Modern Church is thrilled to be supporting the Greenbelt Festival this summer. For us, it is a real leap of imagination – out of our comfort zone and into a place where anything might happen.
For two generations Greenbelt has stood for open, thoughtful, imaginative, and inclusive faith, and we are proud to be even a small part of its work and witness.
Being imaginative about faith takes some courage. One of the people we are supporting at Greenbelt this year is Vicky Beeching – a woman who has shown imagination and courage in abundance, taking risks for herself and for her faith. Her journey has been moving and profound, and a read of her new book, her memoir, Undivided is a must.
Theology is an act of the imagination, and therefore risky, and has been since the beginning. It doesn’t take too much to argue that some of the best theology of the past 3000 years has been done by poets and musicians and artists (just think of the Psalms). These are prime theological expressions since our thinking and our formulations can only take us so far. As Victor Hugo put it: Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent. That will do for all these art forms.
Taking risks, ‘speaking’ in unconventional ways through poetry, music or art, may be the only way in which we can communicate with a generation (or two) of people who have little idea of what the conventional words of theology might mean or who have little experience of what the Christian faith might be (except for the terrible things they read about abuse, homophobia, misogyny and so on in the news). Showing the best of what faith is will mean taking risks.
So these ‘acts of the imagination’ need also to lead us to acts of justice, and this is where our faith will speak most loudly. Feeding the poor, giving shelter and clothing and food to those fleeing the effects of war or climate change, standing against the abuse of power, working for the liberation and flourishing of all people: these will speak more loudly and clearly than any amount of words we might use.
In conventional language, this is what incarnation is about. God takes the risk of becoming what we are. More than that, what we are becomes capable of bearing God to the world. It is the great act of inclusion and shows that imagination stands at the heart of reality. When our faith is embodied in the world anything is possible. When love is our meaning, when love judges all we do, when love is the measure of our thinking and speaking and acting, when love drives our imagination, then we are living God in the world and speaking a language all can hear.