Imagine all the people, working for shalom...

Imagine all the people, working for shalom...

By Tim Evans - 24 September 2018

In the last blog, I talked about the vision of Worth Unlimited in Inspiring Hope Together.  In this post, I want to unpack a bit about what that means for us, Worth Unlimited, as a faith-based movement of people and projects. 
 
When I was a teenager in the 1980s, apart from listening to music and wearing clothes my children now would be aghast at, I became increasingly aware of the state of the world around me.  This was the era of Band Aid/Live Aid, the miners' strike, 3 million unemployed, the Cold War - an era of injustice, the threat of nuclear annihilation and mass starvation.  While I was at university, I met a young person from a local estate.  He lived near me and was a similar age.  I was really struck by how different his life chances were to mine, despite the similarities between us.  One of the songs that was getting quite a bit of radio play at the time was John Lennon's "Imagine", where he asked us to imagine a world of peace.  Through all of this, I became a bit of an idealist, believing the world could and should be different. 
 
In his book "The Prophetic Imagination", Walter Brueggemann speaks of the power of imagination in enabling us to picture something different, a world in which violence, hatred and injustice don't have to the last word, and therefore to envisage the journey from the world as it is to the world as it might be.  At its simple best, the notion of shalom is a picture of the world as it should be - a world characterised by harmony, community, welfare, wholeness and prosperity.  In the book of Isaiah, God speaks to the Israelites, who had experienced the total devastation of their home.  These words invite them to imagine a completely different future:
 
Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth: past events won’t be remembered; they won’t come to mind.
Be glad and rejoice forever in what I’m creating, because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy and her people as a source of gladness.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad about my people.
No one will ever hear the sound of weeping or crying in it again.
No more will babies live only a few days, or the old fail to live out their days.
The one who dies at a hundred will be like a young person, and the one falling short of a hundred will seem cursed.
They will build houses and live in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They won’t build for others to live in, nor plant for others to eat.
Like the days of a tree will be the days of my people; my chosen will make full use of their handiwork.
They won’t labour in vain, nor bear children to a world of horrors, because they will be people blessed by the Lord, they along with their descendants.
Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.
Wolf and lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but the snake—its food will be dust.
They won’t hurt or destroy at any place on my holy mountain, says the Lord.
Isaiah 65: 17-25 
 
At Worth Unlimited, we think a shalom experience for young people and communities involves 3 things: well-being, justice and integrity.  Our 'imagining' is that those we work with will:
  • develop a deep sense of personal fulfilment, security and dignity
  • experience a restoration of 'right relationships' - with God, community and family
  • develop the ability to develop a meaningful and self-sufficient life
  • grow in self-esteem, character and spiritual qualities
  • make a positive contribution to the shalom of the world around them
Our work is both pragmatic, working with people to gain the confidence and skills they need to flourish in the world as it is, and hopeful, creating opportunities for people to imagine the world as it could and should be, and play their part in imagining that world into being.
 
Over the next few posts, I'll be looking at what we mean by the terms well-being, justice and integrity and how our understanding shapes the way that we work.
 
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