The Road Ahead
Susan DeWyngaert, the very competent pastor of Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church, Severna Park, MD, preached wonderfully last Sunday in Anderson Auditorium. Interestingly, in Susan’s call narrative, she says she had a sense of call at age sixteen. But she could not imagine herself as a preacher until, while at Queens College, she encountered my wife, Margaret, who was then one of the pastors at Myers Park Presbyterian Church. She could not imagine.
Imagining is crucial to the health of the church. It is especially crucial in this age in which the church is undergoing tumultuous change, as “Christendom” dies away and as the church today is becoming more and more culturally disestablished. Lodged as we are in the way the church has been, it is hard for us to see how God is reshaping the church for the era that is breaking in upon us. Therefore, we often respond to new shapes and forms of the church in fear. We cling desperately to what has been, even as it is dying.
What if we had glimpses of what could be in the church? What if those glimpses gave us the gift of imagination, the gift of seeing ourselves in a church that is vibrant, faithful to Jesus Christ, trusting in the sovereignty of God – yet different than what we have known?
Montreat Conference Center, pointing toward the road ahead for the church, is offering two adult conferences in the coming months about imagination. The first, Leading with Bold Imagination, will be held this October. At this conference, practitioners of whom you likely have never heard – Jay Thomas, Carol Howard Merritt, Tina Carter, Corey Widmer, Tom Tewell, Thomas Daniel – will share insights into the forms of the church they lead. Hopefully, these insights will stir imagination in the minds and hearts of the conferees. This is a key conference for pastors, educators, elders, church educators, and musicians.
The second conference, our Spring conference next May, is simply entitled Imagine. Led by two outstanding contemporary theologians and a stunning preacher – Marcus Borg, Tom Currie and Jacqui Lewis – this conference will explore, “What does it mean to follow Jesus and be Church today?” This conference is for all thoughtful Christians.
That is what is next in Montreat. As you head home from the summer, share the news of these conferences on imagination in your own congregation and get a team to come with you to one or both of them. Grounded by what happens in these conferences, perhaps we will be able to serve the people of God “with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love” as the ordination questions for teaching elders, ruling elders and deacons call us to do.
Grace and Peace,
President, Montreat Conference Center
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