.  When will we realize that love is the only thing that miracles are made of?  The communal imagination loves the small things in the particulars of everyday life…”

  • Becoming disillusioned with loving our ideals of community

“We always face a great tension between the ideal of what we want life to be like and the reality of life as it is.  The communal imagination is not built on a ‘wish dream’ or an illusion, but on reality.  We will struggle sometimes to figure things out relationally in the parish.  It is not always easy and we might often fail.  But we need to keep trying to learn to live with grace towards one another.  Without grace, we will build our lives on a lofty illusion of how things ought to be with little contact with reality.  What we are building will not last very long without grace.  When we love our ideals of community more than the reality of the community, we will become disillusioned and bring an oppressive agenda into it that will quickly poison everything around us.”

  • Getting down to what is right in front of us

“We need to stop trying to change or fix others.  This is the call of being present to others out of love for them.  Presence has an attentiveness to it.  We need to be present to one another as friends who care deeply and love.  We will have to let go of some control.  We will have to let go of the cliché that we can ‘change the world.’  This vision is too big, too abstract.  Let’s get down to what is right in front of us: real people in real life contexts who live in our neighborhood.  These are the people we are called to love and become faithfully present to relationally.”

  • Bringing grace into our deepest conflicts and struggles

“We cannot share life together in the parish without this gift of forgiveness and grace infusing our relationships.  We like to talk about God’s grace in terms of our own forgiveness, but when will we shift to a new paradigm of translating that grace into our deepest conflicts and struggles to love one another?  This would be a miracle indeed.”

How can we do the small things and live relationally as the body of Christ in everyday life?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1399035843&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Knowing and Being Known- Excerpt from my new book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together. Is available on amazon now (paperback and kindle).

51DJfJVBpBL

“Mark Votava’s book is like a smooth stone in a churning stream.  When all around us seems to be prone to speed, consumption, movement and success, The Communal Imagination is a sure and unwavering call to simplicity, presence, attentiveness and collaboration.  Read it slowly.  It calls us to nothing less than a new way to be human.”  Michael Frost, author of Incarnate and The Road to Missional  

  •  Becoming fully human through relationship

Living relationally within the parish transforms what we think we know about ourselves, about God, and about others.  We are pushed to become fully human through relationship.  The relationship we have with each person can be a reflection of God to us. God both gives and receives love through relationships with others.

  •  The body of Christ cannot be separated from relationship

The body of Christ cannot be separated from relationship to one another.  We need one another to be human.  We need one another to learn about our own spirituality.

  • Our relational connections become a part of who we are

When we inhabit a neighborhood, that place and the relational connections that we develop there become a part of who we are.  They are intertwined with our redemption and salvation.  We only know truth through relationship.

  •  Knowing and being known will shape who we become  

Without relationship we cannot know anything.  Knowing and being known is the truth that will set us free from our own limited imaginations.  Knowing and being known relationally will shape who we become as we inhabit the parish throughout the complexities of life.

  •  We are who we are because of the communities in which we dwell

There is no abandoning this relational context when you have experienced it in a place. Christopher L. Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl say in their book Friendship at the Margins, “We are who we are because of the communities in which we dwell.”

How have you been shaped by the relational context in which you live?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398875841&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Endorsements from my new book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together. It is Available NOW on Amazon!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398785699&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

 

“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 out 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

“Mark Votava’s book is like a smooth stone in a churning stream.  When all around us seems to be prone to speed, consumption, movement and success, The Communal Imagination is a sure and unwavering call to simplicity, presence, attentiveness and collaboration.  Read it slowly.  It calls us to nothing less than a new way to be human.” Michael Frost, author of Incarnate and The Road to Missional  

“Mark Votava wrestles with ‘the tension between the real and the possible’ in his Tacoma neighborhood, in community relationships and inside himself.  His humble witness invites us to consider and practice simplicity, love, growth, and gratitude.  This profoundly honest text is chock full of ideas born of experience.  A battle with depression, an intentional choice to leave employment as a school teacher and instead take jobs as a janitor and a dishwasher and the struggle to overcome anger and bitterness give him the authority to bring relevant recommendations.  Votava’s wise words on forgiveness, reconciliation and letting go of control have the ring of one who knows.  This book covers essential territory for building healthy communities of Jesus for the long haul.”  Kelly Bean, Executive Director, African Road, co-planter Urban Abbey, co-founder Convergence, author of How to be a Christian Without Going to Church: The Unofficial Guide to Alternative Christian Community

