By Molly Brummet Wudel
We are all dreamers, but dreamers have fallen upon hard times. We belong to a people whose sense of reality is much more limited. We have been schooled in science and philosophy; we have learned to trust what we can handle and prove. We have been taught to think, not to dream, and we have lived long enough to watch many of our dreams die hard. Only saints and children still believe their dreams will come true. The rest of us are adults who know the difference between fact and fantasy. –Barbara Brown Taylor
This year’s annual gathering fell on my 10th ordination anniversary. At my ordination, after those gathered laid hands on me, whispering prayers and hopes for what may be, my mentor proclaimed, “Church, the truth is that God is on the loose but too often we don’t want to follow. But Molly–and church–you must dare to follow–to actually dream, imagine, and push into being God’s kindom vision.”
You see, I’m not a natural dreamer. I wasn’t a daydreaming child nor that into imaginative play. But I’ve tried earnestly to be a dreaming, imaginative adult. Quite frankly, I think that’s where my calling began–an expansive invitation into dreaming and imagining another way. The radical gospel invited me to dare to dream anew and invite other folks to do the same. But dreaming anew takes courage, and if I’ve learned anything over the last ten years of ordained ministry, it’s that I’m far more courageous in community than on my own.
That truth is why I am so lucky that, for the last decade, the Alliance have been my people and the community where I live into my call because I desperately need a radical, loving, expansive community collectively ushering in God’s kindom vision. The annual gathering reminded me once again how the Alliance is not afraid to name what is–where we have failed in our dreaming and imagining–while also, powerfully, daring us, inviting us, to follow the ever-moving, liberating Spirit of God so that we may collectively be a people of dreaming, imagining, and living into what can be.
I’d like to believe more days than not I’m a dreamer full of imagination for what can be. If I am being honest, though, as a privileged, straight white woman, it can be easier to want to make a few well-intended pushes for justice and equity rather than risk the deepest comforts of my life to make sure there is life and life abundant for all. The subtle entrapments of the “American Dream,” rooted in colonialism, white supremacy and neoliberalism, still linger within progressive spaces, too often making mere reforms feel sufficient. And even though many of us get paychecks and insurance coverage from the very people we are to invite into another way of dreaming, imagining, and being in this world, a reality tempting many not to dream and imagine fully, we cannot let that truth stop us as we push towards the world as it could be.
But for us to be about this abolitionist work, God’s very kindom vision, we need one another.
We cannot go at it alone.
As Ben Boswell shared with us through the words of abolitionist Mariame Kaba, even we most progressive and leftist at times “need a jailbreak of our imaginations.” Boswell went on to remind us, we believe in a God engaged in a jailbreak of the imagination. This God, this Jesus, began his abolitionist activity by working to liberate people’s imaginations from the ideology of systemic oppression through compelling alternatives. This God is a God who invites us to create alongside them a just, equitable, and peaceful society that works for all of us and settles for nothing less than a new humanity and creation. This God tears down all unjust, oppressive systems–especially the police, penal and carceral systems–and builds another way of equity, liberation, and wholeness, for the world is, as William Sloan Coffin told us, far too dangerous for anything but the truth and too small for anything but love.
But for us to be about this abolitionist work, God’s very kindom vision, we need one another. We cannot go at it alone. This work of God’s kindom vision takes persistence and unwavering investment. In those moments of ministry when I am weary living into my call, I dream and return to my ordination day when hands laid on me whispering hopes and strength for all that was ahead; I imagine I’m hearing the charges spoken over me again and am buoyed. Similarly, as we are on this journey of living into God’s abolition vision, this journey of imagining and dreaming radically and robustly, we must draw strength from the truth that we are the Alliance of Baptists, a community of radicals who dare to dream dreams and imagine a world that others say cannot be. We must call upon one another to remind each other we are working toward a world where all oppressive unjust systems are torn down; we must work together proclaiming a world where the carceral system and prisons do not exist–not only collectively imagining but actively following God’s kindom vision of justice and equity.
And as our imaginations break free and our dreams become embedded in the marrow of our bones, as we do this collective work no matter the cost to our privilege or comforts, as we become more than a people who simply trust what we can handle and prove, we will realize there is no other way but abolition. There is no other faithful way but to follow this God on the loose who will forever be a God of expansive, countercultural freedom and love.
The Reverend Molly Brummet Wudel pastors at Emmaus Way, a quirky, progressive community rooted in Durham, NC. When not pastoring, she can be found engaging in broad-based organizing with Durham CAN, lecturing/writing about dialogical preaching, and more often than not, attempting to keep up with her very active three year old, George Eden, alongside her spouse, James.