Theopoetics and Spiritual Imagination

I spent the day after Christmas reading and writing, particularly exploring the wonderful work Theopoetic:  Theology and the Religious Imagination by Amos Niven Wilder.  I offer this wonderful reflection, from chapter one of his book.  There is much to think about here/reflect on, when we explore the practices of a “mindful church,” one that fosters a more intentional spiritual imagination.  Explore what Wilder says:

It is in the area of liturgics–the idiom and metaphors of prayer and witness–that the main impasse lies today for the Christian. 

It is at the level of the imagination that the fateful issues of our new world-experience must first be mastered.  It is here that culture and history are broken, and here that the church is polarized.  Old words do not reach across the new gulfs, and it is only in vision and oracle that we can chart the unknown and new-name the creatures.

Before the message, there must be the vision, before the sermon the hymn, before the prose the poem.

Before any new theologies however secular and radical there must be a contemporary theopoetic.  The structures of faith and confession have always rested on hierophanies and images.  But in each new age and climate the theopoetic of the church is reshaped in inseparable relation to the general imagination of the time.

From the Foreward to Grace Confounding:  Poems by Amos N. Wilder (Philadelphia:  Fortress Press, 1972), p. ix.

Such an exploration of a greater spiritual imagination is greatly needed in our world–to say nothing of within our churches.  But, to explore/embody/practice this degree of spiritual imagination (recognizing the demand to move into a more vulnerable space of relationship) we must move beyond the posture many churches have of ‘merely’ maintaining programs.  We must step into a space of contemplative leadership, of nurturing a space of true community life and prayer.

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