In his provocative book, The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman says: "When a group has more memories than dreams, it has no future."
Memories are a good thing. Memories help us to know where we have been. Memories teach us the lessons of the past. Memories are a gift of God through which the people, events and experiences of our past can remain with us. The Bible reminds us to remember the mighty acts of God; and our times of worship are filled with liturgical remembrances of Christ. Memories are a good thing.
Yet, Friedman reminds us that when any group, including the church, has more memories than dreams, it has no future. The future is built upon the past, but the future comes in the dreams, hopes and imagination that lead us forward. Our future is not limited by our memories of the past, it is opened by our dreams for the not-yet.
Maybe that is why the Bible also teaches us, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past" (Isaiah 43:18). That statement is a part of the promise of the prophet Isaiah that God is doing a new thing. Isaiah made that promise to the people of God when they were in captivity, when they felt that they had no future. Even then, in the worst of times, says Isaiah, God is always ready to do a new thing.
As I read the "Imagine Indiana" proposals which are coming to both Annual Conferences for action (see pages 7-10), I feel a tension between my memories and my dreams. I grew up in Indiana, and the Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church is my home. My memories are filled with images, people and experiences from Indiana of the past several decades. I cherish those memories. But I also share a sense of restlessness, a discomfort with our present realities in Indiana. So I dream of what God may be doing in Indiana right now as God prepares us for a new future.
Are the proposals of the "Imagine Indiana Planning Team" the right next steps for The United Methodist Church in Indiana? I don't know, but I trust the wisdom of our "conferencing" process by which we seek God's guidance and wisdom. I will support the votes of both North and South Conferences whatever those votes may be.
But I won't stop dreaming of the future, even while I remember and cherish the past.
Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of
The United Methodist Church
Making a Difference in Indiana
and around the world.