“Words like simplicity, vulnerability and humility are hard to find and harder to live in today’s individualistic, high speed pursuit of success and control.  Nonetheless, Mark Votava not only writes about them but intentionally and authentically embodies them in his everyday life in the parish.  With warmth, honesty and a wonderful integration of Scripture reflections and true stories, Mark presents components of a communal imagination such as love, forgiveness and gratitude that challenge our current modes of being and invite us to embrace a way of life together that embodies the shalom of God’s Kingdom.  This book is not just for reading, it’s for doing!”  Karen Wilk, Forge Canada National Team and Neighborhood Mission Catalyzer, author of Don’t Invite Them To Church: Moving From a Come and See to a Go And Be Church

“Mark refreshingly awakens his readers to the life-giving significance of the everyday ordinariness of community life together.  He unfolds the beauty of shared life lived intentionally in close proximity and regular everyday encounters.  Mark’s honesty is very encouraging as he invites and at the same time challenges readers to take courage in order to know the joys of belonging.  His book draws readers into a counter-cultural lifestyle of vulnerability and interdependence where we can experience Scriptural reality of salvation by entering the same community life they were written for, from and within.  Most beautifully pointed out here, is how Mark unpacks Jesus’ teaching of everyday forgiveness – challenging, inviting and coaxing us to know the freedom it gives through the reality of our own experiences.” Eileen Baura Suico, co-Founder, Pastor and Director at With, contributing writer of The Gospel After Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions  

“Community not individualism, shared life in proximity together – these are the concepts that grabbed my imagination as I read Mark Votava’s book The Communal Imagination.  Weaving his personal story with the wisdom he has gained from rooting himself in a community that has become home, workplace and worship space, Mark engages us in a journey of discovery and revelation.  His practice-based experiences of sacredness in the ordinary and how it opens us up to being the body of Christ is both compelling and refreshing.  Think global, act local gains new meaning through this book.”  Christine Sine, Executive Director, Mustard Seed Associates, author of Godspace and Return to our Senses 

“Embracing community is not simply a strong Christian value in which we all just try to get along, but rather is about becoming, together, the presence of Christ to one another and the world.  Mark Votava invites us into that possibility in this book, in parts equally practical, personal and prophetic.  It is high time for us to rediscover The Communal Imagination.”  Jamie Arpin-Ricci, author of The Cost of Community

“Some writers are widely read but live thinly; others read little but live deeply.  In page after page of The Communal Imagination, my friend Mark Votava evidences the rare gift of being one who reads widely and lives deeply.  Mark’s careful but tenacious wisdom – forged in adventures of the glorious mundane of neighborhood gospel life – kindles me with hope and gratitude.  May these pages likewise gift your community with eyes to see together what God may be up to.”  Brandon Rhodes, D.Min., author of Blip: Faithful Presence Amid the Making and Unmaking of the Petrol-Driven Church (Spring 2015), Field Guide for the Parish Collective, owner Rolling Oasis Grocers   

“Rooted in intellect and experience, this book is a charge for the Church to reorient its identity from an autonomous entity to an interconnected organism.  Acknowledging the high cost of such a reorientation, Mark offers a vision and set of practices that might just allow us to experience life and faith as it was meant to be lived.”  Jon Huckins, neighborhood practitioner, author of Thin Places

“Many have written on church as local presence, few have explored its depths with such first person intensity as Mark Votava.  In The Communal Imagination Votava propelled me into his personal journey in a way that grew my capacity to be ‘with’ people I did not think possible.  With wisdom and grace, the book challenged my life.  It gave me a ‘practice-based theology’ for taking the gospel local.”  David Fitch, author of Prodigal Christianity, The Great Giveaway and The End of Evangelicalism?