Incubating the Imagination

Sarah and Priscilla Reflect

I always have to take a deep breath before I walk into the Sycamore House on Friday mornings for our weekly meetings.  As the facilitator of our three-hour reflection/formation time, it’s not unlike getting ready for a final exam or a marathon.  There is always a lot of ground to cover and (surprisingly) not enough time for all of it.  But, we’ve settled into a nice routine on Friday mornings. Often, there is the scent of bacon in the air.  It’s only way for Brigette to really get her morning started.  Occasionally, you can smell an omelet or two prepared by Jess for her housemates.  Always, there is the sound of coffee being made.  Usually, you can find Gabe sitting on the couch, ready to go. Sarah’s usually bobbing around with a smile and a flannel shirt.  Katie is typically trying to finish whatever reading we have in time for discussion and Priscilla usually makes a graceful entrance just as we get started.  She’s typically the only one in the group that’s managed to get out of her pajamas in time for our meeting.

After opening with some kind of spiritual practice, we dig into whatever topic we have for the week.  Being the nerd I am, I try to carefully craft each week to focus on a theological theme that will tie into reflection on the work the Sycamorites are doing in the city.  But it doesn’t matter, really. No matter how much I prepare for our time together, there’s always something that throws it off course.  Sometimes it’s the frustrating week someone has had at his/her work site.  Sometimes, it’s the struggle a house member is having with a family member.  But most of the time, it’s because we get off track.. in the most wonderful of ways.

Friday mornings are a time for spiritual formation and reflection on community experiences.  No matter how carefully the day is constructed, someone’s story will derail us.  Sharing stories on Fridays cultivates a time for imagination.  A time to sit back and look at our collective experiences in reality and dream about possibilities, explore the “what ifs.”  Imagination gets a bad rap sometimes.  Some find it to be divorced from reality, impractical or illogical.  But imagination is one of the things we humans do best.  We look at a world, as it is and dream up a world as it can be.  That’s how we evolve as a community.

The kind of imagination that is ignited on Friday mornings is tethered in concrete, every day experiences, but it isn’t bound to it.  Each person comes into the room with a different picture of Harrisburg– it’s possibilities and challenges. As those images are shared, a new one is created and recreated every week.  That’s at the root of imagination: new images and fresh pictures. So every week, the living room of the Sycamore House becomes an incubator for the imagination– an imagination that is nourished by those in the city who are working to create lasting change, by those in the parish who bring wild flowers and leftovers to the house and stay for a story or two, and by the Sycamore House members (past and present) whose tenacious and persistent sense of wonder always push the boundaries of reality.

The best part is that this kind of imagination is never done alone.  In fact, the Service Corps members’ actions and words consistently remind me that the best kind of imagination is the one that is formed and informed by the community around us.  So today, I’m bracing myself for this Friday.  Not because it is stressful or exhausting (thought it can be), but because I know that when I walk into the Sycamore House in a few days, my picture of the world and of this city will look just a little bit different than it does today.

Glad to be a part of it all,


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