The power to dream has driven the great minds throughout the ages to create and innovate but in the context of the church what can dreaming dreams provide for the next chapter in the Uniting Church and its place in the community? UnitingCare Queensland’s Connect 100 Coordinator Scott Guyatt considers dreaming past, present and future for the church.
“I have a dream.”
From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial the words echoed out in the moment, and on down through the generations. This refrain from Martin Luther King Jr’s landmark speech strikes a chord in all of us. There is power in those words. Inspiration. Challenge. Possibility.
When Albert Einstein was asked whether he trusted more to his imagination or his knowledge, he responded: “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination encircles the world.”
Imagination, the capacity to dream, to wonder, to visualise, to create or concoct is, I am convinced, a God-given gift. The outcome of dreams or imagination reveal to us new possibilities. Dreaming and imagining begins the unfolding of a new world which can then be lived into being. That is the power of a dream.
The invitation, I think, is to dream dreams that are consistent with the heart of God for the world, with God’s purposes and mission. The writer of Philippians, at the end of a passage encouraging prayer, rejoicing, gentleness and thanksgiving as hallmarks of the Christian community invites us to dream in this way: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
That’s a wide net to cast for our dreaming and imagination. The good, the pure, the just, the pleasing, the excellent, the worthy of praise. Can you imagine a Christian community characterised by these kinds of dreams, these kinds of thoughts? And then with the courage to pursue such things? Can you imagine it?
Coincidentally as I was contemplating this notion of dreaming dreams consistent with God’s purpose for us, I happened to re-read the Statement to the Nation made at the time of our church’s inauguration in 1977. What a powerful statement it continues to be, and a statement that can easily be read through the lens of dreaming dreams consistent with Philippians 4:8. This is a church that dreamed of justice, integrity, love, compassion, the gospel proclaimed in Australia and beyond. A church that dreamed of challenging poverty, racism, systemic abuses, environmental degradation and more. A church that dreamed of holding its first allegiance to God no matter the implications of that allegiance. A church that dreamed of being guided not by self-interest, but by the welfare of all who are made in the image of God.
Those were, and remain, powerful dreams. Dreams to build a church upon. Dreams to challenge a society to be better. Dreams that ring true with God’s purpose for us. Dreams that are true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing and commendable. Dreams that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Let’s keep dreaming that dream, a dream that, in Einstein’s words, can encircle the world. And more than that, let us speak out those dreams, name them, share them, and like Luther King Jr, declare them.
And then, let us be so bold as to pursue those dreams. Now, and always.