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Imagination must come before implementation*

When I was first invited to be part of what would become Center for Transforming Communities (CTC), the organization had few financial resources. It did, however, own an old church building that was on the market and listed for more than $500,000.

While the organization did not have funds to hire anyone, Jeff Irwin and Billy Vaughan (founding members of CTC) enticed me to volunteer my participation with this invitation: “Just imagine the ministry that could be created and sustained with a half-million-dollars?”

While I have often thought that it was the lure of a half-million-dollars that was key to shaping CTC and the Communities of Shalom movement in Memphis, I now believe it was the invitation to just imagine!

In preparation to celebrate Shalom Zones on November 6th, the CTC Board of Directors recently paused to reflect on our collective story, the one that has been unfolding for about seven years. The board noted the key moments in our story that prompted new clarity around our vision and our values. We called these moments turning points.

One of these turning point moments has its origins in 2008 when a small group of people – myself included – came together to form a visioning team and just imagine together. A year later, this group (the precursor to CTC) caught a glimpse of what our role might be in a vision that was inspired by shalom. Although the realization of this vision was far off in the distance, this year of imagining together had given us clarity around a few steps we were eager to take.

A turning point in our story occurred when the visioning team made the collective decision to pursue these steps without the benefit of funding. The church building had still not been sold.

The turning point was when vision replaced money as the catalyst for what we believed we could do.

We said “yes!” to a vision that was pulling us forward. The lack of money would not limit us.

The next wise steps in pursuit of the vision also included the partnership of six congregations from three different neighborhoods – all of which would become Shalom Zones. They, too, said “yes!”

On Friday, November 6, we celebrate a milestone as these Shalom Zones mark the 5th anniversary of their commissioning. We celebrate the pull to participate in God’s dream for the world. We celebrate a practice of shalom imagination.

I hope you will join us.

Please visit to learn more about the celebration event on November 6 and how you can register to attend.

*The title is inspired by The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann, p. 40.

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