Rev. William Stell
William Stell graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in May 2016 and began serving as our pastor two months later. Before studying at Princeton, he lived and worked in the country of Jordan at a school for Deaf and Deaf-Blind children. Although his familial roots are Presbyterian, William was raised in a black Baptist church, and he has spent significant time in Methodist, Catholic, non-denominational, and other church traditions. We are grateful for the enthusiastic spirit and visionary leadership that he brings to our congregation!
Click on this link to read the article published in the September 2017 publication of the Bordentown Current
Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as if you yourselves were suffering bodily. (Hebrews 13:3)
“As if you yourselves.” In this simple but powerful verse, God is asking us not just to be aware of the prisoners and the mistreated, not just to think about them, feel sorry for them, or utter a prayer for them; God is asking us to imagine ourselves into their circumstances.
This verse reminds me of a quote from J.K. Rowling—one of my favorites: “Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people's minds, imagine themselves into other people's places. Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or to sympathize. And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.... We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
Together, this quote and Hebrews 13:3 teach us that our ability to imagine is a gift from God, and God wants us to use it on behalf of those who suffer—to better understand what they are going through and to motivate ourselves (and others) to help them.
More often, we use this gift of imagination to worry: anxiously imagining what our neighbors and bosses think about us, anxiously imagining what our kids are up to behind our backs, anxiously imagining what obstacles lie ahead for us and our loved ones. What might it look like to put our imagination to less anxious, more fruitful use? How might we incorporate our imagination into our spiritual life? What if we intentionally imagined the plights of the people for whom we pray as if we ourselves were in their plights?
Let’s imagine together.
© 2016 First Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church of Bordentown
420 Farnsworth Ave.
Bordentown, NJ 08505