IMAGES OF GOD: VISUALIZING GOD THROUGH BIBLICAL METAPHOR AT THE BYROMVILLE–DRAYTON CHARGE
Parishioners in most local churches experience prayer as a process of asking and receiving from God, followed by an expression of thanksgiving for answered prayer. Other dimensions of prayer, such as prayer for the sake of communion with God, are not emphasized as much in many local churches. Imaginative prayer is one manifestation of prayer for the sake of communion with God. Imaginative prayer involves mentally visualizing interactions with God. In order to do this, people of faith must be able to visualize God. Biblical metaphor provides the framework in which persons of faith can imagine God. Building on the work of such religious thinkers as Sallie McFague, this study seeks to identify the primary images of God of parishioners of a rural, two-point charge in the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. This study further seeks to expose parishioners to a diverse array of biblical images for God through the use of Scripture, metaphor, and photographic imagery. Participants are also invited into guided imaginative exercises based upon biblical metaphor. These exercises serve as an introduction to the practice of imaginative prayer. This study reveals that, while many participants continue to visualize God in ways that reflect nature and male anthropomorphic images of God, participants also connect with images of God that reflect nurture and female anthropomorphic images of God. A new dual image for God – God as Mother and Father – is offered as a viable option for the religious imagination. This image also reflects the relationship between the image of God and the male-female human identity attested to in the biblical creation accounts. This study can be used in conjunction with spiritual growth curriculum within the local church, as image reproductions and guided imaginative exercise scripts are included.