Rev Dr Kate Bruce’s Theology lecture on Saturday September 30th

On Wednesday September 17th I was relieved to have my crown fitted finally and although it felt strange it seemed to look fine and gradually has become just one of my teeth. I had a busy day at the Acorn Centre on the Friday which I enjoyed. It is much easier to do things now as I can catch up on sleep by lying in after a meeting and I am trying to learn to pace myself better.
On Saturday September 20th we had the first of our new series of theology mornings at St Mark’s Church Harrogate. It was led by Rev Dr Kate Bruce a lecturer at Durham University on the subject of ‘Can these bones live?’ She talked about dreaming dreams and the place of imagination in local mission contexts. Ezekiel had the vision of the bones being restored to life. In the context of new life there are new ideas and possibilities, if we incorporate imagination in our preaching. Kate describes the different sorts of imagination there are; sensory imagination; intuitive imagination; affective imagination and intellectual imagination. Paul in Athens used his sensory imagination as he wandered round Athens gathering sensory data; the proliferation of gods, including an unknown god; making religious links; even studying the Greek poets so that he was able to start his talk using their images and familiar poems. Kate has a forthcoming preaching appointment in Hartlepool, so like Paul, she will visit Hartlepool prior to the preaching to get a feel for the place as she walks around the streets; after that she will be able to begin her sermon with a little more knowledge of the context. In the novel, ‘To Kill a Mocking bird’ Scout’s father explained how you could never understand a person until you walk in their shoes.’
Kate then challenged us to consider what examples we could offer on affective imagination; how could we really see things from the perspective of those to whom we were preaching? We could hypothesise; if……..then; and that would be using our imagination to inspire our rational, intellectual imagination to explore new ways of sharing our mission; such imagination would anchor our thoughts in less fanciful ideas. Those with intuitive imagination can make connections beyond the obvious, conventional or literal to inspire people with new ways of viewing initiatives in mission; what could catch the imagination of the secular public which might engage them in our mission?
Imagination in the Bible needs to be redeemed, as that is a key part of what makes us human. Firstly we need the vision which inspired the Scottish independence referendum; we saw how the whole country became engaged in the debate so that there was finally an 85% participation in the voting procedure. That made the outcome more correct, when 45% voted to separate from the UK and 55% voted to remain in the UK; in my opinion that was thanks to the passion and conviction of Gordon Brown; I am sorry we are losing him from front line politics as he is a politician of conviction. He helped provide the clarity to the debate and his passion and challenge swayed probably quite a few voters to stay with the UK. I just wish that we could in a similar way inspire a larger percentage of our population who are eligible to vote to register and vote. If they don’t vote, claiming it will make no difference to the outcome, they have to accept the views of the minority of the country and lose their right to complain about the outcome of elections. I pray that a larger majority will vote so at least we could have a chance of changing our culture of blame of the poor and vulnerable for their situations to a fairer situation with the rich contributing as all us tax payers do. I am glad to have a good enough income to pay basic rate tax on all my pensions, as it shows me how fortunate I am.
How can our intuitive imagination be used to build potential bridges with our local communities? A man based in Ripon had seen a Scarecrow festival, when he was on holiday with his family, which had been used in a local context to build bridges with more secular people to discuss the ideas inspired. That inspiring idea led to the church in Ripon having a vision of the potential of using the image of Angels as a bridge with the local community. Gingerbread angels were given free with Bible texts; a competition was set up for people to design their own Angels and Angels were displayed around the city for the period of the festival of Angels. Kate reminded us that the church exists more for its non members than its members. How successful was this venture? The gospel was shared in schools, assemblies and conversations; the community were working together; more visitors came in to see the angels and the local economy was boosted; people outside the church enjoyed coming into the church buildings and some came to the Alpha courses offered at the end of the festival. People enjoyed having fun, especially the children, but it involved a lot of work especially in the smaller churches often for a small number of the congregation, as not everyone in the churches shared the enthusiasm of the organisers. We need to learn that the vicar does not need to decide everything, but a few members of the congregation with imagination can set the ball rolling.
Kate described other initiatives; a Beach Hut in Brighton which was set up with an evangelical message which was successful; maybe such a large display is not possible everywhere but could not something smaller be done in shop window displays. The Great North Passion used containers in conjunction with the local communities to illustrate the stages of the cross, bringing the message of Good Friday up to date. That vision could be done on a smaller scale with pallets or orange boxes? Another extremely popular show of the Great British Bake-off could be downsized to a local bread baking competition which could be linked to bread in the Bible, Manna, living bread, or communion? We could have a festival of light in the middle of winter with fire juggling, fireworks, bonfire, BBQ linked to the Biblical themes of light.
Kate asked for any examples of imaginative church from the audience. There was a forest Church which used creation to draw people to God, as people are inherently spiritual. ‘Theo-media’ was another suggestion of sharing God through digital media such as Twitter or Facebook as the presence of God invigorates imagination. The Bible, Buildings and all in nature can be used to communicate with others. However we can be bombarded by so much information through social media that we don’t often fully engage with it but it can provide a space to engage with those outside the church. The ‘Big Silence’ about secular people exploring the need for space and contemplation in the monastery on BBC 2 seemed to strike a chord with many outside the church. Nowadays there are many hurting people, outsiders, those who don’t fit in who need our love and care. ‘Pulp’s cleverly worded song ‘Common People’ expressed succinctly how the only way to understand those on the edge, is to experience what it is like to have no money, a sense of hopelessness and despair; how can we with enough money to meet our bills and even afford treats understand those who do not have full cupboards of food? We cannot truly understand unless we too have empty cupboards, struggle to pay for fuel, rent and food, what life on the edge is truly like.
One person explained how they showed different DVDs in their homes which led into discussions on themes of regret, forgiveness the following week. They have used DVDs such as ‘Philomena’, the true moving story of a mother’s search for her son adopted at the age of 3; the ups and downs of the search and its conclusion; an excellent film I found. Another man formed a fantasy church in a shed with a microwave, toaster, telly for friends to come and chill out with those who had little connection with God or the church. Apparently there is even a ‘man shed’ church in an aviation museum outside York with engineering volunteers surrounded by vehicles. There is also a ‘man’ church meeting and going boating on the river, as they find the church too touchy and feely for him and his friends. There are Bible study meetings in pubs, breakfast meetings at church, as more men are apparently thinkers than women!! An Anglican vicar opened his church to explore and listen to different religious perspectives on light. St Peter’s Church has recently begun to engage in the local community in the Cold Bath Road area of Harrogate through the schools and shops. Others create virtual prayer walks round the places the members of their congregation live to support them and potentially draw others in. These were some of the ideas which arose from the discussion Kate led and I found it quite inspiring.

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2 Responses to Rev Dr Kate Bruce’s Theology lecture on Saturday September 30th

  1. selwyngoodacre says:

    glad to hear about the crown. I had two fitted at the same time a month ago – they take a little getting used to – but fine in the end!

  2. helenbeech says:

    I may later need another crown to match on the right, but we shall see. It looks better than a gap which I may have had later otherwise,

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