As we travel, I have been endeavouring to read for half an hour before breakfast. The book I’m reading at the moment is ‘Nurturing the Prophetic Imagination’, a series of essays in tribute to Walter Brueggemann’s classic, ‘The Prophetic Imagination’. (Sandy got me a signed copy of his new edition when she met him at a conference in the US last year!)
This morning I discovered another saint I identify with, German Protestant theologian Dorothee Soelle (1929-2003).
Apparently she often told a story from Berthold Brecht’s play, ‘Mother Courage and her Children’.
The play takes place in Northern Europe during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) that pitted Protestants against Catholics and emerging nation states against the consolidated interests of Rome. The play ends in 1636 as one of Mother Courage’s children, Kattrin, a young girl who cannot speak, is told “Pray, you poor creature, pray! when soldiers lay siege to the town during the night. As all the others bend their knees and begin to recite well-known prayers, Kattrin slips away to the rooftop of the barn and plays her drum. The sound of her drumming wakes up the sleeping town and gives them a chance to fight for their lives. Kattrin loses her life in the battle but her actions save the village. Kattrin’s prayer is one of action and defiance rather than quiet acquiescence.
This was a story Soelle told in 1968 when she was still simmering with anger at her own country and how it acquiesced to the Holocaust. In the great silence of the German people, where were the rooftop drummers? (Just go to church and pray quietly…get an education and get ahead…don’t ask too many questions about the government or military police…)
Later, she reconciled prayer and prophetic action for herself as ‘living out God’ in daily life – embedding the vision of ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ in our hearts, minds and hands.
To live out God is to celebrate freedom, dignity and hope in the midst of daily life, together, right here and now.
For me, Oasis has always been about just that – embedding this vision of a renewed earth through the quality of relationships we form and breaking the silence about whatever demeans human flourishing.
But we ‘break the silence’ not so much by words, but paradoxically, by listening – for only when there is someone to listen can the deep world of the human heart find expression (Nouwen).
And we may also break the silence by symbolic action, eliciting a response and therefore opening a conversation.
Brueggemann says, if all that we see and touch has been been imaginatively constructed, then it may equally be re-imagined, and reconstructed. That is the meaning of ‘Prophetic Imagination’.
Oasis is a re-imagined community of hospitality to each other that involves inclusion of all and has a heart and mind for well being.