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Church is a Work of Imagination

Written for Christ Lutheran Church's weekly newsletter, March 7, 2023.

Over the weekend, one of the churches that supports our Episcopal-Lutheran campus and young adult ministry (The House) hosted a Lenten retreat: a series of workshops about creativity and the work of art in the church. It was a fantastic time of reflection and imagination, and I came away from it with a lot of new ideas for The House and our churches.

The question that framed the retreat was this: what is the role of art in the Church? And further, what is the role of creativity in the Christian communities we belong to and are building? And how do we continue to make space for art and artists and creativity in the on-going life of our churches?

It's an important series of questions -- so often, we treat art simply as an extracurricular activity, that is to say that art is something that is not part of the curriculum here at church. We treat creativity as optional, and elective, according to the skills and interests of the individual. Granted, not everybody wants to be a painter or a singer or a quilter, and certainly mandatory creativity is not the answer.

But, as a pastor, part of how I see the work of Christianity is as a work of creativity and imagination. The Gospel paints a picture of a kind of community, a way of living and being together (where the sick are cared for, the poor taken care of, the meek inherit the earth, where wealth isn't salvific) that doesn't exist yet. And the work of the Church is to imagine what the Gospel might look like here and now and in this place specifically, and then working to create it.

One of the hang-ups sometimes with creative work is that is can feel very vulnerable to share our imaginations and our art with one another, especially when we are not confident in our skills or how our work will be received. Part of the work of a creative and imaginative church is making a space that is safe enough and open enough for us to share our imaginations with one another so that we can be talking about not just what kind of community Christ Lutheran is, not just what kind of town Fredericksburg is, but also what kind community this could be and then wondering how to make it together.

At the end of the weekend, I was thinking about my three churches and it occurred to me that Christ Lutheran is already very, very good at including art and creativity in it's community life. The quilters and cross-stitchers are prolific, the hallways and rooms are filled with quilted tapestry made by our own hands, we debuted our new altar rail kneelers last year, and the sanctuary is filling up with handmade pieces that tell the story of scripture alongside the narrative lectionary. Christ Lutheran is already very, very good at this. And so I simply wonder -- where else in your life together is there room for creativity? When you picture the Gospel, how do you imagine God is calling us to work and grow and create this church and Fredericksburg anew? Who else do you want to bring into your good, imaginative, and creative work?

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