Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

Why Reimagining Church?

Leah Wise

My name is Leah Wise and I am the Reimagining Church student facilitator for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Cheshire. I am a 3rd year M.Div. at Yale Divinity School.

My Christian heritage could be summed up in one word as ecumenical. My great grandfather was a Pentecostal pastor and, as a kid, I attended Wesleyan, Baptist, Methodist, Nazarene, Church of God, charismatic, and Church of Christ congregations. I sometimes attended Catholic youth group with my next door neighbor. This instilled in me a strong sense of the universal church, and a desire to find commonalities across Christian traditions.

That being said, I value the discipline of participating in a distinct tradition. After receiving a B.A. in Religion in 2011, I joined the Episcopal Church in 2012 and haven’t looked back. I am currently a Candidate for Holy Orders (ordination) in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. I am drawn to the Episcopal Church’s liturgical practices and its striving toward inclusion.

Why Reimagining Church? I believe that the church has a rare capacity to counter our society’s fear of scarcity, particularly as it relates to how we see time and what kinds of boundaries we enforce.

The church at its best is an intergenerational, multi-identity community with a central Gospel narrative that reminds us of our past and urges us to continually envision a world beyond sound bytes, financial quarters, and catastrophic thinking.

This “good news” allows us to live together as co-workers in the Body of Christ even in the midst of profound need and obvious difference. Together, we continually announce that God is in our midst.

Because I believe so strongly that our Christian faith and tradition provides an alternative story and cultivates community beyond worldly divisions, this work deeply matters to me.

Reimagining Church cannot be about catastrophic thinking or damage control. It must live into the longer, fuller story of Christ’s redemption of the world. It must cultivate hope, which demands an awareness of who we are and the curiosity to believe that the Spirit moves in ways we can’t anticipate on our own.

To reimagine, then, is to free ourselves up to imagine the Kingdom and Kin-dom of God, and our roles within it.

As I continue to narrate my involvement in this program, I will speak from my own understanding and experience. I cannot be a voice for an entire congregation, but I can bear witness to what we discover together.