From What Is to What If: Practicing Imagination

A Six-Session Community of Practice

Occurred on
•  April 20, 2021
•  April 27, 2021
•  May 11, 2021
•  May 25, 2021
•  June 8, 2021
•  June 15, 2021

Registration is closed.

“Bringing about the world we want to live in, the world we want to leave to our children is, substantially, the work of the imagination, or what educational reformer John Dewey describes as ‘the ability to look at things as if they could be otherwise’.”  
— Rob Hopkins
Given the realities with which we live today — increasing inequality, climate change, political tensions, and racial uprisings — imagination is urgent and necessary in moving us toward the world we want to leave to our children. Yet it is often difficult to articulate our own yearning and desire for the new in the face of the anxiety, hurdles and potholes on the way to creating something hoped-for. What can help us to unlock our imaginations and unleash our creativity are companions on the journey; practices in community; wisdom from our faith traditions; and questions that evoke new and unexpected paths.
We invited you to join a co-learning community of practice to engage your imagination, to take the journey from acknowledging “what is …” to imagining “what if…”  Our time together drew upon  the work of Rob Hopkins, writer, environmental activist, and founder of the Transition movement, and others who inspire moral and ecological imagination, and were guided by a series of spiritually-based practices. We supported one another in imagining projects or endeavors that aimed to spark the imaginations of others in our communities.  
Meeting together virtually for six 90-minute sessions, we worked around the Imagination Sundial, developed by Rob Hopkins. During these sessions, we engaged in practices intended to  build our imagination muscle — like an exercise class for your imagination! On weeks when we were not gathering via Zoom, participants  explored curated writings, podcasts, and other materials as a way of deepening understanding of the concepts and ideas related to opening to new possibilities. Additionally, the facilitators also offered individual or team coaching as participants considered how to apply these ideas to their own communities.
Do you have a seed of an idea you’ve dreamed that would help build community, start a conversation, even help others unlock their imaginations? How about a tool lending library for that infrequently needed but so helpful equipment? A multigenerational storytelling night? A community garden of raised beds in an unused part of your parking lot? What about a four-season labyrinth that highlights the connections between our seasons and climate change? Or a playful, monthly coffee hour that gives adults a change to play? Or community dinners highlighting the benefits of eating lower on the food chain?    
Through shared readings and materials, conversation in group sessions, and a series of practices designed to inspire thinking and stretch imagination, participants were led to ask different questions relevant to their own contexts.
During the course of the program, participants had the opportunity to apply for a generous micro-grant from The BTS Center that would support the manifestation of their idea for unlocking imagination in their congregations / communities.
We look forward to seeing how the experiences of this community of practice helped to facilitate new projects or endeavors that encourage the imaginations of the participants’ local communities that will ultimately open up new pathways, new opportunities, and new ideas for renewing human hearts, building community, enlarging justice, and restoring creation.


Rev. Alison Cornish

Meet Alison

“I love this definition of imagination — that imagination represents ‘possibilities other than the actual, times other than the present, and perspectives other than one’s own.’  To make a change from the status quo is possible, but to do so, we need to first hold in our mind and in our heart our longing – the possibility that life could be different.   I have become convinced that, in these perilous times, our imagination is a critical lynchpin – the link between memory and vision, between the act of remembering and the act of dreaming.”
— Rev. Alison Cornish

Rev. Maria Anderson-Lippert

Meet Maria

“As a parish pastor in the 21st century, I am acutely aware of the reality that fear and anxiety limit the imagination in communal settings. I wholeheartedly believe, however, that faithful and justice-seeking communities already have the resources they need to expand their imaginations. I’m excited to help facilitate this experiential community of practice as we expand our imaginations and dream about how we might accompany our local communities in doing so, too."
— Rev. Maria Anderson-Lippert