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Iris de León-Hartshorn is director of Transformational Peacemaking for Mennonite Church USA. The Future Church Summit (FCS) will take place July 6-8, at the Mennonite Church USA convention in Orlando. This post originally ran on the Menno Snapshots blog of Mennonite Church USA.
“…explore the moral imagination as the capacity to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world yet capable of giving birth to that which does not yet exist.”
— John Paul Lederach, The Moral Imagination
In his book, Lederach refers to Romans 8:22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now,” encouraging us to be open to the unexpected and finding the doors that open up to something we could not have imagined alone.
As a member of the “Theme Team” for the summit, I’ll be gathering the dreams, ideas and passions of the 700-1,000 people attending the summit. A few weeks ago, we did a trial run of the FCS with the Constituency Leaders Council and I can’t explain the excitement that I experienced as I listened to people engaging with each other and sharing their stories and dreams for the church.
Throughout the meeting, their ideas and dreams started to trickle into the Theme Team [table groups at CLC could submit ideas to the team via iPads at their table]. And then the pace started to pick up and we were off and running. As our team of six began to work at discerning recurring themes, we started to see places of unexpected concurrence and I could feel God’s Spirit among us.
I find hope and anticipate God’s wonder in the midst of our human messiness. It might be difficult to allow ourselves to let go of our preconceived ideas and dream together. But we have a choice to make: we can enter this process in fear that we might lose or we can enter with our imaginations open to see the realities of our challenges while being open to something we have not yet seen. I pray we choose a posture of openness to God’s spirit and are willing to enter into the summit with expectation and wonder.
Our hope is that we will have many places of engagement to hear from youth and the many people attending Orlando.
We find ourselves at a crossroads: both within our church and with our current culture in the world. Division is a fact of life, but there has developed a culture of encouraging division among people and groups of people. Many institutions are fragile and that includes the Christian church.
We are at a place where we need to seek God deeply, listen to each other in love and be open to follow Jesus in unexpected ways. The Future Church Summit process is one way for us to engage in birthing something different that we desperately need. It is on the verge of being revealed if we are open to see it.
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