PhilosophyRob Vander Giessen-Reitsma

The Big Picture: Imagining Space

The task of prophetic ministry is to hold together criticism and energizing, for I should urge that either by itself is not faithful to our best tradition.  Our faith tradition understands that it is precisely the dialectic of criticizing and energizing that can let us be seriously faithful to God.


Walter Brueggemann

The Prophetic Imagination

A Time to Criticize

The key pathology of our time, which seduces us all, is the reduction of the imagination so that we are too numbed, satiated and co-opted to do serious imaginative work.


Walter Brueggemann
Interpretation and Obedience


The language of inevitability is the language of the empire.  Whenever we hear “We have no choice,” our ears should perk up.  It is precisely the strategy of the empire to take our imagination captive so that we think we have no choice.  When a certain lifestyle seems inescapable, you need to realize that you are imprisoned.  The truth is that we have many choices.


Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat
Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire

How often do we respond to troubling problems by conceding, “That’s just the way things are?”

In some cases, acceptance of what we cannot change leads to a healthy surrender of our worries.  In other situations, however, we give up too easily.  We don’t make connections between our daily choices and the personal and social problems that surround us.  Or we can’t muster the energy to care or to speak out or to change.  Or we simply don’t have the imaginative capacity to dream beyond what’s right there in front of us.

In the complex, globalized context of the twenty-first century, lack of imagination is an epidemic that is being exploited to the advantage of some, and the disadvantage of others.  Because the world’s wealthy cannot imagine paying more or re-using or going without, the system of economic justice is enabled to thrive in manufacturing zones around the globe, stealing childhoods and vocational possibilities.  Because the world’s privileged cannot imagine giving up their advantages in education and politics and economics, the system of racism quietly and invisibly continues erode personal and social foundations for people of color.

Boiled down to a very local level, these big problems manifest themselves in the everyday lives of communities and individuals.  If a teenager of color can’t imagine that he can create a beautiful piece of art, we risk surrendering him to the anti-creative forces of racism and oppression that would confine him to a very narrow set of possibilities.  If a recent college graduate can’t imagine pursuing anything but the most secure career path at the expense of joy, we risk sacrificing her to the insatiable idol of the status quo.

In the midst of these tangled problems sits an institution that holds great promise for hope and transformation: the Church.  Unfortunately, the Church has also allowed her imagination to be captivated by power, by privilege, by dominant ways of life that would limit who God is and who we are.  Even as we gather weekly to reinforce our identity as the people of God through worship and storytelling, we fail to embody that identity in the daily choices that reflect and shape our culture.  Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat write, “A split vision worldview that divides faith from life, church from culture, theology from economics, prayer from politics and worship from everyday work will always render Christian faith irrelevant to broad sociocultural forces.  And that is exactly what the empire wants—a robust, piously engaging private faith that will never transgress the public square.  Allow religion to shape private imagination, but leave the rest of life, the public and dominant imagination, to the empire.”  Both by our ignorance and our direct complicity, we Christians participate in creating and upholding systems that help some and harm others.

By the grace of God, this is neither the sum nor the end of the story.

A Time to Energize

The essential question for the church is whether or not its prophetic voice has been co-opted into the culture if its day.  The community of God’s people striving to remain faithful to the whole counsel of God’s Word will be prophetic voices crying out in the wilderness of the dominant culture of our day.


Walter Brueggemann
The Prophetic Imagination

No one can attempt to nurture an alternative imagination on their own without a community gathered around a crucified and risen Lord and enlivened by the Holy Spirit.

Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat
Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire

At its best, the Church is called to be an agent of Christ in the world—Christ who is perfect love, peace, justice, commitment and servanthood.  This call has very real implications for how we approach the problems that touch our daily lives in the places where we live.  In order to see the brokenness around us and improvise a faithful response, Christians need to be people of imagination.  What if Christians were leading the call to repent of racism and cultivate systems that privilege all people as God’s beloved?  What if the Church refused to let any of her young people fall into despair because their gifts and passions aren’t “marketable,” but created space and structures that empower them to take risks?  What if local congregations modeled care for all of creation through their habits of building, purchasing, transportation and maintenance?

In fact, Christians are already practicing these and many other imaginative responses to the world’s brokenness in communities and churches around the world.  Many believers, past and present, have accepted God’s invitation to live into the Kingdom reality revealed in Jesus Christ, expressing their acceptance through daily practices that carry extraordinary significance.  The story of God’s love and redemption is so fully embodied in their lives that it overflows into every part of existence, from playing to parenting, from working to worship, from eating to evangelizing.

We hope that the Huss Project can become a space that illuminates imaginative possibilities for people of faith living into God’s Kingdom in a particular time and place.  We hope that people from throughout North America will converge there with their stories and questions about Christianity as a way of life to inspire and learn from one another.  We hope that the neighborhood around the Huss Project will experience God’s goodness through all five senses as they participate in activities that engage the body, mind and soul.  We hope that a community kitchen and garden, arts programming, off-campus opportunities for college students and other projects will exist in playful synergy and that such synergy will provide rich soil for experiential, connected, imaginative learning by people of all abilities and backgrounds.

Coming alongside the Church, we hope that the Huss Project can be a space for imagination that unlocks possibilities for creative participation in a good story, set in motion by the Creator and sustained by the Spirit in our everyday improvisation on themes of love, reconciliation, hope and creativity.  In community with our neighbors, we seek to creatively reconcile the divisions within our society and within ourselves.