St Peter's House, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9GH

Chaplaincy to The Manchester Universities. The RNCM & The University Of Law.

A New Year’s Imagination

And so begins another week – another year – of writing to you. Like messages in a bottle, I settle in my hushed home sending words across the frosty streets, verses and paragraphs spilling round the city until – I hope – they pop up on your computer or flutter from your Well Pack. A new year of reaching from my home into yours, hoping to reach out with a sense that we are all connected somehow – reading the same, feeling the same, watching the days and months tick by together. What will this year hold for us all, I wonder? From this strangest of beginnings, what unknown threads stretch out ahead taking us on journeys we’ve yet to imagine….? 

I’ve been trying to keep imagining. I’ve found that as this newest lockdown has clipped my wings yet again, and the long nights deliver the dark before I’m ready to draw in and close the doors, my imagination is the only thing that stops the world from feeling far too small. Just a few days ago we had a collective imagination of a better 2021, with vaccines and a return to campus, winter holidays perhaps and seeing friends again. Now, with all that swept away, we must retreat inside our imaginations to keep a sense of space around our buffeted selves. 

Imagination is a powerful tool. It takes us from where we are, and allows us to live in a better version of reality – even whilst things are as they are. It is a brave and hopeful way to live, because it dares us to look beyond the painful and hard day-to-day things we see and say “I can imagine something better than this.” In a time where people are hungry or lonely, sad or ill, anxious or depressed…. we know this is the way things are, but also that it’s not how things should be. We can imagine better – a world where everyone has enough, where people work together, where everyone is treated with respect and kindness…. On Earth is it in heaven. 

Meanwhile, on yet another day where the worst of humanity plays out on our news apps and social media scrolls, and a defeated yet lairy president stokes violence and bloodshed as the world watches on, it can feel impossible to imagine another version of the story amidst the broken glass and blood. But look deeper, and deeper yet… I believe (because I find I must believe) that there is still goodness and humanity, and another better story hidden just beyond view. I see things as they are, but I imagine a better world – where leadership is valued for its truth, honesty, wisdom, compassion and intuition, a better politics and peaceful cities. 

Imagination calls us to the wildest sides of ourselves, even when we are locked-down and our freedom feels far away. It is permission to dream, to explore what sets your soul alight.  “Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities,” wrote Gloria Steinem, the feminist author and activist, “Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” In your imagination you’ll find the versions of the world that call to you the loudest and set your soul singing the most beautiful songs. If you dare to dream about the world, and your story within it, as you know it could be, you’ll begin to see the work you need to do to make this happen. This may be work for yourself, moving towards a happier, healthier place, or maybe for the world. Maybe both…. Either way, one step at a time. The important thing is the imagining, and the dream-planning.  

We’re all locked away in our flats, houses, apartments etc, but in some ways this is our time to be free. I don’t write that lightly, as I truly feel the reality of ‘locked-in’-ness with you…. but I’m working on a mindset of freedom. My home is quiet or too hectic, depending on the time of day, and it can either feel like I have no space or an ocean of nothingness. But inside my mind is all mine, and I’m working on the journeys I can take from right here, now. The world is just there, a precious pearl, waiting to be examined and re-imagined. I believe this is precious work, sacred and unique to each of us. I’m ready to set sail, how about you?