“ Beer is on the house” was the catch cry of a week not easily forgotten in 1863 when notorious bushranger Ben Hall held a three day party in Robinson's Hotel Canowindra. He forced the locals and the policeman into the pub and proceeded to shout them three days’ worth of beer. The river was in flood so he knew he was safe from policemen from other nearby towns. Whether or not you like Ben Hall, he made an impact on Canowindra because he was counter cultural. Likewise, King David gained a following of men who were disillusioned and dissatisfied with life as they knew it. They recognised in him a man who could have an impact on the whole nation of Israel.
Our dream is to impact this country by helping men and women recognise there is more to life than a triple-fronted-brick-veneer-house in a nice suburb. We aim to help people embrace the culture of the kingdom of God and equip them to be subversive agents of it in the Australian context. Our hope is Canowindra will see many disciples of Jesus sent out to have this type of impact on Australia!
Canowindra is some 300km west of Sydney in one of Australia's most productive farming regions, and is particularly known for its vineyards, ballooning, fish fossils and its historic main street. Our campus there was established in 1989 on 'Werrenga', a farm just south of the town that lies on the banks of the Belubula River in a picturesque valley. Our community there supports itself through contract labour, working for numerous rural businesses in the area, as well as operating its own lucerne farm.
Our Canowindra campus has had more than 300 students in our courses since it began, and most of them have been sent out on Australian mission teams for a year or more. These have been placed at various times in Canowindra, Grenfell, Young, Bathurst, Cowra, Dubbo, Newcastle, Coonabarabran, Orange, Bendigo and Strathalbyn. Students from other nations have trained here as well. They have come from as far away as Saudi Arabia, Norway, Switzerland, USA, China, South Korea, Solomon Islands, Timor, West Papua and Malaysia. Despite cross-cultural challenges, they typically find this training has helped them become more effective in discipleship and mission in their own context.
Each year Cornerstone at Canowindra runs various events including retreats, leadership camps, school camps and an open week. We run a local kids club and youth group and teach scripture in a number of local schools.
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I recently wrote a paper required for my own on-going studies concerning the need for the Christian community at large to embrace a 'missional imagination' if it is going to match the efforts of those first followers of Jesus in mission and evangelistic endeavours. The following is an excerpt:
Imagination is the power to envisage things that should or could be. It is a mysterious human faculty that has to do with the “forming of new ideas, images or concepts that are not present to the senses.” Purposeful, deliberate and directed use of imagination, according to Walter Brueggemann, enables us to live inside “God's imagination”. It is key to transformation and change. Missional imagination engages with and responds to God's imagination for his creation. It utilises the God given creative potential gifted to each believer to envisage what God could do with those who are available. It dreams passionately about God's heart and vision for this world.
A missional imagination is a mind set that does not simply embrace the status quo or give unthinking allegiance to traditions. Rather, when co-operating with the Holy Spirit, the missional imagination is motivated to action, explores opportunities and takes risks in missional endeavours with the God of mission.”
I argued that developing missional communities is an extremely effective way of developing and applying missional imagination in today's postmodern consumer society – but it takes time. Imagine: small subversive Christian communities infiltrating towns and suburbs right across the country, creatively breathing the fresh hope of the Kingdom of God all around those with whom they mix. How could something like this happen? Missional Imagination.
Cornerstone Community has been imagining these possibilities. We have put our 'shoulders to the plough' and continue to do so. What we really want and need is for others to join us. There is a need to train the next wave of missional leaders, thinkers and players to continue building missional communities.