Courage in Community: 25 Years of Image

Guest post by Hunter Sharpless

To celebrate Image’s twenty-fifth anniversary we are posting a series of essays by people who have encountered our programs over the years. Read the earlier installments: Stumbling into the WaterfallHenri Nouwen, Reaching OutThe Notecards of Paradise, and 18 Years of Glen Workshops.

Once I eavesdropped on a conversation in the graduate student lounge. A couple of my MFA peers here at the University of Minnesota were discussing a project they were going to call the Post-human Anthology. A snippet of their editorial statement: “We are simply and passionately trying to assemble a constellation of visionary contemporary poetry that challenges humanism by reaching into the volatile beyonds of post-humanism.”

This is today’s avant-garde: A rational materialism so strict that it has moved beyond any distinction between human beings and animals.

Two hours later, off campus, I was with a group of friends that not only believes in the atavistic ideas of the soul and human exceptionalism, but in fact believes that we have been made in the image of a loving, omnipotent God.

Thus swings the intellectual schedule of an evangelical Texan writer.

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Christians in the Age of Sincerity

Guest Post

By Dyana Herron

Image has just published its 25th anniversary issue (#80). We’re pleased today to run an excerpt from a symposium in that issue entitled “The Road Ahead: Voices for the Next Twenty-Five Years,” consisting of reflections by a group of writers under the age of 35.

Although I don’t consider myself to have a finger on the pulse of culture (I’m not a journalist or a critic or an academic, but someone who writes mostly from a limited personal perspective), I do agree that the contemporary public square seems a safer place to be a Christian artist or intellectual than it has in even the recent past.

This is a strange position for Christians to find ourselves in, because we are much more accustomed to persecution than popularity. I can imagine, though, that if Jesus, with his wavy hair and mellow but antiauthoritarian attitude, chose to appear as a young man in America today, he might just as likely be crowned prom king as King of the Jews. And then where would humanity be?

Christians have never been particularly cool, no matter how hard DC Talk or our youth pastors tried to convince us otherwise. That’s partly because our parents never allowed us to go to the good parties. But more because, historically, coolness is about detachment, distance, and self-assurance, whereas Christianity is about commitment, presence, and self-surrender.

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25 Years of Image, 18 of Glen Workshops

To celebrate Image’s twenty-fifth anniversary we are posting a series of essays by people who have encountered our programs over the years. Read the earlier installments, Stumbling into the WaterfallHenri Nouwen, Reaching Out, and The Notecards of Paradise.

I’m at lunch in a college cafeteria. At my table, the conversation goes like this:

“Have you heard John Tavener’s Protecting Veil?”

“Yeah, it’s like icon painting in music.”

“Icon writing, you mean.”

“When I listen to Tavener, I feel I could be immersed in George Wingate’s ethereal canvases—maybe his Earthhead.”

“Mmm, I saw his work in an issue of Image. I remember especially his Tree—it seemed to be breaking into the beyond.”

“For me it would be James Turrell’s amazing sky-spaces: the way he almost sculpts light. They give me the same feeling as Tavener’s music: of the divine mysteriously penetrating our world.”

“I wonder if there’s a novel that does that…”

“Well, this isn’t a novel, but Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being would be my call.”

I’m riveted by the creative energy of the conversation. But this isn’t at my college. It’s at one of the Glen Workshops I’ve attended over the years.

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The Notecards of Paradise: 25 Years of Image

To celebrate Image’s twenty-fifth anniversary we are posting a series of essays from people who have encountered our programs over the years. Read the earlier installments, Stumbling into the Waterfall and Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out.

Guest post

By Linda Wendling

A Tuesday evening in Seattle. A cozy, one-room apartment on Queen Anne Hill overlooking bustling Nickerson and the shipping yards. If I step onto the balcony, I can see the Ballard Bridge and down the steps I can almost believe I see Rapunzel letting down her blue and yellow neon hair on the Fremont Bridge.

I am alone, my husband is in St. Louis, and I’m holding a mug of peppermint tea. I’m here because I’ve been selected by Image to receive its Milton Fellowship, providing me with a whole academic year to work on my first book (and more).

I have walked home from the Garfield Public Library—a cozy place to write if you don’t mind little kids climbing on the table beside you (I don’t)—and plunked down a rain-soaked bag of books—all research—on the kitchen counter.

Changing into a dry sweatshirt, I turn on the lamps and Zap Mama for atmosphere, and sit on the carpet. The sun is down, but I keep my windows open, all night long when I can. I like the sounds of Seattle, the poetry of rain, voices in traffic, music from a passing car radio to remind me that “one fine day, you’re gonna want me for your girl.”

I get up from the floor and go to my laptop. I add that moment to a story. Then I’m back on the floor beside the cooling tea, doing what makes me happy when a sharp knock at the door makes me jump.

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Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out: 25 Years of Image

To celebrate Image’s twenty-fifth anniversary we are posting a series of essays from people who have encountered our programs over the years. Read the other installments, Stumbling into the Waterfall and The Notecards of Paradise.

Guest post

By Dan Wakefield

I was happy to be asked to speak at the first Image conference in Berkeley in 1992 and delighted to learn that Henri Nouwen, the Roman Catholic priest and Dutch theologian, would be there to deliver the Sunday homily.

My minister at King’s Chapel in Boston had introduced me to his work when he gave me Nouwen’s book Reaching Out: Three Movements in The Spiritual Life, and a friend introduced me to Henri himself when he was at Harvard Divinity School in 1983.

I had gone with a group of friends from King’s Chapel to hear Father Nouwen give a public lecture at Harvard in 1982, where the Divinity School had scheduled him in a room that held about a hundred people, which meant that another hundred or so had to be turned away. We learned later that some of the Divinity faculty were piqued that Nouwen had drawn such a big crowd—we were condescendingly described as “people from the suburbs,” i.e. non-academics, and Nouwen was whispered to be “popular,” a mortal sin in elitist theology.

The only speaker I have ever heard to match the power of Nouwen was James Baldwin, a street corner preacher as a boy in Harlem before becoming a writer. Nouwen spoke with a slight lisp, and his whole body seemed to bend forward with his hands sometimes “reaching out” in a physical effort to get across his message, not histrionically but with a passion to communicate, as if he were trying to implant his words in the hearts of his listeners.

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