Culture & Heritage

The art of Imagination

  • Author Name: Sian Wade
  • Author Role: Community Pioneer
  • Author Image:

 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” Eph 3:20

If we are going to play a role in the rebuilding of our towns and cities, we need to learn the art of prophetic imagination, allowing ourselves to dream some dreams with God and cultivating the courage to pray and walk into those dreams. 

Some people find it easier to dream and imagine than others. Children generally find it easier because their minds are not filled with many concerns, worries, responsibilities, fears of failure and all the things that abort creative imagination and dreaming. 

The reason why teenagers and young adults are so powerful is that they still have the ability to dream and they can start to put some of their hopes and desires into action. 

I believe that God is calling his people to learn to dream again, but it is a gift that you need to ask for and be ready to receive. 

Firstly, we need to recognise that we serve a limitless God with endless resource and power. Place yourself in God’s shoes. If you were going to share some important information with someone, you would want their undivided attention. You would want them to take notes, listen intently and not interrupt!

Knowing that he is the God of the impossible, when we spend time in his presence and marvel at who he is and what he can do, we need to place ourselves under his authority. He is the architect, he is the one who has the design mapped out, it is HIS will that we are wanting, not our own. 

When I come into God’s presence, I have to go through a process of writing down all the fears, anxieties, and worries that are already clogging up my thinking. One by one these are spoken and given to God – a process of weeding! I then spend time on my knees, bowed low in an act of submission and an understanding that I am simply here to serve and see God’s will be done. There is a power in this that we often overlook. Throughout the Old Testament, prophets would physically do symbolic acts to show God that they were serious, but it also sends a clear message of authority to our mind, body, soul and spirit. 

From this place of clearing out the potential blockages, and submission to who God is, we have cleared the way for God to speak and plant his dreams into us. 

We need to be prepared for God to speak throughout the day as well as at night. He may speak through the most mundane activity, or simply through a few words you hear spoken by someone. He will give you dreams through the night that have clear significance for the present and the future. Writing these down in as much detail as possible is really important. I was given dreams 15 years ago that have materialised only recently. 

My one piece of advice is this, dreams from God need protecting, nurturing, watering. They sometimes need to be shared with others, and sometimes they need to be sheltered for a while. God is a loving Father who cannot wait to share his heart with us – he is just waiting for us to be ready.

The past in perspective: resetting through heritage

  • Author Name: Adam Daubney
  • Author Role: Archaeologist
  • Author Image:

One of the basic principals of archaeology is that ‘what you see very much depends on the scale you are looking’. If we were to zoom right out and view the entirety of global human history, we would inevitably see grand-scale events such as wars, famines, revolutions, inventions, and pandemics. These events would help us to see, on a very broad-level, how and why societies ebbed and flowed over time. However, we would lose some understanding of how individuals and groups can change history.

Similarly, if we zoomed right in – for example, to examine the last 50 years of your village or town – we would see much finer detail. At this scale we would see the effects of individual actions, groups, and localised events, but we would lose some understanding of how and why your village or town appears as it does today.

Take, for example, the humble ‘green lane’. The countryside is criss-crossed with many public footpaths today, many of which are deeply rooted in the past. Some stretch back into prehistory. These pathways may seem insignificant, but they are examples of the sorts of things that have quietly directed how the landscape has been used over many generations.

What we see very much depends on the scale we are looking.

For many of us, our worlds have become rather small during the pandemic. Covid has forced us to close our doors, keep our distance, and focus our physical relationships on those we are bubbled with. Similarly, daily coronavirus updates on the news have subconsciously trained us to think on short scales of time. We measure life in terms of vaccine rollouts, lockdowns and the easing of restrictions while forgetting the grander narratives of time. All of this is deeply disorientating.

For many of us, our wellbeing is strongly linked to our sense of place. By ‘place’ we mean the village, town, or city where you identify with most. Research has shown that a strong sense of place gives people a stronger sense continuity, a greater sense of connectedness, a greater sense of purpose, and provides an environment in which people can fulfil their goals. Naturally, heritage is a huge part of this. Historic buildings, museums, art galleries, archaeology societies, historic landmarks, streetscapes, monuments and so on are all powerful components of people’s sense of place.

For those of us working or volunteering in the heritage profession the months and years that lie ahead offer great opportunities to serve our communities. Archaeology projects can help gather individuals, families, and communities disconnected by the virus; museums can help people regain a sense of perspective and temporal orientation; Cathedrals, churches, sites, and monuments can provide places for reflection, inspiration, and enjoyment.

In the previous GLX blog post, educationalist Paul Tinsley noted that people are questioning where God is, and the place of the Church in the midst of all this.  Paul also commented that when we come out the other side of the pandemic, we will be much more aware of our fragility as human beings.  “Many will be asking big questions about life, faith and what kind of society we should be in the future.”

For some, the historic environment will help people to process these questions, regardless of whether that process is sought out intentionally, or is just the by-product of enjoying visiting a heritage site. Museums and heritage sites help us to reflect on the fragility and brevity of life and our ‘moment’ in the grander narrative of time. Likewise, historic places of worship help us to understand how faith has helped previous societies in times of crisis. And yet, the redundancy of many historic places of worship today demonstrate that the church is on the move. Empty historic churches do not signal that Christianity is dead, but rather that it now also expresses itself through a flotilla of house churches, café meet-ups, and non-ecclesiastical buildings that leave very few footprints beyond those which are left by serving the communities they live in. Today’s church is thankfully unlikely to leave much for archaeologists to dig up in the future, mainly because it is throwing off its former structures and rising to the challenge set by the early church in the book of Acts. In many ways these new expressions of faith stretch back beyond the medieval Cathedrals that dominated the landscape, and into the artisanal Celtic communities of the Early Medieval period where grass-roots Christianity permeated learning, craft, family life, commerce, and play.

Times are changing (as they do by their very definition!), but heritage will undoubtedly help us to rebuild our societies and learn from the past. For those Christians working or volunteering in the heritage profession, this will involve helping all of us (ourselves included) to regain a sense of place. For some this will improve their overall wellbeing; for others it will mark the start of a journey in faith.  

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