Bishop Rob's Message
The 13th message to all in the Parish from Bishop Rob Gillion, who has been licensed as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Lincoln and is half time Interim Priest in Charge of our parish of St John's.
"More thoughts for a Clergy Conference"
As promised last month magazine here is an extract from the second address that I gave at a ‘Gathering of Clergy’ in our Diocese.
Imagination in Mission and Ministry
'Imagination is more important than knowledge' I read this over a bookshop at the airport and discovered it was by Albert Einstein. In the translation the Bible known as The Message in Genesis we read ‘ God imagined us and we came into being.’
I have been invited to reflect on the Church’s desire to ‘Sing a new Song’ I am suggesting we might use our God given gift of imagination to progress our journey to be Church differently. Or to recover traditional ways which continue to feed our spirits.
The imagination is the bridge between heart and mind integrating both, allowing us to think with our hearts and feel with our minds. Imagination is a vehicle for truth. The imagination is a powerful means of communicating truths about God and so God shows an awesome regard for the imagination in His Word. Because we are called to creativity a working understanding of the imagination is vital. Let us choose to aim our imagination in God's direction!The best place I believe to begin is in prayer.
Where better to focus than on Ignatius of Loyola. As God and His Spirit abide in us, I suggest prayer is the primary way we participate in that presence. Prayer is the natural, unselfconscious language of relationship. Prayer is so natural to our relationship with Christ and thus so central to Ignatius' own life. But prayer is also hard to do for many of us. Giving is hard, fasting is not my strong point but at least their tangible. Whereas often in prayer I find my mind wandering. I get impatient. I doubt. I don't get the answers I want. Some may say it's because I don't have enough faith. But for me it's motivation that really matters so I imagine the best for someone whom I have been asked to pray for. I imagine the best outcome when I pray about a decision in my life or in the life of another. Yes, I use my gift of a strong imagination. As a prison chaplain I often wondered what it would be like to face a life sentence in the darkness of a prison, I acted it out in my imagination seeking to feel it. Visiting a home for the elderly imagining what it would be like to lose your memory, and rely on strangers to wash and feed you. Visiting a refugee camp and putting oneself in their shoes. On occasion I have found myself in these situations and I could only imagine so my preparation in prayer was so helpful.
Ignatius taught that imagination could be employed as a powerful tool in prayer. One of his exercises invites you to imagine yourself as a character in a biblical encounter with Jesus. The idea is that by empathising with a character, you can be guided into your own real conversation with God. Perhaps as you could enter into a favourite Bible story.
Ignatius chooses scenes of Jesus acting rather than Jesus teaching or telling parables. He wants us to see Jesus interacting with others, Jesus making decisions, Jesus moving about, Jesus ministering. He doesn't want us to think about Jesus. He wants us to experience Him. He want Jesus to fill our senses. He wants us to meet him. Following Jesus is the business of our lives. To follow him we must know him, and we get to know him through our imagination. Imaginative Ignatian prayer teaches us things about Jesus that we would not learn through scripture study or theological reflection. It allows the person of Christ to penetrate into places that the intellect does not touch. It brings Jesus into our hearts. It engages our feelings. It enflames us with ideals of generous service.
Imaginative prayer makes the Jesus of the Gospels our Jesus. It helps us develop a unique and personal relationship with him. We watch Jesus’ face. We listen to the way he speaks. We notice how people respond to him. These imaginative details bring us to know Jesus as more than a name or a historical figure in a book. He is a living person. We say what the villagers in John’s Gospel told the Samaritan woman: “We have come to know him ourselves, and not just from your report.”
As I shared with you previously, I will be finishing my ministry with you in Spalding in August so you may be thinking of singing a Song of Lament or even perhaps a Song of Thanksgiving! Whichever song we sing it needs always to end in a note of hopefulness! Just as I had hoped last month, July has seen us back worshipping together in Church, albeit still with social distancing. There is nothing like a live encounter with family and friends.
With every blessing once again,
Yours in Christ
Click below to read earlier messages from Bishop Rob
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